Proper Cat-Proofing Includes Changing Your Own Habits

Time to Break Some Old Habits and Pick Up Some New OnesFor Your Cat

A big part of preventing cat mishaps is the challenge of recognizing how the things you do affect how safe the environment is for your cat.

Learning what to do and what not to do is a critical part of cat/kitten-proofing your home.

Gray tabby cat standing on top of a toilet with the lid closed, looking toward camera

This probably means you need to change some habits, and pick up some new ones. And this goes for anyone living with you. You need to train your family members or housemates, too.

Here are some things you may be doing on auto-pilot that could lead to trouble for your cat.

Leaving certain things open

  • Leaving the door open when bringing groceries in or when grabbing something out of the garage
  • Leaving the windows open
  • Leaving the toilet lid up
  • Leaving cabinets or closets open (or not latched/locked shut)

Leaving certain things out

  • Leaving rubber bands, ribbons, and other hazards lying around
  • Leaving out plastic bags (and paper bags with handles)
  • Leaving dirty dishes or pans on the counter or in the sink after meals
  • Leaving human food unattended
  • Leaving out cleaning products and other common cat toxins
  • Leaving fragile things
  • If your cat has pica behaviors, leaving out any unsafe things your cat is tempted to eat. For example, I can’t leave any socks out because Phoebe will eat them. I had to buy a laundry hamper with a lid because of this problem.

You’re doing it wrong if cat-proofing doesn’t include changing your own habits

Now here’s a list of new habits you’re probably going to have to learn. Post signs around the house if you need to at first until these habits stick.

Keep certain doors closed

Keep doors to spaces that are off-limits to your cat shut and latched so that they can’t be pawed or pushed open

Mind your feet

Pay attention to what’s happening around your feet when you are entering or exiting the house. Pro tip: when you’re carrying groceries in, you can hold the bags down low at your feet as you enter, creating a kind of shuffling blockade between your kitten and the door.

Also, be mindful of your feet in the kitchen. It’s easy to take a step away from the counter without noticing the cat has come right up beside you.

Put the toilet lid down after every use

They may have good balance, but cats can absolutely fall into an open toilet. Don’t chance it.

Monitor hazards in the kitchen

Be mindful in the kitchen when using things that could be dangerous to your cat. For example, don’t leave a hot stove unattended, or sharp knives near the edge of the counter.

Try not to leave food or dirty dishes out and unattended. If your cat jumps on the counter and is rewarded by finding something delicious, he will learn that jumping on the counter has benefits.

If your cat jumps on the counter because there’s food up there, it’s on you to change your behavior of leaving food on the counter. Scolding, squirting, or other forms of punishment are not appropriate and will not do anything to keep your cat from jumping on the counter the next time they smell food up there. Instead, redirect or distract your cat with something appropriate like a toy or treat. Or close your cat in a separate room until you’re done cooking.

Last, get in the habit of double-checking the fridge to make sure your cat hasn’t jumped in when your back was turned.

Be alert in the laundry room

Check the washer and drier before shutting it to make sure your kitten hasn’t climbed inside.

Conduct “kitten checks” throughout the day.

Make sure you know where your kitten is, especially at critical times like when people have been coming or going. Placing signs next to doors can be helpful as a reminder to housemates or family members to make sure of the kitten’s whereabouts.

Close doors actively

Rather than letting them slam shut behind you, guide doors shut. A slamming door is a common reason for cat injuries, especially to their tails.

Watch for slamming doors when windows are open

Monitor what happens with interior doors when windows or other doors are opened. When the conditions are right, sometimes an open window on one end of the house can cause a draft that makes a door slam shut without warning. You may need to put something in place to prevent a door from slamming shut on its own.

Research houseplants and flowers

With a cat in the house, gone are the days you can just pick up a flower bouquet and plop them in a vase in your house. Same for houseplants. There are many kinds of flowers and plants that are highly toxic to cats – don’t bring them into the house unless you know they’re cat-safe.

Avoid open flames

Don’t burn candles without close and constant supervision. Better yet, just switch to electronic candles.

Keep your favorite clothes snag-free

I love how affectionate my cats are, but I have a lot of clothes that are ruined from snagging cat claws.

Wear casual or more rugged clothing when you’re hanging out at home, in order to prevent your favorite clothes from getting snagged by an affectionate cat on your lap or shoulder. The more dense the fabric, the less snag-prone it will be. You can also keep a blanket on the sofa to put on your lap.

Good cat-proofing requires learning on your part

Part of cat-proofing also requires doing research when needed in order to problem-solve, teaching yourself about cat behaviors and their basic needs, and putting in some work with training your cat.

You may be surprised at how a lot of common ways of dealing with problematic cat behaviors are actually misguided because they are (a) not appropriate for cats, (b) not actually helpful for changing the problematic behavior, and (c) damaging to the human-cat bond.

Finally, cat-proofing is an ongoing process. It requires constant monitoring and fine-tuning to keep your cat safe and happy.

Up Next

Now head over to our comprehensive cat-proofing guide and choose an area of your house to make safer for your special feline fuzzbutt.

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The information provided here is not meant to replace professional guidance from your own veterinarian or cat behavior specialist.

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