Your new cat is precious, so you will want to make your home and garden as safe as possible for them. So where do you start when creating a cat-friendly home and garden?
Cats, and especially kittens, are naturally inquisitive, and investigate objects by touching, sniffing and tasting them. When you bring a new cat into your home they’ll be curious about everything and unlike us, won’t be able tell the difference between what is and isn’t dangerous. If you’re not sure how to cat-proof your house, follow our checklist to keep your pet out of trouble!
- When you first bring your new cat or kitten home, keep all windows and doors closed until they’re fully settled in, have had all their vaccinations and have been neutered.
- Check that all your bins in your kitchen and bathroom have closable lids that are fully paw-proof, and never leave bin bags where they can be raided!
- Put away any breakable ornaments, as they won’t last long with a curious kitten on the scene.
- Remember to always close doors to the oven, fridge, microwave, dishwasher, tumble-dryer and washing machine. Add notes to the doors of these appliances to remind people to check inside for exploring cats before using them. Small kittens can find a warm dryer or a shiny washing machine drum irresistible!
- Keep toilet lids down, so your kitten can't fall in or drink (or even try to use them themselves!). You may need to leave a note to remind visitors or forgetful housemates.
- Hide all trailing electrical cables behind furniture. You can buy thick cable protectors from most hardware stores which are placed over cables to make them totally chew-proof
- Store your plastic shopping bags somewhere safe, as they can be a real hazard if chewed and swallowed or hidden in.
- Lit candles, burning incense or oil burners are just asking for trouble – naked flames and fluffy cats do not mix. If you have an open fire, make sure that it has a guard in front of it.
- Shorten dangling blind and curtain cords and secure them safely out of paw-reach.
- Keep your kitchen countertops clear and clean up food scraps promptly. Chicken bones might be tempting to cats but can be very dangerous, as they may splinter when chewed. The binding string used on joints of meat is also irresistible as a snack and toy, but can cause serious health problems if swallowed.
- Cats love to climb so, if you want to protect your furniture, scratching posts can be very useful, ideally ones that include a high platform where they can hide or sleep without being disturbed.
- Check the dangerous substance list below and make sure they’re stored safely out of harm’s reach. Fit child-locks on floor-level kitchen cupboards, as curious kittens have a knack for opening doors.
Unfortunately quite a lot of common household objects are highly toxic to cats even in low quantities. To keep your cat safe, avoid using the following or keep them in a secure cupboard away from prying claws:
- Cleaning and hygiene products, such as bleach, and products containing phenols (e.g. disinfectants that turn water cloudy).
- Human medicines (such as paracetamol and ibuprofen).
- Car-related products such as anti-freeze.
- Beauty or decorating products like hair dyes, white spirit and nail polish remover.
- Rat/mouse poisons – ideally these shouldn’t be used at all, as your cat could get seriously ill if they eat the poisoned prey. If you do have to use them, position them somewhere that your cat can’t get to.
- Slug pellets (pet-friendly versions are available).
- Mothballs (naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene).
- Potpourri oils, fabric softener sheets, dishwasher detergents (all contain cationic detergents which cause corrosive lesions).
- Batteries (they contain acids or alkali which cause corrosive lesions).
- Homemade play dough (due to a high level of salt).
- Hand or foot warmers (they contain high levels of iron).
- Cigarettes, leftover coffee grounds, alcohol. Chocolate (this is more of an issue for dogs, but the theobromine in chocolate is also toxic to cats).
- All forms of lilies (the leaves, flowers etc.) found in bouquets or as houseplants (see below for other toxic plants).
- Some dog-flea products contain permethrin, which is highly toxic to cats, so make sure they’re kept out of reach and dogs are separated from cats when treated.
Although we think of cats as meat-eaters, don’t be surprised if you spot your cat chewing vegetables or other plants. Some cats like to munch on grass outdoors, or nibble at the leaves of potted houseplants indoors. Keep an eye on exactly what your cat is grazing on, as some plants have parts that are toxic to them. The most common plants to avoid are:
Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane), Lilies (all parts of the plant are highly toxic), Philodendron, Mistletoe, Poinsettia
Lilies, Azalea, Daffodil, Tomato, Foxglove, Yew, Hydrangea
Your vet can give you a complete list of plants that could be harmful to your cat, or click here for a complete list.
