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Bringing a young cat into your family? Kitten proofing your home is important so your new furry friend doesn't chew, eat or scratch anything she isn't supposed to. If you're welcoming an older cat, she may be less mischievous, though you should still consider a few ways to cat proof furniture for this particular resident. Here are some tips when cat or kitten proofing your home.
1. They Like to Paw and Chew
Kittens are a lot like human babies; they learn about the world around them with their eyes, hands (well, paws), and their mouth. Cats are playful animals, regardless of their age, with an innate love to paw around and play with anything they can find on the ground. That last part is important; you may think your floors are clean, but if you get down on your hands and knees, you'll probably find items that can cause problems for your kitten.
Here's what you should look out for and remove from behind couches and shelves before bringing your kitten home:
- twist ties
- hair ties
- rubber bands
- plastic bags
- sewing supplies
- doll/toy accessories
- small board game pieces
Although loose items are easy for your kitten to paw and swallow, there are many other things in your home she'll try to chew, including electrical cords. Tape down any wires that can't be removed from your kitten's reach, even if they're used permanently for a device you'll have to move with them. When you use temporary items like an iron, however, that dangling cord can be just as tempting to a young kitty. She may think it's something she can play with, but she could get seriously hurt if she pulls the iron off of the ironing board.
Aside from electrical cords and cables, you should also secure telephone wires, curtain tie-backs, and the cords on blinds, all of which seem harmless to your new kitten. Don't forget these items during your kitten proofing process!
2. Not All Plants Are Healthy
Houseplants add some greenery to your home, but be careful what your new kitten has access to. Philodendron, lilies, mistletoe, and poinsettia are a few of the more toxic houseplants that could make your kitten very ill with constant exposure. Lilies, azaleas, and daffodils are common garden plants that are toxic for kittens as well. Similarly, it's important to check and be sure any cut flowers you bring into your home are safe for kittens to prowl around.
3. Keep the Lid Closed
Cats and kittens are always on the lookout for water they can take sips of throughout the day. One easy spot to drink from is the bathroom toilet. It's gross to you, but not all cats are that taste-sensitive, and there's always water available here if she's thirsty. Be sure to keep the lid closed on your toilet if there's a kitten in your home. With the lid up, your furry friend could also fall in and potentially drown. Other containers in your home you should keep closed? Garbage cans, laundry bins, washer & dryer. You wouldn't want your kitten to get trapped inside and be unable to escape.
4. Hot Spots Are Unsafe
Although your kitten enjoys warmth, it's up to you to make sure she's safe in these comfortable areas. Whether the warmth comes from a fireplace or wood stove, reinforce that these hot spots are not a place for napping. If necessary, regulate your cat's access by moving her climbing surfaces or waking her up after a certain amount of time. Ultimately, make sure all electric heaters stay unplugged and stored properly when not in use. If they are plugged in, supervise the heater at all times to keep your entire family safe from overheating.
5. Cat Proof Furniture
Cats and kittens love to scratch, but they won't know what's not worthy of their claws until you teach them. An easy target for your kitten's claws are heavy furniture items such as couches or tables. Rugs and carpeted stairs are also a favorite.
When you're trying to cat proof furniture in your home, don't just think about what your kitten might scratch; think about items she can climb on: curtains, long tablecloths, or bookshelves. Offset these tendencies with a scratching post or cat tree, so she knows exactly which items belong to her.
6. Secure What She Can't Have
Cats are inherently curious, so closing a cabinet doesn't mean your feline friend will stay out. Consider purchasing childproof locks for any cabinets that hold cleaning supplies or medicine. You might keep these items on the top shelf of a closet to be sure they're inaccessible. Just remember that your cat can climb, so the closet door itself should also be closed.
If there is a special room your kitten should stay out of, keep this door closed at all times. Child or dog gates won't keep a cat who can jump five times her own height according to Mother Nature Network out the same way. Any mementos that are especially important to you and your family should be locked or secured away. Did a late relative give you a special family vase? Wrap it safely and keep it stowed until your pets are mature enough to navigate these items.
7. Check Small Spaces
Cats love to snuggle away in warm, small places. Before closing the dryer door, for example, be sure your kitten didn't sneak in for an afternoon snooze. The same goes for other quiet places such as dresser drawers, baskets in closets, refrigerators, and freezers.
8. Lock All Window Screens
Every patch of sunshine has your kitten's name on it, and she'll snuggle on your windowpanes to get the most of this natural warmth. When kitten proofing your home, check all the screens on your windows and doors, even if it's in the winter. You don't want to forget to do this in the spring or summer when your cat is already accustomed to her surroundings. If a screen isn't properly locked, your cat can end up in a dangerous situation. To be even safer, purchase cat-proof window screens as well as cat proof blinds. Not only are the cat-proof screens safer, but they also last longer than regular window screens, because they don't get torn up as easily.
9. Stock Up on Her Favorite Toys
The busier your pet is, the less likely she'll get in trouble. Kittens love to play, so invest in some toys she can play with when she's finished with her nap. As you can imagine, she'll love fake mice and jingly balls, which make just enough noise for you to know where she is at various times during the day. Expect your kitten to alternate between playing with you and napping on your lap.
10. Be Patient When Kitten Proofing Your Home
Whether your new cat is young or old and wise, it's tough for her to learn all the house rules at once. A kitten might avoid all the wires or loose objects on your floor, but be highly interested in climbing curtains or jumping up shelves. She may scoff at her water bowl and sip from the sink. Make the transition to her new home easier by keeping her contained in a small cat-friendly room temporarily while she is learning, then slowly allow her access to more and more of the house as she becomes accustomed to the rules. When letting her roam around and explore her new settings, make sure to keep a watchful eye on her at all times.
If she gravitates to an area that you notice might be unfit or dangerous for her take the necessary precautions to keep her safe. It's important to redirect your kitten while addressing any safety issues in a calm, loving manner.
Finally, it is never a good idea to punish a kitten or cat for misbehaving. She is still learning the rules of your house and might not know better. Punishing a cat can actually make the situation worse causing her to become stressed and reclusive. Proper training and rewarding her for good behaviors will help her learn what is acceptable. If you notice she is being a little ornery, just direct her back to her toys or her scratch pad. Your pet is learning and is looking to you for direction. Have the same patience you would with a young child learning to take in the world for the first time and your bond will go stronger and stronger.
Erin Ollila is an enimal enthusiast who graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or http://erinollila.com.