Most cat owners have heard that keeping a kitty inside is the best way to extend her life span. But even indoors, you have to watch out for safety. Here are five quick fixes to common home hazards that -- though easily preventable -- can be disastrous to cats:
1Shorten dangling blind cords
It may seem like a harmless game, but batting the cords on your window blinds back and forth can get your cat tangled and in trouble. If she panics while trying to extricate herself, she could break a leg or, in a worst-case scenario, get her neck fatally caught in the strings. That's why you should practice the small bit of prevention that can save you a lot of grief, says Jim Monsma, director of communications for the Washington Humane Society. "Wind up and tie the cord so it's somewhere the cat can't reach," he advises.
2Secure your window screens
Tabby isn't thinking of safety when he's stalking a bug or trying to spring on a bird outside -- and cats won't necessarily land on their feet if they fall from an upper-story window. If you have your windows open, your screens have to be snug. Even on ground floors, Monsma says, faulty screens can be dangerous: Cats will find even the smallest rip and work at it until they wiggle their way outside. The remedy? "Make sure your screens are securely fastened and in good shape,
with no tears," he says, and check on them
3Banish hazardous houseplants
Many harmless-looking houseplants can cause death if your cat decides to nibble on them. One major culprit: "Easter lilies," says Dennis Blodgett, veterinarian toxicologist at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. "If your cat has chewed on a lily, whether it's the leaf or the flower, get it examined immediately." Other members of the same family -- the tiger lily, rubrum lily and Japanese show lily -- can also prove fatal. For a list of dangerous greenery, check out the Web sites of the Cat Fanciers' Association (www.cfainc.org/articles/plants.html) or the ASPCA (www.aspca.org, under "Animal Poison Control Center"). Any suspicious plants should be given away.
4Keep doors closed
Pet owners know to watch for darting feline bodies as they go outside. But they may not show the same caution with doors on appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, washing machines or dryers. All are potentially harmful to cats, which can get lured inside -- "Nice warm clothes are very attractive to a cat," Monsma says -- and then trapped. Always determine where your cat is before turning on the spin cycle.
5Clean up spills and leaks
"Cats typically don't get into
bad-tasting compounds," Blodgett says, but some dangerous liquids are deceitfully delicious to the
feline tongue. Ethylene glycol antifreeze,
for example, has a sweet taste that draws both cats and dogs. A lethal dose can be small -- only about 1.5 milliliters of pure
antifreeze per kilogram of body weight -- so an eight- or nine-pound cat can die after lapping up just a teaspoon. An early sign of this type of poisoning, says Blodgett, is if your cat acts "drunk" -- sleepy and uncoordinated. Get him emergency vet treatment right away; within 24 hours, his kidneys will begin to fail.
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