This guest post by AJ Early is important for new kitten caretakers. While most of what’s mentioned here could harm adult cats too, cats become more savvy with their own safety as they get older. Although, some things, like toxic plants, can be risky at any age. – Liz
When it comes to our baby cats, we want to give them the best of everything. A long, happy life is super important, for them and for us.
That’s why we try to provide them with the safest and healthiest food, engage them with active play, and support them with snuggles and love.
It’s also important to provide them with a safe home environment where they can thrive without getting into (too much) trouble. But when it comes to safety, there are a few common dangers that are not very well-known. Here are four everyday household dangers to look out for…
Strings and things
We all know that our kitties, especially the young ones, love to play with strings. Dangling and swaying things can sometimes provide hours of entertainment, but they can be extremely dangerous.
There are a number of string toys available that can be hung from a doorknob or a counter, but these are usually long enough to cause strangulation if your kitten gets caught in them. A safer option is a toy dangling from something low, like an end table or a cat tree, with a rope that is too short to wrap around a cat’s neck. If you do allow your kitten to play with any strings longer than a few inches, only allow them access to these toys when they are under your supervision.
Stringy cat toys aren’t the only hazard. There may be other things around your home that can strangle kitty, including drawstrings, shoelaces, and most commonly, window covering cords. Put away any clothes with dangling drawstrings that could tempt a curious kitty, and store shoes with loose laces longer than a few inches with the the laces tied.
Curtain cords are a serious matter. I personally know two people who lost their kitties due to curtain cords. When it comes to window coverings, make sure there are no tables, chairs, or other items that kitty can jump up on to access the cords, and shorten them so they are not long enough to get wrapped around a neck. Also, make sure that they don’t form any loops that kitty can poke her head into. If possible, cut hanging cords to break loops. When buying blinds, look for ones with a built-in cord safety device.
Houseplants are a great way to naturally filter the air in your home and provide a relaxing and natural ambiance. Felines, especially indoor cats, have a built-in urge to nibble on greens, which is why it’s so important to make sure that any plants around the house are kosher for kitty. Three of the safest houseplants are fishpole bamboo, bamboo palm, and most types of fern (excluding the asparagus and cycad varieties.)
But, there are also some common varieties of household plants that are poisonous or very irritating for cats, like: Ivy, Pothos, Philodendron, and Kalanchoe. This chart shows common plants that are poisonous to humans and pets alike.
Cats have such a wide variety of tastes. My friend Amy’s cat, Alice, won’t eat any human food whatsoever (not even fresh tuna fish), whereas my cat Buddha wants to eat odd things like pretzels and edamame. It’s important to remember that many human foods can upset kitty’s tummy or make them very ill.
There are several everyday foods that are very bad for kitty, such as onions, garlic, and chocolate. Even small amounts of onion or garlic can be poisonous and cause red blood cells to break down, and raw egg whites can inhibit kitty’s ability to absorb vitamin B. Brittle bones pose a choking hazard and can cause obstruction or even injury in the digestive tract.
Some people know that cats are lactose intolerant, and others don’t, especially since kitties love to lick up a saucer of milk or cream. Many cats will consume dairy, even though it irritates them and causes digestive issues. My cat Buddha always tries to snag a taste of my ice cream or sneak the milk leftover after I finish my cereal, but I know it’s not good for her so I never allow it. Instead, I’ll occasionally purchase a lactose-free organic milk and give her a little. [The issue with cats and milk is that pasteurized milk lacks the lactase enzyme, which helps cats and humans digest lactose. Enzymes are killed by the pasteurization process. So we occasionally give our cats high quality raw (unpasteurized) milk or kefir as a treat, but it’s not available in many states. – Liz, editor.]
Most of the electronics in your home have long wires or cords that can pose a strangulation hazard just like string toys and curtain cords. These wires also have the added risk of electrocution. No matter how safely you store wires, it’s a good idea to train kitty to stay away from them. You’ll want to bundle multiple cords together with zip ties or clips and try to keep them in an area that kitty can’t access.
I realize that there are few areas in your home that a cat can’t figure out how to access, so the best course of action is to tie or bind cords so that there is no slack on them and keep them covered with a fire-safe material or specialty product. This is important for two reasons:
1) If wires are exposed and have slack, kitty will be more likely to play with them like a string, which could lead to chewing, which is a definite risk for electrocution.
2) If there’s slack on the cords, it could be easy for a curious cat to trip or pull on the cord, resulting in a heavy piece of electronic equipment falling and injuring them. If kitty is lucky, they’ll get out of the way in time, but your expensive investment will probably be destroyed.
You’ll find some other good tips on protecting cats from cords in Liz’s post, 6 ways to stop risky cat chewing without losing your mind.
Safe Kitty Equals Happy Kitty
Cats are sly, hearty creatures for sure. Not much can phase them, but that doesn’t mean that a common household can’t be a risky landscape, especially given a cat’s innate urge to explore, play, and squeeze into tight spaces. We all want our kitties to be around for years to come, so make sure to take a little time to consider this information and follow these tips.
AJ Earley is a personal chef, freelance writer, enthusiastic cat owner, and root beer float junkie from Boise, Idaho.