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Indoor Cat Hazards

Posted by at 4:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)


Indoor Cat Hazards

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The world can be a dangerous place for a cat. Most cat guardians know about the risks of letting cats roam outdoors, but the inside of your house can be surprisingly hazardous for a curious feline friend too.

Many years ago, my family had an adventurous all-black cat named Charlotte. I remember how she used to climb to the upper shelves of our bookcases, where she could keep an eye on everyone. She’d then startle us with a sudden leap from above and stalk away with a satisfied look on her face. My mom was particularly close to Charlotte, but we all loved her and admired her as the smartest and boldest cat we’d ever had.

One day, Charlotte decided to explore the heap of freshly washed clothes sitting in our dryer. Tragically, she was still inside the machine when my mom closed the door and switched it on. Mom heard a thumping noise from the laundry room, but she assumed that someone had put a pair of tennis shoes in the dryer. When she opened the machine and saw what had happened to our beautiful Charlotte, she was devastated. It was years before we stopped grieving for Charlotte’s loss, and to this very day, I have a reminder note taped to the outside of our dryer: “Any cats inside?”

My cat Shadow showed me another indoor cat hazard: doors. Shadow taught himself how to open the back door. We were mystified about how he was escaping into the yard until my husband caught him in the act of working the door handle. We solved that problem by attaching a pneumatic door closer, but I failed to consider that if Shadow could open a door, he could surely close one too. And he did, while we were away from home briefly. He managed to shut himself and our other cat away from their food, water, and litterbox. I was horrified when I got home and realized what had happened, but they were both thankfully OK—although it took me a few days to clean up the bed that had become their temporary litter box. Now, whenever I am away from the house overnight, I wedge the doors open.

Shadow also made me aware of some of the dangerous things that a cat can eat. He liked to chew on the houseplants. After many unsuccessful attempts to discourage him, we gave up and made the house a plant-free zone. The following week, my husband brought home a bouquet of assorted flowers. I set them out of the way on a high shelf, but when I returned to the room 20 minutes later, Shadow had found them and eaten four of them. Some detective work with the remaining flowers indicated that he might have eaten lilies, which are extremely toxic to cats. Fortunately, thanks to animal first-aid training, I was able to make Shadow vomit up the plants before he had absorbed them. That is not the thing to do in all cases, so had I not known exactly what to do, I would have called the round-the-clock poison control center emergency number for quick advice.

Many cats like to play with string, thread, tinsel, and even dental floss, which can be life-threatening if swallowed. If your cat has eaten a string, call the vet immediately. Don’t pull on the string—you can easily cut right through your cat’s intestines. Household chemicals like bleach and detergents can injure your cat as well. Fluffy may be smart enough not to eat them, but if you leave some spilled on the floor and she walks through it, she’ll try to clean up by licking her paws and fur. And, if you put a carrier bag on the floor, be certain the handles are cut through: Cats can strangle in a couple of minutes.

It’s a good idea to take an animal first-aid class. Contact your local animal shelter or Red Cross chapter to locate a class near you. Keep the Animal Poison Control Center number handy: 1-888-426-4435. This number is staffed 24 hours a day. There’s a fee for callers, but in a life-or-death situation, it’s worth every penny.

I still think of Charlotte often, and in her memory, I’m constantly on the lookout for potential dangers. I only hope that I can always stay one step ahead of my cats’ curiosity.

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    Kathryn says...

    July 8th, 2011, 5:26 pm

    That is SO SAD! about Charlotte. Two of my four cats sometimes like to get in the dryer when I have it open. Because of a story I read many years ago about a cat who had a washing machine experience (her name was Maytag – perhaps you also read about her) I have always been very vigilant about my dryer. Another “experience” we had was one of my cat Cinder who was closed up in the guest room closet all night because I didn’t see her go in and didn’t hear if she was crying to get out. Gotta love ‘em!
    :-))

    Luke Thoms says...

    July 8th, 2011, 5:33 pm

    I can guarantee you cats is thousands of times more dangerous outdoors than indoors. I seen plenty of cats get hit by cars. They don’t always die right away either. And there are tons of cruel people and psychos who take sick pleasure in killing them. A lot of bow hunters shoot any kind of animal including cats.

    Hannah says...

    July 8th, 2011, 7:10 pm

    That story of Charlotte is terrible! My cousin has a cat, and I’m almost sure she doesn’t know ANY of these dangers… I’ll alert her, and hopefully Daisy can keep living happily!

    Lili says...

    July 8th, 2011, 8:19 pm

    My cat is very old now (16) but he has been through a lot of situations because of his “fear of nothing”. We were always able to rescue him, Thank God, but we’re glad that with age, he became wise enough to keep away from danger.

