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Electrical Safety for Pets

Most of us have had, or at least interacted with, pets at some point. We grow up with the family pet, have taken our turn caring for someone’s pet while they’re away, and even adopt or acquire our own pet as time goes on. We love them and care for them and they, in return, love us. While your pet would never do anything to hurt itself, the natural inquisitiveness and instinct that drives pets to explore, chew, and play can get them (and you) into trouble if you aren’t careful.

Even an obedient and trained pet can suffer injury if you aren’t paying attention. Some of the most innocent actions can actually be harmful on further reflection. In honor of our furry friends, let’s take a moment to see how we can improve our homes for better electrical safety. You may notice that many of the things you do to protect your baby from electrical dangers are also effective measures for you pets. Then again, most pets are like keeping a toddler around for years, so you can solve both problems at once by protecting either.

Protecting Against Habits

The number one past time of most pets is eating. Many pets (also toddlers) explore the world with their mouths. That means everything in your home is, at some point, going to get chewed on. I don’t have to tell you that chewing on cables can have disastrous effects. Never allow a pet to chew on cables. Rodents and dogs are especially notorious for chewing through cables. But don’t be surprised if your cat tries it as well!

To protect your cables, here’s what you should do:

  • Hide cables away if at all possible. Use conduit or pet-proof casings to keep the cables away from inquisitive teeth.
  • Make sure that any devices are plugged in completely. Partially unplugged devices can be licked or toyed with, leading to electrical shocks and burns.
  • Coat cables in a substance that tastes bad such as cayenne pepper, mouthwash, toothpaste, or lemon juice.
  • Secure all plugs behind child-proof outlet covers.

Cable safety isn’t the end of pet-proofing your electrical system. Keep an eye out for pets that like to sleep in warm places such as the mess of cables behind your TV or the exhaust vent behind your computer. While it’s comfortable for your pet (especially on a cold day) that exhaust needs to stay clear to avoid overheating the system and the cables.

Watch for pets that like to play with electrical devices. Any device with a cord or that isn’t fixed in place securely can be a problem. Cords can be pulled, exposing still active electrical contacts. Lamps and other fixtures can be knocked over or pulled from ledges. Train your pet not to play with these things.

Be sure to check all electrical cords and devices for frayed cables and exposed wiring. If a device’s power connection is damaged or exposed, do not use it. Always replace the device or cable as soon as possible. Likewise, make sure that any portable devices are plugged into an outlet with a ground-fault circuit interrupter. If your pet knocks over the appliance or shorts the device in some way, they won’t be harmed.

While you may realize that fish are not subject to these problems, there is one thing you should remember if you have an aquarium. Never stretch any power cables from an aquarium until they’re taut. Any cables, whether they’re outside power lines or the cable to your tank’s water cleaner, should have a drip point. A drip point is a spot on the cable that is lower than the cable’s destination. By having a low point in the cable, gravity will pull water to that point and it will drip off. This way, as water condenses on your aquarium cable, it will drip into a pan or sink rather than into the electrical outlet.