Pet-Proofing

Charlie has pretty much recovered from his illness. From what we can tell, he ate one toy feather, possibly more (although those have not come back up). W’ve taken up that toy so he can’t get to it. We do have to be careful about keeping things that he could get into or chew on away from him.

Case in point: Aaron ordered a second Cat Genie, which came packed in foam. Naturally, little bits of the foam flaked off. I found Charlie closely investigating and/or mouthing the foam and bits of tape. My appearance shooed him off and I relocated the packing foam, vacuumed up bits, and offered him an acceptable toy to play with instead.

Dealing with a curious, toddler-like cat is an adventure. Each one has distinct quirks and presents different challenges. For example, Nala, my late cat, was quite talented in opening purses, backpacks, and suitcases. The zipped posed no problem as she figured out how to slide it open with her paws and then creating a bigger entranceway by wedging herself through the opening. She was also highly adept at opening cupboard doors with her paws. When I moved to Austin, she opened one of the kitchen cupboards and curled up there, totally content there and unwilling to leave until the ruckus died down. She was also fond of the linen cupboard in that condo. When I moved into Aaron’s house, she switched to sink cupboards; she had an irrepressible urge to sleep under Aaron’s sink or under the hallway bathroom sink.

While at first Nala’s habit of sleeping under the sink was cute and idiosyncratic, we were worried that she’d somehow get into any cleaners we kept, especially those under the hallway bathroom and kitchen sinks. For his part, Aaron wasn’t a fan of her white hair getting all over everything stashed under his sink. To keep her out of unwanted areas, Aaron started installing child-proof locks on some of the cabinets, particularly her frequented hiding places. She was most displeased and puzzled by these safety precautions. I remember watching her trying to open one cabinet and finding it locked, and, as though to verify her door-opening strategy was sound, would test another cabinet in the kitchen. But in the end it was an effective method of keeping her from getting into trouble and possibly sick.

To compensate Nala for her “lost” hiding spots, we presented her with alternatives she would like: boxes. Both Boudicca and Nala love(d) boxes, so we often had a half-dozen boxes of varying sizes stashed all over the house. For her part, Nala preferred long rectangular boxes, some of which were a tad too small for her, in Aaron’s office. I have no idea how she felt comfortable when squished like that.

While Nala preferred to get into certain spaces, like cabinets and bags, she also occasionally chewed on items she wasn’t supposed to, such as photographs and Post-Its. (For some reason, she regarded Post-Its and business cards as toys.) She did like thread and yarn, so we had to keep that out of her reach.

With Charlie, he has not demonstrated an interest in getting into cabinets. His issue lies in his mouthiness–like a baby, he sticks stuff into his mouth that he’s not supposed to, and that can make him sick. We’ve learned that he can’t be trusted to play with feathery toys and not eat any of the feathers. The same thing goes for toys with tassels, thing strings, or any part that can be broken off. (Case in point: he tore off the three toys attached to the cat tower and tried chewing on the elastic string that held up the toys. I snipped off the remaining strings.) Some cats can play with tasseled or feathery toys without a problem, especially if they’re more focused on catching their prize than chewing on it. It widely depends on the pet.

In the two-and-a-half months that we’ve had Charlie and Garrus, we’ve given them an assortment of toys to choose from: crinkly Mylar balls, durable plastic springs, a plastic rattle ball, plastic egg-shaped puzzle toys, and the fuzzy toys (two mice and a ball) Charlie removed from the cat tower. He is quite fond of carrying around the latter toys around in his mouth. Both Charlie and Garrus enjoy chasing after and batting at the wand ribbon toy (I think it’s actually called a Cat Dancer Cat Charmer toy) and laser pointer (the ever-elusive red dot).

Because Charlie likes to mouth new things, we have had to cat proof our house in other ways. To illustrate, a friend gave me a succulent plant as a present before we fostered and adopted the Downton Tabbies. We had it on an end table in the living room. Boudicca had no interest in it whatsoever. Not long after we let the boys fully explore and become integrated into the house, I found that Charlie had been playing with the moss (leaving it scattered all over the kitchen floor) and mouthing the plant’s leaves. I immediately took it up and moved it to a much higher shelf where he couldn’t get at it. I also keep blind cords out of reach after finding Charlie batting at and mouthing them.

