How to Make Your Apartment Safe for Your Pet

in Pets on by

kitty in apartment

Pets are people too—well, maybe not, but they’re still important parts of your life. And since they’re not people, they have a hard time watching out for themselves. This means you have to do some work in order to protect your pets from potential dangers. Here’s a list of possible dangers lurking in your apartment, and steps you can take to protect your pets from them.

Danger: Poisoning

So many things lying around your house could be dangerous to your pets. In fact, many seemingly harmless substances can be dangerous for animals. Let’s look at just a few:

Foods that Poison Pets

Ever wonder why people restrict the human food they give their pets? Well, these ones are important to note, as they can be seriously harmful.

Chocolate is notoriously toxic to dogs (and cats), so prevent pets from having access to the stuff. The substance that makes chocolate dangerous is theobromine. Because animals cannot metabolize this chemical as well as humans can, it’s not safe for them to consume it. Onions, garlic, and avocado can also be harmful to animals due to a chemical called sodium thiosulphate, so keep these items safe in high, hard-to-reach cupboards or carefully sealed in plastic containers. Apricots, apples, and almonds have seeds (nuts) that are dangerous for animals, and some varieties of mushrooms can be toxic to animals—so it’s a good idea to avoid feeding them to your pets at all.

In general, it’s a good idea to avoid giving your animal any “people food”; if you feel you must give treats, check with your vet to make sure the types of items you toss to Fido won’t cause him any damage. Also note that tobacco is dangerous for animals, so keep your cigarettes or other tobacco products inaccessible to animals.

Household Products

In addition to food items, many other ingestible substances can harmful to animals, including medicines and some common household items. Both human and pet medications should be kept out of reach of animals and children.

Antifreeze is a particularly dangerous household item because its sweet taste encourages animals to drink it, but the substance itself is highly toxic. Household cleaners are often harmful if ingested (both to humans and animals), so you should always make sure items of this nature are carefully locked up, and take care to keep pets out of the way when cleaning (keeping them out of the way will help you clean more efficiently, too). Be especially careful with scented cleaners, since a sweet smell could entice your pet to drink the substance.

Baits or sprays for pests like rodents and insects are harmful to pets. Since baits or traps are made to be attractive to the pests they’re meant to kill, they may be tempting to your pets as well, so you’ll want to avoid using them in areas your pets can access. Refraining from using baits at all may be your safest bet. If you use sprays, keep your animals away from the area you spray, if possible. In addition, invest in a “locking” plastic trunk in which to store your household cleaning items and insecticides; even if your pets manage to open the cabinet where this trunk is stored, they shouldn’t be able to get inside and expose themselves to danger.


There are too many plants potentially toxic to animals to list them all here, but check out these major offenders, do research online, and/or ask your vet about plants that should concern you. Calla lilies, English ivy, azaleas, poinsettia, tulips, amaryllis, and philodendrons are some common indoor ornamental plants that are harmful to pets if ingested. It’s best to avoid having plants of this type in your home at all; if you just can’t live without them, hang them up high where your pet can’t reach and ensure that the leaves don’t fall to the ground. Better yet, keep these plants outside on your balcony and prevent your pet from going on the balcony at all.

Commons Signs of Pet Poisoning

Signs of poisoning can include muscle tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation (drooling or foaming), change in mood (animal appears unusually depressed or excitable), bleeding, swelling, ulceration, blisters, pawing at the mouth, unusual licking, or change in body temperature. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect poisoning, and be prepared to disclose information about what substance your pet may have ingested.

If you’re not sure whether your pet has been poisoned or is just acting strangely, contact your vet anyway—better safe than sorry.

Danger: Choking

dog eating off chicken bone

Although bones are often given to animals, particularly dogs, to gnaw on, chicken bones can fracture and cause choking in animals. Give your animal rawhide bones to ensure safe tooth and jaw development and exercise.

String and ribbons may be useful, but they can also be dangerous for animals, who may accidentally ingest them while playing. If you tease your cat with string, make sure to take it away and store it in a safe place when finished. If wrapping presents at Christmas time or creating a big stack of gifts for a birthday party, do so in an area not accessible to your pets.

Be aware that string-like items such as dental floss or yarn can also be dangerous if ingested. It may be wise to invest in covered trash cans for all rooms where pets may wander, and keep your knitting or crocheting projects in a closed bag.

All in all, poisoning and choking can pose serious dangers to your pet. As long as you keep potentially dangerous items properly concealed and enclosed you and your pet should be well on your way to a safe and happy apartment living experience.

