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.
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 cat 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: Aspca, vetinfo.com, cat-world.com.au
Do you have any other tips to share with I HAVE CAT readers? Bring ‘em on!