Cat- or dog-proofing your house is a worthwhile endeavor, both for your pets’ sake and your own. Here are other ways you can pet-proof your home:

  1. Plants. Move house plants out of reach or don’t have them in the house. Any plant you keep in the house, make sure these plants aren’t toxic to pets.
  2. Latches and secure storage places. Use child-proof latches on cabinets. Place medications, cosmetics, jewelry, cleaners, chemicals, and laundry supplies on high shelves and inside secure cabinets or storage containers.
  3. Cords. Unplug cords that aren’t in use. Use cord protectors to prevent pets from chewing on cords and getting shocked. Keep dangling cords for electronics, phones, and appliances out of chewing reach.
  4. Food and wrappers. Keep food items, beverages, and wrappers out of reach. Curious pets can easily knock something over and make a mess and/or consume something that can make them sick. I’ve noticed that my cats are often keenly interested in the crinkliness of plastic wrappers, probably because they associate that sound either with their toys or with the sound of the treat bag being opened.
  5. Toys. Put away children’s toys and games. Pets can easily chew up, choke on, or get really sick from eating these items. I have a friend whose cat once ate half a chess piece.
  6. Crafts. Put away all sewing and craft items, especially thread and yarn. Buttons, beads, and other small objects could be ingested or be a choking hazard. Needles, pins, and other sharp items can prick paws. When Nala was a kitten, she stopped eating and became dehydrated and lethargic after eating some of my mother’s sewing thread.
  7. Clothing. Keep laundry and shoes behind closed doors. Drawstrings, shoelaces, buttons, and detachable segments can and may be swallowed by curious pets and may be choking hazards. Both Nala and Charlie like(d) to play with shoelaces and, once or twice, I caught Charlie trying to carry off my sneaker by holding onto the shoelace.
  8. Trash. Keep garbage cans covered or inside a latched cabinet. Trash raiding can make pets very sick. Also, who wants to clean that mess up?  
  9. Antifreeze. Clean all antifreeze from floors and the driveway. Antifreeze is lethal to pets!
  10. More cords. Keep drape and blind cords coiled out of reach. Pets can choke on the plastic pull, get very sick from eating the cord, or strangle themselves by getting the cord wound around their necks.
  11. Toilets. Keep toilet lids down to keep pets from falling into it or drinking out of the toilet bowl.
  12. Fragile items. Cats are explorers and may accidentally knock over breakable objects. Pack away or find a secure way of displaying fragile objects. A shadow box or a secure display case may be good options. I’m sure you’ve seen lots of videos of cats mercilessly pushing objects off of surfaces. Some cats don’t do that but many others will do so irrepressibly!
  13. Hiding spaces. Check nooks and crannies to ensure your pet hasn’t hidden in them. These places might be the washer, dryer, fridge, freezer, dresser drawers, cabinets, closets, toy chests, and plastic storage bins. Also check behind these places too! If you can, find a way to block your pets’ access to these crevices.
  14. Screens. Secure window and door screen latches to prevent your pet from escaping unnoticed.
  15. Lurking dangerous items. Routinely check for dangerous items, like string, in places where your vacuum doesn’t fit but your pet does.
  16. Vents. Ensure that all heating and air vents have covers.
  17. Car hoods. Bang on your car hood to ensure that any neighborhood cat has not hidden in the engine for warmth or behind tires.
  18. Sharp items. Keep all sharp objects and tools out of reach.
  19. Fences. Check fences for any holes, squeezable spaces beneath, and proper height. Big dogs may need higher fences to discourage jumping. Make sure the gate latches securely.
  20. Watch where you step…Be mindful of paws, noses, and tails when you shut doors, scoot chairs, etc. Pets can very easily be underfoot where you least expect them!

 

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