22 Responses to “How to Make Your Apartment Safe for Your Pet”

  1. August 18, 2006 at 9:33 pm, Guest said:

    I would like to add two other dangers: One: smothering on curtain strings: A fiesty young kitten may turn and turn on curtain strings or on gift wrapping string finally getting smothered. Second: falling off heights: a balcony is a dangerous place to be. Do not leave your pet unattended in a balcony if above ground by as much as one meter.


  2. October 16, 2006 at 3:07 pm, Guest said:

    I had my own apartment until my friends that were a couple broke up. I thought I wanted to move in so my friend could stay there and I would have a yard for my cat. So that’s what I did! My new roomate said that since she was already paying a pet deposit for her Jack Russell I wouldn’t need to pay one for the cat. We signed a one years lease without telling the landlord about the cat. I know it wasn’t smart but hindsight is brilliant! Now the dog has savagely attacked my cat 3x’s. I still have 7 months left on my lease.I confronted my roomate and she acted like it was no big deal so then I told her I wanted out.Now were just cordial and the landlord doen’t know if he will let us out or not. No one said anything about what really happened and I feel trapped. I love my cat and don’t want to see her dead. What do I do? Help!


  3. December 03, 2006 at 7:52 pm, Guest said:

    Keep your cat in your room to protect her.


  4. February 20, 2007 at 4:19 am, Guest said:

    Also plastic bags can be dangerous, they could get tangled or suffocate.


  5. March 06, 2007 at 1:48 pm, Anonymous said:

    I agree Balconys can be a big danger. Pets can squeeze just about anywhere they put their minds to. I covered the gap at the bottom of my balcony to about 3 ft with inexpensive plastic secured with zip ties to the bars. Now Sebastian (my chihuahua) can go laze on the balcony without me constantly worrying that he will fall off.


  6. March 07, 2007 at 1:50 pm, Guest said:

    okay im movin in a town house rite bye the highway so the only time my cat[kitty is her name] is gunna go out side is when shes on a leash with me watchin her or wwhen im walkin her ..and one time my cat jumped out the 4th story window she was okay


  7. March 13, 2007 at 4:45 pm, Guest said:

    I live in Texas and my apartments have what are called Chinese Tallow trees. They are everywhere. They drop these hard white berry looking things, that pop when stepped on. They are smaller than a blueberry though. Well they contain a milky sap, that animals like because it is sweet. I have a beagle, who eats everything. She ate just one of these stupid berries. She started vomiting the next morning. That evening she had very bad diarrhea with ALOT of fresh red blood and mucus in it. I of course rushed her to the vet. Come to find out, those berries, leaves, and stems from Chinese Tallows are poisonous to animals and humans. I reported it to the apartment, thinking they would call the health department and have the trees sprayed so they would no longer produce the berries as they are a PET FRIENDLY apartment and are supposed to make it safe for not only occupants but their pets. But they did nothing. I watch her like a hawk these days. But if you have a pet, and have Chinese Tallows near by, keep this in mind.


  8. April 28, 2007 at 2:32 pm, Guest said:

    Watch out for front load washing machines. Be sure you know where your kitten is when you load and run one. It is a terrible tragic way to lose a kitten – I know from expereince.


  9. June 06, 2007 at 11:19 am, Guest said:

    There are cleaners that are available that are totally non-toxic and safe around your pets, so them walking a a floor after it is cleaned is no problem, or other instances likr this. I have switched my home entirely to non-toxic cleaners so I have no fears. you can e-mail me at [email protected] if you would like any info!


  10. June 13, 2007 at 4:40 pm, Guest said:

    A random potential problem: New carpet was put in my apt’ before I moved in and there were still some bits of stray carpet “yarns” laying about. My lil’ gal got a bit stuck on her teeth waaaay back – I took her to the vet, they couldn’t figure out why she kept licking her face funny – 5 minutes after we left the vet, she had a licking fit, had managed to bring out the carpet enough for me to get it. It was random, not healthy at all, and ended with a vet getting bitten. Greeeeaaaat.


  11. August 30, 2007 at 9:53 am, Guest said:

    which specific types of nontoxic cleaners are the best to use on kitchen floors if i have a puppy?


  12. February 08, 2008 at 6:59 pm, Guest said:

    Need Help With Keeping Second Floor Sundeck Safe!

    I live on the second floor and have a sundeck my cats used to be able to use safely. The owner painted his many properties and made me take the wicker fence I had around it to keep my kitties safe down. Now after eight years of living here in a pet safe envirement I’m struggling to come up with an idea to keep the sundeck safe without that ‘fence’ around the sundeck. I can’t have anthing too visible around the railing and sure could use some ideas.

    The X-Mats product with the little stubs doesn’t seem severe enough to deter them.

