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Cats & Cords: Why Cats Chew Electrical Cords & How to Stop the Behavior

Cat Playing with Electrical Cord

Squirrels and rodents aren’t the only ones who chew wires. Some cats have the gnawing habit too! 

Let’s take a look at why some cats chew electrical cords and what you can do to keep your kitties – and your wires – safe.

Remember, talk with your vet about any strange behavior. Chewing odd objects can be a sign of a nutrient deficiency, and you want to rule that out first.

Why Are Cords So Delicious?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one definitive answer to the question of why cats and kittens chew on electrical cords. Below are some of the possibilities:

  1. Sensory – Most wires are coated in plastic, meaning there could be a feel, smell or taste that cats like. The rubbery feeling against their gums could be appealing, as well as the temperature of the plastic.

    Scientists also believe cats can distinguish scents much better than humans and even dogs. Although we don’t notice an odor around our cords, cats may smell something they enjoy.

    Lastly, there could a component in the coating that they want to taste. For instance, plastic bags are sometimes coated in corn starch and photos in gelatin, causing some cats to chew or lick them.

    Many plastics are also treated with a fatty acid found in animal and vegetable fat, which could draw your cat.

  2. Habit (and possibly OCD) – Like biting your nails, it could be a situation where once they start, they can’t stop, and it becomes a habit. Also, a cat that has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may overgroom and chew on or eat inedible objects.

  3. Play – It’s no secret cats like stringy things, and cords look a lot like other toys they play with. Although chewing is more often associated with dogs, cats sometimes develop a fondness for chewing during playtime (one of mine does it with feathers).

  4. Boredom – Just like us, cats do a lot of non-productive things when they’re bored. While we may eat even though we’re not hungry or scroll endlessly through social media, it’s possible cats chew wires when they have nothing better to do.

Tricks to Get Cats to Stop Chewing on Cords

 Here are some tricks to get cats (and kittens) to stop going for cords.

Hide wires using cord covers or PVC tubing

Cord covers are designed to hide wires for aesthetics and safety reasons. Use them to hide all visible wires. You can also hide wires with PVC tubing. 

Coat cords with smells cats don’t like:

  • While you’ll find more anti-chew sprays for dogs, you can still use them for cats, especially if they include a citrus element.  Cats don’t like citrus (put a freshly cut orange in front of them and they’ll often pull their head into their body like a turtle withdrawing into its shell).

  • Not down with a lemon smell? Opt for coating the cords menthol substance – like Vicks VapoRub – because cats don’t enjoy menthol. 

Distract with playtime

As soon as you see your cat going for a cord, distract them with a toy. This will especially help if the cat is chewing out of boredom. Playtime will redirect energy to something productive and safe. The best type of toy for this is a wand or teaser toy, so it looks similar to the cord, but the motion will attract the cat to the toy instead of the cord. 

Use clicker training

You can teach a cat new tricks! Clicker training is the use of a clicker to get an animal to perform the desired action. If your cat is treat-motivated, clicker training is surprisingly easy. To start, click the clicker and give the cat a treat.

After doing it a few times, you can expand the training to teach your cat to sit or even high five. How does this help with cord chewing? It’s another way to drain a cat’s energy and activate his brain, which discourages unappealing behavior. 

Start Early

The most important way to get cats to stop chewing on cords is to stop them before the habit is fully developed. It’s crucial to curb this behavior ASAP. Although it’s frustrating if you have a kitten doing it, act right away. Just like in people, adjusting habits and behaviors is easier at a younger age.

Also, chewing on other types of cords (like window blinds) could lead to chewing on electrical cords. Make sure you also address this behavior to prevent it from escalating to electrical cords.

Although it’s annoying and frustrating, you can stop kitties from chewing electrical cords. And don’t forget – don’t yell at your cat and always use positive reinforcement to properly solidify new behaviors.



Sources:

Canidae - How the 5 Senses Differ Between Cats and Dogs
The Spruce Pets - How to Stop Your Cat From Chewing on Electrical Cords
Canidae - Why Do Cats Lick Plastic
Pet Health Network - Why Does My Cat Chew Electrical Cords?

Article by Elizabeth Ann 🙋‍♀️
Cat Behavior & Fostering Specialist