Cat-Proofing Your Home

Kittens are boundless explorers, meaning anything they can get to is fair game.

Nothing beats a kitten for fun. But the feline "wonder years" can also be the most frustrating and dangerous time in your kitten's life. Don't let Kitty's innocent face fool you. Behind those twinkling bright eyes is a mind brimful of curiosity, and the boundless energy to try and satisfy it. Kittens have a way of turning the most innocuous situation into a disaster. Whether you survive with your sanity intact-and whether your kitten survives at all-can depend on your kitten-proofing your home.

Kitten-proofing is done to make the house safe so that Kitty doesn't hurt himself   It also prevents him from laying waste to your house so that you don't yearn to retaliate.

First, try to think like a cat. Invest in knee pads, get down on all fours, and tour your house at kitten level. But jumping and climbing kittens rarely stop at foor level, so you also need to kitten-proof the heights.

Despite evidence to the contrary, kittens do not have hands. Instead, they use patting paws to explore their world, and they stick their tiny noses into everything. Anything left within reach is fair game, so place anything breakable out of feline range. The more intelligent the kitten, the more ways he'll find to get into trouble!

TOXIC HOUSEPLANTS

Protect your kitten from houseplants ... and vice versa. To a kitten, a large floor plant is an exotic jungle gym to scale, while a pot of soil is an invitation to furry excavators.

Chewing houseplants like dieffenbachia, philodendron, pothos and English ivy can cause toxic reactions. Kitty may even lick off the poison when he grooms his claws after shredding the plant.  Keep plants out of your kitten's reach by hanging them or placing them on shelves. Choose nontoxic plants like the jade plant, the prayer plant, the begonia, donkey tail, coleus or piggyback. (See Toxic Plants)

 

SECURING CORDS

Kittens don't tend to chew as much as puppies, but they do play-attack and bite nearly everything.  Electric cords can be particularly tempting, and bitten cords can result in severe burns or even death. Get rid of as many electrical cords as possible, and check remaining wirs regularly for signs of chewing.   Cords can be covered easily and cheaply with automotive vacuum hose or clear or colored neoprene fuel line available in various diameters and purchased by the foot at most automotive supply stores. For large groups of wires you can use clothes-drier exhaust hosing (Home Depot) which is sold in many different diameters, or even garden hose!  Cut a slit down the length of the tubing with a utility or x-acto knife and simply slip the tubing over the cords - no need to disconnect or unplug the cords.  Larger diameter hose or tubing can be used to combine several cords.  Cords can also be taped to the floor to keep them from moving (and reduce Kitty's temptation to bat and bite them).

 

TRASH AND OTHER ITEMS

Keep garbage away from your kitten. Although cats are generally more fastidious than their canine counterparts, the smell of scraps may tempt Kitty to scrounge. Your kitten might be poisoned by eating potato eyes or contaminated, spoiled food, or  she might end up with an upset stomach that results in a predictable mess.  One of the most serious, and life-threatening dangers are small bones that can splinter or lodge in or perferate the esophogus or intestines requiring surgical removal.   Securely fasten lids on trash containers, or store them under the sink or in the garage where the kitten can't reach them. Beware leaving sharp knives, food processor blades or other utensils out on counters where Kitty might try to lick them clean-and cut her tongue.

Like children, kittens have a tendency to swallow small nonfood items like coins, pins, erasers and paper clips. Anything left out is fair game for the cat.   Strings and threads (sometines with the needle attached) are especially appealling to cats.  Swallowed string, thread and even pieces of pantyhose can badly "pleat" and block the intestines and actually cut through the intestinal wall leading to the very serious, life-threatening condition of peritonitis.  Carefully cap all medications, and put them away. Pills are fun to bat around the floor, but if swallowed can be poisonous. Aspirin, Tylenol and Ibuprofen are deadly to cats as are most human medications.

 

DECORATION DISASTERS

Christmas is an enchanting yet dangerous time of year for kittens. The tree seems meant for climbing, and the blinking lights and swinging ornaments tempt the most stoic kitty to indulge. But broken ornaments, extra electric cords, metal hooks or tinsel, sprayed lead-base "snow" and tree needles all pose dangers. Avoid placing decorations on the bottom branches and cover the water pot at the base of the tree.


TOYS AND STRINGS

Carefully inspect cat toys, and remove small eyes or tails that come loose and may be swallowed. Put away sewing baskets and tackle boxes. Kittens love to play with thread, string and yarn, but unsupervised games can lead to accidental strangulation, swallowed needles, cuts from fishing line or embedded fish hooks. Cats can swallow several yards of ribbon or string, which will require surgical removal. Tie up curtain cords out of kitten reach, or purchase breakaway cords. The standard double cords on window blinds can hang and strangle a kitten.

HIDING PLACES

Kittens and adult cats delight in cubbyholes in which to sleep. Always check cupboards and dresser drawers before shutting them, to be sure your kitten isn't hiding inside. Keep appliances closed. Kitty may think he's found the perfect warm hidy-hole to sleep-until the appliance is turned on. It may sound funny at first, but kittens die every day by being accidentally shut inside a dish washer, washing machine, clothes dryer or stove.   Some cats have a fasination for refrigerators!  Always check before closing the door.

FIRE

Fire will cause either fear or fascination in your kitten, and patting paws will get burned if he tries to catch the flame. Cats like warm places to sleep but may get singed when allowed unsupervised access to hot stove burners, irons or lit fireplaces.

 

Protect your sanity, and your new kitten's life, by running interference for the little guy and clearing lethal  booby traps out of your house. Then sit back, relax and treasure the antics of the furry wonder who now shares your life. Kittenhood doesn't last forever, but kitten proofing your home will ensure that the memories you make today will be happy ones. And happy kitty memories are oh-so-sweet, sweet enough to last a lifetime!

 

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