Are Space Heaters Safe Around Pets? | PetFirst
Are Space Heaters Safe Around Pets?
Pet Care & Health

Are Space Heaters Safe Around Pets?

by PetFirst Pet Insurance
8 months ago

Now that winter’s chill is in the air, many are turning to indoor space heaters to keep their homes toasty warm.  For pet owners, this poses an added safety risk since pets are naturally curious and can accidentally bump into, knock over, or get their paws into heating units.

There is no such thing as a truly safe, pet-proof space heater.  According to an article on portable heater safety for pets, safety ultimately comes down to the following:

  • Purchasing a heater that has built-in pet-friendly features
  • Placing your heater in a safe location
  • Supervising any pets while using a space heater6

However, if you are looking to purchase a space heater and you have four-legged family members, we have some helpful tips that may help you and your pets stay safe and warm.

What should you look for in a space heater?  

Start by looking for the following four features:

  1. An overheat protection feature or an overheat shutoff feature.
  2. Tip-over protection: This will automatically shut the heater in the event it is knocked over on its side.
  3. A GFCI plug: A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) is a type of plug that has an integrated circuit breaker that turns off the power when a current overload is detected. It protects users from electrical burns, shock, or electrocution. A GFCI plug also protects in the event your heater may come in contact with water7.
  4. Certification from an independent and recognized testing agency: This indicates that cords, plugs, and internal wires have been tested, and are deemed safe to use inside the home8

Pet-friendly features

Some other pet-friendly features to look for are front panels and vents that are small enough to prevent curious paws from getting through them.

If you have long-haired pets or pets who shed heavily, you may want a heater with a front panel that is like a mesh or grill.  This will help prevent pet hair, fur, and other debris from getting into the heater and damaging it, or worse causing a fire9.  

Pets are playful and they like to check out new things, so a heater that heats the room while staying cool to the touch can prevent any accidental burns.


Where you place your space heater contributes to its safety. To prevent anyone from accidentally knocking the heater over, place it out of the direct path of pets and children.

Read and adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding how much space to leave on each side of the heater.  You want to prevent the heater from coming in contact with furniture, curtains, or other flammable material.

It’s a good idea to put the space heater far enough above the ground that pets do not have access to the heater or the cord. This will minimize the likelihood of a curious cat or dog chewing on the cord or becoming tangled in the cord.

Safe space heaters to use around pets

There are two basic types of heaters: convection and radiant.

The ceramic heater is a type of convection heater.  A convection heater works by running a convection current across a ceramic heating element, which heats up and ultimately spreads throughout the room. Convection space heaters use warm air to raise the surrounding air temperature of a room10.  

 Some of the benefits of ceramic heaters are:

  • They are safe
  • They offer consistent and even heating throughout the room
  • They heat up quickly
  • They are compact, making them easily portable11

Radiant heaters work similar to how the sun warms our skin. These heaters use electromagnetic energy (which is not visible to the human eye) to warm people and objects that are within close range of the heater. Radiant heaters use light to warm the surrounding area rather than heating the surrounding air12.  

Some of the benefits of radiant heaters are:

  • They are energy efficient
  • They offer instant heat when turned on
  • They are ideal for providing direct, targeted heat at a specific location
  • They are quiet
  • They are low maintenance13  

Consider who will be near the heater 

While most modern space heaters built now have safety features, ceramic space heaters are considered safe for use with kids and pets because they do not get hot to the touch. This minimizes the risk of you and your pets getting burned by touching the heater.

If you opt for a ceramic space heater, you still have a choice to make when it comes to size, portability, and heating capability.  This comes down to personal preference. 

Compact ceramic heaters are a great option if you are looking for a small, portable heater that you can take from room to room.  These heaters do the best job of heating small spaces.  If you are looking to heat a larger room in an energy-efficient way, you would probably be more comfortable with a ceramic tower heater.  Tower heaters tend to have a taller, slim design to them and many rotate back and forth, dispersing warm air throughout the room14.  

If you are looking for something more permanent, there are ceramic wall heaters.  As the name indicates, these heaters are built into the wall.  These heating units can heat a larger area than a compact or a tower heater. However, it is also more expensive to run a wall unit because it will consume more energy15

What not to buy

What about Propane and Kerosene? Propane and kerosene heaters tend to be less expensive than other types of heaters.  However, it is best to avoid using these indoors, particularly around pets. Unless they are properly vented, propane or kerosene increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning16.  

Additionally, consider avoiding heaters with any open spaces where paws can touch heated elements.  Instead, opt for fully closed grills.

The Takeaway

If you are in the market for a space heater, do your research. Keep in mind, when it comes to protecting your furry companions, even the best built-in safety features are no substitute for supervision.

Here at PetFirst1, we know accidents and illnesses can happen to all pets, regardless of the season. PetFirst Pet Insurancecan help cover unexpected vet visits2 and can provide peace of mind. PetFirst Pet Insurance1  has cat and dog insurance policies2 to fit every budget. 

Consider getting pet insurance for your furry friend today.

1PetFirst Healthcare, LLC (“PetFirst Pet Insurance” or “PetFirst”) is the program administrator authorized to offer and administer pet health insurance policies underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company, a Delaware insurance company, with its main office at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, or New Hampshire Insurance Company or The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, each with its main administrative office at 500 West Madison Street, Suite 3000 Chicago, IL 60661. For costs, complete details of coverage, and a listing of approved states, please contact PetFirst Healthcare, LLC.

2Like most insurance policies, insurance policies offered by PetFirst Healthcare, LLC contain certain exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force.

6Portable Heater Safety for Pets & Kids, Pet-Friendly Space Heaters

7Top 8 Safest Space Heater Reviews and Buying Guide 2020

8The Best (and Safest) Space Heaters for Pets

10The 8 Best Radiant and Convection Space Heaters of 2021

14The Safest Space Heater for Pets

15Aircetera: The Safest Space Heaters For Pets 

16The Best (and Safest) Space Heaters for Pets

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