Cat Chew Cords – Why Cats Do This And How To Prevent It
We’ve all heard that saying: “Curiosity killed the cat.”
Sadly, when it comes to cats chewing on cords, this old cliché can ring far too true.
As a pet owner, one of your most important responsibilities is to protect your feline companion from preventable illness and injury. Your cat chewing wires is one of the most dangerous (and yes, preventable) habits that must be avoided at all costs.
Accidents do happen, of course. But by understanding why your cat is chewing on cords, and taking the simple yet necessary steps to prevent this behavior, you can greatly reduce your cat’s risk of injury.
- Why Does My Cat Chew Cords?
- How to Stop Cats from Chewing on Cords
Why Does My Cat Chew Cords?
Cats love to chew on things. For kittens especially, chewing is developmentally appropriate behavior. Like babies and even puppies, kittens explore and learn about their world largely through their mouths.
But why does your kitten or cat chew cords in particular? After all, electrical wires don’t look too appealing.
That is, at least not to adult humans.
Besides your feline’s developmental period and curiosity, experts report a few reasons to explain a cat chewing on cords:
Dental Health Problems
When kittens are growing, their mouth and gums can be achy and uncomfortable as their new teeth come in and their baby teeth fall out. Because of this, young kittens often seek out things to chew as a way to quell the discomfort. It’s normal behavior, and, provided they are given something kitty-safe to chew on under your supervision, it’s actually okay for them to do.
But adult kittens may chew because of pain and discomfort in their mouth, as well. They may have periodontal disease (gum disease), tooth abscess (infection), loose or broken teeth, or any other dental health issue. Chewing on cords may be your cat’s way to try to relieve the pain.
Nutrient Poor or Nutrient Deficient Diet
In some cases, cats will chew on things because they are not getting enough nutrients from the food they eat.
For example, an insufficient amount of vitamins, minerals, protein, and other nutrients can increase your cat’s risk of dental problems. This may contribute to a dental health issue, as discussed above.
A nutrient deficient diet may also impair your cat’s physical, cognitive, and immune health, all of which may trigger chewing behaviors.
Yes, cats can get bored. If your feline friend isn’t given enough mentally stimulating activities as well as playtime and exercise, she may decide to chew on things around the house (including electrical wires) as a way to relieve her boredom and pent-up energy.
What are the Dangers of Cats Chewing on Wires & Cords?
Cats chewing on wires is a seriously dangerous situation for a few reasons.
The biggest risk of this bad behavior is electrocution. Your cat’s teeth are sharp. She could easily tear through the protective rubber coating around an electrical cord and accidentally electrocute herself.
An electrical cord bite injury can come with several signs and symptoms. These include:
- Burns in or around your cat’s mouth
- Difficulty breathing or abnormally fast breathing
- Fluid build up in the lungs (your vet may hear “rales” or crackling sounds when listening to her lungs via a stethoscope)
- The need to stay upright to breathe (orthopnea)
- A bluish hue to the skin (cyanosis, or a sign of poor circulation)
If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat (especially if you just found her chewing on an electrical wire!) then you need to call your vet immediately. An electrical cord bite injury should be considered a medical emergency. Seizures, organ damage, infections (from burn wounds), and even death may occur if these injuries are left untreated.
Your vet can confirm a diagnosis of an electrical cord bite injury by thoroughly assessing your cat and asking you questions about her health history. The vet may use lab work, imaging tests, and a physical examination to rule out any other health problems that could be causing her symptoms.
Treatment will depend on the extent of your cat’s injuries, but may include topical and oral medications and IV fluids.
Aside from accidental electrocution, your cat can easily get a piece of wire or rubber stuck in her throat if she chews on electrical cords. This can lead to choking and death.
Your Cat Chewing On Cords is Dangerous for Her AND Your Whole Family
If your cat chews on electrical cords around your home, then her health is at risk as well as the health and safety of the rest of your family! Damaged electrical cords can cause accidental electrocution in any human or animal who comes in contact with them.
Damaged electrical cords can also lead to electrical short circuits and house fires.
So, if you discover that your cat has chewed part of an electrical cord, you should immediately turn off and unplug the device. For extra safety, you may need to turn off the circuit breaker that powers the outlet before unplugging the cord.
Then, either replace the cord or discard the appliance. Never leave damaged cords lying around your home.
How to Stop Cats from Chewing on Cords
It’s clear that cats chewing on electrical cords and wires is a serious danger to everyone in your home. Fortunately, it is largely preventable. Here are some of the best ways to deter your cat from using wires as a chew toy:
Cover the cords.
There are several ways to do this. You can hide the wires behind heavy furniture where your cat can’t reach. You can also buy rubber covers or PVC tubing to place over the cords. Some pet owners also use electrical tape to secure wires and keep them out of the way.
Lastly, you may also want to unplug, bind, and secure cords when an appliance isn’t in use. The ultimate goal here is to prevent your cat from getting access to the wires, whether these wires are from a TV, lamp, or any other household appliance.
Give them something less dangerous to chew on.
Talk to your vet about getting cat-safe chew toys and treats. These can satisfy your cat’s natural chewing instinct so that she’ll be less likely to seek out wires and cords.
To get your cat more interested in the toy, consider rubbing it in a little catnip first.
Spray the cord with Bitter Apple spray.
Putting bitter apple spray, hot sauce, or even some sort of citrus scent on electrical cords may help deter your cat from chewing on them. Cats don’t like these tastes and smells.
Approach this technique with caution, however. You want to be careful that you do not put too much substance on the cord.
Provide a more enriching environment for your cat.
In addition to providing vet-approved toys, be sure you are playing with your cat daily. Play in a way that mimics “the hunt” for prey.
Take your cat to the vet for a check-up.
Finally, if you notice your cat frequently trying to chew on electrical cords, you should call your vet. He or she can assess your feline’s dental health and go over her food to ensure she’s getting the right nutrition.
Sometimes, simply improving the overall health of your kitty is enough to get her to stop the bad behavior. And stop it you must–electrical cords and cats just don’t mix.
- Feline Behavior Problems: Destructive Behavior Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
- Feline destructive behaviors: keep your cat (and your home) safe University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine
- Why Do Cats Chew on Things? on PetMD.com
- Electrical Injuries Lisa A. Foris, St. George’s University; Martin R. Huecker, University of Louisville.
- Interactive Play Therapy for Cats on catbehaviorassociates.com