Arrival of a New Kitten

Barry Burtis, Pet Tales

Kitten-proofing your home advised for first-time owners
Kitten-proofing your home advised for first-time owners. Get ready for some excitement. Prepare yourself to be entertained and amazed. You will experience some groans, but they will be out numbered by chuckles and laughter.
Serve up lots of love and you will be rewarded with years of pleasure and companionship. Yes, indeed, all this and more is ahead when you invite a kitten to come and live with you.

If this happens to be a new experience, it's always a good idea to do a bit of kitten-proofing in your home before the baby feline arrives. In my experience, there are a number of common household items in your home that may prove dangerous to a new little ball of inquisitive fun. Here's a list of some of those items:

• String, ribbon, yarn, pins, needles, thread and sewing supplies. The problem with these materials, of course, is that in addition to their normal uses, a cat or kitten is likely to think of them as excellent playthings. Part of playing with them is likely to include chewing on them. This can lead to them being swallowed and this is where the big danger begins. Once in the stomach and intestines, often they do not move along very well. Owners may have no idea a life-threatening condition has developed until the kitten stops eating or begins to vomit. Immediate veterinary care is essential.

• Paper clips, erasers, staples, rubber bands, baby bottle nipples, plastic bags, sponges and twist ties. For some reason, many cats like to mouth and/or chew on these items. The texture or feel seems to be quite appealing. Again, blockages or perforations of the intestinal tract become a real danger if they are swallowed.

• Coins, small board game pieces, earrings, refrigerator magnets, fragile keepsakes and other ornaments. Even though you will have loaded up with safe kitten toys before toddler kitty arrives, all these items can cause problems. Kittens, you see, sometimes select other available objects as toys. In my years in practice, I have cared for patients who have required surgery to remove each of those items after they were swallowed.

• Medication, vitamins, dental floss, razors and cotton balls. The bathroom is one of the most important rooms in the house to make kitten safe. It's important to keep medicines in childproof containers and if the pill bottle spills its contents, do a thorough pickup. A pill missed by you will likely be found and eaten by your kitten. Dental floss becomes as hazardous as thread, if ingested.

• Household and automotive chemicals ("pet-safe" antifreeze is available). Given the opportunity, kittens usually like to participate in all household activities. This may include house painting, auto maintenance or repair activities. Many materials that are used at those times can be very hazardous if ingested.

Also, cats and kittens may be harmed when they groom themselves after walking or stepping in certain materials. Paint thinners can cause problems when absorbed through the skin as well as when they are swallowed.

• Toxic house plants, including philodendron, mistletoe and poinsettia. Although cats are true carnivores, they seem to often enjoy chewing on grass and other plants. In order to be poisoned, even with potentially-poisonous plants, quite large amounts must be ingested. Fortunately, this is unlikely in most circumstances.

However, stomach irritation and upsets may be caused by the ingestion of a number of different plant materials, even in small quantities.

Toxic garden plants, including lily, azalea, daffodil, tomato and hydrangea. If a kitten shares patio or garden time with you, it's important to prevent nibbling on outdoors greenery that could prove hazardous.

Barry Burtis is a local veterinarian with a companion practice. His column appears every second Friday in the Post.