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hearkat's avatar

Bad Cat! Any suggestions to get him to stop chewing wires?

Asked by hearkat (21869 points ) 3 months ago

This was previously asked in 2008, so I think it’s OK to get a new take on this topic.

I’ve had dozens of cats over my lifetime (mostly females), and this has never been an issue. However, our newest kitty, Thor – a 3-year-old male tuxedo – chews through the charging cables for our laptops and mobile devices. We haven’t found any evidence of chewing on regular cords for lamps and such.

Our most recent cable purchase, I’ve sprayed with the stuff that is supposed to deter them from clawing the furniture; but I wondered if there are other techniques. The fact that these devices are moblile/portable means that we use them all over the house, so hiding the cables defeats that purpose.

I thought maybe I’d give him an old, already destroyed cable to chomp on – but he wouldn’t know the distinction. He had tons of toys all over the house, but he doesn’t really chew on those. I was wondering if anyone is aware of alternative chew toys for cats that could satisfy this urge?

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20 Answers

jerv's avatar

Some cats have a thing for certain plastics. Our dull human noses cannot smell the difference between yummy plastic and boring plastic though, and I would wager that the already chewed cable has lost it’s special flavor.

Most cats I’ve had that even had interest in toys loved those plastic pulltabs from milk jugs,though one cat preferred wood (specifically, one certain bookshelf) over all else. Real rabbit fur sometimes works, but never the “cruelty free” polyester substitute; cats are cruel.

syz's avatar

If he’s that persistent, you may need to use something like this.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

My old cat did this. I put habanero sauce on the wires it was interested in and it stopped messing with them.

hearkat's avatar

It hadn’t occurred to me that the composition of the wire’s coating might be attracting him. That’s interesting.

The older post referenced cable covers specifically for deterring pets, but in one reveiw I read that the smell was obnoxious and gave the humans a headache. I am sensitive to such fragrances. The “calming collar” I bought for our other cat when we brought Thor home gave me an immediate headache. We will probably have to get covers, but some of those are rather bulky. As noted in the details, I have sprayed the cables with kitty repellant.

He was a scrawny stray hiding under at stack of pallets at the warehose where my friend worked. He was skin-and-bones and his growth was stunted by it – the vet thought he was just 3 months old, but when we went back in 2 weeks and his weight had doubled and more teeth had come in, they said he was closer to 5 months. I am sure he was weaned too early and is likely to have an oral fixation for life.

His favorite toy was inspired by the milk jug ring, but I can’t find it in the pet stores anymore. He’ll play a little with the actual milk jug rings, but he doesn’t chew on them. He does chomp on the corner of my wooden headboard, and he will pull at the faux beaver fur of his cat condo.

Protecting the wires is one step, and that I pretty much know how to do. What I am hoping to learn is what safe alternatives I can offer him to satisfy his chewing urges / pica so he won’t move on to another forbidden household item.

syz's avatar

Ah. Ok, surprisingly enough, if you google “chewing toys for cats” you get things like this. You could also give him kitty grass. Does he respond to catnip (not every cat does)? You could try rubbing catnip on some of his toys.

Sometimes you just have to keep looking for that one perfect toy (I have a hand-raised cat that only plays with one particular toy – he fetches it – and he’s had it for 7 years. It’s incredibly ratty, but the closest replacements I can find are not acceptable to him.)

hearkat's avatar

He does like catnip, and we have it growing in the yard. He’ll lick the dried catnip off toys when I put it on them, but doesn’t chew. I did try one of thosemesh-covered chew toys – shaped like a pretzel – and the other cat would chew it, but he wouldn’t. The other cat also chews paper and cardboard, but he doesn’t. I guess it’ll be trial-and-error in finding him something he likes. I was hoping someone would have personal experience, as I’ve already been searching the web for options.

syz's avatar

Many orphaned and hand-raised kitties fill their oral fixation by sucking on various objects (blankets, rugs, a body part of their own, a body part of their chosen human). Mine sucks on his own left forearm while touching my 1) left shoulder or 2) right forearm. He’s oddly specific, and this happens at least several times a day. It could be worse – I have a friend who’s hand-raised cat sucks on her earlobe while she sleeps. Not a great way to be awakened.

gailcalled's avatar

Milo has occasional attacks of needing to chew on plastic-covered wires for several minutes, and then it subsides. I cannot figure out what the trigger is, but he seems to need me nearby and visible. I’ve never seem him do this when I spy on him from around the corner.

