7 Must-Know Hacks and Tips for Pet-Proofing Your Home

published May 24, 2022
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Welcoming a pet into your home can be a huge source of joy, but it also requires lots of responsibility. On top of feeding and caring for your pet, you’ll need to take active steps to make sure they’re safe — and, at the same time, protect your home from potential damage. 

With a bit of strategic thinking and the right tools, you can create a pet-safe, pet-proof space where you and your animal companion can thrive. Not sure where to start? Here are seven smart hacks and tips for new pet owners, as suggested by experts. 

First and foremost: Exercise and entertain your pet.

If you have a cat or dog, doing your part to keep them active and amused can go a long way as a pet-proofing measure. 

Veterinarian Lindsay Butzer, a PetMeds partner, suggests exercising your dog for 20 to 30 minutes every day to keep them content. Cats may not need as much exercise as an active dog, but they do need entertainment to stay out of mischief and satisfy their hunting instincts, so make sure to incorporate plenty of mentally stimulating playtime throughout the day, whether with a wand toy or puzzle toy. 

Credit: Mariusz Wos/Getty Images

Sneakily transition your cat to a scratching post.

It can be frustrating when your cat scratches your furniture, but it’s a totally natural behavior that helps them keep their nails healthy. Providing your cat with a scratching post is the best way to protect your furniture and prevent bad habits from developing, says veterinarian and behaviorist Paola Cuevas of Hepper

If your cat is already in the habit of scratching, overcoming it can be tough. Cuevas suggests placing an alternative scratching area (you can even DIY a cat scratcher!) near the furniture your cat is currently scratching, and covering that with double-sided tape, which repels cats. When your cat scratches the new post, offer a word of praise or a treat to reinforce the good behavior. Then, once your cat develops a history of only using the scratching post, gradually relocate it. 

Sometimes, accidental scratching happens. Another hack, from Butzer: “Trim your cat’s nails every two weeks to keep them short and blunt so they can’t pierce and scratch through furniture and cloth.”

Credit: Andrew Bui

Offer your pup lots of fun chewable items to make your furniture less enticing.

A dog who’s bored, stressed, or under-stimulated might develop a chewing habit. Keep your furniture and other belongings safe by giving your dog other things to chew. For puppies, who go through teething just like babies, Cuevas suggests providing chewing toys and teething-specific treats to provide some relief without sacrificing your shoes. Many pet stores sell teething toys, but in a pinch, she suggests a frozen carrot. 

For adult dogs, bones are a must. Butzer suggests one bone a day, plus an assortment of large plastic or rope toys your dog can carry around and chew on. To make them last longer, choose toys that are too large for your pet — that way, it’ll take them more time to chew on it. 

In a pinch, Butzer says a bitter training spray that leaves a nasty taste in your pet’s mouth when they attempt to chew your furniture legs, or even your shoes, can help. 

Invest in a gate from the get-go.

If there are any areas of your home you don’t want your pet to go into — especially areas with potentially poisonous or unsafe items — it’s important to close them off. Brianna Nelson, associate buyer at Pet Supplies Plus, suggests investing in a gate or exercise pen to set some boundaries. 

Plus, if you’re bringing home a new pet, you can use the gate or pen to help your new roomie gradually familiarize themselves with your home. “Start small with the main room they will be in, and slowly introduce them to more rooms over time as they adapt and get more comfortable,” Nelson says. 

Butzer says crate training can also help. Crates don’t just keep animals out of areas you don’t want them to be in; many animals feel safe having their own, dedicated space. And both can help cut down on destructive behavior. If you do spring for a crate, Butzer recommends giving your dog a bone, such as a digestible rawhide or bully stick, for four- to five-hour rest periods to keep them busy and happy. Also remember that, according to The Humane Society of the United States, you should never use a crate as punishment or leave a dog in a crate for too long (for puppies under six months old, that’s just three or four hours). 

Choose the right upholstery. 

When you have a pet, some amount of wear and tear is inevitable. So whenever you’re in the market for new furniture, selecting durable, stain-proof fabric can be a major game changer. Nelson suggests distressed leather, which she says repels odors and is easy to clean. Other tightly woven fabrics, such as microfiber, are also great for pets. Suede and silk, on the other hand, are easy to damage and stain, so they’re not the best options for pet owners.

Use a trash can with a pet-proof lid in the kitchen.

Pet-proofing your home also involves making your space safe for a curious animal. According to Cuevas, the kitchen is many pets’ favorite spot in the house — it’s where tasty treats and delicious, enticing smells happen. Unfortunately, it’s also where accidents and medical issues can happen, so it’s important to create kitchen safety rules to prevent accidents. In general, make sure you don’t leave out any temptations for your pet before you step out of the kitchen. Never leave food leftovers behind, and be especially careful with pet-toxic food

But even beyond that, Cuevas suggests using a pet-safe trash bin with a pet-proof lid to prevent dogs and cats from scavenging in the kitchen’s trash and leftovers. 

Lock away anything toxic.

This one may sound like a given, but it’s absolutely worth repeating: Keep any toxic or irritating substance, like cleaning chemicals and insecticides, away from your pet’s reach — ideally, locked in a box, cabinet, or room where your pest can’t access them. 

It takes a little extra time, money, and work to make your home a haven for you and your pet, but you’ll both be happier when you put a little extra effort in.