Avoid these 9 Everyday Hazards:
Tips to Keep Your Dog and Cat Safe and Happy
If you are dog or cat parent, you know that they become an important member of your family. Taking care of your loved ones comes with a lot of joy and responsibility.
As with human children, we as dog and cat parents sometimes need to make adjustments in our environment for the safety and wellbeing of our furry family members.
It is important not to punish your cat or dog if they get into mischief. They are not trying to make you angry, and the punishment can create fear or distrust of you. First, rule out medical issues with your vet. If all else fails, a professional animal behaviorist might have to intervene.
Please consider working with a reputable dog trainer to teach your dog some basic commands as soon as your fur child joins your family. These commands can help elevate, and potentially remove some dangers. Work with trainers on reducing/eliminating aggressive behaviors. Bite laws can be severe depending on where you live.
Quick List for Halloween
Chocolate is poisonous for both cats & dogs. Keep out of reach. Hideout of reach.
Any gum, candy, toothpaste, food that contains xylitol is poisonous for both cats & dogs. Keep out of reach. Hideout of reach.
Do not let your pets outside unattended.
Bring your black cats inside.
Make sure your pets have reflective collars/vests, so cars can see them at night.
Store any choking hazards out of reach.
My Experience with Dogs and Cats
*Disclaimer: I am not a vet or professional animal behaviorist. Always consult your own vet when meeting the individual medical and nutritional needs of your cat and dog. I mention the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and I although I donate money on occasion, I am not affiliated with them in any way. I am not affiliated in any way with any of the other resources used in the reference list either.
(I have a master’s degree in Library Science, and I will be providing information with links to what I consider to be reputable/educational resources. These resources are no substitute for your vet’s treatment/diagnoses/advice. They are meant for educational purposes only.)
As a cat parent for over 18 years and growing up with a dog as a family member for over 14 years, being a pet/house sitter for over 30 years (and currently, for friends and family), I am constantly researching ways to keep cats and dogs protected and happy.
When pet sitting, I am responsible for providing food, cleaning up after the pets, play, and providing medication to certain pets. (I should have known from these experiences that toddler proofing a home is not just for puppies and kittens.)
Last Spring, my husband and I adopted a sweet and adorable bonded pair of 5-year-old male cats. Being 5 years old, I was expecting calm and behaviorally established cats. (When you are done laughing, please continue reading.)
The Hidden Hazards in Our Homes
Although our new fur children are sweet, lively, inquisitive, and very smart, they came to us with a few bad habits such as chewing on cords, chewing/eating non-food items (that are potential choking hazards), are garbage pickers, try to get into appliances (refrigerator and dishwasher- luckily we have a door to the washer dryer.)
Time to toddler-proof our home.
When our new little guys came to us, they were constantly going on the counter, begging, and trying to steal people’s food. Our boys are so smart (they will tip over a garbage can in a way to jiggle the lid off).
My husband and I have had to become the “Wiley Coyotes of safety”. Now, our trash cans have lids AND locks.
We are lucky to live in a pet-centered age where there are multiple resources, products, and research available to us on how to keep our pets safe and happy.
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*Learn from the experts about your dog and cat’s behavior with these books below. Click on the images to learn more.
Your Cat is NOT a Dog, and Your Dog is NOT a Cat.
Here are the 9 Hazards to Avoid, and the 9 Tips for Preventing These Dangers.
Problem #1: Cat Food Versus Dog Food and Why They Should Not Eat Each Other’s Food
In Dr. Patty Khuly’s, DVM (2009) article, dogs and cats should NOT eat each other’s food because of the following. Read the full article HERE.
• Cats require meat to survive and thrive. There is no way around this.
• All cats require Vitamin A and Taurine in their food in order to live.
• If a cat refuses to eat, this is an emergency.
• Cat food is produced to meet the special needs of your cats.
• Dogs have different nutritional needs than cats, and eating a cat food diet can lead to life-threatening issues such as pancreatitis.
• Dog food is formulated to meet the specific needs of your dogs.
