There are common household items that could be deadly to your cat. Just as you must child-proof your home when young children are present, so you must cat-proof your house to protect your cat, to make it safe as possible for your cat.
WINDOWS AND HIGH PLACES
Contrary to what many people believe, cats do jump and fall from high places–and they do get injured, sometimes seriously. Make sure your window screens are securely fastened. Cats can squeeze through remarkably small spaces, so don’t leave your windows open even a small amount if you do not have screens on.
NOTE: Check your screens for rips or tears in any windows your cat has access to. Do this often. Some cats will claw at a screen until a tear, big enough for the cat to escape, develops. Others simply like to sharpen their claws on screens. Others will lay against the screen, and in time it will pull loose at the bottom edge. Some cats will use the window day after day and not damage the screen in any manner. Close observation will let you know your cat’s behavior when in a window. You can always use an insert (such as a strip of inexpensive lattice) to protect your screen from damage and yet allow the fresh air and breezes in.
If you allow your cat onto a balcony, make sure you supervise her at all times. Cats, even though very agile, can still fall from a railing if they decide to leap at a passing bird. Cats have poor depth perception. They have been known to leap from over a dozen stories high. Obviously, this can be fatal. Unless the balcony is enclosed, why not use a harness and leash on your cat if you take her out there. By the way, even if you live on a first floor, your cat can wriggle through the railing bars or jump off a deck and escape outdoors–which puts her at great risk for injuries from cars, dogs, cat-hating people, and diseases from other animals, to name a few outside hazards. You can enclose your balcony with wire. We’ve done this with a large front porch. It works great!
WASHING MACHINES AND DRYERS
Dryers can be dangerous to your cat. A dryer is a warm, dark place full of fluffy, soft clothes. A great place for a nap! Many cats and kittens have died tumbling in dryers each year. Keep the dryer door closed (and also your washing machine lid!) and always check your dryer out to be sure your cat isn’t in it before you turn it on. Cats love to explore new areas. Open doors are a big temptation, and dryers are considered a nice, warm place to curl up in and take a nap.
Think of your inquisitive cat as a small child. Anything that attracts them will go into the mouth. This includes paper clips, carpet tacks, pins, coins, rubber bands, thread, sewing or embroidery needles, string or yarn, dental floss, aluminum foil, plastic bag pieces, the small parts of toys, and other such-like small items. If your cat gets hold of these objects, they could become lodged in the throat, causing strangulation, or swallowed and caught in the intestines, resulting in intestinal blockage and expensive veterinarian bills.
In the kitchen dangers abound. A cat likes to feel part of the family. The warmth, smells and activity of preparing and cooking a meal is very attractive. Never leave pots and pans unattended on the stove. Your cat could be severely scalded or burned while investigating what smells so good in a pot or pan cooking on the stove. The burners themselves, particularly on electric stoves, remain hot for quite a while after use. Hot plates are another danger, if you use one. They tend to stay hot for some time after they are used.
NOTE: Inexpensive, yet attractive burner covers are a good idea. If you have a flat electric stovetop with elements built in, make a cover to protect the surface from scratches from a cat’s claws as it walks across.
Freezers have also posed a risk to cats. Inquisitive, curious cats like to explore any new area. Due to a freezer’s heavy insulation, if your cat should get shut in, you won’t be able to hear her calls for help. Frostbite and death can occur quickly.
Human drugs can be very toxic to cats. Keep all medications in tightly closed containers and in a cabinet out of reach of a curious cat who likes to jump on counters and sinks. If you should drop a pill on the floor, retrieve it immediately. One Tylenol or ibuprofen tablet can kill a cat. Tylenol causes a condition in which the cat’s blood cannot carry oxygen, while ibuprofen can cause severe gastrointestinal bleeding, liver and kidney damage, plus seizures and tremors.
Aspirin, cold medications, anti-cancer drugs, anti-depressants, vitamins, and diet pills can all be toxic.
Never give your cat any human medicine unless your veterinarian has approved it.
Household products are also a concern. Don’t use toilet bowl cleaners if there’s the slightest chance your cat may drink from the toilet. Cats do like to do this if you leave the seat up.
Keep cleaning agents, fabric softener sheets, pesticides, paints, and varnishes locked up away from your cat’s curious forays. The same goes for poisonous substances you may keep in your basement or garage, including windshield cleaners, weed and rodent killers, insect control products, over-the-counter flea and tick remedies (prescription flea and tick remedies are far safer), fertilizers, plant food, and used motor oil; also, de-icing salts used to melt snow and ice are paw irritants. Many cats are attracted to the taste of anti-freeze, which contains ethylene glycol, which is toxic. It can even poison your cat if she walks through a puddle of anti-freeze and merely licks it off her paws. One teaspoon can kill a seven pound cat!
Slamming doors are also a potential hazard for your cat. Cats rarely take their tail length into consideration when adjusting their speed to clear a fast-moving door. Tails are easily broken or the skin can be stripped off the tail (amputation would then become necessary). If a cat’s head or body is caught in a door, she may die. Always close doors gently.
