Humans know that fire can be deadly. It spreads fast, leads to untold damage, and can cause a serious amount of pain if it burns the skin. But do cats have the same understanding of the dangers of fire or are they drawn to its alluring flicker and cozy warmth?
Cats have strong instincts and will stay away from an open fire thanks to the smoke and spitting embers. This will alert a cat that danger is near. But when it comes to a fire that’s behind glass, like a wood-burning stove or gas fireplace, a cat may stray too close. With these types of fireplaces, the risk of accidental burning or carbon monoxide poisoning is increased. Cats may be able to see fire, but it’s more likely they are drawn to the flickering flames, especially as they struggle to see red, orange, and brown colors.
If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, you might be worried about your cat being around it unattended. As the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat. With 500,000 pets dying annually in house fires, you’re right to be careful. Understanding whether a cat knows to stay away from a fire or not will help you ensure that maximum safety measures are in place.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Will Cats Stay Away from The Fireplace?
- 2 Cats and Wood-Burning Stoves
- 3 Cats and Gas Fireplaces?
Will Cats Stay Away from The Fireplace?
On a cold day, your cat will no doubt love lounging in front of the fireplace to warm up. According to Semantic Scholar, the domestic cat is believed to have descended from the African wildcat. Because of this, cats are hard-wired to withstand warmer temperatures. A cat’s ambient body temperature is around 102 degrees Fahrenheit, so felines need to find ways to keep themselves warm and toasty.
As well as in front of the fireplace, cats like to find spots to sit directly in the sun, even if it seems like they are overheating to the human touch. Cats are simply drawn to warm areas – it’s in their DNA.
When it comes to a fireplace, cats don’t know to stay away. Instead, they’re attracted to the warmth that a fire emits. However, the roar of the fire and the smell of smoke will alert a cat not to get too close. These signs signal danger is near.
To keep your cat away from a fireplace, you’ll probably need to go through appropriate training. Clicker training is a good tactic to use. Teach your pet to stay away from unlit candles or empty fireplaces. Once your cat has mastered this, light the candle and use a harness to keep it away from the flame. Eventually, your cat will associate its training with a lit fireplace and will stop going near the flames.
If training is proving to be difficult and you’re still worried about your cat’s safety, there are steps you can take to try and keep them away from your fireplace altogether.
Supervise Your Cat Around the Fireplace
Only light your fireplace when you’re able to keep an eye on what your cat is doing. The consequences of leaving your cat unattended are too severe to take the risk. Your cat could edge too close to the fire to get some extra warmth, setting its fur alight and causing harm. Or if you have trinkets around the fireplace, they could easily be knocked into the flames by your cat, setting a fire that you may not be able to control.
If your cat gets too close to the fire, shoo it away immediately. Even if your cat has been trained to avoid the fire, you might need to reinforce the message to keep your cat safe.
Don’t Let Your Cat Play by The Fire
If you own a pair of cats, more than one species of animal, or just the one cat who likes to play with toys, make sure that your pets don’t play too close to the fireplace. Animals lose control when they’re in the middle of play.
There’s also an increased risk of toys being thrown too close to the fire. If they’re flammable, they could easily set on fire. They may also encourage your pet to risk going too close to the fire to retrieve it.
Use A Protective Metal Screen
A protective metal screen or glass door is a great way to add an extra layer of safety. They are particularly useful if you have an open fire. Spitting embers pose a big danger, especially if your cat likes to sleep right next to the fire, so a protective screen can prevent these embers from hitting your cat’s skin or fur.
Use a Small Pet Gate
If your cat is struggling to stay away from the fire or is too interested in the flames, a pet gate could help keep your curious kitty away.
You can either use one to stop your cat entering the room completely, or find one that fits the boundaries of your fireplace. Some cats just won’t respond to ‘no’ – a pet gate could be a good alternative option if this sounds like your cat.