Solutions #1: How do I keep my dog from eating the cat food and vice a versa?
Amy Shojia, CABC is a certified animal behavioral consultant. In her article, she mentions several strategies on How to keep dogs & cats away from each other’s food. Read the full article HERE.
1) Feed the dog and cats in a different location at the same times. If the dog is finished first, distract him until your cat is finished. Dogs and cats can be fed with puzzle feeders.
2) Elevate cat dishes, but be sure that your cat can easily access her food.
3) Feed your dog and cat in different rooms with a door.
4) Use a baby gate, so your dog can not climb over.
5) Never place cat dishes next to the litter box. (It is like you eating on the toilet.) Cats are obsessed with cleanliness.
6) Train your dog with commands to leave the cat food alone.
*Click on the pictures to learn more about slowing down your dog’s eating and provide mental stimulation.
2) Some Human Foods That Are Toxic to Dogs & Cats
Problem # 2: There are human foods that are toxic to your cats and dogs.
According to the ASPCA, here are some of the top poisonous foods for your cats and dogs. This is NOT an all-inclusive list. Read the article HERE.
Download the list of toxic human foods and poisonous plants for Dogs & Cats Here-List of Harmful Flower, Plants, & Food for Dogs & Cats.
• Coffee, Tea/ anything with caffeine
• Any gum, candy, toothpaste, food that contains xylitol
• Onions, garlic, shallots, chives, onion powder…
• Alcohol-including beer-hops
• Grapes and Raisins
• Yeast/Yeast Dough
• Macadamia Nuts
• Citrus oils/peels, stem, leaves, seeds…
• Seeds are not good for your pet –Apple seeds are especially dangerous
• Leaves of rhubarb-poisonous to people, too.
• Watch out for food with bones that can choke, splinter, and puncture a location anywhere in the GI tract.
Solution #2: How do I keep my dog and cat from eating people food?
1) Stick to their assigned store-bought food and treats that are specially formulated for their individual needs.
2) Secure these foods in the refrigerator, pantries, drawers… You might have to childproof some of the cabinets…
3) Do not leave people food out (on the counter, on a table…) where your cat or dog might get into it.
4) Put double sided tape on a plastic mat for the counter to discourage a cat.
5) Feed your cat and dog their food while you are eating yours.
6) Do NOT feed your pet from the table or encourage begging. (Even doing this once or twice will confuse your fur child, and it will have them pushing to get more.)
7) If you want to give them a special treat after mealtime, give them an appropriate snack in their bowls or in a puzzle feeder.
8) If you have young children, make sure any eating is supervised. Check under the table when your young child is done eating.
9) Trash- Use trash cans with lids and locks to avoid choking hazards, spoiled food, and poisonous food.
10) Do not use essential oils to deodorize the house. Secure all essential oils in a location that your pets and children cannot get to.
Trash Can with Lid & Lock *(click on the picture to learn more.)
Cat & Small Dog Food Puzzles *(Click on the puzzle photo to learn more.)
Our kitty searching for treats in the puzzle. He loves this puzzle! This keeps him busy and slows down eating.
Blue Buffalo Cat & Dog Treats *(Click on photos to learn more.)
3) Human Medication Dangers
Problem #3: Human Medication Dangers
ALL Human medications (liquid, pills, injectables, creams…) and vitamins can be considered a hazard. (Talk to vet FIRST about any human medication & dosages.)
Take your pet to the vet immediately if they ingest human medication. Be sure to bring the medication with you in the bottle to show the vet.
Solution #3: Secure/Dispose/Take Back Medications
1) Disposing of medications, and Take Back Programs –United States FDA Link HERE.
2) Medications can be locked in safes, secured cabinets, drawers…
3) Do not leave medication out (on the counter, on a table…) where your cat or dog might get into it.
4) Many State Police stations and other agencies will take back unused medications.
5) Be careful about how to dispose of your medication. Sometimes people unintentionally pollute/poison the environment by just flushing their unused medications.
