Cats are notorious for somehow managing to find precisely the things that have the most potential to hurt them. From plants to yarn, many seemingly innocent items in most homes can poison cats or get them into serious trouble. But while a few specific situations can cause the most problems, many others are easy to prevent by taking simple precautions. Here, we discuss household hazards that habitually cause issues with cats and provide suggestions for keeping your companion safe.
The 20 Ways to Cat-Proof Your Home
1. Craft and Office Supplies
Long thin craft items such as yarn, thread, and needles are dangerous since they can be ingested and cause blockages, leading to severe infections and even death if not promptly treated. Rubber bands, twine, and tinsel present similar problems.
Office supplies such as tacks and paper clips can quickly end up on the floor if not stored in places cats can’t reach. Putting these items in a closed drawer is usually the best way to keep from having to clean up after your cat decides to use your office supplies as toys.
Bookshelves and other tall pieces of furniture are often attractive places for cats to hang out. Furniture that’s not well secured can fall over when cats spring on or off due to the force of their takeoffs and landings. Braces and brackets can be used to secure tall items such as dressers and bookcases to walls, and kits that include everything you need are available.
Avoid screwing anchors into vulnerable parts of furniture that can easily give out under pressure. Periodically look at the brackets and braces to ensure everything is still in good working order.
3. Curtain and Blind Cords
Most cats love to bat at and chase string, making curtain and blind cords popular entertainment choices. However, your cat can get hurt if they end up caught in a curtain cord, particularly if they get it wound around their neck.
Persistent cats may be able to bite through and eat cords. Linear object ingestion can be fatal under some circumstances, so either tie the cords up so they’re far off the ground where your cat can’t get to them or purchase blinds without cords.
4. Fragile Items
Cats love to explore, which often includes jumping on everything in sight and batting at random objects. But it’s often difficult to prevent cats from climbing on open shelves holding expensive or fragile items like vases or crystal statues.
Once they’re up there, cats are likely to bat a few things off. They don’t mean to be destructive, but watching things fall and break into little pieces is pretty entertaining from a feline perspective. Putting easily breakable products in cabinets with lockable doors is the best way to prevent your cat from accidentally destroying fragile belongings that are meaningful to you.
Indoor-only cats often make escape attempts through windows. Some particularly dexterous and adventurous cats can open windows that aren’t securely shut, and many mesh screens aren’t strong enough to deter escape attempts. Consider investing in sturdy cat-proof screens to keep your buddy safely inside if you enjoy opening your windows to allow fresh air into your home.
Regularly check your screens to ensure they don’t have any holes or tears that can provide an escape route for your cat. Avoid allowing cats around windows without securely fitted screens.
6. Household Chemicals
Many household chemicals can be toxic to cats, including cleaning solutions and items such as antifreeze and lawn products. Ingesting just ½ tablespoon of antifreeze can be toxic to cats. Common problematic products that should be kept well out of your cat’s reach include bleach, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and de-icing salt.
When mopping your floor, don’t leave a bucket filled with water and cleaning products even briefly unattended. Also, you can store toxic products in locked cabinets in rooms cats cannot access. Toxic products should always be properly closed and put away immediately.
7. Electrical Cords and Wires
Cats love to explore the world around them, and many prefer to do so with their mouths. They seem to love chewing on things, including electrical cords and wires. Biting into electrical wires can weaken them, increasing the chance of a fire or other electrical incident, but cats can also shock themselves if things go wrong. If your cat tends to chew on things, consider investing in cord protectors to prevent your pet from making a snack of your electrical cords.
Cats often nibble on plants, but even a few bites of a toxic one can result in a trip to the emergency clinic. Removing toxic plants from your home is the best and simplest way to prevent your cat from becoming sick. Lilies, sago palms, azaleas, and amaryllis can make cats ill. The Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has a comprehensive list of plants that are toxic to cats that you can use to help guide your choices.
Indoor cats need mental stimulation, and those who don’t get enough create their own entertainment, which sometimes involves investigating and ultimately liberating interesting things from the trash. Cats can get into trouble if they manage to work their way into the trash right after you throw away something like a bit of chocolate or yarn, which can cause serious problems when ingested. Consider investing in a trash can that’s sturdy enough to stay upright under the rigors of a feline assault and has a secure lid.
Cats and candles aren’t a great combination. Even in sturdy candleholders, tall candles are too easy for cats to tip over. Larger candles with wide bases are more difficult for cats to turn over, but motivated pets can still wreak havoc by pushing them off tables. Keep in mind that some cats with sensitive noses may find scented candles irritating. Of course, burning candles should never be left unattended, whether you have a cat or not.
Several medications can be problematic for cats, including prescription, over-the-counter, herbal, and “natural” products. Prescription medications such as beta-blockers, benzodiazepines, ADD medications, and antidepressants are toxic to cats. Common over-the-counter medications that regularly result in trips to the emergency veterinarian include ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen.
Avoid storing medication in sealable plastic baggies since they’re far too easy for cats to bite through. It’s best to keep prescription bottles stored in locations inaccessible to cats to prevent them from knocking over bottles and using them as toys.
