Cat sleeping on a blanket with candles burning in the background

Fire Safety and Your Pet

Nationwide each year, at least 500,000 pets are affected by house fires, with 40,000 of them dying—often from smoke inhalation.

In observance of National Pet Fire Safety Day on July 15, we offer our best advice for keeping pets safe from fires.

Keep Your Pet From Starting a Fire

Family pets (and other animals like squirrels and mice that chew through electrical wires) start an estimated 790 house fires, on average, every year. 

Given that there are more than 130 million pets living in homes nationwide, the likelihood that your pet will start a fire at your house is low. 

Still, it’s sensible to take precautions. To reduce the risks of your pet’s starting a fire—

Keep your pet away from open flames. 

Pets can be seriously injured when they get too close to a fireplace or candle and their fur catches fire. They can also start fires when they knock candles off shelves or tables and ignite flammable papers, fabrics and furnishings.

Use hurricane glass holders for candles or, better yet, enjoy the safe, warm glow of battery-powered candles. 

Cover your fireplace with a sturdy wire mesh screen or enclose it behind glass doors.

Even with the flames behind barriers, never leave your pet unattended in a room with candles or a fireplace burning.

Beware of stove control knobs and burners. 

Both dogs and cats have been known to turn on gas and electric burners, often when home alone. 

If your pet can reach the stovetop and its control panel, remove the knobs and engage child safety locks if your stove has them.

As an added precaution, keep flammable fabrics, cookbooks and food packaging materials well away from stove tops.

Don’t leave food cooking unattended on the stove if there’s a chance your pet could pull the pot or pan off the stovetop. 

Cover loose power cords.

Besides receiving potentially deadly electrical shocks, pets can start house fires by chewing through the insulation on power cords.

To protect your pet and your household from chewed power cords, use cord covers, available online and at hardware stores.

Watch out for portable space heaters.

Keep your pet and your pet’s bedding clear of contact with portable space heaters. 

Make sure your heater is relatively cool to the touch and new enough to have an automatic shut-off feature if knocked over.

Never leave your pet unattended in a room with a portable space heater. 

Protect Your Pet in Case of a Fire

Nearly half of all house fires are caused by cooking mishaps. Heating-related hazards are the second-most frequent cause, followed by faulty electrical systems and lighting equipment. 

To protect your pet from a house fire, regardless of the cause—

Install monitored smoke detectors.

Strategically-placed smoke detectors, monitored by a security service, can protect your property and family—including your pet—around-the-clock, whether or not you are at home when the fire starts. 

Make your pet easily accessible to rescuers.

When you leave pets alone in the house, confine them to an area near an exterior door, with a collar and leash or carrier handy. This will make it easier for fire fighters to find them and get them safely out of your burning house.

You may also put a decal in your front window or door indicating the current number and types of pets inside. 

Include your pet in family emergency preparations.

In our post, “Preparing Your Pets for Disaster,” we offer detailed advice to help you prepare for all sorts of emergencies—including house fires. 

With your emergency evacuation plans made, we suggest you and your family practice implementing them, deciding in advance who’ll be in charge of retrieving any pets and actually rehearsing getting them out of the house.

Know your pet’s preferred napping and hiding places and practice accessing and getting them on lead or into a carrier from there.

Don’t risk your own life to rescue your pet.

In the event of a fire, if rescuing pets is too dangerous, get safely out of the house yourself, leave the door open and call from a safe distance to your pets to follow you outside. 

Do not return to a burning house to try to find and rescue a pet. As soon as they arrive, let fire fighters know there’s a pet still inside and leave it to them to handle the rescue. 

Watch your pet for signs of smoke inhalation. 

If, after escaping a house fire, your pet acts lethargic or seems to have trouble breathing—an increased breathing rate, coughing, wheezing, open-mouth or noisy breathing—notify fire fighters on the scene immediately. They have equipment on hand to administer oxygen to pets of all sizes. 

Check, too, for red, watery eyes, runny nose, and signs of neurological problems, such as agitation, uncoordinated gait, seizures, weakness, disorientation, stumbling, and any other abnormal behavior.

If your pet shows any of these symptoms, seek care from a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Help Your Pet Get Back Home

If your panicked pet runs away and gets lost in the chaos of a house fire, take precautions now to improve your chances of recovering the pet. 

Make sure your lost pet can be identified.

Keep a collar or harness with an identification tag on your pet at all times. 

Have us insert a microchip under your pet’s skin to provide a more permanent means of identification that will greatly increase the chances of having your lost pet returned to you. 

Nearly all animal shelters and veterinary practices have scanners that can read the chips and direct staff members to the appropriate chip registry to identify the pet’s owner.

Keep in mind, your pet’s microchip will work only if you register it and make sure to keep your contact information current. 

For details on pet identification, see our post, “Could We See Some ID?

For much more advice on recovering a lost pet, see our blog post “How to Get a Lost Pet Back Home.”