    We will keep good care of him up until God takes him back.

    Romina says...

    July 8th, 2011, 9:19 pm

    My cat, named Ozzy, had a near death experience, he is now 6 and a half years old, but when he was 1 year old he swallowed a piece of stainless steel scrubber, I can’t really describe the horror of my discovery, It was absolutelly my fault, I had no idea he could swallow that scrubber. This happened past midnight, he started vomiting a piece of this, and I thought he was fine, the next morning his condition had worsen, so I took him to the vet, they made an X-ray, and there in his intestine was the obstruction. He went under surgery to remove this scrubber, they shaved his belly and both his arms, and cut him open. Fortunately, they remove the whole piece and saw his intestine back, without having to remove a piece of intestine. As you can Imagine this was terrible for him, he was in pain, he had stiches all over. However he started to improve; a few days later, he wasn’t himself again, didn’t wanted to move much, so I rushed him to the vet, they made another x-ray, and it turned out he had pneumonia, probably because of an immune deficiency due to stress. For the following 15 days I took him to the vet twice a day for his antibiotic inyection. I could see he hated me. Every time I wanted to put him in his carrier, he tried to escape. Slowly he recovered, It was a miracle. Now my stainless steel scrubber is inside a jar with lid. And I have to be very careful with other stuff like threads, and plastic bags. He is the kind of cat that would eat just for fun anything he shouldn’t, so please be extra careful with your cats. They are amazing, loving and great animals. I love him so much, as I he were my baby.

    Catherine Davis says...

    July 9th, 2011, 12:13 am

    I put cat doors in my bedroom and the utility room both. That way, my cats can sleep with me but can still get out and go to eat or use their box. It’s a win-win for all of us!

    Sophie says...

    July 9th, 2011, 5:01 am

    I am SO SORRY for your loss… Charlotte must have been an amazing companion and thank you Peta for sharing this with us.

    Samara says...

    July 9th, 2011, 5:53 pm

    I have known animal first aid since I was a child! I recommend that everyone should be trained in it – you never know when a life might need to be saved! I also believe that, in many instances, common sense should be employed, almost all indoor hazards are avoidable! My heart goes out to the cats who have suffered! To me, reading the dryer story was tantamount to finding out an urban legend was true! I have such a hard time accepting that things like this are real! I am truly sorry that this happened to you as a child, and especially sorry for Charlotte!

    Gabrielle Blake says...

    July 9th, 2011, 11:17 pm

    That is such an awful situation that your family have been through. I would have been absolutely devastated too. I have 2 indoor cats and I will take on your advice-especially the dental floss and plants. Thank you so much for sharing :) =^.^= meow

    JennyNZ says...

    July 11th, 2011, 4:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing your hard-learnt lessons! We have three cats, one of which taught us a safety lesson too: One day we found paw-prints in blood outside the cat-flap, panicing I went calling for Tigger – he appeared with his flea-collar caught through his mouth like a horse’s bit, foaming at the mouth, his face puffed up and bleeding. We cut it off immediately and took him to the emergency vet – they have stopped selling flea-collars for this very reason – if you don’t have them tight enough a cat can struggle to try and remove it or get it caught on a fence or branch and strangle. Tigger was very sick for a couple of days, and I vowed never to use a flea-collar again, switching to Advance/Frontline spot-on treatments. I felt physically sick at the amount of suffering my ignorance had caused, and very lucky to find him fast. Interestingly I rescued another cat a month later which had managed to get her front left LEG right through her flea-collar, cutting into her shoulder-blade painfully. I removed the offending article and left a big note for her owner, who was most grateful. PLEASE TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW WITH PET CATS OF THE POTENTIAL DANGER OF FLEA COLLARS!

    TC says...

    July 11th, 2011, 6:33 pm

    Thank you for this advice. We have a 2-year-old orange cat named Triscuit who keeps us very active. Two things she does that so far have not caused problems because of quick action on our part: 1) She tries to get into the refrigerator (how often do you close the door without looking/thinking?), and 2) She loves string and has gotten it wound around her body and neck, whereupon she panics and tries to get away from it by running. Therefore, I always put the string away at bedtime and when we leave the house. My husband thinks I’m paranoid, but I don’t care!!

    Alesha says...

    July 15th, 2011, 2:48 pm

    My cat has also been in the dryer. My mom was doing laundry & he snuck in there while her back was turned. She had no idea & went to check on these clothes ten minutes later & found him. Luckily, we know the vet personally so we had their number & got the cat to the vet in time to save his life.

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