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How do we kitten-proof my house?
July 22, 2011 6:32 PM   Subscribe

How do I kitten-proof my house?

We're the proud, doting owners of a five-week-old kitten who has been hand-raised since she was a day old (her name is Hope, as in, "Hope she lives through the weekend."). She's more or less weaned (she still gets a little bottle now and then, but is great at eating solid food) and seems happy and healthy and very good at learning how to do "cat things" on the first try (i.e. using a littler box, using a scratching post, etc.).

We've been keeping her in a cat carrier during the day while we're at work (I come home on my lunch break to give her a quick snack, romp and litter box access), but now we're ready to move her somewhere bigger. Our plan is to start her off in the bathroom, see how that goes, then move her to the mater bedroom or the home office when she gets a little bigger.

I know about blocking up small spaces so she can't get stuck in them. I know about using bitter apple spray to dissuade her from computer cables (she's not that interested in them anyway, although she is teething, so better safe than sorry). We're planning on making a cardboard cover for the tub so she can't fall into it, although she can't quite jump or climb that high yet. We have stairs with gaps in them, too, so we'll definitely want to limit staircase access until she's big enough to handle it (when might that be?).

What am I overlooking? We're both a little neurotic because she's still such a tiny baby and because we've never really dealt with kittens before, just grown or mostly-grown cats.

Additional questions: how do we make sure she's drinking water? She urinates regularly, but I have no idea of she's drinking anything. Also, she's kind of nippy right now because she's teething; I've heard plastic straws make good chew toys for teething kittens, and we yelp and push her away when she nips us, but is there anything else we need to do to make sure she doesn't grow up to be a biter?
posted by infinitywaltz to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
You'll want to put all hair scrunchies, twist ties, rubber bands, and paper clips away in a drawer so that she doesn't get into them. Also thread and yarn.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:40 PM on July 22, 2011


Shut the lid of the toilet. When I got my cat as a kitten, I read some book about cat-proofing that had a long list of household things that might kill a cat. (Things like getting childlocks for your cabinets. The list was fairly overwhelming.) He really was small enough that he could have drowned in the toilet had he fallen in. That was the book's one warning of doom that I actually believed.

If you have blinds with cords, tie the cords up so she can't get tangled and hang herself with the cord.
posted by hoyland at 6:55 PM on July 22, 2011


If you're feeding her wet food, she's going to be getting a lot of liquid from that. As long as her urine is a normal pee-color, I don't think you need to worry about it. And I don't think you need to protect her from getting stuck in the bathtub - once she's big/strong enough to leap into it, she'll be able to leap right out.

If you own a paper-shredder, leave it unplugged whenever you're not actively using it.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:01 PM on July 22, 2011


If she's peeing regularly, she's getting enough water. Cats on wet food diets often drink very little. Also, although I do not think a cat can get stuck in a bathtub, the worst that happens is that they are annoyed and you have an easy mess to clean up. I would keep the toilet bowl closed.

Mostly you want to keep string/yarn/thread away from her, rubber bands, and styrofoam. If she wants to bite, find the texture she likes and give her things of that texture. Cardboard boxes are popular, so are magazines, and so are tampons.

You're also way overworrying. The first day I brought home a group of foster kittens, one of them -- 3 weeks old! -- opened a closet door and snuck into the not-quite-covered hole into my condo building's plumbing system (I am on the top floor). I completely freaked out and panicked and about half an hour or an hour later, she sauntered back out, well-pleased with her exciting new adventure without siblings. (I blocked it very, very carefully after that.)
posted by jeather at 7:08 PM on July 22, 2011


I once rented a room from a woman who had a few cats, and one in particular who spent a lot of time in the bathroom (he liked the tub). He would get sick (barfing) from licking/coming into contact with soap/shampoo residue. Her solution was to make sure that she rinsed out the tub really well before allowing him access. This might not be a problem for all cats, though.
posted by janepanic at 7:08 PM on July 22, 2011


You can train your cat to use the toilet. If you do that, leave the lid up, and proceed immediately with toilet training method of your choice (usually it's finding a way to place the litter box over the toilet and gradually making the transition to kitty hovering.)

Make sure you don't bring any poisonous house plants into the home.

Have pictures of your kitty always updated, in case she darts out the door. You want to be able to show neighbors a current picture. Also, you want to be able to continue adding pictures with your kitty questions.

Keep handling her a lot. If you have any plans of ever having kids/acclimating her to kids, start interrupting her eating time now. Seriously, just pick her up and cuddle her mid-bite. Scratch her head while she eats. Poke her every now and then kind of randomly. You think I'm kidding? I'm not. Grown up cats get set in their ways. Kids don't have any respect for cat routines.

