So you’ve just adopted a cat and you are excited to be bringing her home tomorrow! Here’s what you need to know before you do. Make sure your home is “cat proofed”!
Cats are like children. They’re curious, mischievous and playful little trouble makers at times! All too often, they don’t know what’s good for them. That’s why they need us, their primary caregivers, to be extra diligent in making sure our homes are clean and safe for their curious nature. Haven’t you ever heard the saying, “curiosity killed the cat”? Sometimes nine lives just aren’t enough!
If you think about it, much of cat safety is really just common sense. But there are also some very specific traits common only to cats that we also need to know about to keep them out of harm’s way. A good place to start is considering what you use every day in your home that might be toxic. Cleaning supplies are some of the most hazardous materials found in every home. Air fresheners, ammonia, liquid dish soap, dish washing detergent, disinfectant, fabric softener, furniture polish, glass cleaner, insecticides, scouring powders like comet and heavy duty cleaning chemicals for cars and boats, etc, are all common hazards, not only for your cat, but also for anyone residing in your home. There is one easy solution: Consider switching to effective natural home cleaners such as baking soda and vinegar and water solutions.
With all of the natural remedies that people are turning towards, another thing to consider, which might surprise you, is essential oils. Although people can effectively use them for healing and wellness, the latest research has proven that most essential oils are toxic to cats. Cats lack a certain enzyme in their liver needed to process essential oils, so regular use can cause build up very quickly. Did you know that a cat’s sense of smell is far greater than ours? They are highly sensitive to anything synthetic or otherwise even fragrant, and they can ingest substances just through their sense of smell alone. If you use essential oils in your home, keep them out of your cat’s reach, and if you diffuse, do it sparingly for moments at a time. Don’t make it an all-day thing. Here is a list of essential oils that are most toxic to cats: Peppermint, oregano, clove, sage, citrus oils, lavender, tea tree oil, cinnamon, wintergreen, thyme, birch, bergamont, pine and spruce. Additionally, don’t use synthetic air fresheners as cats’ sense of smell is highly sensitive to these.
If your cat is strictly indoors (and many are these days), cat litter is another area to consider when it comes to your cat’s health and safety. Even outdoor cats frequent a litter box though, so be aware no matter whether indoors or outdoors that there are certain litters that are better choices for both your cat and the environment than others. Clumping clay litters can contain sodium bentonite and can be extremely dangerous to kittens and even adult cats. Keep in mind that cats spend a lot of time grooming themselves. They ingest anything and everything that comes into contact with their little paws and fur. Clumping litter ingested can clump in the intestines and cause painful blockages and even lead to death if the problem is not caught in time. So, instead, look for the many options out there nowadays in natural litters, such as litters that are made of corn, wheat or recycled newspaper. These litters are better for the cat and can be composted, making them better for the environment as well.
In the garage, be careful to clean up any spilled antifreeze. Most cats adore its sweet taste, but even a few drops can cause irreversible kidney failure! In winter, on colder days, check under the hood of your car before starting it! Outdoor cats frequently seek warmth by the hood and fall asleep there.
Hopefully, every cat caregiver takes time to play with their cat, as playtime is a huge part of your cat’s healthy socialization! But BEWARE! There are many cat toys that are extremely dangerous for your cat, especially when left alone without your supervision. Strings, yarn and rubber bands are a few of the biggest culprits. Cats’ tongues are constructed so that it’s almost impossible for them to spit anything out once it’s in their mouths. Once they start to swallow, they can’t stop but can only swallow more, causing strangulation. Be cognizant, as well, of anything that has string or rope attached to it, such as the cords attached to your window blinds. Wrap them and place them high out of your cat’s reach. Other toys that can cause choking and should be avoided are tin foil balls, corks and cellophane. These substances are also not digestible and can cause serious blockages in the intestines. Cellophane is extremely dangerous as it turns “glassy” when it comes into contact with a cat’s digestive juices and can cut the cat’s stomach, causing internal hemorrhage. For these reasons, avoid tinsel and angel hair on your Christmas tree at Christmastime. Angel hair can easily cut the cat’s lungs. And, speaking of Christmas, if you are one of those people who loves to have a real tree in your home, be extremely cautious of the water you have it placed in. It’s deadly and poisonous for cats! The piney fragrance may attract them. Make sure you cover it with a lid that is tamper proof so your cat cannot cleverly find a way to get into it.
Some great alternatives for toys to have around for your cat are ping pong balls, plastic lids from bottled water, or even leaves from the top of a celery stalk. Knitted toys filled with catnip are also safe and fun. Laser lights are great, but keep the light away from Kitty’s eyes. Crumpled up paper, tissue or wax paper are great mimics of hunting, as out in nature, cats see their prey as light and easily tossed around. Most cats also love to play hide and seek in cardboard boxes and paper bags.
We all love to add life and color to our homes through plants, indoors and out. But again, BE AWARE of the many plants that could pose a threat to your cat as they are poisonous to him. Here is a list of the staggering number of them: Poinsettias, azaleas, Dieffenbachia, philodendron, ivy, chrysanthemums, mistletoe berries, rhubarb leaves, cherry, mushrooms, oleander, sumac, sweet pea and rosary pea, uncooked potatoes, apricot and peach pits.
Finally, here are some last minute safety suggestions. Take the time to cat proof and screen your windows to prevent escape and dealing with a lost cat, have your vet’s phone number handy on the fridge in case of an emergency such as a wasp bite, and make sure your new house guest has plenty of safe and cozy places to curl up and go to sleep – calling it another safe day in the nine lives of a cat!