Posted on: June 24th, 2016 by Dr. Dale Rubenstein

Tips for cats chewing electric cords

It may not sound appealing to you or I, but to your kitten, a loose or dangling electric cord is a fun and exciting toy to play with. Chewing on toys is part of the action for young cats, but cats chewing electric cords is not something we want to encourage!

Buffy’s Story…
Buffy is my son’s roommate’s cat. I worried about a young cat with three college undergraduates in an apartment, but when you’ve been raised listening to: How many litter boxes do you have? How often do you clean the litter boxes? What are you feeding the cat? When was your cat’s annual exam? – I know that Buffy has gotten excellent care. And, with different schedules of the students, Buffy probably sees her human housemates more than some of us more “mature” folks see our own cats.

But, Buffy thought the best toys in the world were electric cords. And, in the modern world of phone chargers and computer cables, this quickly became a very expensive, not to mention potentially very dangerous, habit.

What are the signs of electric cord injury?
Most commonly seen in young kittens under 2 years old, injury from chewing on electric cords usually causes burns to the mouth and surrounding areas. If you didn’t observe your kitten while it was chewing, but notice sores in or around your young cat’s mouth, drooling, or reluctance to eat, it could be from electric cord damage. Occasionally, more serious consequences can result, such as heart and lung damage. Evidence of a more serious problem could include coughing or difficulty breathing. Mild or severe, you definitely need to seek veterinary attention if you notice any of these signs.

So how can I stop my cat from chewing on electric cords?
Most of the time, we see our kitties chewing the cords before any damage is done to the cat (although not always before the cord has to be replaced!). How can we stop them from chewing?

The solution in this case turned out to be “Bitter Apple”, which is a bitter but non-toxic spray sold in pet stores. After tasting this a couple of times, the problem was solved (although re-applications were needed, and they had to make sure all cords, especially anything new, was also treated).

Some other solutions I read about:

  • Encase the cord in plastic wire wraps (i.e. from Home Depot). Just make sure the wrap covers the entire cord and that the cat doesn’t like the taste of the covering. There are specific cord covers made for protecting pets that are infused with a taste pets shouldn’t like.
  • Rub the cable wires with Irish Spring soap. dish soap, citrus oil, hot sauce, or sports liniment. Any of these may work like the Bitter Apple and the cat won’t like the taste. They do like salty things, so don’t use anything with a high salt content.
  • Tie up excess cord lengths with velcro cord ties (available from office supply or hardware stores). Attaching dangling cords to table legs or the wall reduces their attraction.
  • Use plastic cord management covers. These are good for covering the cords completely where they run along a wall or across the floor.
  • Wrap cords with double-sided tape. Cats do not like the stickiness of the tape, so they wouldn’t want to play with it.

Sadly, Buffy and her dad are relocating after graduation, but my son still has visiting privileges! And fortunately, her owner hasn’t had to keep replacing his computer and phone cords.