10 Smart Tips for Keeping Your Pets Safe in the Kitchen, According to Veterinarians

published May 29, 2022
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Credit: L. Daniela Alvarez
The author's Goldendoodle puppy, Chai.

As most experienced pet owners know, the kitchen can be a “ruff” place. Think: slippery floors, hot pans, sharp knives, and tempting human foods that can be toxic to pets! Keeping pooches and feline friends safe can require several adjustments and an extra watchful eye. I know my husband and I feel like we have eyes on the backs of our heads when it comes to our mini Goldendoodle puppy, Chai. She has a passion for socks so she’s constantly chasing our feet as we walk around the kitchen, or she’s sniffing for food we might carelessly drop from our plates.

To learn the best tips for protecting pets in the kitchen, we consulted with a few veterinarians for their advice. Grab a seat, cuddle up with your furry baby, and take a look!

Credit: Jus_Ol/Shutterstock

1. Confine pets to a pen or crate while cooking.

While it’s not a good idea, it’s common to leave food and pans unattended while cooking, creating an unintended invitation for pets to scavenge for scraps. “For larger and more food-driven breeds (ahem, hello, Golden Retrievers!), your kitchen counter is not a smart place to leave anything accessible or unattended,” explains Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, veterinary medical advisor for pet-sitting service Rover and chief veterinarian at Kleinburg Veterinary Hospital in Ontario, Canada. “Loaves of bread, ripening fruit, a cooling cake, or a rack of ribs you’re about to put onto the grill — all of these typical countertop items could easily be snatched by your pup in literally seconds.” To avoid this, she recommends confining pets, especially dogs, to a pen, crate, or even another room while cooking. 

2. Create a designated “hang out” spot for your pet.

If you don’t have a crate or pen, Dr. Paola Cuevas, veterinarian and behaviorist with cat furniture company Hepper, suggests making a “hang out spot” in the kitchen to prevent pets from following you around. Choose a spot far away from the areas where food is likely to fall, particularly the oven and stove which pose the extra risk of hot pots and pans.

3. Learn which human foods are toxic to pets.

Another smart way to keep pets safe in the kitchen is to be fully aware of the foods that are toxic. (For starters, some foods that are known to be toxic to both cats and dogs are dark chocolate, grapes and raisins, macadamia nuts, garlic, onions, and raw/undercooked eggs and meat.) That way, you’re informed about which foods to be extra vigilant with and on what course of action to take in case your pet accidentally eats something they’re not supposed to, says Cuevas. “If you have children, give them a short list of food that is OK to give to pets, while also explaining that other foods will make your pet very sick,” she adds.

4. Use pet-proof containers where necessary.

Cuevas also suggests buying proofing bins and containers to store potentially harmful substances. “Always keep spices locked inside tight jars and in closed cabinets or in the fridge,” she says, noting that chili powder and other spices can cause irritation and digestive issues for pets.

5. Keep the kitchen trash bin out of reach.

Going through the trash is quite common among pets so Dr. Jeff Smith, veterinarian at Danville Family Vet in Danville, Virginia, recommends keeping the garbage bin out of reach. “The best way to keep dogs out of your trash is to keep it behind locked doors,” he says. “If you have a pantry, lock it in there or if you have a lower cabinet, you can use a baby lock to keep pets out.” If locking away your trash is not an option, motion-sensor bins are a smart solution to keep your pet’s scavenging temptation at bay. 

Credit: Viv Yapp

6. Consider non-slip rugs and mats for older pets.

Because older or disabled dogs tend to move around less frequently, letting them hang around the kitchen poses less of a risk, explains Dr. Sarah Wooten, veterinary expert at Pumpkin Pet Insurance. The key issue for older animals is the potential to slip or fall. “Kitchens often have a hard, slippery flooring because it is easy to clean, but this type of flooring can be difficult for older or arthritic dogs to navigate,” says Wooten. “If this is the case, consider laying down some non-slip throw rugs to help your pet get around easier.”

Credit: Courtesy of Dr. Jeff Smith
Dr. Jeff Smith in his own kitchen.

7. Practice safety commands. 

Commands, such as “leave it” and “drop it,” along with any other gestures are essential to keeping your pet safe in the kitchen, according to Cuevas. When your pet grabs food scraps from the kitchen floor or starts to head toward a heated oven, practicing safety commands and reinforcing positive behavior can possibly prevent a trip to the emergency room. “My chihuahua Bella once tried to jump into an open oven to get a pizza,” Smith says. “Now when cooking pizza, I have to play lineman in my kitchen to keep her at bay.”

8. See your kitchen from your pet’s point of view.

When we clean our kitchens, we tend to focus on countertops, cabinets, and appliances to wipe off dust or residue. Pets, however, have a much different vantage point. Wooten suggests seeing the kitchen as your pet would. Look for food stuck in between narrow nooks and crannies or a piece of wood or metal sticking out from the bottom of a drawer. She says, “Get down on your hands and knees and view everything in the kitchen, including the garbage can, counters, appliances, and all other surfaces from your pet’s point of view — you will see things you didn’t see before!”

9. Keep cleaning products out of reach.

Cleaning products, such as bleach, alcohol, and ammonia, are known to cause health issues for pets, including vomiting, ulcers, and liver damage. “While kitchen cleaners, such as dishwasher soap, disinfecting sprays, cooktop cleaners, etc., are not the preferred choice for pets that are food-driven, they can still pose serious risks to pets that experience boredom, destructive behavior, or pica, which is a compulsive eating disorder in which pets ingest non-food items,” says Dr. John Cavalcanti, medical director of the mobile veterinary service The Vets. To best protect animals from the dangers of cleaning products, keep pets away from the kitchen when cleaning and make sure harmful chemicals are out of reach and locked away when not in use.

10. Store heavy equipment in cabinets.

Kitchen items often found on or near counters, such as magnetic knife racks and knife blocks, hanging pot racks, and exposed or dangling appliance cords, are particularly harmful to pets, especially to cats who are expert climbers and jumpers. Adjusting your kitchen’s equipment and tool storage may be necessary to protect your pets and avoid serious accidents. “Consider storing knives, heavy pots and pans, or other dangerous equipment in cabinets instead of on the counter,” says Wooten.

What other measures do you suggest to keep pets safe in the kitchen? Share your ideas or product recommendations in the comments below.