Kitten and string

This time of year, we veterinarians are just starting to enjoy one of the most delightful parts of our work: seeing newly adopted kittens come in for their first veterinary visits. Kitten season is starting, and we love to get these adorable youngsters off to the best possible start.

At that first vet visit, we cover a lot of medical advice: what to feed, when to vaccinate (and for what), when to spay or neuter and how to keep teeth and gums healthy.

Preventive care is the cornerstone for building good health for life, but there’s also something these new kitten owners need to do at home, and that is to create an environment that will prevent accidents. Even the most experienced cat owners can find it difficult to kitten-proof a home. Arm yourself with this list, and a kitten’s-eye view of the world, and chances are you won’t be seeing the inside of a veterinary emergency clinic anytime soon.

1. String

Kittens love string, thread, yarn, ribbons and dental floss — in other words, anything that they can chase and pull. Strings of all sorts are fun to play with but hazardous when swallowed, which happens all too often. Anything stringlike that goes down a cat’s gullet and into the intestinal tract can cause a partial or complete obstruction. It can even saw through the wall of the intestinal tract and cause peritonitis, an inflammation of the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and the abdominal organs.

Put all that stuff way up high, inside a container that can’t be opened by a determined kitten. Stow your sewing basket behind closed doors when you’re not using it, put used dental floss and string in a trash container with a secure lid and don’t use yarn or ribbons to decorate packages. Take care to hide rubber bands and toys with tails or streamers, and put fishing-pole toys inside a closet with a closed door when you can’t be around to supervise playtime.

2. Cords and Curtains

While it might seem obvious to tie up the cords on your blinds, be sure to tuck electrical cords out of Kitty's reach as well. While kittens aren’t usually the chewers that puppies are, it takes only one electrical cord mishap to kill a kitten. For the cords you can’t hide, look for cord organizers that enclose them in chew-proof tubes.

Kittens are light and love to climb, so it never hurts to flip your curtains up over their rods for a couple of months. That way, your kitten can’t get in on the ground floor of destructive behavior. She can’t get tangled in the drapery cords, either.

3. Medication

Medications of all kinds are always at the top of the list of things that kill pets. Never give a kitten any medication without checking with your veterinarian first, and be extra careful to pick up any pills you drop around your new feline friend.

If you’re in the habit of leaving medicines on the countertop, start putting them in closed drawers or cabinets. Kittens might not be as good as puppies when it comes to breaking into childproof containers, but they are awfully dexterous and determined when they want something.

4. Plants

Kittens love to nibble on greenery, and they don’t know what’s poisonous and what’s not. Lilies, sago palms, oleanders, rhododendrons and castor beans are just a few of the harmful house and garden plants that don’t have a place in a cat lover’s home. If you aren’t sure what plants are in your kitten’s range, take clippings to a garden center and ask for help in identifying them.

Put away or throw away anything that might tempt a kitten to eat it. That includes potpourri scented with aromatic oils. It may smell wonderful, but those scented oils can be deadly if your cat eats them.

5. Appliances and Furniture

Finally, look for furniture and appliances that could be hazardous to your kitten. Kittens will explore, play or nap in small, dark places like the washer or dryer, the sleeper sofa or beneath the recliner. Always check inside your washer and dryer before you turn them on, and do a kitten search before folding up the sleeper sofa or lowering the footrest of a recliner.

The good news is that most kittens grow up pretty quickly and aren’t quite so prone as puppies to getting into trouble. The bad news is that kittens grow up pretty quickly, so enjoy those kinetic bundles of joy while you can!