11 Tips for a Safe & Stylish Kitty Home

Just as many of us humans managed to survive to adulthood despite lead paint, secondhand smoke and death-trap cribs, my eldest Kip has made it to age nine without any major mishaps.  As a first time single cat mom in my mid 30s, I had a lot to learn.

Kip and Tamar Arslanian I HAVE CAT celebrate Christmas

Seven years and three cats later I’m still learning ways to keep my brood safer and happier while keeping my apartment guy-friendly and fashion-forward. Today I’d like to share some of the life and sanity saving tips I’ve learned over the years.

1. Beware the shrubbery:  Lilies, azaleas, baby’s breath, and chrysanthemums* – just to name a few – are highly toxic to cats if ingested.  Before you bring a plant or bouquet of flowers home check to make sure they are safe.

 *chrysanthemums are toxic because they contain pyrethrins, an ingredient used in some over-the-counter flea and tick treatments (see #8 below).

2. Cut the cord: The cord to your blinds of course. Not only are they ugly dangling like that, but kitties love string and they can easily get tangled and you might not be home to save them.
Tie those cords up high out of reach or use safety tassels. While you’re at it, pick up any unsightly dental floss, string, yarn, ribbons or rubber bands lying around. Not only is it messy, but they’re tempting to cats and can be threatening if ingested.

3. Good things come to those who brush: It’s important that kitty gets brushed – fur and teeth – regularly. A good fur brushing reduces cat hair on furniture and nasty hairballs in your shoe!  As for those chompers, clean them at home if you have a docile kitty or have a professional handle it to avoid getting mauled. Just like us humans, plaque on the teeth becomes plaque in the arteries and cause serious health problems down the road.

As for removing cat-hair off furniture? Aside from a hand vacuum (with a turning brush) I’ve found a damp cloth or rubber glove work best.

Click here if you can’t see video of cat who loves to brush below.

4. Nail it down: Does your kitty knock things over like it’s his/her job? Don’t despair; your days of tchotchke-free living are over. Quakehold! 33111 Museum Gel, Clear (also known as earth quake putty) will keep that snow globe or candle in place until you want to move it, without damaging furniture. I prefer the clear gel variety (over the white) as it holds better and is less visible. It’s also pretty fun watching unsuspecting visitors trying to move a plant or pick up a frame!

5. Put kitty on a shelf:  In the words of Jackson Galaxy “Cats need vertical space; it enables them to survey their world from a safe perspective.” If you don’t have room for cat towers, or just don’t like their aesthetic, cat shelves are a great alternative. The Urban Pet Haus Wave Shelves in my apartment double as modern art!

6. Spare the claw: There’s a reason declawing is banned in the European Union, the surgery involves amputation up to the first joint of each digit. Ouch! Cats scratch primarily to mark their territory (It’s kind of sweet if you think about it).

Be sure to have plenty of scratching posts at kitty’s disposal (some like cardboard while others prefer sisal or carpet so you might have to experiment), and trim claws regularly to reduce damage to your possessions. It does help to select upholstery with a tight weave that is less attractive to cats since they can’t get can’t grab hold as easily (avoid chenille or loose cotton weaves).

Not all cats scratch, but if furniture is of utmost importance, consider rescuing a cat that’s already (sadly) been declawed.

7. Re-use and Recycle: Sure we all recycle wet cat food cans but did you know you could turn them into art?  How about transforming a cardboard box into a display-worthy cat home. Have an orphan sock? No problem! Simply fill the toe with catnip and dried beans, tie securely and voila!   Donate gently used (rejected) cats toys, old cat towers and even blankets and towels to your local shelter.

8. Go Green: Contrary to one very famous frog, being green is easy. Plus it’s good for you, kitty and the planet. Clay-free cat litter is a no brainer but don’t forget about chemical free cleaning products. When kitty grooms, he/she ingests what you’ve cleaned the floor, countertops, sink and tub with (whose cat doesn’t loving playing in the tub). If your pinching pennies, old standbys like white vinegar, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide do the trick effectively and cheaply.

When it comes to fleas & tick treatments avoid over-the-counter powders and spot-on treatments (refer to #1 above). Flea combs, Dawn dish soap and other safer alternatives exist.

