How to Make Your House a Better Place for Animals

Three Methods:Making Your Home Safer for AnimalsMaking Your Home More Comfortable for AnimalsProviding Environmental Enrichment for Animals

As humans, we like to provide different ‘creature comforts’ for ourselves to make our house feel like a home. Have you ever thought about how to make your home a more comfortable place for animals? Like people, animals need their own creature comforts to feel comfortable and secure in their home environment. Although the needs of different types of animals can vary between species, your pet will appreciate the time you take to make your home more accommodating to them.

Method 1
Making Your Home Safer for Animals

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    Hide visible electrical wires. Chewing on electrical wires can be very hazardous for animals. For example, an animal could get electrocuted from chewing on an electrical wire. Electrocution can lead to several medical problems, including burns and fluid accumulation in the lungs.[1] Given these risks, it is very important for you to identify and hide any visible wires (e.g., television cables, power cords for phones and computers) that an animal could get to.[2]
    • Electrocution typically happens in younger animals (less than two years old), since they are very curious about their surrounding environment.[3]
    • Additional clinical signs of electrical injury include difficulty breathing and coughing.[4]
    • Electrical injury requires veterinary care.
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    Make sure your windows latch securely. Cats and dogs can be especially prone to falling out of windows.[5] In fact, cats fall out of windows so frequently that there is name for the occurrence: ‘High-Rise Syndrome.’[6] Ensuring that your windows stay securely in the closed position will help prevent your dog or cat from being able to slip out of the window and potentially injure themselves.
    • Although it may be expensive, it may be worth investing in windows with secure latches. Visiting your local home improvement store can help you decide which type of window would work best for your budget.
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    Remove any toxic plants in your home. As beautiful as houseplants can be, they can also be quite toxic to animals, particularly dogs and cats. For example, Cali lilies and philodendrons are very toxic to cats and can cause drooling and vomiting, among other clinical signs.[7][8] Aloe plants are toxic to dogs, and can cause such signs as vomiting, diarrhea, and tremors.[9]
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    Prevent your animal’s access to cabinets and trashcans. Our kitchen and bathroom cabinets typically contain cleaning agents and/or medications that could be very harmful to animals if ingested. For example, painkillers, vitamins, and diet pills are all toxic to animals.[10] Childproof latches are very helpful in keeping out animals who are crafty enough to open doors or lids.
    • Spoiled or rotten food can contain toxins, such as the botulinum toxin, that can make animals very sick.[11]
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    Prevent your animal’s access to rodent traps. Some rodent traps contain rodenticide, which is extremely toxic to animals. In fact, rodenticide poisoning is a very common cause of poisonings in animals.[12] Rodenticides have anticoagulants, which can cause severe bleeding problems in animals.
    • Clinical signs of rodent poisoning include lethargy and weakness, and tend to get worse over time.[13]
    • If you have a rodent problem and choose to use rodent traps, it is advised to make the traps as inaccessible to pets as possible.[14]
    • Rodenticide poisoning requires immediate veterinary care.
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    Use Teflon-free appliances. This is critical if you have birds. Teflon, which is a chemical commonly found in non-stick appliances, is highly toxic to birds. It causes a potentially fatal respiratory condition called ‘Teflon toxicosis.’[15] A heated non-stick appliance, such as a skillet, emits a noxious fume that can cause a bird to become extremely weak and start gasping for air.[16]
    • If you are unsure if your appliances are nonstick, you may want to consider purchasing new appliances that you know are not nonstick.