Problem #4: The problem with parasites and other pests. Preventative Medication Awareness
Flea and tick medications for cats and dogs are also attributed to several poisonings a year. They are pesticides, and both dogs and cats groom with their tongue. Please consult with your vet to find the right options.
The ASPCA has come up with an article called: Using flea medications safely: Top 5 tips for pet parents. Read it HERE.
If you have a dog, she will be going outside frequently and be exposed to these diseases. Therefore, if you have both dogs and cats, then you might want to use preventative measures for everyone.
Depending on where you live, fleas, ticks, mosquitos, and other parasites can carry deadly diseases. We have strictly indoor cats. Therefore, we do not use any pesticides.
But, fleas can enter your home on mice, and they do not even need an animal to enter your home. They can come in on your shoes. In the summer, we always manage to get a few mosquitoes in the house. Also, check your indoor-outdoor fur kids for ticks/fleas/parasites on a regular basis.
Both cats and dogs will eat prey. The problem is that the prey might have parasites or other diseases.
Solution #4: Prevention and Treatment of Parasites (Consult a Vet)
When you remove a tick, be careful to NOT leave the head in. Pet MD has directions and video found HERE called How to remove ticks on dogs and cats. Bring the tick to your local health department to be screened for diseases.
The ASPCA has come up with an article called: Using flea medications safely: Top 5 tips for pet parents. Read it HERE.
Discuss child and pet safe exterminator options. If you use poison for mice or rats, be aware, if the mouse ingests the poison, if your dog or cat eats that mouse, then your dog or cat will also ingest the poison. Consider non-poison alternatives.
5) Poisonous Plants
Problem #5: There are plants and flowers that are poisonous to both cats and dogs.
According to the ASPCA, here are some of the top poisonous plants and flowers that are toxic for your cats and dogs. This is NOT an all-inclusive list. Read the list of toxic and non-toxic for dogs and cats HERE.
• Lilies including/ but not limited to Easter Lilies
• Lily of the Valley
• Sago Palm
• Autumn Crocus
• Tulips & Hyacinths
• Morning Glory
Solution #5: Alternatives to live toxic plants and flowers
1) Use Fake decorative flowers. We do that in our own home, and this also doesn’t bother my allergies.
2) There are many organic blades of grass that you can buy and grow for cats and dogs. This can help digestion, and it brings the outdoors in. (Make sure your dogs and cats do NOT eat grass from the lawn because they usually have pesticides on them.)
3) There are some non-toxic plants and flowers, but some cats and dogs might still experience irritation, allergies, gastrointestinal distress… Non-toxic plants and flowers are on the ASPCA list.
6) Choking Hazards
Problem # 6: Choking Hazards
Almost anything can be a choking hazard, especially when you have homes with both cats and dogs (Cat toys can be choking dangers to dogs). Always supervise children with your pets.
Pica- Why is my cat eating that? In this article, Wendy Fries talks with Dr. Arnold Plotnick, DVM, a veterinary internist and feline specialist in New York. Click HERE to find out more.
Top Choking Concerns
• Non-Pet Store Bones – Not only are they choking hazards, but they can also splinter and puncture esophagus, intestines…
• Yarn, String, Ribbon, Dental Floss, Long stringy items… (Never try to pull on the stringy item. Take your pet to the vet immediately.)
• Toys can be choking dangers for dogs, cats, and children.
• Rubber Bands, Hair Elastics, Barrettes
• Coins, Buttons, Marbles, Balloons…
• ANY Kind of Jewelry
• Electrical cords (choking, strangulation, electrocution)
• Cords from blinds and shades (can choke or strangle)
• Plastic bags (can choke or strangle)
• Dogs can choke on or get obstructions by eating cat litter.
• In rare cases, cats can choke on or get obstructed by hairballs. Use some type of hairball remedy on a regular basis.
• If you have dogs, nothing is off limits, especially when they are teething.
• If you have children, there are more things that can cause hazards, such as binkies, bottles, bibs, wipes, wash clothes, diapers-Yup. You read that right.
Solution #6: This will depend on the choking hazard.
1) Get your cat or dog checked out by a vet. This could be a sign of a variety of issue.
