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Indoor Cat Hazards

This article originally appeared on PETA Prime.

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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  • Sonya says:

    We adopted new baby kitten 2 weeks ago.Adorable blue gray little boy named Josh..We had been keeping him upstairs in my two girls room since we have 2 older cats . .He was very curious as well and loved to hide under bed and play peek a boo when we walked in room…He was so cuddly and loving…carried him like a baby and rocked him while he purred so loud I could hear across room…I am still in shock and traumatized from what I saw on Sunday, Nov 3, 2013…We had decided he could be downstairs with us…after 2 weeks…he started Hus hiding under things…he was tiny so started hiding under recliner rocker chair…he was getting out and hiding with no problem…so never thought of chair being a hazard… this time I went upstairs and my bigger cat was sitting on top of back of chair…weighs about 12.lbs…I hear my 6 yr old scream that Josh was peeing under chair and she could see Hus paws…the furdr thing I thought oh know he could not find his litter box Cruz it was upstairs in girls room…well I went down to see …TV was on so I was not able to hear any screech or any sign of distress from him..since I had just walked upstairs while girls were down stairs for maybe 4 minutes…when I came to chair he suddenly flew out but was not the cute little Josh I expected to see..he collapsed to his side… with his eyes wide open staring at me…shook like a small seizure….and had his last breath right there in my hands….as I petted his still warm body.I was in total shock….my girls both saw him and screamed and cried as I did the same…I was not able yo do anything to save him…he died almost instantly….I threw out chair that same day, and am still baffled on how he got himself so lodged under chair …the only thing I can think of is maybe chair was rocked slightly… and caused this horrifying accident…I covered him up with blanket and came to check on him again and he had actually expelled blood all over floor..I still csmt sleep or eat…I am so traumatized…please make every cat owner you know aware of this horrible accident and dispose of any recliner rocker chairs…they are an instant kitten death trap…how I wish I had read the posts on thus site before we brought pur little Josh Angel home

  • KittyKittenLover says:

    my 18 year old cat loves string and things like that. she also sleeps in the laundry room. ill keep a look out from now on.

  • Catlover*~ says:

    I approve of this meowssage. Too many of our feline friends are being oppressed by their canine counterparts, doors, string, tinsel, drying machines etc. THIS WORLD IS TOO DANGEROUS FOR CATZZZZZ. WHERE IS THE LOVE?!
    peace and blessings.

  • Teri says:

    Or how about closing the dryer door???????!!!!!!! My washing machine and dryer doors are always closed. No matter who uses them, they close the doors every time.

  • Lair says:

    I too had a young cat get into the refrigerator Good thing it was the weekend and I was home all day to miss him. I had been putting away groceries and I shortly found him in the bottom shelf. I don’t use my recliner as a recliner anymore because I once went to close the foot piece and the cat shot out just before it closed. We have removed all miniblinds with roller blinds. They are a bit old fashioned but the cats are safe.

  • Aussie says:

    I trained my cat to come to whistle.Always the same whistle.He knows that when I do that whistle it usually means he is going to get food.I have always got a treat for him and praise him for being a good boy.Also by attaching my driver to the wall above the washing machine he cannot because of the angle get into it.Besides that I always shut the dryer when I am finished with it.

  • Heather says:

    My cat is forever looking for mischief. She got herself caught in the blinds once and luckily I was home to help her. Now, as a result, all blinds and any other strings are safely tied up with velcro way out of her reach. She too likes to go in dryers and since I observed it, I now check look to see if she is in there, put the clothes in the dryer if it’s empty and as I am about to turn the dryer on I make sure I am looking right at her in the laundry room as I turn it on so I know she is not in the dryer. She is a sneaky one and one of the most mischievous and curious cats I have ever encountered! When I first got her, I was putting away groceries in the fridge, shut the fridge door then wondered where she went off to. Something told me to check the fridge and sure enough, there she was on the bottom shelf of the fridge. It was a good thing I am up in her business and realized she had left. I am not sure how she even went in there! She is a ninja and makes no sounds and she was a tiny kitten so she was quite small at the time. Luckily she was only in there like 20 seconds before I found her. Some cats are just crazy like mine and so you just have to think ahead of the situation as I have now learned to do. It’s like having a child. A small, fur child.

  • Larry.c says:

    Re: clothes dryer deaths: I do not understand ? Clothes go from washer to dryer, dryer door is closed and dryer is turned on. You are standing there 100% of the time. It is a beloved part of your life. So which is it are you : blind, deaf, lazy or stupid and willing to suffer the pain of this loss ? WITH CATS: take NOTHING for granted, make NO ASSUMPTIONS ! Make NO EXCEPTIONS ! The consequences are to great. The pain is forever !!! I know…

  • Ron Salvo says:

    My kitten climbed into the clothes dryer and died.This happened four
    months ago and I am heart broken. My wife blames herself but I keep
    telling her it was a terrible accident.It has been very hard on us.
    We will never forget our precious baby.I just hope things get easier as time passes.

  • BrightEyes says:

    My ex boyfriend and I have 1 cat and 3 kittens. We’re absolutely in LOVE with them and to us they really are like our children. I don’t know what we would do if something terrible happened to any of them but thank you for bringing awareness to this. Some things may seem simple and harmless but who’s to say it won’t turn deadly within a few moments.