Your cat or kitten has a natural instinct to play outdoors, establish territory, climb trees, and catnap in the sun. As fun as this sounds, there are some things that you’ll need to look out for in the great outdoors. When outside, cats are exposed to more diseases and parasites, risk getting lost or stolen, and could potentially get hurt by a car. To allow your cat outdoors and also keep them safe, you can create a cat proof garden.
Some cats are quite happy staying indoors – although that does rely on you knowing how to cat proof your house and make their environment exciting to compensate for the lack of outdoor stimulation. Other cats will prefer to roam outdoors – deciding between which option is best for your cat will take careful consideration on your part. If you decide to allow your cat outdoors, ask your breeder or vet for advice and make sure you've made their outdoor space as safe as possible.
- We recommend keeping your cat indoors until they’ve been microchipped and have completed their vaccination courses. Vaccinations, flea and worming treatments will need to be kept up to date, so talk to your vet about scheduling them appropriately to keep them protected.
- Give your cat time to become completely familiar with their home environment before you let them out. If they’re new to the family, or you’ve just moved house, encourage them to stay indoors until they’re fully settled and are used to their new surroundings. This should normally take around two weeks. Remember, if you’ve moved house you’ll need to update your microchip records and replace the cat’s identity tag.
- Take small steps when introducing your cat to the great outdoors. For example, allow them to explore their new area as you watch from inside, and then start to make familiar “dinner time” noises with the food bowl after a few minutes to encourage them back inside. Gradually extend the time that they are outside until you are both comfortable.
- Neutering your cat will minimise their desire to roam and will keep them closer to home. This means they’ll be less likely to come across other cats and get into scraps.
- Check your garden for any potential hazards like poisonous plants (see above), unsecured sheds (if they contain chemicals) and uncovered ponds. It’s a good idea to walk around the garden with the mind of a mischievous cat. You will soon spot things that you can fix to cat proof your garden!
- Use chemical herbicides carefully. Restrict access to your garden after applying any chemicals, and keep your cat away from your lawn or garden when treating it with fertilisers, herbicides or insecticides, until the area dries completely.
- Check that nobody in the area is using poison to kill mice or rats. It can be fatal if your cat eats the poison directly or via a poisoned rodent.
- If you feel your location isn’t safe enough for free access (maybe you live near a busy road) that doesn’t rule out giving your cat fresh air and exercise. You could:
- Build a large cat run in your garden, linked by a cat flap. This should have a warm, weather-proof section and be positioned half in the sun, half in the shade. Add a tree trunk or climbing frame, ropes and perches, some grass, a catnip plant, a litter tray and water bowl.
- Cat-fence your garden to prevent them escaping.
- Installing a cat flap will allow your cat access to your garden all day. Lockable cat flaps, or those that only let your cat in via a tag that recognises their microchip, are useful.
- Hopefully, your cat will relax outdoors and stay close to home, but be aware that they may find unusual places to rest or hide. Always make sure you check for any cats lying in your drive before you reverse your car.
- If you can, try keeping your cat in at night. Most road traffic accidents and fights with other cats occur after dark.
- Make sure your cat wears a 'quick release' or 'break-away' collar (in case they get it caught), with an identification tag with your contact details. A reflector strip on the collar will help motorists spot your cat at night.
- Just because your cat is happy to roam outside themselves, they might not be as comfortable when being taken somewhere. If you need to transport your cat, always use an enclosed mesh cat carrier (not a cardboard box) filled with a blanket to keep them comfortable and safe. Spray the inside of the carrier with a calming pheromone spray before placing them inside.
It can be a brave decision to let your cat go outdoors but, if they’re keen and adventurous, and you’ve taken as many precautions as possible, it will keep them mentally stimulated and improve their physical fitness.