Kittens are like point-of-purchase items that are placed near registers in stores. They’re such irresistible packages of cuteness that they’re often impulse buys. But to really get the most out of your experience as a new pet parent, you should learn how to kitten-proof your house before bringing home that fur baby. Otherwise, you’ll learn the hard way just how much kittens view electrical cords as a special kind of feline licorice, and how quickly they’ll catch on to your leather couch as a place to sharpen those itty-bitty claws.
What does kitten-proofing really mean?
Kitten-proofing your house can involve several things, but the core objective is to remove hazards from your space in preparation for your new arrival. Kittens are tiny but agile. Their innate, budding hunting instincts prompt them to attack anything that swings or moves, ranging from Venetian blind cords to electrical wires. This means you want to tuck away dangerous or fragile items that they might injure themselves on. You should also seal off any areas where your kitten can slip out of a window or into the crawlspace of a house without you noticing.
In addition to keeping your kitten safe, you want to make sure your furniture, curtains, rugs, clothing, shoes, and other personal belongings are not being ravaged by a nimble, curious kitten who has a surprising ability to jump and climb like a miniature Tarzan. From choking hazards like cosmetic sponges to toxic plants like mistletoe, to hair ties that can be swallowed and create an intestinal blockage, to even cleaning products and chemicals like bleach, you want to lock away anything that presents a risk to your frisky feline.
Not only should you remove hazards from your space, but also start to make it feel like home! Try following a new kitten checklist to make sure you tick all those boxes, but here are a few important ones:
Provide the right kind of kitten food.
Set up a litter box and offer plenty of interactive cat toys as well as a scratching post or two.
Have an identification tag and breakaway collar ready.
Consider buying kitten insurance to help pay for veterinary care for unexpected accidents and illnesses.
Call your veterinarian for a visit within a couple of days of bringing your new kitten home.
Get your kitten microchipped and arrange for vaccinations and deworming, then talk about the best time to spay or neuter your kitten.
Being prepared for a new kitten’s entry into your life will result in less stress and much more enjoyment – even when that shoelace does get chewed up despite your best efforts.
But where to start?
Here are a few hot spots in the home to be aware of and how you can keep them safe!
Use child-proof locks on sneaky crawl spaces
Kitty-proofing is super similar to baby-proofing. You need to walk around your house and imagine all the places a mischievous fur baby can get into (or out of!) These can include windows, screen doors, crawlspaces, cupboards, and very high or very low shelves. Anywhere that your new family member can leave the house or become trapped, seal it off with child-proof locks.
Be especially generous with child-proof locks wherever you keep cleaning supplies, prescription or recreational drugs, bleach, and chemicals like antifreeze. Keep your little furry friend out of the garage completely if possible as well as the laundry room. But just in case – because kittens are so wily – always keep the washing machine and dryer lids closed and the toilet lid down. Even still, it doesn’t hurt to check before you load anything into the washer/dryer or close the toilet lid!
You should also check before you close a refrigerator or freezer. It’s very easy for a cat to slip into a space when you’re not looking, especially if they smell something delicious. Being hyper-aware around appliances is essential for keeping your cat safe.
Blind cords and electrical wires
It’s equally important to cat-proof window shades or blinds that have cords so that your kitten doesn’t get caught in them. You don’t want your new furry friend to get used to playing with these, so bundle them up high and secure them with rubber bands.
Depending on the kitten, floor-length drapes and tablecloths are also pawsible problems. Some kittens learn to climb them like trees – and destroy them in the process. Others simply use them to curl up in, fall asleep, and “disappear” for a little while.
Train your feline friend to use a cat tree for sleeping and playing, and it’ll learn to leave your linens alone. It also helps to trim the kitten’s nails early and often so that they get used to it. This will help keep them from using your rugs and furniture from scratching posts as well.
Kittens also love to chew through electrical cords, whether they’re the ones for your entertainment system or for your lamps. All electrical cords should have cord covers on them, even the ones that are portable, such as your computer and phone cords.
Keep the floor and counters clear
Just like toddlers, kittens explore the world through the senses that give them the most information: their mouths and noses. That means they’ll drink from the toilet bowl if they can, which may contain harmful chemicals. They’ll scarf up small items on the floor, from stray paper clips to ribbons, and whatever they can reach on countertops, including bits of food left over from cooking. As with dogs, onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, and chocolate are among the most toxic foods for cats and should be kept out of your kitten’s reach.
Dog food is also bad for cats’ digestion, and can cause them to have crystals in their urinary tract. While new pet parents mean well, you shouldn’t feed your furry family member liver, raw/undercooked eggs, fish, meat, or dairy products. These are generally dangerous items for them for a variety of reasons. Plus kittens and cats are lactose intolerant and will get an upset stomach from lapping up cows’ milk.
Boxes and bags
You’ll notice almost immediately that any box brought into the house becomes your kitty’s new plaything. Cats simply love sitting in boxes and look pretty darn cute doing so. The risks here are when you don’t remove packing materials before letting your furry friend take over. Plastic bubble wrap and Styrofoam peanuts are extremely hazardous to their internal organs despite some cats’ obvious preference for eating them.
To that end, plastic bags are also a no-no, especially if you use them to line trash cans. In fact, keeping trash cans covered and out of reach is a must. Any kitten worthy of being called a feline will dump the trash in search of de facto toys – cotton balls, q-tips, tissues – that often wind up down the hatch.
Houseplants and gardens
As with trash cans and toilet seats, glasses and vases are vulnerable to exploration. Most cats can’t resist turning over anything filled with fluid or pushing it over the edge of a counter just to see what happens. That’s mostly a nuisance that quickly teaches owners not to leave uncovered beverages out.
Regarding the items in the vases, several can prove poisonous to your new kitten. Lilies are one of them; azaleas are another. When it’s the holidays, bringing mistletoe into the house is a mistake if your kitten is the kind who eats everything. Poinsettias aren’t quite as poisonous but they’re not non-toxic, either. Cat parents learn very quickly how Christmas and cats go together – not. Trees, tinsel, and ornaments are all great fun, but also unfortunately potential perils to your kitty.
Finally, for indoor-outdoor kittens, the garden usually is a very tempting spot to dig, curl up in the warm earth, and take a swing or two at some low-hanging fruit. But fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and more can be toxic. If your kitty is sick after a foray in the garden, call the pet poison hotline and your vet for immediate treatment.
Kitty-proofed and prrfect
It sounds like a lot, but once you’ve kitten-proofed your home, it’s much easier to relax with your new family member. If you don’t do these tasks, you’re likely going to be replacing a lot of furniture and clothing, sweeping up broken keepsakes, and making unnecessary trips to the vet. Being proactive rather than reactive not only means a healthier kitten but a stronger kitten-parent relationship from the start.