Cat by the fire
As the Indian summer drifts away and cold weather marches in, we begin to anticipate long, cozy evenings in front of the hearth. Snuggling with our furry friends in front of a roaring wood or gas fire is one of winter’s greatest pleasures — but fireplaces and open flames can be hazardous to pets.

Before you light that first fire of the season, take into account the safety of your dogs and cats. That goes double for puppies and kittens, who don’t know the dangers of fire, and older pets, who may want to get close to the fireplace to warm their achy bones. When sparks fly or pets accidentally come in contact with flames, the result can be painful burns or even death. Tails, paws, long ears and long fur are especially at risk. The following tips will help you “fireproof” your pets.

Snuggle Up — Safely

Supervision tops the list when it comes to fireplace safety precautions. Never leave pets alone around fire — if a fireplace or wood stove is burning and you leave the room, take them with you. Even if your fireplace has a mesh covering or glass doors, pets can still get burns from coming into contact with those hot surfaces.

Create a pet-safe environment near the fireplace or stove. If your pet has a bed near the fireplace, set it a safe distance away, where snapping embers can’t travel. Use a baby or pet gate to prevent pets from approaching the fire. If you want something more stylish, you can find attractive fireplace hearth screens that serve the same purpose. Choose one that pets can’t climb and that has a door that closes automatically.

It’s also a good idea to keep fireplace tools behind the barrier, so they can’t get knocked over by rambunctious animals. That includes pokers, matches and lighters, starter chips, kindling and newspapers.

You know what they say about playing with fire — but playing near fire can be hazardous to your pets, too. Put the kibosh on roughhousing and ball chasing around fireplaces or wood stoves. It’s all too easy for pets to unknowingly run toward the flames and be unable to stop in time. Limit the tossing of treats and toys to areas away from the fireplace.

If you have cats, think twice about draping the mantel with greenery during the holidays. It may be pretty, but it can also be incredibly tempting for your cat to play with. So save it for your dining table or the front door.

Finally, for your own and your pets’ safety, make sure the damper is open while a fire is lit. If it is accidentally left closed, all of you run the risk of deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. Installing a carbon monoxide detector is a good idea.

Now you’re ready to safely snuggle with your pet as you both enjoy the warmth of the flames.

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