  • Chelsea says:

    OH NO, my cats love to play with the ribbon on presents and elastic bands. I think they keep a stache of them somewhere. WHAT DO I DO, my cat has vomited up an elastic before, and my parents have found bits of elastic in their poop ones or twice. I NEED TO MAKE A HOUSE CLEAN UP PRONTO :'( anyone else have this problem?

  • Ang3lc says:

    Holy BEEP; that is so scary. I could never imagine this happening to my cat. Poor Charlotte. 🙁 Sorry for your loss.

  • Karen says:

    I am so sorry to hear about Charlotte. I have a dear friend who also lost a cat that had climbed into the clothes dryer. I have mini-blinds in my home and I have to keep the strings tied way up high. One day I heard a commotion in the bathroom and ran in to find one of our cats hanging with the string wrapped tightly around her neck. It was so tight and she was so freaked out, I had to hold her and calm her down before I could even attempt to get it off. Thank goodness I was home that day. I also have to tie up drapery cords. You really can’t teach them to leave them alone. They want to play with anything that dangles.

    I also know someone that lost a kitten when it got crushed in the mechanism of the recliner chair. This is something you might not think about. Her children were devastated. I try to be aware of where my cats are all of the time. Years ago, one of them spent the day in the bedroom closet for about 10 hours until I got home from work. Every time I open a door where they’re normally not allowed, they make a mad dash to get in. A couple of times I didn’t see them, so they got to check things out until I realized they were missing. I also have had a problem with rubber bands. They are just fascinated with them. Christmas tree tinsel is also dangerous if they eat it. I quit using it after I started finding it in the litter box.

    Luckily for me, I haven’t lost one yet, and my oldest one is 16 years old.

  • SweetDee says:

    I have always been wary of my kitties getting shut in the dryer (since my Harvey likes to cuddle up with warm, freshly dried clothes). I am so sorry about your Charlotte…that must have been truly devastating, and my heart breaks for you and your mom. Thank you for turning something tragic into a helpful guide for pet parents.

    So, you know those things that attach to the inside of a cabinet door to store aluminum foil, plastic wrap, etc? Don’t put your cat treats in that cabinet. Here’s why. I used to store Harvey’s treats in the cabinet under the sink, the same one with said storage device. One day, I heard this horrible screech coming from the kitchen, where I found Harvey with his little leg bent and awkwardly tangled in the wire wrap wrack. He had been after his treats, pawed open the door, and had slipped his foot into the wrack, forcing the wire to bend onto his leg somehow. I just thank goodness that I was home and owned pliers at the time, because there was no way he could have freed himself. Just another one of those things you would never think about!

  • Friday_Loki says:

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your cat, Charlotte. So many of us never think of the dangers cats can face inside the house. My cat, Valentine, also an all black cat, has a habit of eating and ingesting plastic. We have to be very careful to keep all plastic out of her reach.

  • Wendy says:

    I’m very sorry to hear about Charlotte. I actually had to take my kitty to the hospital a few days ago b/c she wasnt’ eating (which is extremely unusual for cat’s to change their eating habits). She swallowed something inedible and required surgery. I am very saddened by this and often blame myself, but I’m glad I listened to the signs she gave me and didn’t hesitate to go to the vet. I will definitely be more careful of what I leave out. Unfortunately, she previously ate a hair tie and needed to have that pulled out. I dont’ leave anything like that lying around anymore. This time she chewed off the leather strap attached to a zipper and ate it! AHHH!! I will be extremely careful from now on. Apparently cats who eat weird objects will continue to do so…so I just need to keep everything away and keep a better eye on her. I love my cat and dont’ want to go through this again. I hope everyone’s cats are great!

  • Monique says:

    Another thing is, if you have window blinds in your home, they usually have those strings on the one side and one of them makes a loop, right? My kitty was sitting on the windowsill one time when he was still a kitten, playing with these strings hanging down, but somehow i think he fell off the window sill and i caught him hanging by the neck on the loop of the blind’s string – luckily i was in the room with him so i noticed it immediately. So remember to lift up those strings and tuck them away on top of the blinds where kitty can’t get hold of them!

  • melissam says:

    Great advice sorry for to hear about charlotte’s tragic accident it is always hard to loose a pet especially when it’s unexpected and before their time.

  • Leo says:

    Poor Charlotte, rip.

    Well now that I’m reading this I realized my cat is too stupid or too clever to hurt herself. She’s now 7 years old and she never had ANYTHING (well, except when she had a fight or something but that wasn’t too bad). I’m very happy about that fact.

  • Tia says:

    so true.. also windows which are open from above… sometimes their curiosity leads them to climb up there and if they should get stuck, they may break their neck:( then they die or become paralyzed:( so- be careful with windows…

  • Katie says:

    Thank you for your advice. I have two cats, one VERY curious and always getting into things. She loves to eat my ponytail holders, rubber bands, anything like that. I am always on the lookout for hazards as well. I’m very sad to hear about your kitty Charlotte. I can’t imagine how devastating that was to your family. Thanks again for the great article!