How I cat-proofed my electrical wires and phone cords
Meet Leo Neutrino, destroyer of wires. He made it his mission to destroy all of our electronics until I figured out how to put an end to his destructive habit.
If you have a kitty who chews wires, you can learn from what Leo taught me about cat-proofing my home.
This guide is not for the gentle wire nibbling cat who leaves no visible damage. These are extreme measures for the miniature lions who can sever your wires in mere seconds. The ones who will hunt down every single wire and “kill” it.
There are two steps to stopping a determined wire destroyer: protect and divert.
Part 1. Protect your wires and cords
If you don’t need it, get rid of it. I said goodbye to the DVD player, home phone, computer monitor, blender, electric grill and an extra laptop.
Go wireless. Kinda obvious. My home phone is gone and I use a cell phone instead. The computer mouse and keyboard are both wireless. I wanted wireless lamps, but the best I could do was a nice lantern with a scented candle. Okay for the living room, but not practical as a bedside table lamp.
Hard wire it. I haven’t done this yet because it’s expensive, but I plan to install wall sconces and pot lights in some rooms to eliminate the need for lamps. Some homes have hardwired lighting in every room, but my condo doesn’t which means too many lamps and too many wires.
Cover it. You can buy split loom tubing from hardware stores. It’s a bendy plastic hose with a slit in it. It comes in black, white or grey and in various diameters. You cut it to the length you need using scissors and then slip the wires through the slit. It protects your wires by covering them completely.
Make it taste bad. Unfortunately, Leo still chewed on the tubing covering the wires. Less dangerous, but I wasn’t convinced he wouldn’t make his way through to the wire. So for added protection — hot sauce!
Yep, Tabasco, Frank’s RedHot, whatever you have on hand. It just needs to be hot enough to burn that little kitty mouth if he dares to nibble on the tubing. The pain of hot sauce is waaay better than an electrical burn and potential organ damage. Just don’t burn yourself when slathering it all over the covers by touching your face or eyes afterwards.
Turn it off. To be extra safe, don’t keep lamps on when you’re not in the room. Ditto for any electrical appliances that can be easily turned off. I learned from experience that he didn’t hurt himself when he chewed through a wire if the lamp had no power. The lamp was hurt pretty bad though. Not really a problem if all your wires are covered, but still let’s be extra careful.
Be thorough. Cover everything. I mean every single wire that he does or doesn’t (you think!) have access too. I have some phone cabling running up beside a door in the corner of a closet and I covered that with white duct tape just in case. He can’t nibble on it since it’s now taped flat to the wall. I had a security alarm system that I wasn’t using so I disconnected the wires and stuck them inside the metal wall box that housed the rest of the alarm system.
Don’t think that wires tucked behind furniture are safe. Little Leo cut the power to my computer monitor by reaching his paw down behind the desk to grab the wire and chew through it. I had a live exposed electrical wire hidden from view for days — a scary fire hazard.
Enclose it. Another way to protect your wires — put electronics inside cabinets. My toaster is in a kitchen cabinet over top of the microwave. I unplug it when it’s not in use. As an added bonus, unplugging stuff keeps your electricity bills low.
Block access. There are some major appliances that are not feasible to unplug — the fridge, stove and stacked washer/dryer. I made sure the fridge doesn’t have enough space on either side for Leo to get behind it and access the cord. Ditto for the stove. I keep the laundry room door closed at all times so he can’t get in there.
Charging station. I charge phones and laptops inside the cabinet of a desk. Originally intended to house a computer tower (remember those?!) it’s perfect as a closed charging station. The cabinet has no back (and if it had one I’d remove it). I positioned the desk on the wall so that the open cabinet back is directly over the electrical outlet. Inside the cabinet is a power bar with two USB outlets. This is where I charge my laptop, cell phones and my electric toothbrush.
GFCI outlets. One thing that I leave on at all times — the PVR and wireless router. These are both contained inside a closed TV cabinet which is taped shut (because yes, he can open the sliding doors). It’s not practical to turn them off when we’re not using them so I bought a GFCI outlet which I’m planning to install. GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter and what it does is cut the power immediately if the electrical circuit flowing in and out is interrupted, say by a cat damaging a wire.
Separate rooms. I also have to put him in a separate room when I vacuum (you’d think the noise would deter him, but it doesn’t). If you need to use an unprotected appliance or electronic, put your cat into a safe place until you are done.
Part 2. Give him something better to do
If you just block your cat’s access to electrical wires and phone cords, you’ll still end up with a bored and unhappy kitty. Most likely he will find something else to destroy. You need what my vet calls “environment enrichment.”
Toys. Buy your cat toys (or make them yourself). Leo enjoys empty toilet rolls, empty paper bags (cut the handles so won’t get stuck and no plastic bags), empty boxes, wine corks and long blades of oat grass (with the seeds removed). Rotate the toys and buy or make new ones when he gets bored of them.
Playtime. You can’t just buy toys, you also need to be involved in playtime. Interactive play will make your cat very happy and without it, he will likely ignore all the toys. Aim for 10 minutes before work, 10 minutes when you get home and 10 more minutes before bed. This will also keep your cat fit and healthy.
Outdoor time. Not all cats can be leash trained, but I started with Leo when he was fairly young and just took him out every single day until he got used to it. It took 3 weeks, but now he goes for a daily “walk” which is really just a trip down the stairs and out to the condo garden where he likes to watch the birds and chase the bees.
I don’t recommend letting your cat out without a leash — cars, dogs, other cats, racoons, poisonous plants and household products and mean people all pose a very real threat to a city cat’s life. Balconies can be quite dangerous — don’t assume your cat won’t fall or jump off, especially if a bird flies by.
Get another cat. If you’re going to adopt a kitten, do yourself a favour and get two. It’s not much more work to have a pair and will save your sanity in the long run. Many people mistakenly think that cats are not social creatures, but in reality they are. Just because they don’t hunt in packs doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy companionship.
It can be hard to introduce another cat if yours is already an adult. Proceed with caution and research how to properly introduce a new cat into your home before you get another cat. Having two cats that don’t get along living together is not fun and doesn’t help either cat.
Cat videos. Not videos of cats, videos for cats. Leo loves mouse hunt and rat tail bandit. He also sometimes enjoys fish tank and winter birds. Proceed with caution if your TV is at all unsteady — your cat will jump right up and interact with the screen during these games. Make sure he can’t knock it over and watch that he doesn’t scratch the screen. Don’t leave videos on when you’re not supervising.
Bird feeder. Not at all appropriate if you have an outdoor cat (which you shouldn’t) because he will kill the birds. Indoor cats can sit for hours watching birds from the window. Make sure the window is closed so he doesn’t fall out. Also, if your cat is a bit slow witted, you may want to watch that he doesn’t run straight into the window and hurt himself.
Puzzle feeder. A puzzle feeder is usually a plastic ball with a small hole that you put dry kibble inside and your cat has to roll it around to make the food fall out. If you feed canned or raw, you can buy tiny little porcelain or glass dishes and when you feed, hide 3–4 dishes of food around the house, so he has to “hunt” for his food.
And that’s how I cat-proofed my home from Leo the wire destroyer.
So you think I overdid it? I don’t. Electrical shock can result in terrible injuries and even death. It also cost me a fortune in damaged electrical equipment before I put a stop to his bad habit. Happy cat, happy human.
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