Energetic Kitten

Q. My new kitten is a wild child, constantly racing all over, jumping up and down on everything. I'm worried she will hurt herself. How can I help her explore safely?

A. From houseplants to electrical cords to barely accessible crawl spaces, if there's a hazard in your home, your kitten will find it. Be prepared for the worst: Keep your veterinarian’s number handy — and the number of the E.R. clinic as well. But to avoid that mad dash to the doc, kittenproof your home, keeping the little one out of any room you can’t make completely safe.

Deal With What's Dangerous

Start by looking at your home from your kitten's perspective: Get down on the floor and imagine you weigh six pounds, have four legs with claws, and can leap tall buildings in a single bound. This isn't a home — it's an amusement park! Making your house safer will also make it more fun for your kitten, so be sure to deal with all possible hazards before you bring your kitten home.

Put away everything breakable, particularly anything that cannot be replaced or that has sentimental value.

Keep rubber bands, buttons, pins, and other tiny items out of reach of kittens. You kitty can choke on them, and if she gets her paws on them, she surely will try.

Dispose of cooked bones, the string from cooked meats, and other enticing food scraps in a securely fastened container. If your kitten could get into Fort Knox, keep the garbage in the refrigerator or invest in childproof cabinet latches and keep the trash behind closed — and securely locked — doors.

Wrap electric cords in tape, or enclose them in tubes that are made to keep cords from getting tangled.

Pull up blinds and secure all cords out of reach; loop drapes over their rods.

Give Her Something to Play With

There are some things your kitten should be allowed to have in order to play happily and safely.

Make sure you have a cat tree for climbing and scratching. Interactive play with a fishing pole toy on the cat tree will teach your kitten that it's an OK place to climb, scratch and hide.

Get lots of other toys and have some fun, but don’t let your kitten play with your fingers. It may be cute now, but you don’t want her getting the idea that biting and scratching people is a good idea. If she gets carried away, don’t swat her, just stop playing and walk away. The end of the game is message enough when you’re a kitten who wants to play.

While you’re managing the environment for safety and channeling energy into good behavior, think long-term. Now’s the time to teach your kitten to enjoy grooming and tolerate nail trims and even baths in good humor. Bathing kittens and cats weekly in plain water will reduce allergy triggers than can make your life miserable. By teaching good grooming habits, you’ll also be reducing shedding in your home.

My newest book, Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual, is a purrfect … I mean, perfect place to find tips on training your kitten. We’re offering a chapter free to get you started. Enjoy!