You’re excited for a new kitten arriving soon, but you must seriously re-evaluate your kitten’s safety in your house. What was safe up till now may not be so anymore.
In this article, you’ll learn how to cat proof your home, starting with the things you should safely tuck away and ending with altering your habits so your kitten won’t get into trouble.
- Hide cords. Cords are dangerous to cats, especially smaller kittens. A curious cat may chew on a cord and get exposed to electrical shock. A cat may also get tangled in messy cords or pull a heavy object (e.g., a radio or an iron) onto itself. Make sure there is no mess behind your TV or computer desk. You can tie sets of cords together using plastic braces, hide them in wire molds that are attached to the wall, or use silver tape to fix loose cords. If, for some reason, you cannot hide some cords safely, use a bitter-tasting pet spray on them. Keep in mind, however, that you must reapply the spray frequently, and use it on cords only if you have no alternative.
- Hide sharp and small objects. Needles, paper clips, toy parts, jewelry, and any object that is small enough for a cat to swallow should not lie around. Such objects pose risks of choking, internal damage, or blockage of the gastrointestinal tract. Foreign body ingestion is common in both kittens and adult cats, and the most dangerous aspect is that the adverse events may escalate rapidly; when the signs of choking or intestinal blockage appear, it is already too late to visit a veterinarian. A 100% healthy cat could easily die within one hour.
- Hide string, tinsel, ribbons, and yarn balls. Cats have difficulty spitting out objects because of their tongue anatomy. Thus, if a cat ingests the end of a string, for example, it’s likely to swallow most of it, and about 99% of it won’t pass through. Be extra careful when unwrapping gifts or decorating a Christmas tree, for tinsel and wrapping bands are especially irresistible for curious cats and kittens. Letting a kitten play with yarn balls also poses a risk of entanglement.
- Put household chemicals in a safe location. Most chemicals that we use every day, like toilet cleaners, washing powders, air fresheners, and antifreeze, are toxic not only to us but to cats as well. Some chemicals might even be attractive to cats because of their smell or taste. For example, cats and dogs are fond of car antifreeze; as a result, antifreeze poisoning is among the common causes of death for family pets. Rooms that usually contain dangerous household items are laundry rooms, bathrooms, garages, and similar locations. The best way to keep your cat safe is to store household chemicals in closed cupboards out of your cat’s reach. If that isn’t possible, keep the doors to dangerous rooms locked.
- Secure household appliances. Cats are curious animals and can often climb inside washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, and similar appliances. For example, many cats love napping in laundry bags or inside a pile of clothes within a washing machine. Create a habit to either always close the appliances when you aren’t using them or check every time before you start them. This also applies to times when you fill the washing machine with clothes and then go back to the bedroom to see if any socks are lying on the floor. Double checking doesn’t cost much time, and the reward for doing so may be invaluable.
- Keep heavy (and fragile) objects away. First, you don’t want your kitten to throw a bowling ball on itself—no need to explain why. Second, you don’t want your Renaissance vase to be thrown off the ledge.
- Don’t leave burning candles. It’s okay to enjoy a candle’s flame, but if you have a cat, you should never leave candles burning when you aren’t in the room. Cats, especially long-haired ones, can catch fire from just walking by them. Even worse, a cat may easily knock a burning candle over and set your house on fire.
- Keep windows secure. Keep windows shut at all times, or, if you need ventilation, either install a screen (a secure nylon or metal pet screen, not a mosquito screen, which cannot hold a cat) or ventilate rooms one by one, always checking that the cat is behind a closed door in a different room. Even though cats can balance well, they can easily slip and fall of a window ledge, which is dangerous if you live above the ground floor. Also, cats don’t always land on their feet, and even if they would, falling from heights can still cause fractures, major internal organ injuries, and/or death. If you have an indoor cat, leaving a window open will allow it to escape. And even if you leave a small gap that theoretically would keep the cat in, this could turn out badly. For example, so-called tilt-and-turn windows that are popular in Europe create a V-shaped opening when in ventilation mode. Cats can become stuck while trying to get through them, which could prove deadly.
- Lock cat food away. Store cat food in the fridge (unless your cat knows how to open it), closed cupboards, or pet-secured containers. Overeating by itself may pose a risk to your cat’s life, especially if your cat is still young. Extreme overeating can easily happen with dry food, which expands greatly when exposed to moisture in the stomach. Note: Dry food in a full stomach can double its size after 20 minutes.
- Revise plants in your household. Indoor plants are cool and beautiful; unfortunately, many of them are toxic to cats, who love nibbling on them. You can see a list of plants that are toxic to cats here on the ASPCA website. Currently, close to 400 items are listed. If you have any of those in your home, replace them with cat-friendly plants or place them entirely out of your cat’s reach. You can also find an article about preventing a cat from nibbling plants here.
- Disable any escape path. If you’re planning to keep your cat indoors (which is a good choice, from the safety point of view), always make sure to prevent your cat from escaping. If not provided with adequate stimulation, cats commonly “guard” the front door and scoot through when the slightest opportunity comes, sometimes without the owner even noticing it. You may find tips to prevent a cat from escaping here. Keep doors and windows closed, check where your cat is before you enter or go out, and equip your cat with an ID tag and microchip. If your cat shows interest in the outdoor world, check how you can enrich its indoor environment and increase its activity and the time spent bonding with you.
If we talk about buying different accessories for cats, like cat trees, scratching posts, water fountains, and other items to improve your cat’s life, it’s always possible to start small and then build up according to your cat’s personality and preferences.
Cat proofing, however, does not leave interpretations for “good,” “better,” or “good enough.” It always must be excellent, and it has to be so on the first try. Your house has to be completely cat proof before your new kitten arrives.