2) Always supervise children with cats and dogs. Make sure all chokeables (action figures, etc.…) are secured immediately after use.
3) Throw out chokeable items in trash cans with lids and locks.
Trash Can with Lid & Lock reduces choking hazards and the ability for dogs and cats to get spoiled food. *(click on the picture to learn more.)
4) Have a playroom behind a closed door. Make sure the door has clicked completely shut.
5) Never give your cat or dog bones from human food. Dogs can get bones from pet stores which are specially constructed for chewing. Always supervise puppies and dogs while they use chew toys. Some rough chewers can destroy just about anything and can choke and or cause a blockage.
6) Store all chokeables in secure locations immediately after use. Closets, pantries with locks, draw that shut tight, childproof cabinets. Make sure there is a click, lock; the storage area is completely and securely closed.
7) Any Christmas tree decorations (hang them higher up or skip them), tinsel, lights (especially chewing on cords)
8) At Easter time, do not hide chocolate of poisonous foods. (Please see # 2.)
9) Please do not decorate with live lilies or any other toxic flowers. (Please see #4.)
10) Remove all detachable items on toys such as plastic eyes, string before you let your fur baby play with them.
11) Use cat or dog appropriate toys.
12) Use cat and dog puzzle toys to feed. (This will reduce boredom, and slow down eating.)
Cat & Small Dog Food Puzzles to keep them busy, and slow down their eating. Click on photos to learn more.
1) storing them away if they are chargers after use.
2) Use a room with a door.
3) Use gloves to apply Bitter Apple. This has an extremely strong odor and taste. This will have to be done over and over again.
4) Use cord protectors, and cord bundlers. (I am warning you against citrus smelling cord protectors. Many commenters said the smell was too strong for them.)
5) Train dogs with commands not to touch your cat’s food.
Bitter Apple (Spray on cords, plants, etc. to deter cats and dogs from chewing. Use disposable waterproof gloves to apply. The scent is very powerful. Might need to be reapplied frequently.)
*(Click on the photo to learn more.) Deter your cat or dog from chewing with this spray.
You will want unscented cord covers that protect your puppies, kitten, and furry cord chewers & scratchers.*(Click on the photo to learn more.)
14) For cats, give them hairball remedy/organic cat grass to avoid choking on hairballs. *(Click on the photos to learn more.)
*We use these Hairball Prevention Treats fur our two fur babies.
15) *Give your dog and cats dental chewing toys designed specifically for them.
Cat Dental Toys- (Cut off tags) Our cats love these! *(Click on the photo to learn more.)
Dog Chewing Treats- With any dog toy, please choose the appropriate toy size for your size dog. Always keep an eye on puppies and dogs when they are playing with toys. *(Click on the photo to learn more.)
7) ER-Urinary & GI Issues
Problem #7: Emergency- Urinary and GI issues
Biological functions can indicate a problem. Take your fur family member to the vet first before ruling out behavioral issues.
• Your cat or dog’s inability to urinate (This is an emergency that needs to be addressed by a vet IMMEDIATELY.)
• Cats that refuse to eat – even when presented with other options.
• Cat urinating outside the litterbox?
• Is there blood in your cat or dog’s stool or urine?
• Dr. Coates has a slide show about possible urinary medical issues for dogs in 10 Urinary problems in dogs. Read HERE.
• The ASPCA has an article about cats called Litter box problems. Read HERE.
• Inability to poop – (especially in the case of suspected poisoning or blockage, distress…)
• Signs of distress
Solution #7: Check your dog and cat’s waste every day.
1) Create a litterbox environment that both your cat and you can be on board with.
(Do not use deodorizers. If you have a dog or other threatening cats, use open litter boxes with multiple exits.
Do not use automatic litter boxes. I have seen them malfunction, and most cats I know are afraid of them. There should be an extra litter box than the number of cats. If you have 2 cats, you will have 3 litter boxes.
Do a thorough litterbox cleaning at least once a month.)
2) Scoop your cat’s litter box at least once a day.
