My family have recently gotten a couple of 9 week old kittens (rag dolls). My partner and I disagree what is appropriate environmentally, and neither of us has had a cat before.

One of us seeks to limit the space they are in to a bathroom and passage for the foreseeable future, insists on fully cleaning every surface at least daily, and ensuring people wash their hands before touching the kittens.

The other thinks this is overkill. While it is agreed that the environment should be reasonably clean, their thinking is along the lines that an enviroment that is clean enough for people to live in (and reasonably clean in general) is adequate, and tends to the belief - extrapolated from belief about humans - that an environment which is too sterile may actually be bad for the kittens because it does not stimulate their immune systems.

It is likely that this disconnect will extend as the kittens are given more freedom within the house. A related question is to what level does the house need to be cat proofed (for the welfare of the cats, not the furniture) - eg is it necessary to remove indoor plants like bamboo, and ensure that fruit and vegetables are enclosed such that the cat can't get to them etc.

My question in summary - Other then cat specific needs like litterboxes, food, water, scratch-posts/cat trees, toys etc - What accommodations reasonably should be made for kittens/cats living in a typical house to ensure the environment is safe and appropriate.

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Wild and feral cats are born into an environment that is full of dirt and bacteria, and occasionally parasites and other pathogens. The cat mother's milk provides them with the immune system they need to survive this common amount of pathogens. At 8 weeks of age they are developed enough to no longer need the mother's support.

There is no need at all to wash your hand before touching them or cleaning their environment (apart from the litter box, of course). The only thing they should definitely have is their initial vaccinations (several shots a few weeks apart. Please ask your local vet for details) because some infections can be lethal to kittens.

Experiments with rats proved that animals - like humans - can suffer from allergies and asthma when they live in a sterile environment, especially early in their life. And some cleaning products - especially those with essential oils or musk scent - can leave a thin film of chemicals on surfaces that the cats do absorb via the skin on their paws. This can actually slowly poison them.

Cat proofing

As mentioned above, avoid any essential oils in things like air refresheners, cleaning, wellness and beauty products where cats can reach. This includes the surfaces the cats walk over or any creams you use before petting them.

A quick online search will yield a list of common household plants that are poisonous to cats. It's usually enough to keep those plants out of easy reach. At least the cats I know never go out of their way to nibble on any greenery, but if yours do, you might have to remove the potentially dangerous plants.

The same applies to fruit and vegetables. Many are harmless, but some common ingredients in human food, like citrus, avocado, garlic and onions are poisonous to cats. Simply keep those out of reach.

If your kittens are exclusively indoors, they should have access to a small flower pot of common grass to aid their digestion. Not having access to grass can lead them to eat potted plants as a substitute. You may occasionally find vomit including some grass. This is completely healthy and natural and exactly what the grass is for: cleaning hairballs out of the stomach.

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