How to keep your pet from starting a fire

And know how to keep your pet safe if fire strikes at home.

cat messing with a pot on the stove

A cat playing around the stove is a dangerous combination. (Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

are curious. When you're not home, they can get bored and get into all sorts of mischief. But chewing the occasional shoe is harmless compared to the serious damage they can do with stoves, candles, fireplaces and space heaters.

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that nearly 1,000 home fires each year are accidentally started by animals, including homeowners' pets.

Don't think your dog or cat could start a home fire? A Massachusetts fire department shared a homeowner's security camera footage of a dog starting a house fire. (All he wanted was some leftover pancakes.)

The American Kennel Club and the NFPA offer these tips for keeping your pets from starting fires:

Avoid open flames — Because some pets will check out candles, fireplaces and cooking appliances, make sure to extinguish any open flame before leaving your pets home alone.

Protect your fireplace — When a fire is lit, use a metal or heat-tempered glass screen on a fireplace.

Cover stove knobs — If you have a cat that jumps on the stove or a dog that can reach stove height when he's standing on his hind legs, remove stove knobs or protect them with covers. The stove and cootop are the primary place pets are involved in starting fires, according to NFPA.

Watch cords — Some pets are chewers and will gnaw on electrical cords. Pay attention to your pet's habits and be sure to tuck all cords out of reach if your pet shows interest in chewing on them. If you don't hide them, then unplug them or spray them with something bitter to keep your pet from using them as chew toys.

Consider flameless candles — Cats are well known for knocking over candles with a flick of a tail. These battery-powered luminaries use a lightbulb rather than an open flame.

Watch water bowls — Using a glass water bowl on an outdoor wooden deck can be trouble. When the sun's rays filter through the glass, they can heat up the water and ignite the deck underneath. For outdoors, choose ceramic or stainless steel bowls.

Prepare for emergencies

firefighter carrying dog out of burning home Make it as easy as possible for rescuers to find your pets in case of a fire. (Photo: songpholt/Shutterstock)

According to statistics cited by the American Veterinary Medical Association, about 40,000 pets die in home fires each year, most from smoke inhalation, and 500,000 pets are affected overall by residential fires.

Take these steps to make sure your pets are safe if a fire breaks out in your home.

Confine pets near entrances — It's easier for rescuers to reach your dogs and cats if they are in rooms or crates near doors. That way, fire fighters can easily find them.

Emergency pet sign on windows and doors can alert rescuers when you aren't home.

Apply pet alert window clings — These stickers let rescuers know there are pets inside. Make sure the number and type of pet is noted and keep the information updated. You can buy them online or order them free from some rescues or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Have an emergency plan — Keep leashes, collars and any medications near the exit so you can grab them and make a quick exit. Have an emergency escape route and practice drills with your whole family, including pets.

Consider a monitored alarm — If your smoke detector goes off when you're not home, that won't help your pets. Monitored alarms will alert you and rescuers as soon as they detect a fire.

Window sticker photo: strawberrytiger/Shutterstock

Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.

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