Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. Find him online at www.DrPhilZeltzman.com. He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (www.WalkaHound.com).
Katie Kegerise, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Reading, PA, contributed to this article.
Part of our love for kittens is explained by their gigantic blue eyes, their playfulness and their innocence. Unfortunately, it is precisely because they are playful and innocent that they can get is serious trouble if you are not aware of the following 10 classic dangers.
1. Attack of the Recliner
Kittens love to explore and they sometimes hide in small dark places. However, when they hide inside your favorite recliner, you can imagine the consequences when sharp metal parts start moving around.
2. Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Little kitty feet and tails are very delicate. They sometimes find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time if you're not careful. A misplaced step, a tilt of your rocking chair, or a quickly closed door can result in major injuries.
3. Housemate Woes
Unfortunately, it's impossible to tell how your current critter(s) will react to a newcomer. Kittens can face harm from your dog or your cat if their presence is suddenly unwelcome. Risks include not allowing the youngster to eat, fights and bites.
4. Tight Fit
For little fur-balls, getting into a small space is sometimes a lot easier than getting out. Radiators, couches and other furniture, as well as very tiny openings present opportunities for your little one to get stuck. Rumor has it that they could even get stuck in the opening of the disposal in your kitchen sink if you leave tasty food in there (think fishy leftovers). It can be very tricky to get them back out.
5. Tall Places
Kittens come preprogrammed with the ability to climb… but not the knowledge of how to get back down. Just ask your friendly fireman if they’ve ever had to rescue a cat from the top of a tree. Curtains, book shelves, TV entertainment centers, china cabinets, refrigerators all seem to attract curious kittens. Tall perches are a fun place for kitties to get a good view of their environment, but pose a serious threat when it comes to jumping down.
6. Outdoor Predators
Even if you live in a suburban or city setting, predators such as foxes, coyotes, hawks, eagles and snakes can pose a threat to your new furry friend. Keeping them indoors is the best way to keep them from becoming a snack for wild animals.
7. Rough Handling
Young children don’t realize how fragile kittens (and puppies) are. It is important to teach them to be very gentle with pets in general and kittens in particular, or to only allow them to handle them under adult supervision.
8. Household Plants
Your beautiful blooms or luscious plants may actually be toxic to your new kitten. For a thorough list of dangerous household plants, consult Dr. Justine Lee's blog on poisonous flowers and plants.
9. Appliance Dangers
Some curious kittens love to climb into appliances such as dishwashers, stoves, refrigerators, washing machines and mostly dryers. However, when the door closes and a wash or dry cycle starts, your kitty could face serious harm or even death.
10. Linear Foreign Bodies
A kitten playing with a ball of yarn is the definition of cute, but when that kitten decides to make that yarn a snack, emergency surgery may be the only way to remove it. The same applies to anything that looks like a “linear foreign body,” including string, rope, floss, hair ties and ribbon. Keep these items away where they can't be accessed by your new kitty. It is acceptable to let a kitten, or an adult cat for that matter, play with a string, but always under close adult supervision.
Being aware of these top 10 dangers will hopefully keep you away from the ER and should allow you to enjoy your new kitten even more.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
6 Reasons You Might Let Your Cat Out, And Why Not To
By Jane Harrell, Petfinder.com associate producer
When I worked with the MSPCA in Boston, every day I’d hear from guilt-ridden pet parents about the awful things that happened to their cats when they went outside — they were hit by cars, attacked by predators, infected with diseases or they just disappeared.
But many people still let their cats outdoors — often with misplaced good intentions. Here are some of the most common reasons people let their cats outside, and safer, indoor alternatives.
Myth 1: Indoor cats get bored.
Fact: The truth is, indoor cats can and do get bored, but letting them outside is not a good solution.
Instead, make your home more interesting: Set up perches where he can watch birds from the safety of inside, build a DIY cat playhouse, hide his food or modify his feeder so he has to “hunt” for it. (Find more suggestions in our environmental-enrichment series.) Finally, if your cat is amenable to it, you might consider adopting a second cat as a playmate.
Myth 2: Indoor cats are overweight.
Fact: If your cat is overweight, the safest way to help her trim down is by combining portion control and a daily exercise and play routine.
Stop free-feeding your cat, or at least be mindful only to feed a healthy amount per day. (Yes, cats do overeat. You can consult your vet about how many calories your cat should be eating in a day.)
Have a cat who won’t stand for an empty food dish? Keep him distracted with the activities mentioned above — the feeder toy would be perfect for him. If you feed wet food, try stuffing a smaller dog’s toy (like a Kong) with the food so your cat will have to work to get the food out. You could also choose to use an automatic feeder like this one that works for wet or dry food, so you have options.
Cats love a schedule. Try feeding him at the same times each day and he’ll get used to the routine quickly. (Just remember to consult your veterinarian before starting any new feeding or weight-loss routines.)
Myth 3: Indoor cats are destructive.
Fact: Destructive behavior is often a sign that something else is going on. Is your cat sick? Bored? A talk with your vet or a behaviorist may be in order.
Solving the problem might be simpler than you think. For years my cat Mojo loved her sisal scratching post on the floor, but then she started scratching my couches as well. I kept trying to redirect her back to her sisal, but nothing worked. What did? Getting a second sisal post that I mounted vertically instead of horizontally. Turns out she wanted both, and my couches have been safe ever since.