3) When you walk your dog, have a bag to pick up their feces, so you can see if there are any parasites or most abnormalities.
4) When grew up with my dog, sometimes she squatted without peeing. I had to wait for her to urinate at least once before going back inside.
5) Look at how your dog or cat is acting. Questions to ask yourself:
a. Are they straining to poop or pee?
b. Are they urinating every day?
c. Are they urinating outside the box?
d. Two of our three male cats had crystals and indicated this by urinating outside the box. This can become very deadly very quickly in male cats and dogs.
e. Are they defecating every day?
f. If not, do they have an obstruction?
g. Diarrhea can also indicate medical issues including parasites.
h. Sometimes a change in odor from your companion’s waste can indicate a medical issue.
8) The Dangers of Appliances
Problem #8: Curiosity and Appliances Don’t Mix
• Cats want warm places like clothes in the dryer. Unknowingly, they can get trapped and killed in a washer or drier. (REMOVE everything from the washer and drier before closing the doors.)
• Make sure your cats and dogs are not in the refrigerator EVERY time you close the door. Wait for the seal to make a noise. Check the seal regularly.
• Keep your dogs and cats outside of the dishwasher. (Raw meat, poisonous foods, bones, choking hazards, and the risk of getting trapped inside. Seal the dishwasher closed every day, even when the dishwasher is empty.)
• Put child protection on your stove and oven. Cats and dogs can accidentally turn on the stove or oven causing fires, burns, etc.
Solution #8: Depends on the situation.
1) Make sure washer and dryer are completely empty before shutting the doors. Take a quick look with your eyes. Have the doors completely closed as soon as you are done.
2) Check to make sure the seal on your refrigerator is strong. Make sure no one is partially in the fridge when you go to close it. Seal the fridge tightly every time.
3) Train your dogs not to go in the dishwasher. Keep cats out of the dishwasher.
4) Keep cats off the counter. Double-sided tape on a placemat, noisy metal pan, wet countertop, or a textured deterrent mat. (Make sure that cats cannot get injured by placemats falling off the counter.)
5) Train dogs to not jump. Put childproof items on oven/stove (especially for gas stoves) knobs for dogs and cats. Please measure first to ensure the correct size. *(Click on the photo to learn more.)
9) Chemicals & Cleaners
Problem #9: Household Cleaners/Chemicals
• Household Cleaners- even organic cleaners contain plant matter that is potentially hazardous to cats and dogs.
• Antifreeze for cats
• Cleaning Products (even some that are environmentally friendly for example eucalyptus essential oil is toxic to cats and dogs)
• Chemicals for cars, hobbies, paint, varnish…
• Moth Balls
Solution #9: Keep household cleaners and chemicals out of reach of cats, dogs, & kids.
1) Keep cleaning products and chemicals in a secure storage container in a garage or basement.
2) Store in a linen closet with a door. Make sure the door is securely shut every time.
3) Childproof cabinets. Our cats can get into cabinets without child safety locks. Make sure your fur family member cannot chew/choke on these childproof locks. *(Click on the photo to learn more.)
Keeping Your Dogs & Cats Happy
(For every “no” there should be a “yes”)
Training & Prey Drive
• Get and work with a trainer with your dog as soon as possible. You can eliminate many undesirable behaviors through positive and consistent training. (Many states have strict bite laws.)
• If you have a dog with a higher prey drive, work closely with the trainer to see if another animal can even be introduced into the home such as a cat or other animals.
• If you have a cat, I would highly recommend that you do not get another pet that your cat will instinctually see as prey- rodents, fish, reptiles, small rabbits… Unfortunately, I have seen many dogs that see smaller animals as prey and will eat them.
• Training- both dogs and cats can be trained. Generally, cats can be harder to train. Basic commands for dogs can eliminate some of the potential dangers. (Our cats understand certain commands. Whether they want to do it is another story.)
• Regular Feeding Schedule- This builds trust and routine. It also gives you, as the pet parent, the ability to check their waste on a regular basis.
