Living with cats in a responsible way


The human/feline relationship

Nine lives - really?

Do I have to vaccinate my cat?

Indoors or outdoors?

Sources of danger in the house

Cat = loner?

She's gotta have kittens once?

Litter box problems

Cats need to be punished?

Milk - the one and only drink for cats?

Human/feline communication

From a cat's point of view

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Sources of dangers in the house

In the chapter Indoors or outdoors?, you can read how much safer it is for a cat to be kept inside the house. But even inside, there are still many sources of danger and you have to follow some rules to make the life safe for your cat. Especially young cats are very curious and they're often getting into trouble since they do not have the experience to recognize a dangerous situation when they are facing it. So when a cat moves in, it's recommended to look at each room from the cat's perspective. Just try to imagine what would attract your interest if you were a tiny, playful kitten! I can assure you that my place has become a very tidy one since cats started to live here ...

List of the most common sources of danger in the house

Bottom hung windows

This is one of the biggest dangers for indoor cats! They may try to crawl through the gap and get stuck. Internal injuries, paralysis and death may be the result. For that reason, a cat should never be left alone in a room with those windows tilted!

In pet stores, you can buy window guards to be put into the gap, they will prevent the cat from getting stuck.

Open windows, unprotected balconies

Almost every cat will enjoy sitting in an open window or climbing the railing of a balcony, but this is a very dangerous adventure. A bird flying by, or a sound that startles the cat may cause a loss of balance, and the cat falls down. Depending on the height, severe injuries, shock or death may be the consequence. But even if the cat survives without any injuries, there may still be the risk of the confused and shocked cat running away from its human, especially when it's an indoor cat that has never seen the outdoors before.

To prevent a situation like this, no cat should be allowed to sit in an open window, or have access to an unprotected balcony. To make the environment safe for cats, there are nettings available for windows and balconies, but you should get your landlord's permission before you install such a net.

Open toilet lid, bath tub

Especially with a kitten around you should make sure that the toilet lid is always closed! But even with adult cats, you should still be careful. Open toilets are very attractive to many cats. They would walk on the edge, play with the water and drink from the bowl. When the cat slips and falls into the toilet bowl, it's difficult to find a hold on the smooth surface to climb out. Especially small cats are at risk to slip into the pipe and drown.

When you have a kitten, you should never use the flush as long as the lid is opened. A kitten is full of crazy ideas, and it might jump or fall into the bowl just the very moment you use the flush ...

Also, cats shouldn't be left alone with bath tubs filled with water. It's true that they can swim, but the cat may have problems to climb out due to the slippery surface, and might drown.

Hot cooking plates

You will most likely try to teach your cat not to jump onto the kitchen counter or stove - but your attempts may not always be successful! So it happens that cats burn their paws by stepping onto hot cooking plates. There's also a risk of burning their noses when they sniff a hot pot. The safest solution would be to declare the kitchen as a restricted area for the feline kind as long as you're cooking. If this is not possible, the stove should always be supervised as long as it's hot.

To protect kitty's paws, you can place a pot with cold water on a plate after use.

Candles, open fire

Candle light and open fire are very dangerous for cats. One of mine used to sniff the flame of a candle and her whiskers got burned, and I have heard about a cat that almost set the apartment on fire because the tail was in flames after passing a candle, so the kitty in distress ran under the bed where the flames luckily died. Open fire should always be supervised when cats are around.

Toxic plants

Many people do believe that cats know instinctively which plants they can eat and which are toxic but unfortunately, this is not the case! Especially indoor cats lose this instict, and they will chew on every plant they can reach. But this is a dangerous adventure! Poisonings caused by plants do happen, and depending on the toxicity of the plant various symptoms may occur: diarrhea, vomiting, paralysis and death.

Highly toxic are:
  • Amaryllis
  • Azalea
  • Cyclamen
  • Daffodils
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Hyacinth
  • Ivy
  • Lilies of all kinds
  • Lily of the valley
  • Poinsettia
  • Rubber plant

In this regard, I recommend the Toxic Plants Data Base of the University of Zurich which is one of the most detailed ones on the net.

