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PETS : Before Your Home Goes to the Dogs--or Cats

August 20, 1994|From Associated Press

Before your pet comes home for the first time, make sure your home welcomes animals.

"You really have to do the same things you'd do with small children coming into your house," says Michael Walters, public information officer for the American Veterinary Medical Assn.

"You definitely want to move the Ming vase," jokes Janet Hornreich of the Companion Animals Section of the Humane Society of the United States.

"Seriously, consider what type of lifestyle you lead when you choose a pet," she says. "If you have a house filled with beautiful statuettes and furniture, you might not want a puppy. You might want an older pet. Owning a pet is a big commitment and often means a change in lifestyle. Consider the activity level of the animal you're getting and be aware of what you're willing to sacrifice."

Whatever you decide, the experts agree, both you and your animal will be happier and healthier if you take some of the following precautions, particularly when the animal is young. As your dog or cat matures and comes to understand the behavior expected of it, you may be able to bring the Ming vase or other valuables out from their hiding places. Meanwhile, look around your house for potential problems:

* Lock up poisons and cleaning solutions under the sink. Otherwise, curious animals may ingest them.

* Secure your trash, particularly if it contains tempting leftovers.

* Train a cat to stay off countertops by using a water squirt gun or placing some two-sided tape on the countertops, Hornreich says. "Cats stick to the tape and this scares them, so they won't be as likely to jump up," she adds.

* Make sure wiring is bundled up, out of sight or at least not hanging temptingly from the sockets, Walters says. Cats and dogs love to chew on electrical cords, which can electrocute them.

* Your beautiful houseplants may have to be cultivated elsewhere. Many common plants can be poisonous to a pet.

* Move ceramic or glass picture frames, as well as breakable figurines, to high shelves. If you keep sweets in candy dishes, your pet probably won't be able to resist. Hornreich says chocolate can be harmful to a small animal's system, so move it.

* Close the window. Cats, especially, have been known to leap to their deaths from as low as a second-floor window, Walters says. Dogs jump less frequently, but they're not immune to airborne curiosity. If you have open windows, make sure your screens can't be easily pushed from the window frame.

* Never leave your pet on a balcony, and never chain the animal to the edge of the deck. Many dogs and cats have hanged themselves when they've fallen from balconies and been suspended by a leash.

* Keep a collar and identification tag on your pet, and make certain you close the door each time you enter or leave your home, Hornreich recommends. Dogs and cats have a tendency to dash out at the slightest opportunity.

* Find out if your veterinarian has an emergency number and keep it posted in case you need it. Most pet owners never experience any kind of disaster with their animals. Still, it's a good idea to be prepared.

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