9. Screen them in: Make sure all your windows have secure screens and don’t take a cat onto a balcony without a harness. While kitty may have never taken interest in a window before, all it takes is one moth or bird to send kitty off the edge – literally.

10. Hand wash only:  I don’t have the luxury of a washer or drying living in a Manhattan apartment. For you lucky-ducks who do, remember cats love to hide in dark cavernous places so keep doors to washers and dryers closed at all times. I’ve read one too many a heartbreaking story about an owner unknowingly trapping their cat inside a machine.

11. Danger lurk in the kitchen: Who knew  grapes cause kidney damage in cats? Or onions can kill?  Avocados, tomatoes and certain parts of the potatoes are also big no-nos!  Often baby food is used to entice small kittens to eat. Please make sure all the foods listed are cat-safe and watch out for onion and garlic powders. Sources: Aspcavetinfo.comcat-world.com.au

Do you have any other tips to share with I HAVE CAT readers? Bring ’em on!


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  • I’m very paranoid about my washer and dryer. My tortie Squeek likes to hang out in there. I ALWAYS check and double check before starting the cycles, either check the machines, or make sure you have the kitty in sight as you shut the doors!

    • Good – you are aware so that’s all it takes! Some people don’t even know what kind of danger they can be to pets

  • I have also found that Microchipping your babies saves the day! It’s worth the extra $$ and, as shown by recent posts, your babies are more likely to come home- sometimes even years later!

  • Tiny Timmy

    I ADORE your kitty waves and really think I, Timmy, needs to move in wid yous cuz yous kittehs has all da goodly stuffs!!! Mai tip??? Lesse…. Yous can use noms samples frum da pet stores (hopefully goodly quality & grain free) for treats! It helps keeps da muffin top away (cept in mai case) and it yummy to has sumpin else for a change, but it also save yous moneys! If yous dun sees sample baggies (usually at dose stores dat sell high-end kitteh stuffs) yous can asks if dey has any. Lotsa times dey has it under da counter or in da back.

    • Awww thanks! NOOOOOOOO TT needs to be where he is because you have so many special things there for him!

      Good tip! THANK YO!U xoxoxoxxo

  • This is a PAWSOME blog post, Tamar! Although I cannot believe that cat with the toothbrush! I have never seen a kitty who enjoyed having his teeth done!

    • THANKS SPARKLE! It means so much coming from a celeb like yourself!Mwah! That video is totally a hoot I agree! 

  • I am a fellow 30yr old single NYer w/ multiple cats myself & I just love your blog & FB page 🙂 I was wondering if I could get your opion on something. Will be moving in a cople of months & will be getting new furniture. Was wondering what your opinion is on metal & tempered glass furniture( round or no pointy edges sticking out of course) & mirrored furniture. I know many people that have tempered glass furniture & say it’s fine but I still worry. Mirrored furniture I have yet to get an opion on & I worry the weight of a cat jumping on it will cause it to crack creating a potential danger. Any input you can give me is greatly appreciated, Thanx

    • HI Liz! Nice to “meet” you! Keep your eyes on the I HAVE CAT FB page because once in a while I try to coordinate in-person Cat-Tails so I HAVE CAT fans in NYC can meet each other in the flesh! 
      Well…how large/heavy are your cats? I would think glass would be OK..or even mirror if it’s supported underneath (if that makes sense?). In both cases you may have lots of paw prints to clean though! both those surfaces would show more than wood! 

      • Nice to meet you as well Tamar! I will def. keep a look out….would be nice to meet more people like us. We kind of have our own club & if your not a member you’ll never really understand us….we are unique yet cool breed 🙂

        All 3 of my cats are 12pds & under….I have a dog also but he makes the cats look big!lol Yes I got what you ment…you worded it perfectly. Not very concerned w/the paw prints, I’ve had to deal w/at all times 3-6 cats worth of hair for yrs so paw prints are nothing…lol Besides one of my cats has ashma so I constantly clean anyway so he doesn’t have an attack. Having said that I also like the idea of mirror & glass w/a metal base because it makes a room appear larger & not so clutter…especially if you have a smaller area to work with. I intend on mixing it w/black furniture & dark purple & teal decor. With either a grey or purple couch & walls, rug have yet to decide which will be which.

        By the way love the newest article on special needs kittys. I have a half blind kitty myself & he is amazing 🙂 My next cat I want to get a blind kitty or a ch kitty….though if I find a homeless one on the street first of course I will take him in.