Myth 4: My cat’s always been allowed outside, so he can’t be indoor-only.
Fact: Many cats have successfully gone from outdoor-only or indoor/outdoor to indoor-only. The key, again, is making sure the indoor environment is just as interesting as outside — and being vigilant about preventing escape attempts. Read our article Transitioning an Outdoor Cat to Indoors for tips on how to do both.
Myth 5: My cat is safe when he goes outside because he stays close to my home.
Fact: A study of 10 house cats and seven farm cats published in the European ecology journal Ecography found that on average, the house cats covered more ground than the farm cats — at night, the house cats moved within an average area of nearly 20 acres, compared to just over 6 acres for the farm cats.
A lot can happen even within a small radius of your home, so if you really want to let your cat outside, consider harness training him or creating a screened-in enclosure for him. Read our article Should You Let Your Cat Go Outdoors? to find out how to harness-train your cat and build a cat-safe outdoor enclosure. (Here’s a video tour of one ingenious homemade enclosure.)
Myth 6: I need to let my cat out of the house because I’m allergic to her.
Fact: You may well be allergic to your cat, but it’s possible you’re really allergic to something she’s bringing in: Indoor/outdoor cats pick up fleas, ticks, pollen and other allergens from the environment.
If you really are allergic to your cat (an allergy test will tell you for sure), there are some easy ways you can reduce the allergens in your home — even when your cat is indoor-only. Find out more about living with cat allergies here.
Introducing Cat to Baby: Keeping Baby Safe and Kitty Secure
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If you’re welcoming a new baby, you may feel nervous about the prospect of introducing your beloved kitty to the newest member of the family. Fortunately, cats and babies can live together happily, but it will take some familial preparation to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Much like setting up your home for your new baby’s arrival, it is important to prepare your cat for the upcoming changes as early as possible. Proactive preparation will save you and your cat from stress and unwanted behavioral issues so that the whole family can live in harmony.
Kitty dangers: Protect your cat at home
A cat is a wonderful addition to any home, but do you know what dangers lurk behind closed doors? Make sure your home is safe for kitty before you bring him home.
As any parent with a toddler knows, childproofing your home is essential for the safety of your little one. Adding a cat to your family means doing a bit of kitty-proofing to ensure his safety in your home. Many common household items can be dangerous for your cat, but with a bit of preparation you can avoid an emergency trip to the veterinarian.
Houseplants add to your home decor but can be dangerous for your cat. Some common indoor plants that can be dangerous include English ivy, rhododendron, philodendron and poinsettia. Seeds, leaves, blooms and flowers can all cause health issues for your pet, so it’s best to keep your cat away from them if at all possible. The list of plants that are potentially dangerous to pets is long — check a comprehensive list [PDF] to see if your plants are safe.
Everyone buys a basket full of cat toys for their new friend, but are they safe? Check toys for loosely attached bells, feathers, fuzzy balls or buttons that can easily be chewed off and swallowed by your cat. Squeaky toys are always a hit, but cats may attempt to chew through the toy and get the squeaker out, which then becomes a choking hazard. Anything that your cat may play with needs to be checked for safety before he turns it into a toy.
Not only are cat toys potentially dangerous, but keep an eye on your children’s toys as well. Small items like Lego pieces, Barbie shoes, marbles or game pieces are all interesting to a cat, but can easily become lodged in his throat. If possible, keep areas where your kids play with small toys closed off to your cat and make sure that small items are not left on the floor.
Check out these great ways to exercise an indoor cat >>
Rubber bands, yarn or string
A ball of yarn is the time-tested favorite toy of cats — but don’t let her swallow it. String, yarn, rubber bands or loose threads are all tempting to your cat, but swallowing it may cause intestinal problems. Sometimes swallowed string passes through without issue, but if not it can cause infection or tissue damage. Always supervise your cat when playing with yarn — and put it away after playtime.
Secure cabinet doors
Remember those childproof cabinet latches that kept your toddler out of trouble? They are great for keeping your cat out of danger, too. Undersink cabinet areas where you store cleaning supplies are best kept locked and safe from curious cats. Medicine cabinets are enticing to an exploring kitty, so make sure yours is securely latched. Creams and lotions in squeeze tubes are fun to chew on but can be dangerous.
Don’t forget about pet safety in your car >>
Check your desk and work area for anything that may be enticing to your kitty. Small desk items like pencil erasers, paper clips, twist ties and pushpins are fun to play with but can cause serious damage when swallowed. Your cat can easily jump onto your desk, so make sure these small items are stored away in a drawer or a bin with a lid.
With just a bit of preparation and a watchful eye, your home can be a safe place for the newest furry member of your family.
Other Benefits to Protecting Pets
In addition to protecting pets from hawks, owls, and other raptors, taking steps to keep a pet safe will help them avoid other hazards. Birds of prey are not the only hunters that will target pets, and protected pets are much safer from coyotes, foxes, bears, and other predators. A protected pet is also less likely to be harmed by malicious humans or to encounter other neighborhood dangers, such as busy streets or untended rodent poison.
Though rare, bird attacks on pets do happen, and hawks may eat pets if they have the opportunity. Pet owners who know how to protect their pets can enjoy their companionship without fear of attacks from above.