How to keep pets safe on balconies
Balconies can be dangerous places for pets, especially cats, with the risk of a tumble leading to serious, possibly life-threatening injuries for your four-legged friend. However by following a few precautions you can keep your pet safe while enjoying some time in the fresh air together during lockdown.
- Always supervise your pet while they are out on the balcony and never leave them shut them out there alone. Ensure they have access to clean, fresh water at all times.
- Make sure your pet is comfortable by bringing one of their beds outside and ensure it is moved into the shade if needed on a warm day
- Ensure your pet has shade or can get back inside your home if they wish
- If you own a cat and you want them to use the balcony, we recommend having a ‘catio’ installed professionally. Cats are expert jumpers and climbers so unless your balcony is completely cat proof, it won’t be safe for them. Every year our animal hospitals treat many cats who have suffered serious and even fatal injuries after falling from windows and balconies. Cats can and will squeeze or climb through the smallest of gaps – it’s not worth the risk unless you can guarantee their safety.
- If your dog hasn’t been out on your balcony before then take them out on a lead the first few times to see how they get on and act. Although less inclined to climb and squeeze through gaps than cats, some will, so make sure your balcony is safe for them.
- Move any furniture on the balcony that your dog could climb onto and risk falling over the edge
- You can provide small scratch posts or mats for cats and some of your dog’s favourite toys or build a small sand pit where your dog can dig for treats if you have space
- You can make your pet’s meal times more entertaining by using a puzzle ball or snuffle mat to provide mental stimulation or scatter feed them to encourage them around your home to search for it
- For smaller animals like rabbits and guinea pigs you can set up tubes and a cardboard box filled with shredded paper and with an entrance and an exit they can hop in and out of. They love a good piece of dirt that they can burrow into so they’ll really appreciate a small digging pit. You can also hang some root vegetables on a string for them to nibble.
- If you’re balcony isn’t enclosed or tall enough (rabbits are incredible jumpers!) for extra safety you can pop an outdoor run out onto your balcony that you can pop your rabbits or guinea pigs in. Make sure they aren’t able to chew through the run and that they have a shaded area or move the run into the shade if it is a warm day.
- Certain house plants, and plants you may grow on your balcony, such as lillies and daffodils, could be toxic to pets so be sure to keep these out of their reach. Most plants that grow from bulbs and most evergreens can be poisonous for rabbits. Don't let cats get lily pollen on their fur as it's toxic and licking it is dangerous for them. Safe choices for pets include herbs like parsley, rosemary, sage and lavender, and plants like calendula and African daisy.
- You could create a scented garden, as some animals enjoy honeysuckle and lavender. Many cats like catnip or catmint. You can find more information here creating a pet friendly garden and pet friendly flowers. Weedkiller, pesticides and patio cleaner can also be harmful to your pets so make sure you keep these out of reach.
- You can put a tall stair gate or mesh screens up at your balcony doors to allow air into the room while they are open and prevent your pet from going out without you, but again always supervise your pet if the doors are open. Cats will need floor to ceiling screens as they will be able to jump/climb out otherwise.
- Time out on a balcony should not replace proper walks and playtime with your pet. There are plenty of indoor games you can play with your cat or dog to ensure they are kept mentally and physically stimulated, even if you have limited space.
- You can also make your own DIY toys such as snuffle mats with your family at home for your pets