Regarding the biting question specifically. Pushing her away may actually reinforce the biting, because it's attention. Ideally, when she nips, just say "no" and remove yourself. Check to see if she's nipping at the same general stimulus - if she always bites you when you touch her tail, or when you poke her shoulder she may be feeling pain in that area. Unlikely at this age, but worth keeping track of anyway.

Have a plan now for how much is too much money to spend at the vet's office. It may never come up, and you may adjust the number if the time ever comes. But just knowing it's a possibility can prepare you for a lot. If your number is $2,000 and the vet says $6,000 you'll be on your way to making peace with a difficult decision.
posted by bilabial at 8:02 PM on July 22, 2011


For the babycat bitey stuff: get a few small stuffed animals about her size and when she starts trying to play with your fingers, shove one of the toys between your hand and her as a substitute. I also like to put the toys in the kitten's bed at night as surrogate litter-mates.

The primary reason to keep her in enclosed spaces while young is to keep her in close proximity to her litterbox to help ingrain the habit to use it instead of a handy pile of papers or a cast-off tshirt. Try to keep her in spaces where the litterbox is in her line of sight until she's at least 8 weeks old. Some kittens grow up without needing this reinforcement but boy does it suck to have an adult cat that is open-minded about the definition of a litterbox as it is near impossible to train them out of it; better conservative about it now than frustrated and spending a fortune on cleaning supplies later.
posted by jamaro at 8:08 PM on July 22, 2011


Seconding the overworry. Cats are pretty resilient. I can see the benefit of making sure she has access to the litterbox (and remembers where it is), but I think keeping the poor thing in a cat taxi for most of the day is unnecessary.

I think the tub and stairway access are a bit over the top. If you're really concerned about the kitten getting stuck in the tub, put a tupperware box with something heavy in it in the tub so if/when she goes exploring, she can safely get out. As for stairs, when our fat orange cat was just a little daredevil (can't access flickr at the moment), he would routinely teeter across the metal railing that went around our basement stairs (10-12 foot drop) and I think he only fell once (landed on his feet, natch).

Be careful you're not beanplating this poor kitten. People have been raising kittens for THOUSANDS of years, and we still have loads of cats to go around. This little guy will be fine, just let her be a cat! (and give her plenty of snuggles)
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 8:27 PM on July 22, 2011


Almost forgot to add. Find a vet now, both a normal vet, and also when you call them, ask the receptionist about a 24 hour emergency vet in your area so when your stupid orange cat eats rosemary or thyme at 7:00PM on a saturday night and is vomiting so much he can't wait for his monday appointment, you know who to call to get him all drugged up.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 8:31 PM on July 22, 2011


Have you tried Googling [kitten proofing]? There are a number of checklists out there, notably from the ASPCA and About.com.

Highlights: make sure the kitten can't find and eat any string. This can kill them. Look out for fraying edges of woven things.

Look out for the cords of window blinds. I've personally heard two stories of kittens strangling or nearly strangling on these. You can buy a little wall-mounted clip for wrapping up the cords.

A neighbor nearly had to amputate her cats leg because she left a wire or string toy out while she was at work, and the handle or something got caught on top of the cat tower while the string was wrapped around her leg. The cat hung there for a long time and gnawed her paw a bit, and the limp lost circulation for a long time. So, anything tangly or stringy -- put it away.

The ASPCA's site also has a database of plants, telling which are toxic, highly toxic, and harmless to cats. Also - watch out for cut flowers; lilies in particular are deadly.

If you have kids, make sure they know how to treat the kitten and not to lock it inside anything (like a large plastic container or refrigerator, or a cooler). There are a surprising number of stories of kids accidentally suffocating kittens.

It will also help your kitten not become a scaredy cat if you move her to a different room before using a vacuum cleaner or sink disposal. Really, an intense scare can really affect a cat's personality.

--- About the bitey play: kittens learn not to play rough by playing with other kittens, who squeak when they are hurt. This may sound unlikely, but it works: make a high-pitched squeak when the kitten uses her teeth on you, and she should stop immediately and is less likely to do it again. I think this is very, very important, because a fully-grown bitey cat is not a good thing :)
posted by amtho at 8:40 PM on July 22, 2011


omg adorable tiny kitten!

We got our 3 month old kitten in January. I had not had a kitten since I was a kid, when my parents took care of her. Kittens are much more energetic and need WAY more attention than fully grown cats. We have TONS of toys to keep him occupied and it's still not enough. Get a variety of toys and keep them picked up so when you toss her one she thinks it's a BRAND NEW ONE that she's never seen before. Play with her a lot before bed to tire her out.

I don't know if you've clipped claws before, but kitten claws are MUCH smaller than grown cat claws, and we had to adjust both the tool we used and how far down we cut to avoid hurting kitten. So that's something to keep in mind.

