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Norwich Bulletin - 5/15/2005

House Dangers

When you have children and animals, accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. No matter how careful you are, little critters are so fast, by the time you get to them, the injury has occurred.

My fawn Abyssinian, Dray, loves to steal food from wherever and however he can. He has been like this since he was a kitten. When he was eight months old, he jumped up onto our stove and grabbed a hot meatball out of boiling sauce, ran downstairs and wolfed it down. The result of this thievery almost cost him his life as he developed aspirated pneumonia and spent two weeks in intensive care. His larynx is permanently damaged from the burns - an unexpected and hard to avoid accident. We were lucky though - because Dray did not die. Some accidents have a much sadder ending to them.

Cats and dogs are curious, playful and not always exceptionally smart. There are many everyday items that can cause injury and death to our four legged creatures. Here are some common causes to be on the lookout for.

String, rubber bands and yarn can all be chewed and swallowed, damaging stomach and intestines. Beads and bells, oftentimes put on cute little cat and dog toys, can be swallowed and choke a cat or small dog. Shopping bags with plastic handles (as well as the plastic that goes around soda cans to form a six pack), are not a good idea as the handles can get caught around a cat's throat, and plastic covers from the dry cleaners can smother a cat or dog that gets entangled.

Plants are dangerous to most small creatures. Philodendrons, poinsettias, asparagus fern, ivies and dieffenbachia are all poisonous. Even mums and lilies can upset the digestive systems of four footed friends.

Also poisonous to your pets, are every day house chemicals. Oven cleaner, insecticides, bleaches and disinfectant sprays, can all cause severe illness, or possibly death. And, of course, antifreeze is almost a sure fatality for your pet. The lead in paint affects your animals the same way it affects humans, and they can get sick just by inhaling the paint fumes.

Bathrooms offer a treasure trove of accidents for cats and dogs. Pill bottles are a delight to bat around if you are a curious kitten, and if they should open, the pills could be ingested. Lipstick tubes and makeup containers, and breakable medicine bottles are all potential dangers. And many kittens have lost their life by being too curious about an open toilet bowl!

We have had tragedies in our adoptive homes and one of the saddest was an electrocution of a beloved year old American Shorthair kitty. This kitty loved electric cords and, unfortunately, one day picked one that had wiring exposed and he was killed. Most of the time kittens and puppies are shocked or burned, but this time it resulted in death. I would apply pepper sauce, ginger or bitter apple to my cords if I had a pet who tended to like to chew on cords.

Flea collars (and collars in general) can be hazardous since it can catch on things that the cat runs or jumps past. There have also been many cases of the flea collar not fitting properly and getting caught in the cat's mouth. If the cat then chews on the collar, it will ingest the poison. Also extremely dangerous is when the collar stretches and ends up under a leg and the neck. In order to protect your cat against hanging or choking itself, try getting the breakaway collars. Just remember they are not fool proof either.

Cats love to hide in nooks and crannies and can easily be shut up in closets, drawers, suitcases, attics and crawl spaces. No space is too small or uninviting that you can be sure a cat won't decide its perfect for a personal hiding space. I have had cats jump into my linen closet many times and have to be sure that when I close the door, no one is hiding away for a nap. There have been cats who have met their end inside a whirling dryer. You should always remember to close all doors of appliances in order to avoid these types of accidents.

While it is virtually impossible to keep track of a cat all the time, you should make sure you know where your pet is whenever you leave the house. This way you can be sure that kitty (or puppy) will be there waiting for you upon your return.

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