Pet Talk: Fire is Your Pet’s Worst Friend

Outdoor grills, fireplaces, and electrical appliances pose a risk to our pets that shouldn’t be overlooked. So don’t spoil the happiness of the season and take into account these pieces of advice for your pet and fire safety.

Written by Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University

“Animals have an instinctive fear of fire and smoke; they will tend to stay away,” says Dr. Mark Stickney, director of general surgery services at the Small Animal Clinical Sciences the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). “Problems come literally when curiosity kills the cat. This time of the year people set up space heaters and an animal doesn’t know and knocks it over, and the fire can start that way. Another thing is when the holiday lights are going up and animals chew the electrical cord and they can electrocute themselves”.

Specifically now, near Christmas time, “when you receive a new puppy or kitten and they don’t know any better. They start playing with the lights and they can get themselves electrocuted or they can possibly start an electrical fire,” Stickney says.

Other species that are infamous for chewing include rabbits, the newly popular Guinea pigs, ferrets, and any pocket pets that have easy access to items underneath furniture and close to the floor.

What about reptiles? “They are not as fast movers, so they are not going to knock over a space heater. The problem in this case is that they can burn themselves. It’s not so much a risk to the house but it’s a risk for them,” Stickney says.

It is especially important to be more careful this time of the year because of all the stir in the house with the incoming guests and all of the extra decorations in the house.  You need to make sure that you are always around and that you never leave pets unattended with electrical appliances. If you are not home, please unplug them.

Secondly, make sure that you know where your pets are all the time. If you have a new puppy or the children have been playing with the Guinea pig, make sure that they haven’t lost interest in the pet and that it is accounted for especially when there are guests in the house.

A helpful tip is to go to your local fire department and ask for a sticker that you can put on an outside window that will tell the fire department how many pets are in your house. “The sticker is a great way in case there’s an accident and your house is on fire for the firemen to know that there are animals in the house that need rescuing as well,” Stickney says.

According to Stickney, “the biggest thing to bear in mind if you have an outdoor pit, if you are setting up the grill or deep-frying your turkey over Thanksgiving, is you want to make sure there are no pets around where the deep-fryer is. If animals are not used to being around pits they can eventually run into them and burn themselves and potentially knock it over and start a fire in your yard,” says Stickney.”

“When it comes to fire safety, think of your pet as a 2 or 3 year old child who doesn’t know any better and who’s going to make the worst of any possible situation. Keep that in mind and that will keep you out of trouble,” states Stickney.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at