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How to Stop a Cat From Chewing on Electrical Cords

Close up of a grey cat

Cats love to play with household items. Some of these are perfectly safe, while others, like plastic bags, venetian blind cords, curtains and rods and electrical cords, can be downright dangerous, both to you and to your cat. The younger the cat, the more playful they will be; and kittens, in particular, like to chew on things. Chewing on electrical cords can pose a choking hazard for your cat, potentially injuring or killing them from electrocution, and can damage your household appliances or even start a fire in your home. Here are a few tips to help you prevent your cat from chewing on electrical cords.

Why Is My Cat Chewing on Electrical Cords in the First Place?

There are a few common reasons that cats chew things. They include:

  • Chewing stimulates a cat’s teeth and gums and can provide a sense of comfort to them. A cat naturally gravitates towards electrical cords as they remind her of another animal’s tail. The cat’s predatory instinct drives her to attack the cord, as she would another cat’s (or its own) tail.
  • If a cat’s teeth or gums hurt, she might start gnawing on items around the house, such as electrical cords, to relieve the pain. Dental problems are common in cats. In fact, it’s estimated that from 50 to 90 percent of cats have some form of dental disease by the time they are four years old.
  • Cats may also chew electrical cords out of a sense of anxiety or obsessive- compulsive behavior. This may be the case if you also notice your cat engaging in anxious behaviors such as overgrooming, self-mutilation (especially towards its tail, biting it or chasing it excessively), and chewing or sucking on fabric around the house. Certain breeds of cats are more prone to obsessive-compulsive behavior than others. These include the Oriental-heritage breeds such as Oriental Shorthair, Burmese and Siamese cats.
  • If your cat is bored or is getting older, she might start chewing cords because they are close by and don’t require much movement around to house to find something to relieve the boredom. Cords are right there, in front of kitty, ripe for the chewing.

What Are Some Signs That My Cat Has Been Chewing Electrical Cords?

Besides finding chewed up or frayed electrical cords around your house, there are other signs to look for in your cat that point to chewing behavior. Your cat’s gums and mouth might sustain burns and sores from chewing the cords. If your cat refuses to eat or is drooling a lot, this could be a sign of mouth and gum problems. You might notice your cat coughing more or having difficulty breathing, as chewing cords can cause heart and lung damage in cats.  Immediately take your cat to the vet if you notice such serious symptoms.

How to Prevent Cats from Chewing on Cords

So now that you understand some of the reasons your cat might be gnawing on your electrical cords, what can you do to stop this unwanted behavior?

  • The first and most important thing that you as a cat owner should do is to have your cat examined by a veterinarian. Make sure there are no underlying medical issues, anxiety or dental problems that need to be addressed. This might also require drawing your cat’s blood to test it for things like hyperthyroidism. If there are any problems discovered, your vet can recommend solutions.
  • Make the cords difficult for the cat to chew. The best way to do this is to cover them with PVC pipes. Cords that run through PVC pipes are virtually impossible for cats to chew and destroy. If this isn’t possible in your home, make sure to tie together any extra cord lengths, using Velcro ties. Shortening cords and attaching them to furniture or the wall will help to divert your cat’s attention from them. Another potential solution is to use double-sided tape, which cats hate. Some cat owners have wrapped their electrical cords in this type of tape to prevent cats from chewing the cords.
  • Other cat owners have tried using deterrents, like putting hot sauce or a cat-friendly bitter apple spray on the cords, to make them less appealing to cats. Cats also dislike the scent of Irish Spring soap, so you can rub some of this on your cords to try to prevent your cat from chewing them. Cats abhor the smell of menthol, so you could also try smearing Vicks VapoRub on the electrical cords to keep kitty away from them.
  • You might also want to consider adding more fiber to your cat’s diet to prevent chewing outside of mealtimes. Giving your cat something to chew at mealtime might deter him or her from chewing other items (such as cords) around the house. Cat greens, catnip, and commercial cat foods that boast extra fiber or say that they help to prevent hairballs all have fiber in them and can help.
  • Give your kitty other, safe things to chew, like cardboard and chewy cat toys. Some cats like chewy dog toys. Make sure not to get ones that are too hard, though, as you don’t want to damage your cat’s gums or mouth.
  • If you think that your kitty’s chewing stems from anxiety, ask your veterinarian for potential solutions. There are herbal and prescription anxiety remedies on the market that can help to deter this type of chewing. Sometimes purchasing a simple cat pheromone spray can go a long way toward easing your cat’s anxiety and reducing its urge to chew.

When all else fails, consult your veterinarian. He or she will have much experience in cat behavior and could help to determine the cause of your cat’s chewing. This will usually lead to finding the right solution for your cat, and restoring its happy, safe home.

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