Method 2
Making Your Home More Comfortable for Animals

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    Provide accommodations for older dogs or cats. As animals get older, they can develop medical problems, such as arthritis, that can be uncomfortable and make normal activities more challenging. To assist them in their old age, provide older dogs or cats with additional bedding or padding to make their sleep area more comfortable.[17] Carpet-covered ramps or stairs will help older dogs and cats get up or down from their usual resting spots or in and out of a car (more applicable for dogs).[18]
    • You can look for the ramps and stairs at your local pet store. Alternatively, you could visit your local home improvement store to find these items and design them to be more pet- friendly.
    • No-skid carpets and foam floor mats are helpful for older dogs who may be unsteady on their feet.[19]
    • Refrain from rearranging furniture if you have a blind dog or cat. Rearranging the furniture could cause them to bump into something and potentially injure themselves.[20]
    • Elevating food and water bowls to shoulder or elbow height is helpful for older dogs and cats with arthritis or back problems.[21]
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    Create a quiet space for cats. Cats need space for peace and quiet.[22] Try to set up an area of your home for your cat that is away from a lot of noise and distraction. This area can also serve as a safe hiding place for a cat who is easily spooked by thunderstorms or loud noises.[23]
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    Place cages for your pocket pet and/or bird away from drafts. Pockets pets and birds are very sensitive to temperature changes and extremes. Try to keep their cages away from any source of drafts (e.g., drafty windows, air vents, fans).[24][25]
    • If you have other pets, it is also preferable to keep pocket pet cages on a raised surface, such as a table. This would prevent your other pets from being able to get to your pocket pet.[26]
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    Maintain a comfortable cage environment for your reptile. Reptiles are cold-blooded animals and need special cage accommodations to ensure their maximal comfort.[27] This will likely require you to purchase additional lights and cage accessories. For example, you will need incandescent light bulbs and ‘basking’ lights to warm up the cage to the ideal temperature.[28]
    • Reptiles also need ultraviolet light. Light bulbs can be purchased at your local pet store that provide this type of lighting.[29]
    • When the outside humidity is low, especially during the winter, misting your reptile several times a week can help keep him comfortable.[30]
    • Specific needs vary between reptile species, so be sure to research your specific type of reptile to determine what will work best for him.

