Last Updated on March 8, 2021 by Julia Wilson
Electric shock is a severe and life-threatening trauma that occurs when a cat is exposed to electricity. Chewing electrical cords is the most common cause of electric shock in cats. Kittens are at increased risk due to their inquisitive nature as well as their tendency to chew on everything, especially around teething time.
The injury is twofold; the cat receives an electric shock as well as electrical burns. The lips, mouth, and tongue are most often affected, causing burns and eventually necrosis (death) of the affected tissues. More seriously, electrical shock can lead to pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) which is due to damage caused to the blood vessels, which causes fluid to leak into the lungs. Pulmonary edema can take from 2-3 hours to several days to develop.
Electric shocks can cause heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), neurological disorders and cataracts.
If your cat receives any form of electric shock, seek immediate veterinary attention, even if the cat appears to be well.
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.
- Cut off all power before you attempt to touch the 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.
- Burns to the mouth, tongue, and lips which may be red and/or blistered which occurs due to the heat which is generated while the electrical current passes through the tissue (your cat)
- Collapse/lying on the side
- Rapid heart rate
- Breathing difficulty
- Blue tinged gums
- Uncontrolled vomiting and defecation
- Treat pulmonary edema with diuretics to remove excess fluids by increasing urine output, oxygen therapy to help the cat breathe, vasodilators to open up the vessel, and medications to relieve pain.
- Surgical removal of damaged tissues, which will then have topical antimicrobial agents applied.
- Antibiotics to prevent or treat a secondary infection.
- If the injury is to the mouth, your cat will be sore while he heals, feed a soft diet to ease discomfort.
Cats are curious and their inherent nature is to explore, kittens are at increased risk, especially around teething time.
- Unplug all appliances which are not in use.
- Tape hanging cords to the wall or floor.
- Invest in some cord covers, to place over the electrical cord. Alternatively, look for clear, plastic tubing at your local hardware store. Cut along the length of the tube, and place around cords.
- Use furniture to block access to cords. Provide something more appealing to chew on such as a chew toy or rawhide chews.
- Paint electrical cords with bitter apple or hot chilli sauce.