Shawn Falchetti, CPSA

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Technology vs. The Cat

Anyone's who's been to my Facebook page has seen the occasional pictures of Iggly, our feline friend adopted from a shelter earlier this year.  Here he is.  So cute and innocent looking.  Little would you guess behind those blue eyes gears are ceaselessly turning to conjure up fresh schemes of destruction:

Since then, our house has progressively been taken over by cat distractions:  there are blinking balls for a rousing game of cat soccer, feathers dangling from sticks for cat fishing, remote controlled micro-mice, cardboard box kitty forts, carpet covered scratching posts, kitty bed(s), kitty window perches, and even his own Garfield towel folded on (what is now) his recliner.  His favorite toys, though, are my toys: computer keyboards and laptop screens are irresistible to him.  In fact, he's a master at computer keystroke combinations, somehow always stepping on the CTR-ALT and some other key to magnify the screen 2000%, select everything in Kiersten's email folder and delete it, or upload photos of himself to I Can Haz Cheezburger.  But that's a whole other post.

This post is about the most delicious, delectable, satisfying thing in the world for our cat.....mmmmm, laptop cord.  Apple Macbooks have a thin white cord which dangles down from the side of the computer.  Kiersten's cable was the first to look like the cat had gone from one end to the other as if eating corn on a cob.  Even though the damage looked superficial, the little green power light on the cable permanently went off.  Shortly after the demise of her cable, my laptop was targeted and the little green power light on mine faded into darkness as well.  Since a new cable costs $90, it was just shy of $200 worth of damage.  Ouch.  We got two new cables, and decided how we would alter the Destructinator's behavior.

Round 1: Bitter Apple vs. The Cat

Bitter Apple is sold at pet stores, and is spritzed on.  It doesn't smell like anything, but tastes horrible.  I know this of course from experience, because every time I touched the power cord, some would transfer to my hands.  Inevitably I would eat something that required me to touch my food, and voila! Blech! Even just breathing while spritzing on the stuff caused the taste to appear on the back of my tongue.  Surely this would deter the ravenous destructo-cat.

Outcome: Iggly merrily munching on, and destroying the brand new $90 cable, oblivious to the spray.  Me Bitter Appling myself at least a dozen times, no matter how many times I made mental notes not to touch the cable.  Cat:1, Humans: -1

Fortunately the destroyed section was localized to about 4" of cable, and I was able to surgically remove and splice it this time.  Apple power cables are particularly vulnerable to pet damage, since they are coaxial and a simple puncture can short them by bring the outer axial wires in contact with the inner ones.  Aside of course from the equipment issue, there's also the danger that Iggly will use all nine of his lives at once as he discovers electricity.

Round 2: Out of Sight, Out of Mind vs. the Cat

We went to Lowes searching for cable protectors, and found some plastic flexible tubing which looks a bit like vacuum cleaner hose. Kiersten installed the hose over her line, but I instead opted to unplug my cable when unattended and place it behind the glass of the tv stand.  I found the cat would sit on the other side of the glass door and stare at it, like a kid looking into a bakery window.  I envisioned him smacking his lips hungrily.

Outcome: This worked until, inevitably, I went to bed one night and forgot to stow the cord.  The next day I found the little green power light had shone it's last light.  Fortunately we'd taken to the habit of always turning off the power strip when unattended, so at least the cord was munched on sans power. The vacuum hose was a suit of armor for Kiersten's cable, but was a bit awkward to have dangling from your lap.   Cat:2, Humans:0.5

Round 3: Stinky, Smelly Cable vs. Everyone

After surgically extracting the new damaged section of cable and splicing it, we proceeded with Plan C, the Stinky Cable.  It's not actually called stinky cable - it has some "pet guard" title - but it's a heavy, clear, flexible slit tube which has been coated in a citrus fragrance that pets find unappealing.  By citrus, they mean citronella-ish, and strong.  We had to let the cable air outside overnight. Now it's installed on both laptop cables, both little green lights are on, and the humans have been effectively repelled into other rooms.  We're not sure if our weird cat will be repelled yet, since we dropped some of the tubing on the ground and watched him merrily play with it for a while.  I have the strange feeling that he's very, very amused by all of this.

Outcome:  No humans in the living room.  Cat, tbd.