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Household Hazards

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Household Hazards: Tips on Keeping Your Cats Safe and Healthy
Some cats are a lot like kids: leave them alone for two minutes, and their curiosity will prompt them into exploring anything and everything that they shouldn’t.  This curiosity can get them into big trouble if they decide to explore some common household items that are particularly hazardous to pets.  Knowing what these hazards are, and how to protect your pet from them, will help you to keep your cat safe, healthy, and away from emergency vet visits.

Cord Care
Dangling cords from lamps, TVs or even vertical blinds, can present an enticing picture to many cats.  “Here’s a string, just waiting for me to bat at it,” they think.  “What can go wrong?”  A lot, actually.  Cats who hook their claws into cords can pull lamps down on themselves, resulting in injuries or fires.  Those who decide to chew on them can burn their mouths badly, resulting in painful blisters and fluid-filled lungs.  A cat chewing on a drapery cord can either choke, or accidentally strangle itself during play.

To keep your pet safe, unplug and wind the cords of lamps that are not in use around their base.  Hook or knot your drapery cords up high to prevent injury, and if your cat is a chewer, try bitter apple spray, available at most pet stores.

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Some cats just love the vantage point that high shelves offer.  They jump up and survey their domains, not caring whether they knock a few insignificant baubles over in the process.  However, if they go to investigate the broken glass or china, they can end up with painful shards in their paws.  To prevent this, keep all of your breakables behind glass or on a shelf out of reach of even the most agile cat.

Laundry Lesson
Though it might not be common, there have been many sad but true stories about cats finding their way into the cozy-seeming den of a dryer, only to be shut in, and in worse case scenarios, with the dryer turned on.  Prevent this in your home by always keeping the dryer door shut – and checking inside before you start it up, just in case.

Toxic Substances
Even the most unobtrusive jug of window cleaner or bottle of aspirin can be poison if ingested by your pet.  Here are a few common items that can be fatal to curious cats:

  • Aspirin and other people meds

  • Anything with creosote in it, such as some shampoos or fire-starter logs

  • Turpentine

  • Kerosene

  • Gasoline

  • Anti-freeze

  • Cleaning products like PineSol and Lysol

  • Rodent Poison or Insecticides

  • Mothballs

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Keep all dangerous cleaning supplies, chemicals, and medicines out of harms way by using child safety locks on your kitchen and bathroom cupboards.

Lead-Based Paint
We’ve been warned for years about the dangers of lead-based paint to our children, but did you know that it can harm your pets too?  Ingestion, however accidentally, can case extreme excitability, gastrointestinal distress, convulsions, and seizures in cats.  Since these symptoms are also common in other types of poisonings, be sure to handle your pet carefully and get him or her straight to a veterinarian. 

Poisonous Plants
Many common houseplants, when munched on by greenery-craving cats, can cause gastrointestinal distress, seizures, coma, and even death.  The Humane Society provides an extensive list of poisonous plants on their website, but we’ve included 10 of the most common varieties below:

  • Lilies

  • Narcissus

  • Cyclamen

  • Rhubarb

  • Oleander

  • Azalea/Rhododendron

  • Bird-of-Paradise

  • Daffodil

  • English Ivy

  • Sago Palm
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If your cat is behaving oddly and you believe he or she has eaten a dangerous plant, get him or her to the veterinarian immediately.  If you can, take along a sample of whatever you think your cat ingested.  In addition, to curb your pet’s craving for something vegetarian, consider planting a pot of cat grass for safe snacking.

Dangerous Foods
Some of our favorite foods and drinks can prove toxic when ingested by cats. Below are some innocent-seeming items that can cause illness, or even death in cats:

  • Chocolate: Humans love the taste, and unfortunately, so do many pets.  Chocolate, when ingested by cats, can cause extreme excitability, intestinal distress, heart failure, and death.

  • Milk: Feeding milk to cats is a practice that has gone by the wayside in recent years since the discovery that cats are actually lactose intolerant.  Milk can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

  • Bones: Usually fished out of the trash by enterprising felines, pork, chicken and beef bones can splinter or get lodged in your pet’s throat.

  • Salt: Feeding your pet salty snacks like ham can cause serious stomachaches or even pancreatitis. 

  • Onions: Though it seems like an odd thing for your cat to want to sample, don’t underestimate its curiosity.  Onions can cause anemia, weakness, and breathing problems.

  • Alcohol: If your cat takes a taste of your alcoholic beverage, it could prove fatal.  Even small amounts of alcohol consumption in small animals can lead to respiratory and cardiac issues, coma, or death.

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Dogs aren’t the only ones who like to tip over garbage cans at night: occasionally cats go in search of a midnight snack, too.  Protect your pet from potentially-toxic foods by buying heavy metal trashcans that won’t tip or securing your trash in a closet or cupboard anchored shut with child safety locks.  In addition, don’t leave alcoholic drinks unattended and don’t hand out table scraps, no matter how much your cat begs.

There are many innocuous-seeming items around most households that can prove fatal, unless pet owners are aware of the dangers they present.  Keeping a close eye on your pet, and storing the dangerous things that spark their curiosity out of their reach, will keep your beloved feline safe and healthy – and out of your local vet’s emergency room.

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