Q: “Is it normal for my cat to chew on inedible things like wires, cords, and blenders? No seriously he chewed up my Vitamix and I can’t use it anymore. What does this mean? Why does he chew on stuff that shouldn’t be enticing to a cat? Even worse, I can’t get him to stop this terrible habit!” ~Hilary Tan
A: It’s not ideal for cats to chew on wires for several reasons — from risking electric shock to the annoyance of having to replace broken cords. I can think of three possible reasons for this: 1) oral fixation, 2) acting out for attention, or 3) a health issue.
Oral fixation is common with kittens, which is why kittens tend to chew on absolutely everything. However, you mentioned that your cat is a full-grown adult. Some cats never outgrow oral fixation. Cats with high anxiety may have an impulsive need to keep their mouth stimulated as a way of calming themselves down.
If this is the case, you can possibly solve this problem by keeping your cat’s anxiety levels low. There are so many ways to do this; the easiest way I can think of is giving them catnip and CBD. You can sprinkle dry catnip around, or use a catnip/CBD spray on toys, their bed, or scratching post.
There is also a chance that the oral fixation is unrelated to anxiety, and may just be a personality trait of your cat. If so, you could easily solve this by leaving out dry food so that your cat always has something to eat — however this may not be ideal if you are watching its weight or worried about portion control. Otherwise, you can provide toys that are easy for your cat to chew on. I would recommend these pom poms.
Be sure that you are conditioning your cat to avoid this bad habit. Each time you catch your cat doing this, clap loudly and shout “NO!” and make a clear message that this is wrong. You can also use a spray bottle (just be careful with water/electricity.) Similarly, also do positive reinforcement by rewarding your cat with pets, treats, or expressing joy each time your cat is near a wire and chooses not to chew on it.
Acting out for attention is very possible — if you are constantly punishing your cat for this behavior and there is still no change, it’s likely that your cat knows that this is wrong and is doing this for attention.
If this is the case, continue to punish your cat for the bad behavior, but also be sure that you are giving them plenty of attention while they’re being good. Devoting just five minutes a day to playing with your cat, or petting them on your lap, can go a long way.
You can also try “variable punishment” which is said to be more effective. Instead of punishing your cat every single time you catch them doing this, only punish them at random. This way, they will be more fearful about the outcome of their bad behavior, and it will also take away their gratification of instant attention.
Health issue could also be possible if they are having teeth or gum issues. Definitely bring this up to your vet as soon as you can so that they can hopefully cancel out this option. You could schedule a dental cleaning, or at the minimum just bring it up at your next visit and ask them to pay close attention to their mouth.
You can try to take a look at your cat’s mouth if they let you — look out for red gums, blood, or irregular shaped teeth. If this has been a very recent issue, then it could likely be a health problem. If your cat has been doing this their whole life, then it is probably not a health issue. However, I would not rule this option out until you speak with your vet about it.
And thanks to thebigbuddy for also weighing in — “Sounds like your cat may have pica, defined as “the consumption of non-edible materials” and “the urge to eat non-food items.” Here are some links: https://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/unusual-cat-cravings, https://icatcare.org/advice/pica-in-cats/. If it sounds familiar, that’s because some people suffer from the same disorder. There was a movie about it fairly recently as well. (“Swallow” starring Haley Bennett, released in 2019.) One suggestion is to give the cat more attention, toys, things to do, etc. Some experts think it’s linked to boredom. But in your shoes I’d definitely talk to the vet about it next time you bring your cat in, or if you’re worried about him hurting himself with the stuff he eats, bringing him in as soon as possible.”
My expertise comes from my animal science bachelor’s degree, as well as a lifelong experience of mothering many cats. For serious and life-threatening issues, please refer to your local vet.
Do you have a question about cats? Please ask in the comments (or email at firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will write a post about it! Let me know if you would like to include your name (or blog) or if you prefer to remain anonymous!