Drapery or blind looped cords can entangle a cat or kitten and strangle them to death. Simply cut the loop to make two straight cords–the same precaution you would take for your child.
Railings on stairways can also be a danger for your cat. Depending on the railing spacing, a cat could either get stuck or could squeeze through and leap into serious trouble. Install a clear acrylic shield (like Plexi-glass) on the inside of the rails to keep your cat in.
RECLINERS AND ROCKERS
Recliners and rocking chairs injure many cats each year. When a recliner folds or closes up, the cat can be squashed and seriously injured. Rocking chairs break bones. Know where your cat is before you rock or fold up your recliner.
HEATING AND A.C. DUCTS
Did you know that heating and A.C. ducts can also be a big problem if not covered securely? Cats can get in them and get lost in your ceilings and walls. Small, dark openings attract cats.
NIPPLES FROM BABY BOTTLES
Some people like to give their cats baby bottle nipples and/or pacifiers to play with. This is not a good idea. These items are made of rubber, plastic or latex. A cat’s teeth are very sharp and bits and pieces will break off as they chew on them. An intestinal blockage could occur. You could lose your cat.
NOTE: Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine, which is toxic to cats. This substance is related to caffeine, and acts as a stimulant to a cat’s nervous system. Essentially, theobromine shifts the cat’s nervous system into overdrive. This substance also speeds up the heart and can cause irregular heartbeats.
There is no specific antidote for theobromine poisoning. Vomiting, seizures, and cardiac arrest are all possible from your cat ingesting chocolate. Don’t take a chance. Don’t give your cat any chocolate.
Leftovers such as chicken bones easily shatter and can choke a cat.
The following foods may be dangerous to your pet:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Apple seeds
- Apricot pits
- Avocados–toxic to birds, mice, rabbits, horses, cattle, and dairy goats
- Cherry pits
- Chocolate (baker’s, semi-sweet, milk, dark)–poisonous to dogs, cats, and ferrets
- Coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate covered espresso beans)
- Hops (used in home beer brewing)
- Macadamia nuts
- Moldy foods
- Mushroom plants
- Mustard seeds
- Onions and onion powder
- Peach pits
- Potato leaves and stems (green plants)
- Rhubarb leaves
- Tea (caffeine)
- Tomato leaves and stems (green plants)
- Yeast dough
Cats do like plants and that can be a problem for you and your cat. While some plants are safe to have around the house, many are not. Plants can cause anything from vomiting and diarrhea to renal failure and even death. Watch out particularly for these plants:
- Tiger Lily
- Easter Lily
- Holly berries
- All plants of the Nightshade family
It is wise to grow a pot of lawn grass (oat grass is a favorite of cats) for your cat to chew on. Most pet stores like PetSmart or PetCo carry both seeds for planting and ready-growing plants.
At the end of this section is a listing of some of the common plants that are poisonous to cats, including which specific part(s) of the plant is poisonous.
Cats and yarn do not mix. What’s more adorable than a playful kitten or cat and a ball of yarn? Actually the scenario is a dangerous one. Cats often swallow yarn, tinsel, string, thread, ribbons and other elongated materials that can cause serious damage to the intestinal tract. This doesn’t mean your cat can’t play with these items; just make sure you are there to supervise closely and never leave your cat alone with them.
ELECTRICAL AND PHONE CORDS
According to the National Safety Council, about 5,000 fires a year are caused by pets chewing on electrical cords. Tack extension cords against the baseboard or run them under a carpet or cover them with cord covers (places like Wal-Mart have them) so your cat can’t chew or play with the cords. Your cat could also electrocute herself. One bite on an electrical cord can stop a cat’s heart and/or burn the cat’s tongue in half.
Never leave your cat alone in the house with lighted candles. The cat will want to play with the flickering flame, and could burn herself and worse yet, knock the candle over and start your house on fire.
Want to save your lamps and collectibles? Attach some skid-proof adhesive (like Velcro or folded duct tape) to their bottoms so your cat can’t break them if they should go sliding across a table or counter. This also protects your cat from stepping on broken glass and/or ceramics after the deed is done.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Take the same precautions in making your home safe for your cat as you would for a small child. We’ve only listed some of the dangers.
The Humane Society of the United States recommends that pet owners use all household products with caution and keep a pet first-aid kit and manual readily available. The HSUS puts out a first-aid book in conjunction with the American Red Cross, entitled Pet First Aid: Cats and Dogs. If all of your precautions fail and you believe that your pet has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian or emergency veterinary service immediately. Signs of poisoning include listlessness, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, lack of coordination, and fever.
The ASPCA Animal Control Center operates a hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 888-426-4435 for a fee of $45 per case. If you call, you should be prepared with the following information: the name of the poison your animal was exposed to, the amount and how long ago; the species, breed, age, sex, and weight of your pet; and the symptoms the animal is displaying. You’ll also be asked to provide your name, address, phone number, and credit card information.
This is a list of some of the common plants which may produce a toxic reaction in animals. This list is intended only as a guide to plants which are generally identified as having the capability for producing a toxic reaction.