By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 1 September 2011)
Sharp objects can be knocked down or swallowed, creating problems. To eliminate these dangers:
- Don’t leave knives, other sharp objects, or breakable glass items on countertops, particularly near the edges.
- Don’t leave small, easily swallowed items such as staples or sewing needles with thread attached lying around.
Pets are often drawn to garbage cans due to interesting food smells, but trash cans present a variety of hazards, ranging from harmful bacteria to sharp metal lids. To prevent garbage-related accidents and poisonings:
- Use trash containers with tight-fitting lids.
- Keep indoor trash cans inside cupboards (if the cat is persistent and adept at opening cupboard doors, use a childproof latch).
Contrary to popular belief, cats don’t always land on their feet, and although many cats survive falls from high places, they often acquire horrific injuries when they land. Also, many cats get tangled up in window coverings, and occasionally this ends in tragedy. To prevent window-related injuries:
- Make sure that all windows have secure, tough screens – don’t use fabric or nylon screens, as these materials are easily shredded by a determined cat.
- Wind dangling curtain or window shade strings around wall hooks to prevent accidental hangings, particularly with kittens.
Electric Shocks and Burns
Biting into a live cord can cause death or excruciating burns, and hot appliances and open fires can also be dangerous to pets. To prevent electric shocks and burns:
- Use a cord guide system, tape, or PVC tube to keep cords inaccessible.
- Use childproof covers to block electrical outlets – if a cat sprays on an uncovered outlet, it may cause an electrical fire.
- Unplug small appliances such as curling irons when not in use – a cat may inadvertently turn these on.
- Equip fireplaces and wood stoves with secure screens.
- Don’t leave cats unsupervised near open fires, candles, or appliances that get very hot such as irons.
Cats often crawl inside small spaces to explore or get warm. To prevent accidental deaths as a result of dangerous interiors:
- Bang on the car hood before starting the vehicle – cats often curl up inside engines for warmth, especially in the wintertime.
- Check inside the refrigerator before closing the door, and the dishwasher and laundry machines before turning them on – cats can get inside quite quickly when a person’s back is turned.
- Keep toilet lids down, particularly with kittens, as they can fall in and drown. Kittens may also drown in full bathtubs if left unsupervised.
Pets are naturally curious, and young animals are particularly likely to play with or sample anything they find. To prevent problems:
- Don’t leave small items that are easily swallowed, such as elastic bands, pennies, paper clips, or buttons, lying around where cats can access them.
- Don’t give cats yarn or string to play with on their own – it can get caught on the barbs of their tongues, forcing them to continue swallowing and causing an internal blockage.
- Don’t leave plastic bags lying around – these present a suffocation risk.
- Don’t leave items on counters or other high surfaces with cords hanging down – pets may pull on the cords and be hit by falling kettles, irons, or other appliances.
- Don’t give cats toys with pieces that can be chewed off.
Dogs are far more likely than cats to consume dangerous foods or non-food materials, but cats, particularly kittens, may also do so, particularly if things are left within easy reach. In addition, because cats lick their paws frequently, even if they don’t voluntarily consume poisonous substances, they may ingest them while grooming. To prevent accidental poisoning:
- Don’t leave foods that are toxic to cats and dogs within their reach.
- Clean spills immediately, not just toxic chemicals but also food and drink.
- Securely lock up any poisonous substances, such as antifreeze, human medications, and other products that are toxic to pets. Containers should be tightly sealed. Keep an eye out for leakage.
- Use a less deadly antifreeze product – antifreeze that contains propylene glycol is less toxic than the more commonly used ethylene glycol products.
- Never give cats human medications – many medications, such as aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol), can kill a cat.
- Don’t leave craft supplies such as glue lying out in the open when not in use.
- Don’t keep lilies in the house – while some plants that are toxic to cats cause relatively mild symptoms, lilies are extremely poisonous and ingestion can be deadly.
- Use cat-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products, environmentally friendly natural garden pest control methods, and safe flea control options.
- Christensen, Wendy, and the Staff of the Humane Society of the United States. (2002). The Humane Society of the United States Complete Guide to Cat Care. New York: St. Martin’s Press.