    I was thinking lining the railing with little metal toy jacks, (hundreds of them) with a short border to keep the jacks from falling or blowing off. This seems like it my be uncomfortable enough on their paws to keep them off the railing.

    Like I said, sure would like some help, if anyone has a suggestion I would appreciate it.

    Sincerely, and Thanks



  13. February 10, 2008 at 5:40 pm, Anonymous said:

    Second Floor Sundeck Railing

    I need help with some ideas to keep my cats off my second floor sundeck railing. Are there any products out there I’m unaware of? Any ideas are welcome, lining plants along the perimeter is not an option.



  14. March 02, 2008 at 5:53 pm, Guest said:

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have some sort of collar that could be attached to an animal that didn’t allow them to go anywhere they wanted to? Similar to an electric fence for dogs, but it would be inside. Let me know what you think?


  15. March 10, 2008 at 7:23 pm, Guest said:

    use plexi-glass it is see through but is like a plastic so it won’t break.


  16. April 30, 2008 at 9:26 am, Guest said:

    Innotek radio fence…awesome and can set to any diameter up to 90′


  17. May 09, 2008 at 7:31 pm, Guest said:

    i have wished there was that sort of thing for a very long time,one of my dogs loves to play the search and destroy game in my house and she can get out of kennels,bedrooms and large baby gates and i wish we could make them stay in a area of their own til i got home


  18. June 22, 2008 at 1:45 am, Guest said:

    I disagree with the writer of this article on whether or not dogs should be fed “human” food. Many items are safe for animals. Some, obviously, are not, but owners have to do their due diligence, it’s easy to find out what cats and dogs are allergic to. One easy way is to go to the local Barnes and Noble and pick up dog or cat recipe books in the pet section. They will clearly spell out what dogs or cats should not be fed. Feeding dogs only “dog food” is a sign of how seriously we’ve bought into the successful marketing promoting “dog food”. What did dogs and cats eat before commericialized pet food was created? It wasn’t dog food you buy in a bag…

    Additionally, something else to think about: if you’re concerned about toxic cleaning products affecting your pets, why not also care about toxic cleaning products affecting you? There’s no reason people have to use Tide or Palmolive or whatever other brand of ecosystem damaging products that are sold at the store. There are perfectly good alternatives that are totally biodegradable, that don’t include ingredients like bleach, that are very safe for children as well as pets. You’ll probably have to skip Safeway or Albertsons and go to the organic store in town though, but after using natural and biodegradable products for 5+ years, I can’t even walk in the detergent aisle at Safeway and not get a strong toxic induced urge to sneeze. (And we’re washing our clothes in that stuff? No way!)

    Just thought I should mention, my dog loves apples. I don’t know why the writer said apples are bad. Maybe if you have a small dog the seeds could be a choking hazard? Apples are good for dogs and perfectly safe, I give them to my large dog whole, but I guess it could be an issue with tiny little dogs..

    And one more thing…. Dogs aren’t people? Who said that? Of course they are. They may be less smart than human people, but they have consciousness, they have life, they are certainly not robots, and we’re certainly not imagining them.. My dog is a person, albeit a large furry, fluffy person, but he feels pain, he feels loneliness, he feels anxiety, he feels happiness, and any dog behaviorist can tell you that.


  19. August 18, 2008 at 3:40 am, Guest said:

    I saw an add in cat fancy about a virtually see through fence that is similar to netting that is cat proof. Aparently they can’t tear it, there was a picture of a cat hanging on it. The material comes in all sizes fitting a balcony to an entire yard with it enclosing the yard on the sides and across the top the top like a roof. Also a large metal screen may work.


  20. August 23, 2008 at 12:54 am, Guest said:

    Our cat found some ribbon in a bag of gift wrapping items, and we found him later vomiting… and pulled about three feet of ribbon out of him while he choked away on it. Thinking that was the last time he would ever do that, we threw the ribbon in the trash, only to see him attempting once again to scarf it down not half an hour later.

    In retrospect, I should have let the ribbon work one end of it’s way through his system and then hung him from the ceiling from both ends to teach him a lesson (kidding).. Cats are extremely stupid about some things. Also seen him running around with a bag wrapped around him twice, once a plastic grocery bag wrapped around him and once an empty cat food bag over his head haha…


  21. October 02, 2008 at 12:55 pm, Guest said:

    I use chicken wire on my balcony railings, and it cannot be seen. Bought it at Ace Hardware.


  22. October 05, 2008 at 9:16 pm, Guest said:

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! This is very humorous and I can appreciate that side although I must admit at first I was like “…WHAT!” Cats can do weird things and try weird things, but it’s like the saying goes Curiosity killed the cat!!


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