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Ask Amy: Cat Chewing Electrical Wires

How Can I Stop Wire Chewing by Cats?

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Picture of Wire-Chewing Kitten, Tau

Tau targets wires to chew.

Photo credit © Liz Walker

Question: "How can I stop wire chewing?"

Liz and her husband have been cat-sitters for two-year-old neutered Tau several times. They noticed his problem behavior when he was around six months old, and the owners said they were aware of it and believed he'd outgrow chewing on wires. He hasn't.

"We thought that he might be getting a "buzz" from the low voltage wires that power some of the electronic equipment but he chews on anything-even wires that aren't connected to anything," says Liz. "He could seriously hurt himself by chewing on the wrong wire." His owner is understandably upset and talking about turning Tau into the shelter, due to all the damage and cost of replacing wires. Liz has shared information about the Ssscat product, and ScatMat products to keep cats at a distance, but didn't indicate if they've tried these deterrents or not. She says painting Tabasco sauce on the wires slowed him down but is not effective any longer.

Amy's Answer

Chewing wires can kill cats. I've previously addressed this problem in another Ask Amy article about cats chewing electrical cords that may prove helpful. Veterinarians and behavior specialists look at the cat's physical and emotional health, as well as traits of instinct to help figure out what's going on and find solutions. Think of this as the H.I.S.S. Test, which stands for health, instinct, stress, and symptom solvers.

Kittens most often target wires, and often do outgrow gnawing habits once they've stopped teething. But health concerns can prompt chewing in adult cats. Without knowing more about Tau's health status, my first recommendation would be a health check. Anemia sometimes can prompt cats to chew or eat inedible objects. Also, it would be helpful to know what Tau's owner does when the cat targets the wires. Some cats seek out "bad" behaviors simply because they get more attention that way. Yelling and chasing the cat might be exactly what the kitty wants in terms of a fun game.

About the only way to "cure" this behavior is to not only prevent opportunities, but also giving the cat legal ways to indulge his chewing. The deterrents mentioned above can help keep him safely at a distance. Placing wires inside PVC pipe or under wire protectors will help keep them out of reach. Installing baby gates that prevent Tau's access to rooms that have lots of wires also is encouraged.

Then take a look at the favorite targets and see of you can duplicate these with a legal object. Rubber or plastic type dog chews designed for small dogs may be just the ticket. Adding fiber to the kitty's diet also may help stem the urge to chew. Good luck!

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