Method 3
Providing Environmental Enrichment for Animals

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    Learn the benefits of environmental enrichment. Environmental enrichment is very important for any animal’s welfare and well-being. Having an enriched environment keeps animals physically and mentally stimulated by providing novel and potentially challenging experiences. An enriched environment also allows animals to exhibit their natural behaviors (e.g., chasing, hunting).[31]
    • Environmental enrichment needs can vary from species to species, so it is important to do your research to determine what will work best for the animal you have.
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    Provide environmental enrichment for your cat. You can create an enriching environment for your cat in several ways. For example, you can provide him with a steady rotation of toys so that he does not become bored with what she plays with. Giving him toys that match his personality can keep him even more entertained.[32]
    • Toys that dangle are good for cats that like to chase things and use their hunting skills.[33] Moving the toy away from his visual field will make it harder for him to chase and catch, and will make playtime more interesting for him.[34]
    • Scheduling regular playtime with your cat is an important component of environmental enrichment. Aim to play with your cat twice a day for about 5 to 15 minutes per session.[35]
    • Consider switching out his toys every few days.
    • Puzzle-feeders provide both mental and physical stimulation. You can place dry food inside these toys so that you cat has to put in extra effort to get to the food.[36]
    • Window perches are an excellent way to enrich your cat’s environment by providing him with visual stimulation.[37]
    • Cat videos featuring typical cat prey (rodents, birds) can also keep him busy, especially in the winter when there isn’t much to see outside.[38][39]
    • Training your cat provides great environmental enrichment by giving your cat mental and physical challenges. The main key to training a cat is making bad behavior undesirable and making good behavior extremely desirable.
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    Create an enriching environment for your dog. Just like cats, dogs need a variety and steady rotation of toys to prevent boredom. A good rule of thumb is to provide your dog with three toys at a time and rotate them out on a regular basis (e.g., about every five days).[40]
    • Dogs can benefit from watching dog videos when you are not home. Dog videos are more suitable for dogs who may become highly reactive when seeing something outside that they cannot get to.[41]
    • Puzzle feeders are a great way to provide your dog with environmental enrichment.[42]
    • Leaving the television or radio on when you are not home, or giving your dog a toy that makes noise, can stimulate his auditory sense and be enriching for him.[43]
    • Hiding treats around the house can help your dog use his sense of smell, which can keep him entertained and happy.[44]
    • Regular playtime with you is another way to provide environmental enrichment for your dog.[45]
    • Dogs can be trained to do many tricks or tasks, such as sitting, playing fetch, and playing dead. The process of learning the tricks and tasks will be enriching for your dog, as long as you make it a rewarding and positive experience (e.g., verbal praise, treats).
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    Enrich your pocket pet's environment. Pocket pets tend to be very energetic animals and need enrichment to keep them busy and active. As with dogs and cats, pocket pets need toys and plenty of them. Rather than going out and spending a lot of money on toys at your local pet store, you can make your own toys out of items such as empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls.
    • If you would like to purchase toys at the pet store, consider purchasing nibbler and chew toys.[46]
    • Ramps and stairs are useful if your pocket pet’s cage is multi-level. Just make sure that the ramps and stairs are solid to prevent his feet from getting stuck.[47]
    • Exercise wheels are a great way for your pocket pet to exercise, but are not suitable for all pocket pets. For example, exercise wheels can seriously injure a guinea pig’s back, but are fine for a hamster or mouse.[48]
    • Playtime outside of the cage is important for pocket pets. Before letting your pocket pet out of his cage, make sure that your other pets are blocked from the area.[49] Also, make sure to cover up any furniture that he could nibble on,[50] and block his access to potential hiding places (e.g., under and between furniture).
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    Enhance the environment of your bird's cage. When outfitting your bird’s cage, make sure to include several perches of varying diameters and textures to keep his feet healthy and prevent a specific foot condition called ‘bumble foot.’ Select a perch diameter that will allow your bird to firmly grip the perch without falling off.[51]
    • Birds tends to like puzzle-feeder toys, as well as plush toys that they can snuggle up against.[52]
    • Be mindful that large birds can destroy toys quickly, so you may have to purchase toys for your bird on a regular basis.[53]
    • Contrary to popular belief, it is not recommended to provide birds with a mirror.[54]
    • Birds can be trained. For example, you can teach your budgie to step up.
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    Cater to your reptile's enrichment needs. Provide environmental enrichment for your reptile. The environmental enrichment needs for reptiles are different from those of other animals typically kept as pets. For example, reptiles need perches, branches, and rock piles in their cages to give them places to climb and hide.[55] It is also good to hide food throughout a reptile’s cage to encourage the natural tendency to forage for food.[56]
    • Doing your research on your specie of reptile (e.g., feeding habits, reproductive biology, natural aging process) is critical in providing the right type of environmental enrichment for him.[57]
    • Veiled chameleons prefer to drink water from dew-dampened leaves instead of a water bowl. For this type of reptile, you would need to set up either a misting system or a rainforest environment to allow water to accumulate on the foliage in his cage.[58]
    • If you are not too squeamish, feeding live crickets is good environmental enrichment for bearded dragons.[59]


  • It may take time, and maybe more money than you expect, to make your home a better place to live in for your pet.
  • If you keep multiple animals as pets, you will need to cater to each of their environmental needs to keep all of them safe, happy, and comfortable.
  • When you train your pet, be patient with him and provide him with plenty of verbal praise and encouragement as he is learning.


  • Certain hazards in your home can be fatal if your animal ingests them. If your animal ingests a substance that is toxic to them, contact the Pet Poison Hotline ( and your veterinarian for assistance and treatment advice.
  • Animal hoarding is unkind to the animals. If you have this problem, seek help from a therapist who knows how to help treat hoarding disorders.
  • Do not keep your pet indoors if you or someone in your household is allergic to that kind of animal.

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Categories: Pet Hazards