Q: My cats are fascinated by flickering candles. How often do cats cause house fires?
A: According to the National Fire Protection Association, home fires affect 500,000 pets every year, and pets actually start 700 to 1000 home fires every year. Most fires involve the stove, fireplace or candles.
To prevent fires, employ the usual precautions:
- Supervise your cats around lit candles, and extinguish candles before you leave the room – or better yet, use flameless electronic candles.
- When you’re away, remove, cover or lock stove knobs so pets can’t accidentally turn on the stove.
- Prevent your cats from chewing electrical wires by covering them with a plastic shower rod cover.
- Don’t leave a clear glass water bowl on the deck, as the sun’s rays through the water can ignite the wood deck.
To help your pets survive a fire, make sure your smoke detectors are working. Even better, connect your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to a central monitoring station that will call the fire company if you are away when a fire starts. Also:
- Affix a decal by your front door telling fire fighters how many cats and dogs you have.
- Keep carriers and leashes handy, and know your cats’ hiding places so you don’t have to waste time looking for them.
- Make an emergency kit with a few days of food and medications.
- Use your cell phone to photograph your pets and their vaccination records.
- Be sure your pets are microchipped, in case they run away.
After a fire, bathe your cats and take them to their veterinarian for treatment of toxins ingested during grooming, smoke inhalation and burns. Purchasing pet health insurance before a fire would help pay the bills.
Editor's note: National Fire Prevention Week in the US is October 9-15. For more information about preventing fires, creating a pet fire safety checklist and keeping pets safe during and after a fire, please visit the National Fire Protection Association's website.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion-animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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