I use an old-fashioned Sony Walkman in bed to fight insomnia. Every little while Milo will gnaw on the earbud wires. So I have provided him with his very own, an exact duplicate of the ones I use. I can distract him from chewing on mine to chewing on his. After several minutes, he walks away.

Similar occurances when I am on the desktop. He starts on the wire from the mouse or to the external hard drive or modem. It seems to be an aggressive way of getting my attention.

Here too I have an extra unused plastic phone cord and dangle that about for him to lunge at.

So, in brief, I haven’t a clue.. I use situational solutions. it seems to be at its worst at 11:00 when I am ready to settle down and go to bed, and he wants a nocturnal rumpus.

Can you throw a dishtowel or t-shirt over the charging wires? It just takes a second.

I just ran an experiment. Milo is on top of the piano, on a soft blanket, in the sun and resting comfortably after some morning outdoor exercise chasing invisible things. I just waved the charging cord for my laptop in his face (often a favorite target.) A bored blink.

Coloma's avatar

Get some bitter kitty spray, ( Bitter Apple ). A few tastes and no more chewing, but you will need to apply it often until the conditioning kicks in.

hearkat's avatar

@Coloma – as noted in the details and subsequent comments, I have already sprayed the cords. I am looking for additional ways to redirect the behavior.

@gailcalled – I thought about giving him the old wires, as mentioned; but it seems to me that could confuse him and lead him to think that wires are cold to chew on. I suppose if some are sprayed with repellant and others with catnip spray he might help distinguish, but it still seems like a mixed message.

gailcalled's avatar

Does the kitty chew on the wires when no one is around? If so, that is a different issue from ours, I think.

Milo will grab, chew on and stim my foot in a soft bedroom slipper only when I am in a particular rocking chair and almost always when I am on the phone. I have no clue about what messages he receives or sends or what any of it means. I just react. As I said, I have no idea. Just rambling here.

hearkat's avatar

Until recently, he only chewed when we weren’t around – we only found out when trying to figure out why the devices weren’t charging. However, he’s become more brazen and did it while laying in my lap this morning, and coming back for more after being gently bopped on the nose and scolded (psssssssst!) – which prompted the question.

Coloma's avatar

—-@hearkat Oops. must have overlooked that detail. My mistake.—

tinyfaery's avatar

You can buy a product to wrap your cords.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
hearkat's avatar

@tinyfaery – That has already been discussed. I’ll see if the spray alone is adequate before spending additional money on comber some cord wrappers, though. As noted in the details and other comments, I was hoping to find other things I might offer him to chew on as alternatives.

tinyfaery's avatar

That will require your constant vigilance of the cat and when it chews. When the cat starts to chew squirt with water so the cat does not see that it is you. Then offer a catnip chew toy.

Repeat until the behavior stops.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

My cat also chews on wires, if he can get them. The only remedy is to put the wires up where the cat can’t get to them. Trying to train a cat is like nailing jello to a tree. Squirting water on wires sounds like a terrible idea, and then it only works if you are right there when the cat is doing it. Same with hot sauce, not to mention it could attract insects.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Hot Sauce is best answer. Tabasco is used in my house for a dogs, when they were puppies, we a few teeth marks on furniture. Tabasco on legs of chairs, no new teeth marks!

hearkat's avatar

^ “comber some” was supposed to be cumbersome – stupid auto-correct.

I sprayed the cords with repellent spray when they were not plugged in and let it dry overnight. He has been trained since a kitten to the water bottle and a simultaneous “Psssssssst!” so that he knows the sound – with or without the squirt bottle – means that he is doing something he is not allowed to do. I am not about to squirt water at him while he is chewing on live wires!

I am not looking to ‘train’ him further, as he is already trained and I think the repellant will work (with covers, if necessary), but I was hoping to offer him safe alternatives, since it is clear that he will have some oral fixation because of his sad separation from his mama at such a young age. Like raising a toddler, it is important to not only inform them what is unacceptable behavior, but to also divert them with a behavior that is acceptable.

I respect that he wants/needs to chew, and I was hoping that people would have ideas for redirecting his behavior, and healthier chewing options from their own experiences.

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