CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

The Ultimate Pet Safety Guide: Securely Leave Your Dogs and Cats Home Alone

Whether you're just headed out for a few minutes or pulling a long day at the office, consult this ultimate pet safety checklist first.

Macy Meyer Editor I
Macy Meyer is a N.C. native who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2021 with a B.A. in English and Journalism. She currently resides in Charlotte, N.C., where she has been working as an Editor I, covering a variety of topics across CNET's Home and Wellness teams, including home security, fitness and nutrition, smart home tech and more. Prior to her time at CNET, Macy was featured in The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer, INDY Week, and other state and national publications. In each article, Macy helps readers get the most out of their home and wellness. When Macy isn't writing, she's volunteering, exploring the town or watching sports.
Expertise Macy covers a variety of topics across CNET's Home and Wellness teams, including home security, smart home tech, fitness, nutrition, travel, lifestyle and more. Credentials
  • Macy has been working for CNET for coming on 2 years. Prior to CNET, Macy received a North Carolina College Media Association award in sports writing.
Macy Meyer
4 min read
Guilty dog on the floor next to an overturned flowerpot

From foods that can make your pet sick to dangerous plants, your house is packed with potential hazards.

Vadim Gavrilov/Getty Images

When I first adopted my 7-year-old Retriever, Holden, I was terrified to leave him home by himself. First, I was worried how he'd act left alone with the cat (luckily, all was well), but I was also nervous about what kind of mischief he might get up to when I was gone. Would be dig through the recycling bin? Would he bark or scratch at the door? I cooked up a multitude of catastrophizing scenarios in my head. But I had to get comfortable leaving for work, errands and more, so I devised a pet safety checklist that I'd run through before leaving each day to make sure I'd always feel confident leaving my dog and cat. 

While it's never best practice to leave your pet home alone for long periods of time, sometimes it's inevitable. Whether you pull a long day at work or are traveling out of town, your dog or cat will at some point spend a good chunk of the day alone before you or the pet sitter arrive. From turning over your potted plant to chewing up your TV cords, pets can easily get themselves into trouble when left unattended. The good news is you can prevent many potential accidents by recognizing and addressing common household hazards before you leave. 

Below, you'll find a checklist on how to pet-proof each room in your home. With these handy tips and safety measures, you'll be able to leave the house with confidence. For more pet fun, check out the best cat toys and best dog toys of the year, and the best pet insurance companies

Common house hazards 

From foods that can make your pet sick to dangerous plants, your house is packed with potential hazards. Following these safety checklists will make each and every room safe and secure.

brown cat laying on bed

My kitten plotting her next dangerous adventure. 

Macy Meyer/CNET

Kitchen hazards 

  • Keep cleaners, chemicals and detergents on high shelves or in cabinets locked with a child lock.
  • Don't leave any heavy cookware or sharp utensils on the counter to avoid having it fall on your pet or cutting its paw.
  • Keep all food enclosed and away. While most human foods are perfectly safe for pets, chocolate, avocado, tomatoes and other tasty snacks can be harmful to your dog or cat. Wrap up food after eating and consider keeping your produce in a cabinet. 
  • Keep trash bins locked or secure in a cabinet. We've all seen the movies (looking at you, Marley and Me) when the dog goes on a rampage through the trash. And while it makes for an entertaining film scene, it can be a nightmare to clean up in reality. 

Pet-friendly tips for your smart home

See all photos

Living room and bedroom hazards 

  • Keep all dangling wires from lamps, TVs, stereos and phones out of reach. Put laptop and phone charging cords in a drawer. Cats especially have a knack for turning any household item into their new favorite toy. 
  • Put away kids' toys and other small objects. Again, your pet will likely lose interest in the toys you actually bought for them at the store to opt for your jewelry and socks (and anything else they decide is theirs for the taking), so be mindful of what you're leaving around to avoid a mess or choking-hazard. 
  • Move house plants and flowers out of reach. While house plants can add some much-needed greenery and color to a room, they may be poisonous to your cat or dog if eaten. Make sure you research pet-safe flora like spider plants and orchids to prevent your pet from eating toxic plants. 
  • Latch the doors to your washer and dryer
  • Make sure all heating or air vents have secured covers. 
  • Check that you don't close your pet -- especially notoriously elusive cats -- inside closets or cabinets. I know it might sound improbable, but I once spent close to an hour running around my 800-square-foot apartment trying to find my cat... only to find her napping inside one of my kitchen cabinets. 

Bathroom hazards

  • Keep the toilet lid closed to prevent your pet from drinking from or taking an unwanted dive in the basin. 
  • Keep medications, cleaning supplies, cosmetics and other products in a drawer or cabinet that can't easily be nudged open.  
  • Keep all hair bands and pins secured. While your cat might love playing with a spare hair tie (I know mine does) and it's always hard to ruin the fun when you eventually take away the newfound toy, the vet fees will be even less fun if your pet swallows something they shouldn't.

Although many of these hazards may seem relatively low-risk, it never hurts to be proactive and vigilant -- especially when it comes to your companion. 

The bottom line

Nothing makes pet owners more assured than knowing their pet is safe and happy no matter how far away. These home safety tips and measures meant specifically for your dog or cat will help them stay healthy and will help you feel secure enough to leave with confidence. Your pet will no doubt appreciate these safety precautions. And remember, whenever you leave and wherever you go, your pet will miss you, too. 

For more pet-related tips, learn how to keep your pets calm during a storm and how to clean pet hair from your car

More tips for your pet companion: