Cat-Proofing Your Home: Tips from Veterinarian Dr Angela Gaeto
When it comes to home safety, cat proofing is very different to dog proofing.
Cats have a natural curiosity and need to explore, meaning they'll probably get into a different kind of trouble at home, which is why it's important that you recognize the different danger zones in your home and take steps to make them safe.
We talked to Dr. Angela Gaeto, staff veterinarian at the Companion Animal Hospital at Helen Woodward Animal Center, for some tips on cat proofing your home quickly and effectively.
Cats vs. Dogs: Understanding the Differences
Cats tend to be more curious and sometimes more mischievous, while dogs tend to make their interests pretty clear, explained Dr. Gaeto. “If something doesn’t pique your pup’s interest when they first encounter it, it’s a fairly safe bet that they’ll leave it alone,” Gaeto explained. “Our feline friends, on the other hand, tend to pick and chew at things out of pure curiosity.”
Another big difference between dogs and cats is that cats can reach higher and get into things that are usually out of reach for dogs. “That means cat-proofing well above a dog’s level, and even above your level (don’t forget the top of the refrigerator or breakables on high shelves),” said Gaeto.
Plus, she added, you should keep in mind that cats are climbers and may use furniture, curtains and even screens to explore their home. “This climbing can damage your décor and spell injury for kitty, so it’s important to keep an eye out for climbing behavior and either remove the temptation or begin teaching what’s off-limits,” Gaeto said.
Look Up and Watch Out
Since cats can reach higher levels and jump on things, one important step in cat proofing your home is to get rid of breakables sitting on shelves, tables and other surfaces. “Keep your keepsakes in one piece and save your kitty’s paws from harmful shards by removing these items from shelves before introducing a new cat into your home,” Gaeto recommended.
She also suggested being careful with exposed electrical cords that cats might chew on. "Remove the temptation by concealing electrical cords inside of furniture, securing them under carpet or blocking them with plastic guards sold in hardware stores."
Some Cats Are Chewers
Pet owners tend to worry about dogs chewing things, but often ignore the risk of cats chewing on things. If your cat is a chewer, Gaeto recommended watching out for lilies (poisonous to cats), medications (especially anti-inflammatories), exposed electrical cords, hairbands, rubber bands and holiday items such as tinsel or ornaments.
Another thing to remember is that not all cats are attracted to the same textures. Some cats might like crinkle textures such as tissue paper and plastic bags, while others might be more interested in ribbon-like things such as string and even small cords like those on earbuds. “If your cat’s a chewer, provide a safe alternative in kitty toys, cat grass or fresh cat nip plants for a safe way to exercise this natural impulse,” Gaeto recommended.
Block Access to Dark, Tiny Spaces
Cats love to explore tiny, dark places by nature, which can make for lots of dangerous situations at home.
The first step to keeping kitty safe? Make the garage a no-go-zone, said Gaeto. “There are simply too many dangers in garages,” she explained. “Cats can curl up on top of car tires, on the engine and climb on top of open garage doors.” And that's not to mention the many dangerous substances stored in garages such as paint thinner, antifreeze and heavy-duty cleaners, Gaeto added.
Another area to keep an eye on: large appliances. “Cats don’t detect the danger in climbing inside appliances such as dishwashers, washers, dryers and even ovens,” Gaeto said. “Keep large appliances closed at all times and double-check that the coast is clear before closing the appliance and turning it on.”
And if you have a new cat and he tends to hide frequently, Gaeto recommended making sure “you try to find them a few times a day to ensure they aren’t stuck or hurt somewhere.”
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and avid adventurer. She's gone hiking in Siberia, snorkeling in Thailand, and canoeing in the Mekong River. She also loves caves and has been known to get lost in one or five around the world. Diana's work has been published in the Discovery Channel website, Yahoo!, Popular Mechanics, and more. You can read more of her work on her website at www.dianabocco.com