        I was curious about which rescue you foster for & how you got into being a foster? Also another question…a little on the odd side though…lol I notced you have a shag rug in some of your pics…is that hard to keep clean with all the cat hair & such? I would figure vacuuming it to often would destroy it.

        Well thanx for answering me back & I hope your having a great night,

        • I just replaced the shag with a non-shag and boy do i miss that shag because when the cats scratched at that one you couldn’t tell! I didn’t realize how much my cats scratched at my rug until i got the new one that isn’t a shag! 

          The only thing about the shag was that a lot of dirt got trapped and it was hard to get it out even when i had it sent to get cleaned professionally. What it needed was a good smackdown with a broom in a back yard but i don’t have one seeing that i live in NYC! 

          if you haven’t already be sure to post photos of your kitties on our FB page 😉

  • Great tips.  I already follow most of them and will adopt the rest as soon as possible.

    • Thanks Karen Jo. I just realized you posted for PETFINDER’s special week! I can’t wait to read your post! Thanks for visiting and posting a note! Lovely hearing from you and kisses to Herman! 

  • Tom

    As a long term breeder i must say that more or less all this info is great..it will be aslo that you involve wood litter instead of silica or bentonite )because you can also dispose them away in the nature or in the toillete,and also i’m not agree with washing a cat’s teeth..you see cat’s is like human,like dog’s in this matter,you see saliva is critical and tartar start when you have a lot of saliva..you can little bit prevent this by feeding the cat with more of dry food instead of can’s and also give a fresh meat.Brushing a cat teeth is not very good idea…cat and primarly hunting carnivora and no one ike to poke him on the teeth.
    All other ideas is one more time super as a tip
    Kind regards

    • Hi Tom – thank you for taking the time to read and post to I HAVE CAT! =^^=

      • Tom

        Hi Tamar

        Many thanks that you find a time so replay me :)…I i know and see that you have a cat…this good advice can only make and give some one who lives long with the multiple house hold world :).When you have one or lot of cat you see that only life with them can teach you right things..make a new article and let me know when it will be finished i reall would like to read it..
        Kind regards
        Tom http://www.procatblue.com

  • nutty monkey

    Wow, museum putty – never heard of it before. You just changed my life! 🙂

    • I can’t wait to hear what you think of it once you get it! I’m so happy to be able to provide life-changing advice! 

  • great post, tamar!  the only thing i would suggest is scooping their litter boxes at least 1x a day!!

  • Wonderful photo of you and Kip! And great post.

    • Thanks Ingrid! We were both babies in that picture! Time flies! 

  • Marg

    That really is a super post. Love the pictures and your design of the blog. This is so good. 

  • Several of these tips we are lacking in the Link Bartholomew household.  1) No way Link would let me brush his teeth!  I’m a bit leary of taking him to the vet bc of a past medical problem one of my cats growing up had bc they knocked him out to brush his teeth.  2)besides the tops of the cabinets, Link does not have any high up space.  Once we move, I have considered rectifying this problem. 

    • I’m struggling with my cats too in regards to the teeth brushing…i’m going to first try and see if i can find a toothpaste they like…give it to them like a treat on my finger…if they will let me! 

  • Marilia Bavaresco

    Hahahahahaha! I love all tips!!! Thanks to share with us!!!

    • your “hahahahah” made ME smile 🙂
      glad you enjoyed! 

  • Anonymous

    I know that it is good for me,  but I can’t say I like having my teeth brushed.  These are great tips.  Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks Gracey! I know….i think the toothbrushing is hard but maybe as a start with a finger that has chicken flavored toothpaste on it? could taste like a treat?! Feel free to share! Thanks again for visiting and posting! 

  • wonderful tips that are so important that we can’t see them enough!

    I have done the home made cat toy w/socks/knee high hose and they are great!

    For anyone that might be getting new windows, they have screens now that push IN…instead of OUT…we got those installed as a safety measure for Cody 🙂

    • Aww Thanks Caren! Glad you enjoyed it! Please feel free to share! Interesting window screens – do you have a link?!

      • ugh no!! I live in a condo/apt complex and we had our 35 yr old windows replaced by the company that does the windows here. (We had to pay since we own our condo and aren’t renting)

        If you want I can call the gentleman who did the windows and ask for the exact name, etc. of the screens.

