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24 Nov 2020

A fifth of false burglar alarms are set off by pets

Cats and dogs are the second-biggest culprit for false alarms after owners setting their burglar alarm off by mistake

Pets can be an effective deterrent to potential thieves looking to break into your home, but they're also one of the most common reasons burglar alarms are triggered when there's no break-in, according to exclusive Which? research.

A fifth (21%) of you told us that your pet had set off your burglar alarm, in our online survey*. Another 9% had a false alarm triggered by an animal outside their home.

But our four-legged friends shouldn't take all the blame - the most common cause of a false alarm was actually the householder setting it off by mistake.

Keep reading to find out the most likely reasons for false alarms, plus what type of burglar alarm is best if you have a pet. Or see our full guide to the best burglar alarm brands.

Most common reasons for false burglar alarms

After the owner turning on the alarm by mistake and pets, strong gusts of wind are the next-biggest cause of a false alarm.

What triggered your burglar alarm to give a false alarm?

But insects, rain and people outside (but not trying to break in) are also common causes of false alarms.

Unusual causes of false alarms

Other, less common, reasons for false alarms include:
  • Power cuts
  • The alarm needing a new battery
  • A faulty sensor
  • Friends and family members setting it off at night
  • Owner not inputting the code fast enough

But the most unusual reasons we heard about included false alarms caused by steam from the dishwasher, hot sun shining on the sensor all day, a lightning storm and a mouse inside the property.

Best burglar alarms for pet owners

If you've got pets who'll be roaming around your home while you're out, look for pet-friendly sensors when choosing a new alarm. Passive infra-red (PIR) motion sensors look for changes in movement of body heat in rooms. They can be specially designed to ignore changes at floor level and up to 35kg in weight (sometimes less, depending on the brand).

So they should identify human intruders but not be triggered by pets exploring your home.

You can adjust the sensitivity of some motion detectors too, for example Pyronix and Scantronic. Honeywell's alarms let you set up an unarmed zone in your home, for example in the room where you shut your pet at night. Check with your alarm company.

Owners of big dogs (above 40kg) or pets that might jump up on surfaces will need to consider alternative home security measures to PIR sensors. These can include:

  • door contacts fitted to doors and windows to activate the alarm if they are opened whilst it is set
  • glass break detectors
  • smart alarm systems which use cameras to take sequences of snapshots when the sensor is triggered. These are sent to your smartphone so you can check if your pet is the cause of the issue

What you need to know if your burglar alarm keeps going off

Four in 10 (43%) people have had a false alarm. But a quarter (24%) of these have had three or more false alarms in the last two years.

If you have a monitoring contract which notifies the police when your alarm goes off, three false alarms (four in Scotland) in a year can see you struck off the police register and they won't respond.

After two false alarms in 12 months, you should get a letter telling you to update or repair your system to avoid another false alarm. After three false alarms, the causes must be identified and fixed, and you'll need to wait 90 days without a false alarm before you can be added back onto the police response list.

Even if you have a standalone (or bells-only) alarm, it sounding a false alarm regularly may mean your neighbours are less likely to investigate when it does go off.

Find out more about different types of burglar alarms

Home security installation

While we may not be leaving our homes as much as we'd like to this winter, it's a good time to check up on your home security measures and make sure they meet your needs.

As well as burglar alarm installation, home security experts will be able to advise you on a range of measures, including the security of your door and window locks, and whether you could benefit from motion sensitive external lights or cameras.

Head to Which? Trusted Traders to search for locksmiths, electricians and home security specialists who'll be able to help you get your home set up. Our expert assessors vet and monitor every trader we endorse, so you can feel confident you're getting the service you need.

Our research

*We ran an online survey with 2,083 members of the public in February 2019.