The saying "Curiosity killed the cat" has its basis in sad fact: Cats are curious creatures, and in an unsafe environment this trait can lead them into danger. It's your responsibility to protect your pet by making your home a safe place for it to live and explore.
Before you bring home your cat or kitten, you'll need to cat-proof your house, just as you would baby-proof it for a new human arrival.
Here are some dangers to look for and address throughout the house:
Electrical cords: Make sure your cat can't use these to pull down lamps and other appliances, and that he will not be able to chew on the cords, which can lead to fires. To keep them out of your cat's sight and reach, keep cords as short as possible, and mount extension cords to baseboards.
Draw cords and pulls on window blinds and shades: Shorten these to a safe length by tying them.
Open windows and loose screens: Ensure that all screens are securely fastened, and keep non-screened windows closed. Don't allow your cat onto outdoor balconies.
Plants: Grow only nontoxic plants in your home (and garden, if your cat will be allowed outdoors). Many common plants are poisonous to cats, including dieffenbachia, ivy, mistletoe, philodendron, and poinsettia. (For a more complete list, visit the Web site below.)
Large appliances: Get in the habit of keeping the doors closed on the refrigerator, freezer, washer, dryer, oven, and even the microwave -- cats are quick and stealthy, and some (especially kittens) are small, so it's better to err on the side of caution. (This will also prevent your pet from accidentally ingesting any detergent or residue in the washer or dishwasher.)
After opening any of these appliance doors, double-check to make sure the cat isn't inside before closing them again.
Here's how to take a safety inventory:
As you make the rounds on your cat-proofing tour, take special note of these room-specific hazards:
If you're bringing a cat or kitten into a household that includes children, an important safety step is teaching the kids how to handle the new family member gently and safely. Demonstrating the basics to your child will help safeguard both him and your pet from injury.
Toddlers and preschoolers may be too young to safely pick up and support a pet, but you can get them used to interacting safely by letting them pet and talk to the cat while you hold it in your arms or on your lap.
School-age kids can learn to:
Practice these moves several times with your child before letting her try them on her own.