Most families who bring a new pet home assume it knows how to act around the fireplace.
But the way a contained fire acts can be confusing to a cat or dog (especially when they are kitten or puppy sized), and the movement of the flames in the contained space sometimes draws the curious creatures in.
Some fireplace manufacturers now include a safety barrier with the purchase of every fireplace – Valor fireplaces, for example, includes one with every fireplace manufactured since January 2015. The barriers establish a safe perimeter around the fireplace so children and animals can’t get too close, and you don’t have to helicopter around when the fire is burning.
But you may have an older fireplace. An open, brick fireplace can be particularly dangerous for pets.
So what can you do if you don’t own a safety barrier?
Train your pets.
Dogs are easier to train than cats, but they can both learn with a little patience from their favourite person.
Animals are naturally curious about new things in the house. It’s their space and they want to investigate anything out of the ordinary.
There are a few ways to help your pet understand getting too close to the fire is against the rules.
- Any time they approach too closely, make a loud noise and usher them away. They’ll start to associate approaching the burning fire with discomfort.
- Encourage your cat or dog to stay safely away by placing toys, a bed or blankets somewhere else in the room. When they lay down or play with the toys, reward them with a treat.
Eventually the fireplace won’t be a focal point for them and they will associate other parts of the room with positivity.
Play somewhere else.
It might be most convenient for you to play with your dog or cat in the same room as your fireplace. You relax in that room after work, watch some T.V., and you just want to have a light play with them as you de-stress.
But playing in the room will gradually erode the danger of the fire. They will focus more on the playing and less on the danger, and the whole room will become fair game for running wildly.
Take 15 minutes with your cat in the evening and throw toys around outside the fireplace room. Get the dog outside in the back yard with a ball. This will keep the room with your fireplace calm and relaxing.
Keep an eye out.
It’s easy to get distracted by something else while the fire is burning, and your animals can quietly sneak over to take a dangerously close look at the fire.
Any time the fire is burning and your pets are around, keep an eye on them. Cats are especially curious and can get caught by sparks when the wood crackles.
If the fireplace is outside your field of view, just make sure you turn and check your pet and the fire every few minutes.
Make sure your fireplace is safe to start up this fall with a quick and affordable annual cleaning. If you didn’t get it done in the spring, now is the best time to book – before the fall rush hits and you’re stuck waiting with all your neighbours.