Cats can fall off and injure themselves on balconies. They can become interested in birds, insects, and other flying creatures when sunning themselves on balconies. They can easily get caught up in the moment and accidentally fall while attempting to nab a passing critter.
Keeping cats leashed on balconies may seem like a good idea, but it probably won’t do much good if your cat is wearing a breakaway collar. Caticos provide cats with enclosed spaces to kick back and relax safely on balconies. There are several commercial products to choose from and simple DIY options straightforward enough to whip together in the afternoon.
Many cats love to keep themselves busy by playing with water, and toilets are often popular entertainment options. However, felines can fall into toilets, which can be a problem for particularly small cats, which often have trouble climbing out. The water in toilets is often full of harmful bacteria and toxic cleaning products. Simply putting the lid down on the toilet is a simple and easy way to keep your cat from taking an accidental dip or getting sick after ingesting something gross.
14. Appliance Doors
Cats can get stuck inside appliances, which can be deadly in the case of washers and dryers. Other common hiding places for kitties include refrigerators, dishwashers, and freezers. Always do a last check immediately before starting your washer, dryer, or dishwasher to ensure your cat hasn’t managed to tuck themselves away inside.
15. Holiday Decorations
Holiday decorations are notorious for causing trips to the emergency clinic. Carved pumpkins featuring candles can become fire hazards around cats. Long, thin tinsel can create problems if eaten since it can become stuck in cats’ digestive tracts, which can lead to abdominal obstructions that usually require immediate medical attention.
Plants commonly associated with holidays can also cause problems. Lilies are particularly toxic to cats and can be fatal when consumed in small quantities. Mistletoe or holly ingestion can lead to signs such as gastrointestinal upset, lethargy, and weakness.
16. Essential Oils
Essential oils are often popular among those pursuing holistic approaches to health and wellness, but they’re not great choices for homes with cats. They’re concentrated oils pressed from plants and often used topically or to manage conditions such as stress and anxiety using aromatherapy.
Felines don’t have the right liver enzymes to break down these products. Small amounts can lead to liver failure when ingested or absorbed through their skin; tea tree and peppermint oil are particularly problematic. Cats can even become sick if they lick droplets distributed by infusers from their fur. Essential oils should be stored in places cats can’t get to.
17. Human Foods
Chocolate and alcohol are toxic to cats, and common seasonings, such as garlic, onions, and shallots from the Allium family, can negatively impact red blood cells and ultimately result in toxicity. Signs of toxicity include lethargy, weakness, and collapse. Dried garlic and onion products are more potent than raw products, and garlic packs more of a punch than other members of the family.
Toxicity can occur after cats consume surprisingly small amounts of some types of human foods, so it’s best to avoid giving your pet dishes prepared to suit human tastes, as many contain toxic ingredients to cats. Avoid leaving food out where cats can easily help themselves to a few bites, and make sure to put seasonings such as garlic salt away immediately after using them to keep them away from your cat.
Indoor cats often escape through doors and weak screens. Consider installing barriers to keep speedy cats from darting outside when you’re bringing in groceries from the garage or coming through the front door after a walk. You can purchase commercial products that make the entire process relatively easy or construct a DIY plan if you enjoy building things. Regularly give screens you’re counting on to keep your cat inside a look to ensure they’re free of tears and weak spots your cat can use to let themselves out for an unauthorized neighborhood adventure.
19. Plastic Bags
Plastic bags of all sorts are full of dangers for pets. Cats can get stuck in plastic shopping bags if they stick their heads through the handles, and they can actually constrict their breathing. Cats are often tempted to play with and eat plastic bags, which can lead to dangerous abdominal obstructions.
Under the wrong circumstances, small plastic snack bags can even suffocate cats, particularly if one gets their head stuck in a small snack bag and panics. Cats are often attracted to sandwich bags when tempting leftover food is still inside.
Particularly dexterous and curious cats often manage to use their paws to open cabinets. Some have the skills to work their way into storage cabinets full of cleaning and lawn care chemicals. It’s a snap for others to get into toxic products often stored in kitchen cabinets. Consider installing child locks on cabinets where you store dangerous items, such as cleaning products, medications, and food cats shouldn’t get into.
While it’s impossible to make an environment 100% safe for cats, there are several steps you can take to reduce the chance of something unfortunate happening to your pet. Basic precautions, such as storing toxic cleaning products in locked cabinets in areas that cats don’t have access to, can reduce the chance of a trip to the veterinarian. Giving away toxic plants, securing plastic bags, and keeping products such as medication and supplements under lock and key are other essential steps to create a safe environment for your cat.
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Featured Image Credit: EkaterinaSid, Shutterstock
- The 20 Ways to Cat-Proof Your Home
- 1. Craft and Office Supplies
- 2. Bookshelves
- 3. Curtain and Blind Cords
- 4. Fragile Items
- 5. Windows
- 6. Household Chemicals
- 7. Electrical Cords and Wires
- 8. Plants
- 9. Trash
- 10. Candles
- 11. Medications
- 12. Balconies
- 13. Toilets
- 14. Appliance Doors
- 15. Holiday Decorations
- 16. Essential Oils
- 17. Human Foods
- 18. Doors
- 19. Plastic Bags
- 20. Cabinets