Solution: Preventing your Cats from Biting Electrical Cords

Last January my wife and attended a local show.  Several of the local Humane Society shelters had entered cats in the “household pet” category in an effort to exposed them to the cat loving public and hopefully get them adopted.  The tactic worked well in at least one case.  We fell in love with a big 17 pound male with a great disposition that the shelter called Big Orange.  This sweet guy, who we renamed Maxwell (Max), has been a wonderful addition to our household in so many ways.

As we filled out the adoption papers one of the shelter volunteers who had a special affection for Max while he lived at the shelter warned me to not to let him chew on electrical cords.  My puzzled look (I had never heard of cats chewing on electrical cords) prompted him to explain.  He went on to relate a story about one of his favorite cats which one day appeared to be sick.  He was listless, kept to himself, and had no appetite.  A trip to the vet turned didn’t reveal any obvious problems, but a couple of days later the cat died.  The volunteer went on to say the affair was a big mystery until he noticed teeth marks on one of his electrical cords.  It became obvious that the cat bitten down on the cord and electrocuted himself.  The shock probably affected his brain, but it took several days to kill him.

While probably a rare event, the story made an impression on me.  It came into instant focus when a few months ago I saw Max playing with an electrical cord,  batting it back in forth with his paw as it hung from its plug inserted into a socket.  In my experience what cats bat they sometimes bite so I went around the house making sure that all of the electrical cards were either moved behind furniture or tied up where the cats wouldn’t be tempted to play with them.  Not a perfect solution, but better than nothing.  Later, I came up with a better solution, but I didn’t get past the thinking stage at the time.

This week my wife and I were putting up our Christmas tree.  It is one of the big artificial trees with the lights permanently affixed to its branches.  When I crawled under the tree to plug the tree’s electrical cord into the socket, there was Max batting back and forth section of cord hanging down from the tree.  Then to my horror he made an attempt to bite it.  My shout of “No!!!” sent him scampering.  Hopefully that cured him of trying to bite electrical cords, but we have had cats for years and I know their behavior well enough to not bet Max’s life on that theory.  It was time to implement my plan.

The solution I devised appears to be working very well.  Here is one way you can make your electrical cords “cat safe”:

  1. Buy a length of clear vinyl tubing with an inside diameter slightly bigger than the diameter of your electrical cord.  (This is the same kind of clear plastic tubing used in aquariums except bigger in diameter.)  7/16” x  5/16” (outside diameter x inside diameter) is a size that works well for most standard electrical cords and it is thick enough to keep you cat from biting through it.  You can buy it at many hardware stores and the big box stores like Loews and Home Depot.  On line I saw some black corrugated tubing in approximately the same diameter which might work just as well.
  1. Cut a length of the tubing as long as the section of electrical cord to be protected.  Remember you don’t have to protect the entire length of cord, just the section exposed to your cats.
  2.  With a sharp knife or box cutter cut one wall of the tubing lengthwise the entire length of the tubing.  (What you want to end up with is the tubing still virtually intact with a slit end to end through one wall.)  Be very careful slitting the tube – this can be very dangerous – it is very easy to cut yourself.  I found the best way to do this job is to hold the tubing against a solid surface above the area you are cutting and cut along the inside curve of the tubing always keeping you fingers above the direction of the cut.  (I think that some of the corrugated black tubing comes pre-split so if you can find that product in the right diameter you can skip this step.)
  3. Open one end of the slit wide enough to insert a section of the electrical cord inside the center of the tubing.  Continue doing this inserting a section of the cord at a time until the entire length to be protected is inside the tubing.
  4. Use Scotch tape wrapped around the tubing ever 6” or so to keep the tubing closed around the cord.
  5. After placing the length of cord inside of the tubing, plug the cord into a socket and turn on the light(s), appliance, etc. for at least 30 minutes to insure that plastic tubing is not causing the cord to over heat. Then pull out a small section of cord from the tubing and make sure it is not getting hot.  I haven’t had any problems in this regard; the plug and the wire near it got a little warm, but no warmer than before I encase the cord in the tubing.) However every situation is different, so make sure you do this check.  If your check turns up any concerns, remove the tubing and seek another solution.

At first I thought that this was original idea, but after checking a number of sites on the web, I did find mention of it elsewhere.  Drats!!!  Every time I think I have come up with a good original idea, I later find someone else thought of it first. However, what is important is that we find ways to safe guard our cats’ health.  Regardless of whether you use this solution or another that works better for you, thanks for keeping you kitties safe.

Cajun 12/1/13

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