• My husband feeds our 2 cats in the morning. He does not set his alarm clock anymore because they hop on the bed for breakfast at the same time every morning.
I feed them at night. They start approaching me 10 minutes before feeding time.
• Feeding at the same time as you do will reduce/eliminate begging.
Grooming & Territory
• Cats are very territorial and need to leave their scent throughout their space. Provide scratching pads in many locations throughout the house.
Check to see if your cat likes to sharpen claws on an angle, flat, or on raised scratching pads or scratching posts.
• Skip the catnip if your cat has any aggressive or adverse effects. My guys love these.
Trim your fur babies’ nails on a regular basis. There are a variety of clippers available for cats and dogs.
• Groom your cat and dog on a regular basis. Especially, during shedding times. Cats can spend up to 50% of their day grooming. This will reduce hairballs. There are a variety of combs and brushes for long and short haired dogs and cats.
• Walk your dog. It is good exercise for you, too.
• As a rule, dogs like petting and belly rubs. Cats generally do not want to be rubbed on their bellies. I find most cats enjoy pets under their chins.
• Praise your fur family members when they are doing desired behaviors.
Play (Physical Exercise and Mental Stimulation)
• Play and exercise. Make sure your fur children are getting plenty of play and exercise.
For dogs that socialize well with other dogs and people, dog parks can be great! Make sure to follow the rules of the park. Be aware of how your dog interacts with others. Some parks have separate areas for small and large dogs.
• Many cats and dogs are very intelligent. Play can include mental exercise, such as doing food puzzles, obstacle courses, and “hunting/searching” for hidden prey around the house. See what your pet is comfortable with.
Interactive play is a great way to bond. Playing fetch with your dog. Using a wand to play with your cat. Play sessions can end with a treat so the cat can “catch” the prey and not be frustrated.
This Cat Wand holds up well with our “aggressive play” cat. *(Click on the photos to learn more.
Our boys love tunnels! They especially looking out the “window”. If ties are a concern, cut them off. It advertises small dogs can use this, too. (I would not recommend this if your dog is a chewer.) It comes in different colors.*(Click on the photos to learn more.)
• Keep the litter box clean. Thoroughly clean once a month. Do not use deodorizers. Keep food AWAY from the litter box.
While You are Gone
• Get a cat tree or a perch by a window, so your kitties can see the outside. Make sure the cat tree is big enough for your cat, and the base is strong enough for jumping and climbing. (Read reviews.)
• Dogs like off the ground locations, too. (They are checking out their neighborhood.)
• Consider having two cats or two dogs. If they have the disposition, our cats spend about 1 hr. and ½ playing with each other a day. Also, they spend time with each other when we are at work.
• Some people recommend cat and dog TV while they are away.
• Automatic treat dispensers and cameras are starting to gain momentum. While you are at work, you can still interact with your cat or dog.
• Doggie daycare or a dog walker might be necessary if you are away from home for long periods of time.
• Use harnesses instead of collars to avoid injury in aggressive pullers.
Calling cat people who love to DIY. This book is for you. *(Click on the photo to learn more.)
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Litter box problems.
Retrieved from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/litter-box-problems
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. People foods to avoid
feeding your pets. Retrieved from
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Toxic and non-toxic
plants list. Retrieved from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Using flea medications
safely: Top 5 tips for pet parents. Retrieved from https://www.aspca.org/news/using-flea-medications-safely-top-5-tips-pet-parents
Coates, J. (n.d.). 10 urinary problems in dogs [slides]. Retrieved from
Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (Updated 2019). Disposal of unused medicines:
What you should know. Retrieved from
Fries, W. (2012, April 12). Why is my cat eating that? Retrieved from
How to remove ticks on dogs and cats. (n.d.). Retrieved April 9, 2019, from
Khuly, P. (2009, August 21). Can dogs eat cat food? Can cats eat dog food? Retrieved
Shojai, A. (n.d.). How to keep dogs & cats away from each other’s food. Retrieved April
6, 2019, from https://www.petsafe.net/learn/how-to-keep-dogs-cats-away-from-each-others-food
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