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7 Reasons Why Cats Chew Electrical Cords (& how to stop it)

ginger cat biting an electrical cord

Cats have a lot of strange behaviors, but one of the weirdest behaviors we experienced from some of our cats is their desire to chew electrical cords and other wires. This action can give the cat a nice shock that may be life-threatening. It also damages the wire and might leave the inside of the cable exposed, and other people might get shocked. If you have a cat that does this and would like to know more about why it’s doing it, keep reading while we look at several explanations as well as some steps you can take to stop it.

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Reasons Cats Chew Electrical Cords

1. Natural Instinct

Biting and chewing is one of the ways that your cat explores the environment. You’ve likely noticed your cat biting and chewing on several other things besides wires, including you. Kittens especially will chew on just about anything. Luckily, most cats will stop chewing on wires and other items as they get older and find different ways to explore.

red tabby kitten sitting on computer system unit playing with electrical cord
Image Credit: Konstantin Aksenov, Shutterstock

2. Cleaning Its Teeth

Your cat may also be following an instinct to clean its teeth. Cats in captivity have a high rate of dental decay, and studies suggest that between 50% and 90% of cats over four years old suffer from some form of dental problem. Biting into items around the home like cardboard can help scrub away tarter, slowing the progression of these dental problems. Wires would also be useful for this task as they would act as natural floss.


3. It’s Bored

Your cat doesn’t have nearly as much to do in captivity as it does in the wild, where it will need to mark and defend its territory and hunt nonstop for food. Even though your cat can sleep up to 16 hours each day without any tasks to accomplish, it can get frustrated looking for things to do and may resort to being destructive. Destructive behavior can manifest as chewing wires, tearing up the furniture and curtains, and even breaking house training.


4. Pica

Pica is an eating disorder characterized by the cat’s compulsion to eat things with no nutritional value. Pica can cause your cat to eat wires, as well as cardboard, carpet, paper, plastic, wood, and more. Pica is different from regular play chewing because the cat will grind the material on their back teeth. This action is addictive to cats, and they can begin seeking out items to chew. It’s more common in kittens, and some cats can outgrow it after a year or two.


5. Poor Diet

If your cat isn’t getting the nutrients it needs through its diet. Cats are carnivores that require a diet high in animal protein and low in plant-based carbohydrates. If your cat doesn’t get enough animal protein, it might start to eat wires and other items in an attempt to seek out those nutrients elsewhere and will begin to chew on various things, including wires, and wood.

black tabby kitten chews on the charger cable
Image Credit: Medvedev Dmitrii, Shutterstock

6. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Like humans, cats can suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which can result in your cat engaging in repetitive behavior, like chewing wires, for seemingly no reason. Pain-relieving chemicals the brain releases may reinforce the behavior and make it difficult to prevent.


7. Stress

Another reason your cat might be eating wires is that it is stressed out. Chewing items like wire and wood often occur when the cat is experiencing anxiety from a change in routine or a new pet added to the family. Stress can also lead to OCD and pica.

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How Can I Prevent My Cat from Chewing Wires?

Wait It Out

If your cat is still a kitten, there is a good chance that it is still getting used to its environment, and it will outgrow the chewing phase in a few months.

Check Its Diet

Even low-quality foods should provide adequate nutrition to prevent any deficiencies, so unless you’ve just rescued the cat, it’s not likely to be an issue. If you have a rescue, it might not have eaten properly for some time, and deficiencies can develop. These cats will require high-quality food with real meat like chicken or turkey listed as the first ingredient.

Stay Active

However, boredom is frequent in cats, so we recommend setting aside one or two 20-minute sessions each day to help your cat be more active and get rid of excess energy, which will help reduce boredom.

cat playing with owner
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

Reduce Stressors

We also recommend paying attention to any stressors that might be causing anxiety for your pet. Loud noises, other cats, barking dogs, aggressive children, and yelling are all examples of things that can cause your pet to start chewing on wires, and eliminating them can help you prevent it.

Aluminum Foil

Wrap your wires in aluminum foil. Cats don’t like aluminum foil and will usually avoid it, so wrapping your wires in it can be a great way to prevent your cats from chewing them. The downside to foil is that it can look unsightly on exposed wires.

Menthol

Coat your wires with menthol. Most cats don’t like menthol, so you can coat your wires in a substance like Vicks Vapor Rub, and your cat will stay away. In many cases, you won’t even need to coat the entire wire for it to work. Just a little on the ends should be enough to keep the cat away. The downside to this method is that since the smell is so strong, it might cause the cat to avoid a much larger area than intended. The Vicks will also collect dust and get quite dirty in time.

Wire Covers

Another popular, though more expensive solution is to use wire covers. Wire covers keep all of your wires contained, so they look neater, and they also provide a layer of protection against the cat. Unfortunately, they won’t do much to deter the cat from chewing on them, so you might need to replace them frequently.

Seek A Vets Help

If you think your cat might be suffering from OCD or Pica, we highly recommend making an appointment with your pet to have it looked at and to get the proper treatment. Your doctor might also have advice and medication to give you that will help improve your cat’s chances of overcoming it.

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Summary

Fortunately, most cats outgrow chewing on electrical cords as they become adults, but some will continue the behavior, and you will need to take more drastic measures. We’ve found that aluminum foil works best because it’s easier to clean up than menthol, and after a few weeks, the cats seem to forget about the wires, and we could remove it.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over our list, and it has helped answer your questions. If we have given you a few ideas to try, please share these seven reasons cats chew electrical cords and how you can stop it on Facebook and Twitter.


Featured Image Credit: e-leet, Shutterstock