Pets & Alarm Systems - Can They Coexist?

Pets & Alarm Systems - Can They Coexist?

One question I have learnt to ask at every residential sales call is “Do you have pets?”  That’s because pets can drastically affect the way a security system works, and therefore should be a huge factor in deciding what your alarm system should look like.  Similarly, an existing system might work perfectly for years, only to have false alarms start when a new pet is introduced to the house.   It can certainly be a challenge, but one that can be overcome with careful consideration and planning.

Motion Detectors

The most obvious culprits for false alarms in the presence of pets are motion detectors.  Many motion detectors are “pet friendly”, and many even give a weight (between 40-80lb on average) under which a pet can essentially be ignored.  However, there are some limitations to these devices, and improper placement or setup can still result in false alarms.

A standard PIR (Passive Infra-Red) motion detector shoots out beams in a sort of three-dimensional grid (kind of like pie slices), and is triggered by objects big enough to cross 2-3 beams at once.  “Pet friendly” detectors work by having reduced sensitivity for the grid slices in the lower half of the field of view, making it less responsive to objects that stay low on the ground.  And that is the key; height.  Pointing a pet-friendly motion detector at a flight of stairs will inevitably give you false alarms, as will pointing it right at your cats’ favourite jumping spot.  I have seen more 6lb cats set off false alarms than 40lb dogs, because they love to jump on things when no one is around (even when the owner swears that they don’t!).

Being very selective with the types of detectors, their settings and their placements will solve most pet-related false alarms; however, for the few cases where these options aren't tenable, there are other solutions:

Glass-break Sensors

If you have a cat that loves to jump or a dog that enjoys getting rowdy when no one is home, a better alternative might be to strategically cover windows with audio glass-break detection.  These sensors have a microphone in them, and listen for the high-pitched frequency of breaking glass.  Your pets can move around freely without any worry of setting the alarm off.  However, dogs with very high-pitched barks, or pet birds, have been known to set these off too.  One just has to think ahead: does your dog sit at the front window and bark at every car that drives past?  Then maybe the glass break detector should be covering the back windows only.

Door/Window Sensors

Most alarm systems cover all opening doors as a minimum requirement - but what about windows?  If motion sensors and glass-break sensors aren't going to work because of a pet-related problem, then window sensors are a great plan.  While it is possible to put sensors on every opening window in the whole house, this is often not necessary - most criminals are looking for the easiest way in and out of your house, so putting sensors on windows that would require a ladder (or a very skilled climber) to reach is likely not required.  We usually scope out the most easily-accessible windows (basement windows are easy to get to and often afford a potential criminal a lot of privacy) and prioritize those.  

We also look at the style of the window; a crank-out window is much harder to open from the outside than a sliding window, for example.  Window sensors also have the added bonus of giving you awareness of your property - the system will remind you if you accidentally left a window open when you try to arm it.


The last thing we need to talk about is the general placement of sensors.  I have seen many door contacts, window sensors, and even glass-break detectors damaged by pets because they were placed too close to the ground.  A puppy will chew on just about anything it can get its teeth on, as anyone who has owned one will know.  There are few circumstances where a sensor would have to mounted low (wiring a sliding patio door in a finished house might be one), so these cases can usually be avoided before they happen.  But if your system was already setup before you got your pet, it might be worth getting a security professional in to evaluate the existing equipment and its placement.

To sum up, here are the important things to consider:

  • YES, you can definitely have pets and still have a reliable alarm system
  • If you have pets and are getting a new security system, PLEASE bring it up with your salesperson (if they don’t bring it up themselves) and plan around the pets
  • If you have an existing alarm system and then get a pet, CALL your Calgary Reed Security representative to discuss how this might affect you and how to minimize false alarms
  • NO, you should not have to live with false alarms just because you have pets.  It may take some effort to get things set up for your pets, but don’t let that dissuade you from having an alarm system altogether; it’s there for your safety AND that of your pets.


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