Safety Tips for Pets Who Love Heaters and Fireplaces

January 9, 2013

By Tamara McRill

When I was growing up, the merry crackling of a fire always seemed to entice my pets to curl up near the hearth and take a nap. Now that I’m older and, sadly, without a fireplace, I’ve noticed that my dogs are just as attracted to heaters on a cold winter day. Snuggling next to the heat can be comforting for pets, but it can also be dangerous.

That doesn’t mean we have to ban our furry friends from one of their favorite winter pastimes. All we need to do is make sure safety precautions are taken, so sitting near a fire or heater can be enjoyed without any disastrous results. Here are some tips to consider:

Fire and Fur Don’t Mix

For obvious reasons, we need to take precautions to make sure our cats and dogs don’t get singed by errant embers. Fireplaces will need a fireguard screen to make sure any popping flames don’t shoot out too far. This will also prevent wagging tails from entering flame territory.

Dampers and Detectors

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly to pets and humans, not to mention it can cause health issues from exposure. This is especially a concern if you have a gas fireplace. If your damper is closed, then all of the carbon monoxide comes back into the room and your pet, being the closest, will be the first one affected.

In addition to making sure your fireplace damper is properly adjusted, you should also place carbon monoxide detectors near the fireplace and throughout your home. This is so important to check every time you turn on your gas fireplace. Especially given that a gas fireplace burns so cleanly that you likely won’t even notice if the damper is open or not.

Regular fireplaces should also be adequately vented, so smoke and carcinogens don’t get in your cat or dog’s lungs. It’s a good idea to keep any heat vents near your fireplace closed when it is lit, so nothing is spread through the home heating system. Also be sure to check the batteries on smoke alarms, to make sure they are in working order.

Gate It Off

Investigative noses and indiscriminate palettes have gotten many cats and dogs into some not-so-safe predicaments. You don’t even need to have your fireplace lit for a pet to get into a potentially dangerous situation. Ashes, pebbles and other fireplace elements all arouse their curiosity. The next thing you know, you’ll have an ashy mess to clean up or a trip to the vet if they ingest something.

If you have a dog that’s a licker, he could even get burned on a space heater. It’s best to make sure your fireplaces and heaters are completely gated off from pets that have just a wee bit too much curiosity.

However, that’s easier said than done, if you have a cat determined to get near the fireplace. Your best bet in this situation is to just make sure there isn’t anything harmful they can get into.

No Play Near Heat 

Accidents happen during boisterous playtime, and our aim isn’t always true. Playing near a fireplace or heater can result in your pet sliding into it and getting burned or diving in after a toy. It’s best to avoid playtime in a room where a fireplace is lit or a heater is on. This includes tossing treats to your pets. I know our dog Cody would risk a few singes for a tasty CANIDAE dog treat!

Keep Track of Time

We have to be constantly vigilant with Cody around heaters, because he will back right up to them. So he’s not allowed to sit next to them. You may have a more responsible pet who likes the warmth and stays at a safe distance. (Lucky you!) Depending on how close they are and how hot the fireplace or heater is, you’ll still have to make sure they aren’t getting too hot and limit their exposure. Besides the risk of your pet being overheated, they can also get a burn, not unlike a sunburn.

It’s easier to spot too pink or red skin on a lightly colored cat or dog, or one that has sparser hair. It’s the darker colored ones or pets with thicker coats that you can’t see the redness on that you’ll have to be extra cautious with. Be sure to touch them every once in awhile, to make sure their fur or skin doesn’t feel too hot. It really shouldn’t feel more than pleasantly warm. It’s a good idea to do this no matter what kind of pet you have in front of the fire.

Do you have a cat or dog that loves to snuggle next to the fireplace or heater? How do you keep them safe?

Cat photo by cyrusbulsara
Dog photo by Phil Gradwell

Read more articles by Tamara McRill

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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  1. Nern says:

    I have a little kitten named JellyBean who loves to sit by my heater. Thankfully, she’s a cautious and smart little lady, so she knows a safe distance. If she starts to get too hot, obviously she will move farther away. I have another cat, Socks, who’s a black kitty, who likes to be around the heater sometimes, but like JellyBean, he knows a nice safe distance, so I don’t need to worry too much about him.

  2. Linda Luu says:

    Thank you Dr. Atom,

    Horton must adore you taking such great care of him, my blue bully boy & blue-nosed girl love our heater too! I constantly have to rotate her, push her back a bit and make sure she’s giving Khon a chance to be warm as well, but I digress bc CoBa runs the house.. and she’s just over a yr. old! Carrots, broccoli, peanut butter and for key health *coconut/*olive oil are mainly their ingredients since they’re also raw diet. We bathe maybe once a month if not longer just so natural oils can coat and cure. Oatmeal rocks!

    Linda Luu of Boston/Cali/VN

  3. Dr. Atoms says:

    You forgot the worst thing about pets hogging heaters. It Dries out their skin like crazy! Especially in the Winter Time… And if you have one of the many dog breeds who have skin allergies already, this is a gateway to extra scratching and possibly infection. My Red nosed Pit, Horton LOVES heaters and has very sensitive skin already. I give him an Oatmeal bath once every 2 weeks to not dry out his skin to much. And put Aloe on his cuts to heal him up quick and relieve the itch.

    -Just use the gel of the plant, the white part is poisonous in LARGE quantities. But Horton is sooo food motivated and will eat basically anything! But Amazing he doesn’t lick the aloe. XD

    Hope this helps some people! GL <3

  4. Lynn Jarman says:

    Our loverly cat was curled up as usual with her fur in contact with the space heater when suddenly there was an explosion and the cat took off very frightened. There was no smell of burnt fur and the heater continued running. Was this an inbuilt warning? The reason for the instruction not to cover the heater? It gave us all a scare!

  5. thomas says:

    this sems silly.I googled this as my dog will sit at the edge of the open fireplace, if he can, or stand with his eyes closed facing the flames. I wouldnt worry at all about the heat – if its too hot he’ll move. I’ve had hamsters that move away from pain. are there dogs out there so stupid theyll hurt themselves by getting “overheated”? Gas I can understand, embers that come flying at the face, sure, trying to play fetch with a white hot log, definatively, but running around the house trying to restrict the distance and duration the dog spends with the fireplace sounds quite daft. My dog gets hurt from time to time doing stupid stuff, and usually he’ll do one of those things just that once and he’ll have learned.

  6. Mr Puddy says:

    Interesting information !
    Since my pawrent did renovation, we didn’t have fire place anymore. We use dutch heating instead. and now our weather is opposite the rest of the world. We are heading in summer. And now the weather is so hot ! We even got bushfire which is pretty bad. In the hot day like 40 degree +, my pawrents will keep me indoor. and I drink lots of water. Really good post.
    Thank you

  7. Excellent tips! We have a gas fireplace and we realized we don’t have a carbon monoxide detector. We’re gonna make the mom go buy one right away!

  8. Those animal photos are adorable Tamara! I especially love the last one where he looks incredibly happy. Its funny how we forget that even though they’re covered in fur, the warmth of a fire or heater is still enjoyed during the winter times. I’ve always felt uncomfortable having any animals near a heat source but ill just have to think of something to create a small barrier.

    Thanks for the post and the awesome photos!

  9. Marg says:

    Really good advice. We don’t have a fireplace and all the cats get on my warm bed with me at night and then of course I cannot move. But those are some mighty good points.