Keep the Hearth Uncluttered
Keep your fireplace clear of all flammable items. This includes pet blankets or other soft furnishings that your cat might enjoy sleeping on.
Also, don’t keep anything near the fire that could knock over into it. These items could melt or set fire. Either way, they could start a fire in your home and cause untold damage.
Keep a Fire Extinguisher Nearby
If the worst does happen, it’s incredibly important to have a fire extinguisher nearby to diffuse any danger. Stand 6 to 8 feet away from the fire and follow the manufacturer’s instructions very carefully to stop the fire as quickly as you can.
Cats and Wood-Burning Stoves
Wood-burning stoves can seem like the safer option when compared to a regular fireplace. This is because they feature a door that can keep the flames contained. They prevent spitting embers from hitting your cat and can stop fur from becoming accidentally singed.
Surprisingly, however, wood-burning stoves can pose an even bigger danger than a fireplace. Because of a cat’s curiosity and the stove’s alluring warmth, a cat could easily jump onto the top – not realizing just how hot the wood-burning stove has become. By doing this, the cat will burn its paws and as a result, will need to be rushed to an emergency vet.
Burnt paws are incredibly painful, impacting your cat’s ability to jump and walk. Similarly, if a cat goes too close to the wood burner for a sniff, it is at risk of burning its nose or whiskers.
The biggest problem with wood-burning stoves is that there is no smoke or spitting embers to warn a cat to stay away. While a cat is unlikely to make the same mistake twice, it’s not one you will want your pet to make in the first place. It can be traumatizing and very painful – and can even lead to anxiety issues later on.
To try and prevent your cat from going near your stove, invest in a gate and place deterrents on top of it to encourage your cat to stay away. Make sure that you don’t place anything flammable near your stove.
Cats and Gas Fireplaces?
Gas fireplaces are heated by natural gas and require no wood to create the fire. They’re easy to use and don’t spit out dangerous embers, making them a preferred option with cat owners.
Cats are more likely to go near a gas fireplace than a wood-burning stove or traditional fireplace. This is because the flames are guarded behind glass, so they are seen as an imminent danger. The cat simply gets a warm, cozy spot to relax next to.
Unfortunately, a gas fireplace increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If your cat naps right next to the fireplace throughout the day, there’s a small chance that your pet could develop symptoms. These include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Reflex issues
- Changes in the way your cat walks
- Bright red skin and gums
To prevent this, the damper on your gas place needs to be open when in use. If it’s not, the carbon monoxide will come back into the room. If your cat is sitting by the fire, the poisonous gases are likely to affect your cat first.
Place carbon monoxide detectors near the fireplace and throughout your home too. This is a really important step to ensure the safety of both you and your pet.
A cat sitting by a gas fireplace doesn’t need to be dangerous. In the colder months, it can be a simple pleasure for your cat and an easy way for it to warm up when it’s been outside. Ensuring the right safety measures are in place will keep your cat content.
Can Cats See Fire?
Cats can often be found staring directly into a fire, captivated by the flickering flames. But whether or not they can see fire isn’t exactly clear.
Cats can see 30 degrees on each side. Compared to a human’s visual field, a cat can see 200 degrees in contrast to our 180 degrees. However, what’s interesting is that as reported on Petozy, researchers believe that cats can see blue and yellow colors, but not red, orange, or brown – the colors of fire.
Cats have heat sensors that are concentrated around their face. These sensors are used by kittens to find their mothers when they are deaf and blind newborns. They are also incredibly sensitive, so they could easily be used by your cat to zone in on the fire’s source of heat. As cats have a higher body temperature than ours, looking into a fire could be an easy way for them to warm up.
Above all else, cats are curious creatures by nature. Their instincts are also predatory. Just like how a cat would chase a laser pen or a feather on the end of a stick, the fast-moving lights produced by a flame are likely to arouse your cat’s attention. If you light your fireplace while it’s dark, these lights will be amplified – teasing your cat. As predators, their eyes have adapted to be able to see in very low light.