Taste Bads & Funner Alternatives. Avoid Punishment

Question:
My cat has a terrible chewing problem.  He chewed through my curling iron cord, leaving exposed wires. He chews the plastic top on my water bottle, the plastic on my shoe laces, my computer and printer cords, and cell phone cords. Is there any type of discipline you recommend? I love the cat but I’m so frustrated.

Dr. Nichol:
Frustrated? You sound positively flummoxed. You’re crashing your hard drive. You may be tempted to chew your computer mouse! Back away slowly and take a few deep breaths.

I get it. Our cat Tony sometimes chews his dog’s bedding but when we provide him with wheat grass he grazes on that instead. This is important to us because swallowing fabric is dangerous.

Cats are natural predators; munching on the carcass of their latest kill is inherently rewarding. Derail your cat’s high risk behavior by loading his daily ration into food toys and puzzles so he has to extract his sustenance just like the wild animal he truly is. Variety will present a daily challenge for him to solve.

Make those electric cords unattractive by painting them with Bitter Apple (CQ) or covering them with commercially available cord covers. Specific areas of your house can become off-limits by adding a booby trap like a Ssscat (CQ).

I worry about cord chewers. Electric shock to the lips and tongue can cause serious tissue sloughs. Electrocution for some cats results in life-threatening fluid accumulation in their lungs. Unless you have a full-time staff of cat police I advise against punishment. You will only catch the little rapscallion in the act during a fraction of his offences. Squirting and yelling would damage your friendship and could trigger defensive aggression in your beloved cat. Instead, do what it takes to make your house such a wonderland of feline amusements that, by comparison, cord chewing would be B-O-R-I-N-G. The full list of environmental enrichments is on my website, drjeffnichol.com.