Window and Door Safety for Pets
Having a pet get lost is an awful, terrifying experience. Even with microchip technology, only 1 in 3 ever make it home again.
Having been a pet parent that was fortunate enough to have my cat be 1 of those 3, after 9 days of not eating and not sleeping, I wanted to share some tips on door and window safety. These tips also apply to dogs, who like to race out the door to chase a dog or squirrel they see going by!
Use Baby Gates as Window Guards
Chewy.com actually sells these cheaper than I found anywhere else (see picture and order information below). They are spring mounted to stay in place but we also put benches against them so the cats have a seating area (since the window sill is blocked) and there's no way they can burst out the screen. Originally we relied on screws driven through the screen frame into the siding, but what we found out can happen, is a large cat in the midst of a fight with another cat can actually hit the screen so hard the fabric pulls out from the frame and they're gone in an instant. So now any windows we open have these gates in front of the screen. If the window is closed, you can simply pop the gate out until needed.
Use Dog Exercise Pens as "Airlock" Systems
Cat Cafes work because they have airlock systems to ensure the cats don't get out as patrons come in and out. This is the same idea, but thousands of dollars cheaper! We're talking $20 vs $2,000. I use the 48" because I have cats that are Olympic jumpers and the 24" and 36" they'd clear with little effort (see picture and ordering information below). Basically you create an enclosed area just inside the exterior door, so if you are trying to come in,someone racing down the hallway after a toy or another pet doesn't leap out the door as it opens. Or get startled when jumped by their "brother" and leap and end up leaping out the door as it opens.
If someone comes to the door, I always step outside and shut the door behind me; I never talk with the door part way open - that's just asking for a lost pet.
Institute Pet Checks Before Opening the Exterior Garage Door
We do a pet check before we open the exterior garage door. Our kitchen door opens into the garage. We go in and out to get tools, or empty trash, and it's always possible someone darts into the garage and we don't notice. So before opening the door to the outside, we do a "pet check". We take a quick walkabout the house, and ensure we see each dog and cat and no one is anywhere near the kitchen door we're about to go back out through. Only then do we open the door to the outside.
Word to the wise - when you leave, DO lock that door from house to garage. The suction from the exterior door opening can pop open a doorknob, and suddenly the door to your house is open while the exterior door is open, and things can happen fast. That dog or cat could be down the street before you get your car shut off. We always turn the deadbolt so that can't happen.
Make a Temporary Pet Room
If you're having guests over or a party, move a couple litter pans, some toys, beds, food and water into a spare bedroom and lock the cats in until the guests are gone. Also do the same with the dogs or put them in an exercise area in the backyard if the weather is good. An open front door is something to go investigate to a dog, who will happily trot off down the street and it could be hours before you realize your dog is gone. I once caught a guest deliberately trying to let my cat out. They weren't invited back - ever. Even if someone isn't that bad, people not used to pets may let one out without thinking, or just leave doors ope as they go in and out.
If you DO end up with a lost pet, see our Article on recovery tips, based on our real life experience when our cat got lost.