Cats are curious little creatures but sometimes that curiosity can result in injury. The most common type of electrical injury to occur in cats is from chewing electrical cords.
Kittens are by far at greater risk due to their inquisitive nature, and their tendency to chew on everything, especially around teething time.
The injury is twofold, the cat receives an electric shock, and can also receive electrical burns. The lips, mouth, and tongue obviously are most often affected, causing burns and eventually necrosis of the affected tissues. More seriously, electrical shock can lead to pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs). This is due to damage caused to the blood vessels, resulting in fluid leaking into the lungs. Pulmonary edema can take from 2-3 hours to several days to develop.
Electric shocks can also result in heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), neurological disorders and cataracts.
If your cat receives any form of electric shock, immediate veterinary attention should be sought, even if the injury is minimal.
Emergency treatment for a cat who has been electrocuted:
An electric shock can cause contraction of the muscles, causing your cat to clamp down even harder on the cord. Once the electrical source is cut off, the cat is then able to release the cable. If your cat receives any form of electric shock, immediate veterinary attention should be sought, even if the injury is minimal. Cut off all power before you attempt to touch your cat. Turn off the power at the main circuit breaker, and remove the power cord from the socket. Just to be safe, if possible, put on rubber gloves before touching the cord/plug.
Perform CPR if your cat is not breathing.
Transport your cat to the veterinarian urgently. Have somebody call the surgery ahead of time so that they can be on standby.
Signs of electrical burn or shock:
- Burns to the mouth, tongue, and lips which may be red and/or blistered. This occurs due to the heat which is generated while the electrical current passes through the tissue (your cat).
- Collapse/lying on side.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Breathing difficulty.
- Blue tinge to the gums.
- Your cat may have vomited and/or defecated.
How is the cat treated?
Treating the cat's pulmonary edema.
Damaged tissues may need to be debrided (surgically removed) and the affected area treated with topical antimicrobial agents. Antibiotics may also be prescribed.
If the mouth has been affected, your cat will be quite sore while he heals. Feeding him soft food can make eating easier.
How can I stop my cat chewing on electrical cords?
- Unplug all appliances which are not in use.
- Tape hanging words to the wall or floor.
- Invest in some cord covers, these are plastic sheaths which are placed over the electrical cord. Alternatively, just check for clear, plastic tubing at your local hardware store. Cut along the length of the tubing, and place around cords.
- Use furniture to block access to cords.
- Wrap aluminium foil or double sided tape around cords, both of which cats don't like the feel of.
- Give him something more appealing to chew on such as a chew toy or rawhide chews.
- Paint electrical cords with bitter apple or hot chilli sauce.