As for the biting. Well, we tried distracting him with toys or slowly taking our hands away (as our vet recommended) but he's still a biter, even now that he's done teething. We're hoping he grows out of this as he ages.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:55 PM on July 22, 2011


OMG cute. Check for poisonous plants, definitely keep string toys completely inaccessible when not in use. Watch out for yarn and ribbon too. My cats also have eaten the ends of toys that had fleece strips on them. EVERYTHING can be a toy to a kitten / young cat so make sure that there's nothing especially alluring in places they shouldn't go like high on a book case. I'd ask a vet for chew toy ideas. basically you probably don't want to give kitty anything you don't want them to chew later in life. Also you'd want to make sure it won't come apart and get eaten. Don't forget to keep kitty away from people food. There's lots of random human food is dangerous to cats - things like garlic and onions that might be in other dishes that might seem tasty to a cat. I have 1 cat who is likely to hurt himself exploring by either falling off of stuff or knocking items over. The other nibbles on everything - plastic bags, broom handles, pens.
posted by oneear at 1:07 AM on July 23, 2011


Very cute!

We kept our boys in the bathroom except for supervised time until they were a couple months old, but my husband was home during most days so they had a fair amount of unsupervised time.

One thing we were glad we did was immediately eject them from the table when they stepped on electronics like computer stuff or keyboards. It was enough of a hassle getting up at that time that it dissuaded them permanently - it's hilarious to watch them thread their way through a tabletop strewn with computer stuff when I'm rearranging my tech gear.

If you can, a second kitten will help socialize your kitty and teach the roughhousing lessons so painful for people. They're not a lot more work than one kitten and keep each other exercised and sane. They're so young it'd be a pretty easy introduction and they'll treat each other like siblings.

My inveterate greenery-eater has even tried to eat aloe and once pulled all of my basil out by the roots, so definitely check the toxicity of any plant in your house.
posted by bookdragoness at 3:41 AM on July 23, 2011


squee!!

When you check for yarn and cords and stuff, don't forget fringe on blankets and pillows. Also watch for stuff that will fall if she jumps onto a shelf. I agree that you're overthinking it and she'll be fine. Probably your biggest concern is if she gets outside.
posted by desjardins at 9:32 AM on July 23, 2011


The main issue with the stairs is that they're open, so she could fall through, and our first floor is hard tile.

Thanks for all the ideas, everyone. I hadn't even thought about the strangulation risk with the cables and cords.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:26 PM on July 23, 2011


Nthing what others have said, but also...If you have a fireplace, and it doesn't have one of those glass things sealing it off from the rest of the room, make sure the flue is closed!

One of my 3 feral sibling-kittens managed to climb up into the chimney when she was around 10 weeks old. I only figured out where she was when I saw her brother sitting under the fireplace staring quizically upward! Coraline (sisterkitty) was unharmed, thankfully, but that incident left me with some seriously rattled nerves. Needless to say, the flue is closed now!
posted by aecorwin at 6:26 PM on July 23, 2011


It's not cold season, but please be very careful about leaving Nyquil or similar medications out. I had a friend who lost a kitten because he got into a bottle of cold medicine.

Also, apparently elephant ear plants are like catnip to cats (pun intended) but will cause their esophogus to swell shut. My old man cat ate some and after 4 days on an iv and massive steroids and vet treatment, came home and walked right up to the damn plant and tried to chew on it again.
posted by teleri025 at 7:12 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


If anyone is still reading this, thank you for all of your answers, and also: when is a kitten big enough to sleep in one's bed? She already knows how to jump up onto the bed and down off of it, but I'm worried about rolling over and hurting her.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:55 AM on August 1, 2011


I have never heard of anyone injuring a kitten in bed. They have pointy things to attack you with, and generally they sleep on top of you, not next to you. Well, generally they run on top of your face all night because they want to play, but eventually they fall asleep on your neck or other inconvenient spot and you wake up sore because you find you have slept without moving because you have a cat on your neck.

Kittens have shared my bed from the time they figured out how to climb up onto it, and they were always fine. I move around a lot when I sleep, too -- I usually manage to yank the fitted sheet off my bed.
posted by jeather at 9:23 AM on August 1, 2011


My other half was worried, but everyone I've spoken to in my informal poll has suggested either "whenever you feel like it" to "six weeks or older." Hope-a-Dope is six and a half weeks old and enjoys sleeping on Jena!!!'s head or under my neck, which is nice because it gives her something soft and fleshy to bite and claw if she wakes up bored.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:38 AM on August 1, 2011


I strongly urge you to stop the biting and clawing now. It's cute and playful and doesn't hurt you, sure, but it won't always be harmless (she says as she looks at the fresh, bloody scratch on her hand).

When she bites you, put her on the floor and ignore her. If she jumps back on the bed, let her stay unless she bites you again. Then put on the floor and ignore. Make sure she has acceptable things to bite and claw (i.e., cat toys). But never encourage her to bite and claw you or other people.
posted by desjardins at 7:19 AM on August 2, 2011


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