Humans know that fire can be deadly. It spreads fast, leads to untold damage, and can cause pain if it burns the skin. Do cats have the same understanding of the dangers of fire, or are they drawn to its alluring flicker and warmth?
Cats will stay away from an open fire due to the smoke and spitting embers. However, when it comes to a fire that’s behind glass, like a wood-burning stove or gas fireplace, a cat may go 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 to be 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 concerned. With 500,000 pets dying annually in house fires, you’re right to be wary. Always ensure that maximum safety measures are in place.
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 descended from the African wildcat and is hard-wired to withstand warmer temperatures. A cat’s ambient body temperature is 102 degrees Fahrenheit, so cats need to find ways to keep themselves warm.
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. Cats are drawn to warm areas as 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 signal danger to cats.
To keep your cat away from a fireplace, you’ll need to provide clicker training. 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 flames. 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. For example, your cat could edge too close to the fire to get 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 have two cats, more than one species of animal, or just one cat that 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 set on fire. They may also encourage your cat to risk going too close to the fire to retrieve it.
Protective Metal Screen
A protective metal screen or glass door is a great way to add an extra layer of safety. They are 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 reaching your cat’s skin or fur.
Small Pet Gate
If your cat won’t stay away from the fire or is too interested in the flames, a pet gate could help keep your cat away. You can either use one to stop your cat from entering the room completely or find one that fits the boundaries of your fireplace. Some cats 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 important to have a fire extinguisher nearby to diffuse any danger. Stand 6-8 feet away from the fire and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to stop the fire.
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. In addition, they prevent spitting embers from hitting your cat and can stop the fur from becoming singed.
Wood-burning stoves can pose a greater 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 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.
To prevent your cat from going near your stove, get a gate and place deterrents on top of it to encourage your cat to stay away. Also, 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. The flames are guarded behind glass, so they aren’t seen as an imminent danger. As a result, the cat gets a warm, cozy spot to relax.
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 cat 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 will likely affect your cat first. Also, place carbon monoxide detectors near the fireplace and throughout your home.
A cat sitting by a gas fireplace doesn’t need to be dangerous. It can be a simple pleasure for your cat during the colder months and an easy way for it to warm up.
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 the fire isn’t exactly clear.
Cats can see 30 degrees on each side. So, 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 around their face. Kittens use these sensors to find their mothers when they are deaf and blind newborns. They are also sensitive, so your cat could easily use them to zone in on the fire’s source of heat.
Cats will usually stay away from fire as they give off warning signs, such as flickering flames. However, you should always supervise your cat and have a fireguard to keep your cat safe from harm. Never play games or allow two cats to play near an open fire in case the cat makes an error of judgment.