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How To Cat Proof Your Home

A friend has a delightful needlepoint that observes, "A house is not a home without a cat." As we enjoy the companionship of our cats, we should ask ourselves if our home is a safe haven for them. Even cats who spend most of their time indoors may be exposed to a number of potential hazards. Cleaning solutions such as disinfectants, drain cleaners, and detergents are among the many household chemicals which may prove toxic to a cat.

They should be stored in tightly closed containers and secured cabinets where cats cannot reach them. Medicines should also be stored out of the reach of cats. Sharp objects such as knives and forks, paper clips, carpet tacks, pins should be kept out of a cat's reach.

Children's toys and small objects may attract a playful cat and become lodged in its mouth or swallowed. Although kittens are sometimes pictured with a ball of yarn, a playful kitten and yarn may add up to danger. If ingested, yarn as well as thread and twine could cause serious damage to the intestinal tract. According to the National Safety Council, as many as 5,000 house fires a year can be attributed to cats as a result of their chewing electric cords. To help prevent this hazard, do your best to keep electric wiring out of the cat's sight and reach.

Exposed lamp cords and other wires should be kept as short as possible. If extension cords are used, mount them against a baseboard so they cannot be played with or chewed. If you live in an apartment, your cat may be vulnerable to "the high-rise syndrome.

" If the window screens are not securely fastened, a cat may fall from a window and suffer serious injuries. A cat should be in a carrier if it is allowed on an apartment balcony. Dogs are sometimes at risk on a high-rise balcony.

A lively dog could squeeze through the bars and fall, leading to injury or even death. Maintaining a "fresh air policy" in your home protects your cat as well as family members from being adversely affected by continued exposure to indoor air pollutants. Among common air pollutants are nitrogen dioxide from gas appliances, wood-burning stoves and unvented kerosene heaters.

Other health-threatening pollutants are radon, fumes from household products such as cleaning agents, pesticides, paints and varnishes, microbial and fungal agents found in air conditioners, air ducts, filters and humidifiers. Gas appliances should be properly functioning. Always use great care with kerosene heaters and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Gas stoves, and kerosene heaters or stoves should be vented to the outside of the house. Smoke alarms, carbon dioxide monitors and regular maintenance of one's furnace are all things we can do to improve the home environment for ourselves and our cats.

Cars should never be left running inside a garage. This can be lethal if the garage is ever used to house a cat. According to the Center for Disease control, 74 percent of homes in the United States built prior to 1980 contain hazardous amounts of lead paint. Paint should be removed with extreme caution. Clean-up should be prompt and thorough. Other items containing lead accessible to cats include lead base paint, linoleum, and caulking compounds.

Cats either ingest or inhale lead. Its harmful effects may not show up until weeks later. Signs of lead poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, loss of appetite, loss of muscle coordination, blindness and seizures. Veterinary treatment is essential. Outdoor dangers that are often kept in a garage or basement include windshield cleaners, weed killers, insecticides, used motor oil and antifreeze.

Many cats are attracted to the sweet taste of antifreeze containing the chemical ethylene glycol which is highly toxic to dogs and cats. If it is spilled on the ground or not properly stored, many cats lap it up. Make certain your cats are not in the vicinity when antifreeze is being drained.

Dispose of used material promptly. New anti-freeze products have been introduced that claim to be non-toxic to cats. However, I believe in the adage, "better safe than sorry." Clean up any spilled product and safely store the remainder.

Tristan Andrews writes useful articles about cats and kittens. Discover and explore the feline world. Find out how to better care for, train and live with your cat at the cat forums at http://www.i-love-cats.com



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