  • Anonymous

    Tamar, how did I miss this the other day? Excellent article! I’ll book mark this for all the links you have, and it’s even great information for long-term cat owners who think we know everything. 😉 I’ll admit, I don’t brush cat teeth, but I do check them regularly.

    • Thanks Bernadette! I don’t brush my guys teeth but yet but i need to start working on that…i hear sometimes people give the chicken flavor toothpaste as a treat! will see if it works! 
      Please feel free to share the post and thanks so much for your support Bernadette! 

  • I love your cat shelves! Gorgeous! And I actually brush all my cats’ and dogs’ teeth with my finger using chicken flavored enzymatic toothpaste. You should see them all swarm. My vet said the difference is amazing and we staved off a dental for another year with all of them. You don’t actually need a brush with the enzymatic stuff – although some friction does help. A vet tech taught me to just smear it up over the outer side of the teeth between the flesh of the lips and gums and it does the rest. The hardest part is getting it up there before they all lick my finger clean.

    • Thanks Kim! I really need to try and do the toothpaste thing…hope they don’t bite my finger! 

  • Great post, Tamar! Your tip on the Museum Putty is sheer genius. And I covet those cat shelves. May need to get the boys a set!

    • Thanks doll face! Was sooooo lovely spending time with you in Lanta! 

  • Dkswihart

    Can you tell me where you purchased your cat shelves?

    • ihavecatnyc

      Hi there! sorry for the delay in responding. I got them at Urban Pet Haus http://www.urbanpethaus.com/content/wave_perch.htm

      I’m not sure if they are currently in stock but Marvin, the owner is super nice. Email him and i’m sure he will alert you when they are available!

  • Rebecca

    You were a blonde???? Or is that just the flash?  Love pic of Kippie and Haddie on shelves looking oh so innocent and serene! 🙂

    • ihavecatnyc

      oh, i was blonde all right. you should SEE My 30th Bday photos! Highlights gone awry!

  • JCat McGack

    Art supplies!
    Be warned cats like to eat balloons and string! I’ve pulled string from cat’s rear’s before. NOT a good time for either party. Make sure art supplies are out of reach!LOVE the floating shelves! Found you on Pinterst

  • Michelle4guam

    I just love those shelves! Where did you get them?

  • Nic871

    Yes, please share where you got the shelves!

    • Nic871

      Never mind, I found the link below.  Thanks for the advice!

  • Olga Alexandrovna

    I don’t seem to be able to find a link to those exact shelves (i’m assuming that’s what the person below found). Could you please direct me to it? I found a bunch of others, but i think these are just stunning! I must have ’em!!! 😀

    • sorry about that! will include the link to the post – here they are! http://www.urbanpethaus.com/content/wave_perch.htm
      they are not cheap but they are solid quality! Thanks for reading and commenting Olga! 

      • Olga Alexandrovna

         THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😀 They’re just so gorgeous… totally worth it… + the hope of getting the cats off my bed :)) lol…

  • gill kobiela

    please could you tell me where you got the cat shelves? thank you

  • SR

    Great posts! As for the comments on brushing teeth, there is a great article on http://www.veterinarypartner.com that has detailed instructions for brushing. I know it can be difficult with cats (and dogs too!). There are other options, look for products with the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal of approval. These products have been tested and their claims proven to help with gingivitis and plaque reduction. The only way to remove tartar properly is with a dental cleaning under anesthesia. Hope this helps, good luck to all in the fight against dental disease!

  • thebestlitterbox

    This is great advice and very much in line with what I’ve learned as a cat owner. I did want to mention that it’s also important to have a suitable litter box. I’ve created a website to help people find a litter box for their cats.

  • dm

    remember to ONLY use special CAT toothpaste and special cat toothbrush. do NOT use human toothpaste and toothbrush. they are harmful.
    NOTE that many cats do not like to use a tooth brush but you can use your finger instead.
    the main thing is to get the special toothpaste on the GUMS so using finger is softer for cat. the brushing motion on the teeth is less important. it is the gums where teeth problems begin

  • I love the cat shelves, thank you for sharing the link. As someone already mentioned, using a correct litter box and kitty litter is important, here’s an entire website devoted to the best cat litter box with some nice reviews.

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