Cat-proofing your home: A tutorial

When young parents bring home a newborn, they’ve had nine months to prepare for the blessed arrival. And as the child grows and becomes mobile, they have a chance to childproof things, so as to keep their budding prodigy and their home safe from one another.

But when you bring home a cat, kitten, or several, well, you better have prepared in the same manner as beachfront denizens prep for a hurricane. I’m including the whole plywood-over-the-windows thing here.

One of the most important things to remember is that cats, once they can move on their own, can get in places ninjas are afraid to venture. These creatures are flexible, possess no fear of heights, and have claws the military has expressed interest in.

They climb better than Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible” even with his window-hugging Spider-Man technology. So unlike your toddler, who can’t usually reach your priceless collection of Lalique crystal on that shelf six feet up, a cat will be playing floor hockey with the broken shards 15 seconds after spotting it on his or her first foray through the house.

You see, cats have a sort of sixth sense for anything that has a monetary or sentimental value. Their desire to play with, smash, hide, or destroy said object is in direct proportion to its value.

Thus, if you do have such objects in your life, you have two choices: Lock them in a large safe with a Doberman stationed out front or pretend you don’t care about them. However, this odd psychic trick of the felines would suggest going for the safe. Do you really want to have to lift up the stove or the fridge to retrieve Grandma’s prized Hummel? And then you still have to glue it back together.

If you’re one of those people who have furry or soft pieces of furniture, please cover them in a nice, soft Kevlar and steel mesh sheet. If not, prepare to see them turned into shredded wrecks that resemble a fleeing gazelle after the lions are done with lunch.

Yup, stuffing covers the floor like entrails, and springs and internal parts will be exposed. At the very least, you’ll be able to make a scientific study of the relative strength of velour versus polyester. Seriously, order a Kevlar couch.

Do you, perchance, have some lovely houseplants? Hide them. Now. Better yet, get them into witness protection before the cats get to them.

I had a lovely little bromeliad (air plant) that I’d been raising for several years. It was thriving, green, strong, almost ready to head off to college. I was so proud. Then, about 15 minutes after the cats noticed it, I found a few stray fronds on the kitchen floor. It was gone, eaten, and the cat in question looked very happy and wondered if I had anymore such snacks lying about.

Our 75-year-old jade plant, appropriately named Grandma Jade, provided a wonderful jungle-gym type of experience for two of the beasts. Thankfully, they were small at the time.

Had senior demolitions expert, Lemon, and all his 16 pounds of feline glory tried to scale Grandma, I shudder to imagine the consequences. She and her foliage friends now reside securely locked in a spare bedroom and, ironically, they seem to be thriving.

I go in weekly to water them and there’s always at least one cat or another eyeing the door hungrily as I carefully slip in and out. They can smell all that soil and photosynthesis; I just know it. Thankfully they haven’t figured out how to open the door. Yet. I am wondering about why Sylvie has been dragging around a set of blueprints for the house and eyeing my circular saw though.

Most cats are well trained in the area of the litter box quite early. And cats that like to go outdoors will find natural spots to take care of business out in the flowerbeds, gardens, or woods.

But if you have a semi- or unfinished basement like we do, then that constitutes a very large indoor litter box. Thus, you have to make sure never to leave such a room open unless you relish the idea of sifting through hundreds of square feet of dry old dirt in search of cat presents.

If you have a special-purpose room that is devoted to a delicate, expensive, or complex endeavor such as model trains, model building, fabric arts, jigsaw puzzles, pottery-making, or other such things, put up a barbed-wire fence just to be safe. Cats see such landscapes as giant Toys R Us stores open just for their entertainment.

Nothing is as much fun as knocking over a carefully constructed remote-control plane or pooping in the canyon that you carefully constructed on the model railroad’s back 40 over a six-month period. I hope you’re getting the idea.

Finally, it’s a good idea to keep your cats well supplied with a safe, interesting, and constantly changing collection of actual engineered cat toys. Cat hotels, scratching posts, balls, laser pointers (they really do chase the little red light), furry things on strings, balls of yarn, or remote-control mice are all possibilities.

While cat toys will never quite replace your favorite breakable items in a cat’s way of thinking, they do help. Oh, and an empty cardboard box is always a huge hit. It’s like those kids that play with the box and not the gift at the holidays. Only with cats, you can just go straight to the box and skip the gift.

So there you have it. Hide the plants, lock up the valuables, cordon off the hobby rooms, and put up the barbed wire. You’re cat caregivers now (don’t use the word “owner”; it upsets them). May your deity of choice have mercy on your home.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he is fighting a losing battle with the four furry terrorists, but at least the plants are safe. So far.