Watching Out for Pets During a Home Improvement

If you’re reading this, you’re may be considering or getting ready to start improving your home. Perhaps you’ve even obtained a home improvement loan from one of the banks on RateZip. Now is a good time to start thinking about various things that could go wrong. A home improvement project is not just a disruption to yourself and your family, pets also get disturbed by the changes, especially if a project last a couple of weeks or months at a time. A home improvement causes noise and disruption and literally changes the perceived territory of a pet; territory is an important thing. Just watch two house cats and how they “own” a room. As a result, as soon as a change is made, pets can be expected to investigate, which can get them into trouble.


Environmental changes are well-known to cause stress to animals. And that stress can come out in unexpected and unwanted behavior from a pet. Even the best, most affectionate pets can suddenly start nipping, biting, scratching and snarling when stressed, due to hours of anxiety. Unfortunately, for an animal, a home improvement change that causes a drastic space change for a while doesn’t make sense to an animal. The cat or dog can’t understand or distinguish that the source of the change is a flooring change or a wall paint change. The animal simply knows something is different and it causes anxiety. Unresolved, the anxiety festers in an animal, which then lashes out at anything irritating it.


To avoid the stress problem, it’s often best to move the animal and its bed to a familiar but different room, and keep the pet out of the home improvement area altogether. The familiar room lowers anxiety and blocking off the project area avoids renewed stress from smells, noise and physical changes.

Chemicals, Dust and Materials are Poisonous

Pets often follow their noses to new changes and use their mouths to identify unknown objects. Unfortunately, that means they are prone to getting poisoned by chemicals and product. If a pet can’t be kept out of a project area, then any chemicals, liquids, and industrial product need to be isolated and contained so a pet can’t get to them. An easy way is to store all product, tools and chemicals in a plastic bin with a lid. If fumes are a concern, especially with birds (remember the canary in the coal mine adage?), the chemical and tools such as brushes should be contained and stored outside when not in use, also using a ventilated plastic bin so a dog can’t get into the materials.

Renovations also kick up a lot of dust, and animals are far more susceptible to dust impacts than humans. Try to contain the dust with plastic sheeting. Additionally, vacuum up after a day’s work. This avoids dust getting everywhere or kicked around after the fact by a nosy pet.

High Traffic Concerns

Big projects often involve lots of traffic, doors kept open for movement, tools going in and out, and lots of labor. Pets don’t do well with strangers, open doors, and high traffic volume that changes every day. They spook, run and can even get out and into the street. Often, cats will hide, becoming very hard to recapture, and dogs will start exploring the neighborhood. To avoid such headaches, mobile pets should be contained in a room or locked up in the backyard, depending on the animal. Contractors should also be made aware of the pet situation so they don’t accidentally open the wrong door. Pre-planning avoids mistakes, and keeps your pets from bolting when least expected.

Last Note

Comforting your pet during an environmental change makes a big difference. If your dog or cat doesn’t feel safe, it will express that anxiety back to you. By providing regular affection during a home improvement, a pet will relax and adapt.

Paul Everett owns two cats and writes about personal finance & other issues from his apartment in New York City’s East Village.

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