Besides, there's also a high risk coming from floral bouquets. Even if the flowers themselves are non-toxic, they may have been treated with conserving chemicals. Another danger comes from the water in the vase or the flower pot coaster as it may contain fertilizer or chemicals. Better place questionable flower arrangements out of reach for cats, or refrain from getting them.

By the way, you should offer your cats some pots with cat grass, it's non-toxic and safe for them to chew on.

Cleaning agents, meds, chemical products and tobacco

When there are cats (or kids) in your household, cleaning agents, meds, chemicals and tobacco should always be kept in a locked up cabinet. Even if cats don't lick up these substances themselves, they may soil their fur and may be licked up from there. To prevent poisonings, these things should always be kept out of reach.

In this regard, I would especially like to give warning of Minoxidil, a substance in hair restorers such as Rogaine. It is extremely dangerous for cats as their systems are lacking the enzyme to deal with that substance. There is proof that cats being in direct contact with Minoxidil or being treated with it have died painfully. But in discussion boards and social networks you can also find warnings by cat owners who have lost their cats only after they had slept on the pillow of a person who treated his scalp with Minoxidil. In my opinion, you should be extremely careful with Minoxidil when there are cats around; personally, I would refrain from using it for my cats' safety.

Tea Tree Oil

In the past years there have been warnings regarding tea tree oil. It has been reported that cats have died from tea tree oil poisoning. Even inhaling the vapors can be very dangerous.

Symptoms of tea tree oil poisoning are: staggering, loss of weight, tremor, restlessness, weakness, and even coma or death.

As a cat owner, you shouldn't use tea tree oil at all, and you should also check the ingredients of your cosmetics. Also, you should refrain from using essential oils for air refreshing or aroma therapy.

In no way you should use tea tree oil as a flea treatment for cats (which has been done in the past and cost several cats their lives), or use it as an educational method to prevent spraying!


Many people do not know that eating chocolate can be fatal for cats (and dogs). Chocolate contains theobromin and caffein, and these ingredients can cause heart failure. Since many cats love chocolate, you should make sure that it is stored out of reach.

Yarn, threads and ribbons

Cats are often portrayed playing with a ball of wool. Unfortunately, this is a questionable toy since many cats have the bad habit of swallowing the yarn. It happened to me that I had to pull about one metre of yarn out of one my cats which has been a dangerous measure as it may have caused injuries of the throat, esophagus, stomach and intestines, but I had no other choice.

Swallowing long threads such as wool or yarn is a severe choking hazard. Even shorter ones are not harmless as they can cause internal injuries or obstruction of the bowels. When this happens, surgery is immediately required, otherwise the cat will die a painful death. To protect your cat, always keep these things in a place the cat cannot reach.

Swallowable small parts

Unfortunately, many cats love to chew on small objects, such as pins, rubber bands etc. These things can be swallowed and cause internal injuries and bowel obstruction, so please put them away.


Some blinds have strings hanging down at their side to open and close them. Cats may get tangled in these strings and strangle themselves. Especially to young cats, these strings may be very attractive, so better be careful. To make my place safe for cats, I refrain from getting blinds like that.

Besides, all kinds of lose ribbons and threads are a potential danger to a young and unexperienced cat: my Lily almost strangled herself in her first year when she crawled into a lose edge of a blanket. When she noticed she was trapped, she turned herself around and around in panic and eventually the lose edge was twisted tightly around her chest. Luckily I heard her pitiful crying and was able to release her. I don't even want to imagine what would have happened if I wasn't at home!

Washing machines and tumble-dryers

These machines can become a deadly trap for cats! They love to climb into the opening and sleep inside, so you need to be extra careful when you're filling in your laundry. Check the inside of these machines before every use, or make sure the doors aren't open when cats are around.