CatsHealth & Diet

South Korean Officials Warn About Cats & House Fires, Plus 7 Fire Safety Tips

Cats are no strangers to destruction. From coffee mugs slid off counters to ruined couches, cats don’t care if they obliterate things because curiosity is a strong force. That purposeful lack of care for your stuff and the curiosity that drives them to demolition is just part of the feline way.

But whether kitties mean to break your things or not, some feline accidents bring about total devastation. And fires are one of these devastations. In the past three years, the Seoul Metropolitan Fire and Disaster Department reported a total of 107 house fires caused by cats turning on electric stoves or jumping onto on/off buttons on appliances in South Korea.

Preventing House Fires When Living with Cats

Issuing a statement to the public, the Seoul Metropolitan Fire and Disaster Department explained over half the fires started by cats occurred when parents weren’t home. They also said extra steps to secure appliances and easy-to-press buttons in the home could help in preventing fires.

“We advise households with pets to pay extra attention as fire could spread widely when no one is at home,” said Chung Gyo-chul, a fire department official said.

Like South Korea, the U.S. struggles with cat-caused disasters in the home too. But not as many as recent reports might suggest.

“An estimated average of 790 homes fires are started by animals each year,” explained Susan McKelvey, communications manager for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). “However, this statistic includes all types of animals, not just domesticated ones. So, for example, a chipmunk or squirrel chewing through electrical wiring is included in that number.”

While our cats aren’t responsible for very many house fires in the U.S., it’s always good to be prepared, whatever the reason a house fire starts.

7 Fire Safety Tips for Homes with Cats

The American Veterinary Medical Association reports an estimated 40,000 pets perish in house fires every year, and most of those deaths result from smoke inhalation. To give your cat the best chance at surviving a fire, check out these fire prevention and safety tips that could save lives.

#1 – Check Your Smoke Alarms

The sooner the family is alerted to a fire in the house; the sooner everyone can get out safely. The NFPA recommends checking the batteries and conducting a test once a month.

#2 – Place Pet Alert Stickers on Windows

If you aren’t home when a fire starts, let firefighters know you have cats inside with Pet Alert Stickers. Recommended for every window in the house, these simple stickers can make the difference for animals caught in house fires.

#3 – Create an Evacuation Plan and Practice with Your Cat

Every family should have an evacuation plan in case of fire, and the NFPA can help you create a house fire escape plan for your home. When creating your plan, don’t forget to include your cat. Everyone should be aware of where your cat likes to nap, hang out, and even hide so you can quickly find kitty dear in an emergency.

But remember, fires don’t follow plans. You may not be able to evacuate your cat as they are masters at hiding when things get dicey. On your way out of a burning structure, be sure to leave doors open to give your cat an escape route. Once you’re safely out of the house, tell firefighters if your cat is still inside the home.

To have your cat prepared for an emergency, check out Emergency Preparedness For Your Cat: Be Ready Before Disaster Strikes.

#4 – Never Leave Open Flames Unattended

Life with cats means burning decorative candles isn’t so simple. Either keep candles where you know a cat can’t mess with them, but you can keep an eye on it. Still, cats can be tricky! Rather than burning candles, battery-operated flameless candles are a safer option when you share your space with kitties.

#5 – Look at All the Knobs and Buttons

Cats love to touch everything, including funky buttons and switches that can turn on stoves and other appliances. Do what you can to cover or block access to things a cat can accidentally turn on. Teach your cat to stay away from appliances like stoves, washing machines, and dryers. Of course, this is easier said than done. If your cat needs a little reeducation about counter surfing or jumping on things they shouldn’t, have a look at Clicker Training Cats: How To Teach Your Kitty Clicks Equal Rewards.

#6 – Keep Cords Out of Reach

Some cats can’t keep their mouths off an electrical cord. It’s just too tempting, so protect your kitty by stowing cords out of the reach of curious paws and teeth. Even if your cat could care less about cables and wires, keep them covered or tucked anyway.

#7 – Keep Fireplaces Covered

When enjoying an evening in front of the fireplace, be sure to use a metal or tempered glass screen at all times. The NFPA also suggests creating “a ‘pet-free zone’ of at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from the fireplace” as fireplaces and screens can remain hot for hours after use.

Hopefully, you’ll never need to use your fire evacuation plan, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Now, what’s your cat up to at the moment?


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