Cat + Pica = Madness
November 14, 2012 1:03 AM   Subscribe

What would be the most effective solution to stop our cat from chewing cords and clothing?

We own a Burmese cat, about 4 years old. She is pretty playful and active, and we are out of the house most of the daytime. From about the age of 1 she has been sleeping on and chewing our clothing whenever she manages to sneak into the drawers (recently she has learnt how to open them using her paws and brute strength) and has chewed many, many charging cables and important electronic cords.

The response from us is more a reactionary one than proactive. We make sure the doors to our rooms are closed and inaccessible to the cat, and have put cord covers on some of the cords (obviously, there are some for which this is not possible - and those are the ones that were most recently bitten).

Is there any possible way to actually cease this behaviour in the cat in the first place, rather than focussing on preventing the cat from engaging in the behaviour? It is taxing to have to seal off or double-check many different items around the house, especially before we leave.

Since she is a Burmese, and we leave her alone a lot, I have thought of getting another cat to keep her occupied. Does this sound like a reasonable idea or not?

Any other possible solutions?
posted by mocoface to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No clue about clothing, but I rubbed regular bar soap along the length of my computer cables because my kitten liked chewing on them. She tried it once after that and apparently didn't like the taste much.
posted by peppermind at 1:18 AM on November 14, 2012

The problem with cats is that they don't really respond to anything but absolute and total consistency when it comes to discipline. They just aren't dogs. The best way to to keep your cat in line is to remove temptation or provide an alternative to the negative behavior that you find acceptable. I was able to use positive reinforcement to get my cat to stop scratching my furniture by treating him when he used his scratchboard instead of the couch, but it took awhile and I'm home all day. I also had to ignore any furniture scratching in order for this to work because cats will see "no!" and other punishments as rewarding attention.

You might try offering her something else to chew. My cat loves to chew on straws. (This is the second cat I've had with this behavior.) Perhaps try giving her a soft toy of her own that she can chew on--a dog toy might work. You might try laying an old towel over the clothing you have in drawers and placing double sided sticky tape on it. Soaped cords are a great idea. The key is to provide an alternative while making the behavior you don't like less desirable to the cat.

Have you tried Feliway? Some cat owners have had great luck with this product.
posted by xyzzy at 1:38 AM on November 14, 2012

Burmese are intelligent and very naughty. Your two routes to solving this are providing adequate stimulation elsewhere and being very consistent at the point at which it is happening that the cat shouldn't do this: hiss, spray a mist of water, pick her up and move her elsewhere.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:43 AM on November 14, 2012

We have had this problem with one of our Burmese. I have lost headphone cables (including once while I was listening to music with them) and a phone charger. I went to the hardware store and found some thicker tubing that could fit the cables inside. I slit this down the middle and fed the cable inside. I haven't found a chewed cable since.

In general I have found she does it out of boredom even though she has her brother to play with. It has also helped that we have inclosed our balcony with nets so they can roam out there without supervision all day and night.
posted by poxandplague at 2:22 AM on November 14, 2012

You may want to try bitter apple spray for the cords. For the drawers, I'd boobytrap them with fishing line a empty soda cans, so that when she opens a drawer, loud scary noises happen.
posted by Specklet at 3:07 AM on November 14, 2012

I went to the hardware store and found some thicker tubing that could fit the cables inside.

This is exactly what I did, and the only thing that really worked*. You can buy cord covers designed for this but they are expensive and bulky and opaque and ended up looking like I lived inside an intestine factory. You can buy the tube in various diameters to fit as many (or as few) cords as you want.

*The clear tubing that is sold by the foot, if it's not obvious.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:30 AM on November 14, 2012

My Burmese also chews, though his snack of choice is books. I wish I could recommend you a behavioural solution, but nothing worked for me except physically putting my books up out of reach.

For the drawers, perhaps you could try those child-proof latches?
posted by Georgina at 4:11 AM on November 14, 2012

My dad puts wasabi on things he didn't want his dog to chew on. Possibly cruel, but very effective.
posted by ashtabula to opelika at 7:13 AM on November 14, 2012

FWIW she may outgrow it in a few years--at least partly; a sufficiently dangly, tempting cord may still trigger the impulse. We tried Feliway with our Burmese and it made things much worse... YMMV. A friend may indeed help, but probably won't stop it entirely. (I wonder if a fellow Burmese would help or hurt?)
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 7:30 AM on November 14, 2012

Our cat loves to chew on cords and he finds pig ears and other rawhide-type items acceptable chewy substitutes.

We're going to buy some tubing to cover cords just in case. I think the aquarium ones are too small but I'm not sure.
posted by CCCC at 8:02 AM on November 14, 2012

Wow, I thought batting small objects off of low-lying tables was bad!

In the low-tech department, two other ways to make cables inaccessible = (1) throw a towel over them (this works for a clump, say a surge suppressor grouping) or (2) use boxes or other objects to block access (say, behind a TV or other narrow space). These both have worked for kitten- and child-proofing in our house. And the cable tube things.

Also, you could try one of those compressed-air cat-scarers (Scare Crow?) for your dresser, so that there is punishment that doesnt' depend on your presence. Chewing clothes seems like a disaster!

[Note to self: never be tempted by a Burmese!!]
posted by acm at 8:04 AM on November 14, 2012

(1) throw a towel over them (this works for a clump, say a surge suppressor grouping)

Do not do this!

Unless burning down your home is preferable to having your cat chew cables.
posted by srboisvert at 8:21 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

A black half-Siamese cat loved to chew on dirty (not fresh) clothes. After losing several wooly items, I got a plastic garbage can with a lid, bored a few venitilation holes in it, and kept the lid on...and the cat out.
posted by Carol Anne at 8:55 AM on November 14, 2012

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