South Korea warns pet-owners as more than 100 fires started by cats jumping on touch-sensitive stoves

Cats stepping on touch-sensitive stoves have caused a rising number of house fires in South Korea in the past three years, fire authorities in Seoul said, while asking pet owners to take precautionary measures.

Cats caused a total of 107 house fires between January 2019 and November this year, said a statement Thursday from the Seoul Metropolitan Fire and Disaster Department.

Four people were injured in the fires, more than half of which had started while the owners were not at home.

Cats can turn on electric stoves by jumping on touch-sensitive buttons, and once overheated, the appliances can catch fire, the department said.

As opposed to induction hobs that only heat up when a certain type of pan is on top, some stoves have electric coils underneath glass that heat up regardless of what is on top.   

“Cat-related fires are continuing to occur recently,” said Chung Gyo-chul, an official from the fire department, quoted by CNN. “We advise households with pets to pay extra attention as fire could spread widely when no one is at home.”

Owners advised to remove flammable objects

Authorities are suggesting using an electric stove with an automatic lock function to prevent fires. Alternatively, cat owners can unplug electric stoves when not in use or install safety caps to cover the switches.

Pet owners are also advised to remove flammable objects such as paper towels from the stove’s vicinity and to discourage their pets from interacting with the appliances, authorities say.

Pet-related house fires have been on the rise in Seoul in the past few years, officials said.

Thirty-one such fires occurred between January and September 2019, up from just seven cases in 2017, according to the fire department. Cats caused most of the fires.

The number of Seoul households with cats is on the rise, as residents who live alone are increasingly adopting the felines as pets, according to separate data by the Seoul Metropolitan Government cited by Yonhap news agency.

The number of homes with dogs accounted for 84.9 percent of those with pets in 2018, down from 88.9 percent in 2014, while the number of households with cats increased to 12.2 percent from 8.6 percent over the same period.

Such accidents are happening all around the world.

Last year, a cat and a dog started two house fires in Kent in less than a week, according to the county’s fire service.

A border collie in Sittingbourne, Moss jumped up to reach some leftovers on the stove and accidently turned on three gas rings, two of which ignited.

And a cat stepped on a stove ignition button in Boughton Monchelsea, setting fire to a towel.

In 2019, a husky started a house fire in Essex after managing to turn on the microwave while being left by itself in the house.

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