Why are my cats urinating outside the box and chewing on electrical cords?

Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra, My husband and I adopted two domestic shorthair kittens from the local animal shelter 2 years ago. They are brother and sister: one pepper-striped male named Pepper and a black and white female named Lucy. They are the cutest, most playful little things. We had them “fixed” as soon as we adopted them, and provided them with dozens of different toys. They would run all over the house and play with/knock over anything that was not nailed down. They started urinating on any clothes that were left lying around or blinds, curtains, etc.

I also noticed that any cords, especially phone cords, blind cords, and lamp cords were chewed through. This Christmas our little male cat chewed through the Christmas tree cord and got a nasty shock. Keep away sprays don’t work, and neither do the plug in diffusers.

In frustration and in an effort to protect them from further harm, I have been confining the cats mostly to our bedroom and the bathroom. They no longer get the run of the house.

Also, 5 months ago we had a beautiful baby girl, and I am afraid that the cats will hurt her in jealousy, or will fall asleep with her in her crib and suffocate her. So I guess what I’m asking is how do I stop the cats from urinating on our things (I clean out their box regularly) and eating our cords? How often do cats fall asleep in cribs and suffocate babies? I know that sounds ridiculous, but I know it happens. I want to be able to allow the cats the run of the house and I want us all to live in harmony without constant fear that my house will be destroyed when I come home. I love my cats dearly, I don’t want to give the impression I don’t. I just don’t understand why all of my friends’ cats seem to be so “normal” and mine seem so “neurotic”.

Thank you,

Barbara Colaricci


Hi – thanks for your email. Goodness Barbara – it sounds like there is a lot going on in your home. You have multiple questions and issues.

1. Why are your cats urinating outside the box
2. Why and what can you do about them chewing on electrical cords
3. Will they harm your baby?

First, cats urinate outside the box for a variety of reasons. If the litter is dirty, the box smells (bad), the box smells like chemicals, you don’t scoop often enough, they don’t like the litter, the box is in a noisy location, etc. TONS of reason. Sometimes something’s as simple as the litter is too deep or not deep enough. And you need to have ENOUGH boxes (one per cat plus one or one per floor [whatever is more]). If you have two cats – you should have at least 3 boxes.

I’d try a few different litters – see what your cats like most. AND you need to clean up where they have urinated (very important). This is a complex question with different solutions that work for different cats.

As far as the electrical cords – this is common in kittens and an important danger. They usually grow out of this. Spaying the cords can help.

I’d make sure your cats have plenty of stimulation and play time. I’d recommend wearing them out with play so they are tired. this will help them bond to you and keep them happy. Find out what toysmay be best for them. Go to the link in the last sentence.

Lastly, I believe it is an old wives tale that cats will suffocate babies. I’d keep your baby supervised around the cats but this is not considered valid. In fact – one of our writers just wrote an article on Old Wives Tales About Cats: Common Cat Myths that you might find interesting. This article might be useful:Helping Your Cat and New Baby Get Along.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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