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The real reason your cat sits on your laptop

Black and white cat lies on laptop on the sofa

Sitting on a laptop offers warmth and security, getting them close to their people.

© Bogdan Sonjachnyj - Shutterstock

Anyone working from home over recent months will have noticed their cat’s love for sitting on the laptop. Here we look at why cats do this and how to stop them.

By Greta Inglis

Published on the 22/05/2021, 18:00

Have you ever tried to work from home, only to find your cat insists on sitting on top of your laptop? This behaviour can be adorable and annoying in equal measure, with full social media pages dedicated to hilarious images of cats and laptops (take a look, you won’t be disappointed).

The cat-owning community have speculated, alongside experts, as to why the prospect of a laptop is so appealing to our feline friends. There are many reasons for this behaviour, as well as steps that can be taken to encourage your cat to let you work in peace.

Why does my cat always sit on things I’m using?

Cats seem drawn to anything we’re trying to use, be it the kitchen counter, sofa cushion, or TV remote control. There doesn’t seem to be rhyme or reason to this, however your cat knows exactly what they’re doing. Cats are more social than they’re given credit for, and they love the company of people they know and trust. If you’re busy changing channel or prepping for dinner, your attention will not be on your kitty. Clever as they are, your cat will have learnt quickly that by getting in your way and sitting on the item you’re trying to use, you will respond by either talking to or moving them. Unwittingly, you are thereby giving them the attention they crave, reinforcing the behaviour in future.

Take a look here at our five most affectionate cat breeds.

Cats and electronics: Why does my cat sit on my laptop?  

If you’ve noticed your cat loves lying on electronics at home, you may have wondered why. Cats seem drawn to electronics left around the house and can often be found curled up snoozing the day away. This is thought to be due to a multitude of reasons, both rooted in physiology and behaviour.

Cats need warmth and their bodies work throughout the day to maintain a comfortable temperature. For cats, their thermoneutral zone - the point at which they don’t need to expend any extra energy to keep warm - lies at 30-38 degrees. If your home environment is on the chilly side, your cat will naturally be drawn to warmer spots, namely electronics and most likely your laptop!

As with any other household object, your cat also sits on your laptop for attention. It’s fairly difficult not to speak to or try to move them as their paw begins typing an email to your boss, so your cat will learn quickly that being near the laptop equals physical contact from you. With a superior sense of smell, the fact that your laptop has your scent on it may also be comforting and familiar.

If you’ve noticed your cat kneads or rubs their face on your laptop, this may be less to do with your scent and more to do with theirs. Cats are notoriously territorial and like to set boundaries within their home. Particularly in multi-cat households, your cats may feel the need to mark, by depositing scent through the glands in their face and paws.

Is it unhealthy for my cat to sit on my laptop?

Cats and laptops are not typically ideal friends. Extensive time on the top of your laptop may cause the device to overheat, which could be uncomfortable for your cat and dangerous from both a health and safety perspective. Equally, if your cat likes to knead, they may damage the device and a claw could even become stuck.

Avoid any risk for your cat by closing your laptop and shutting it away when not in the room.

How to stop my cat from sitting on the laptop: Four tips to try

The best approach is to reinforce behaviour away from the laptop, minimising any health concerns for them and work-related frustration for you. Here we look at how to do this.

Create a warm space near you 

Cats are drawn to warm spaces and will spend hours sitting near a radiator or lounging on a sunny windowsill. Their fascination with technology is often driven by a need for warmth, so creating a warm, cosy space next to you as you work, can help keep them happily away from your laptop. An elevated bed near some form of heating can work wonders!

Reward time in their own bed 

When you go to move your cat away from your laptop, you are actually rewarding them for being there. Your cat wants you to pet them, and by picking them up to move them away, they will feel they’re getting just that. Reinforce time spent in their own bed with high value food treats they love. Praise and treat at regular intervals, building up positive associations with the space. You can also redirect them to their bed from your laptop, guiding them with food treats and first, and then building on this so they follow your cue.

Move your laptop: The joy of laptop stands 

This may sound like common sense, but with an adorable cat face staring back at you, the prospect of changing up the routine may seem daunting. The easiest way to stop your cat from sitting on your laptop is actually to remove the option completely. Laptop stands keep your device away from fluffy butts and scratch marks. You can combine the three tips outlined here, ensuring your cat still receives the attention they need to make them feel loved and the warmth their body demands. If all else fails, you may need to create a dedicated ‘feline free’ work room, where your laptop can be shut away.

Provide alternative options for marking behaviour 

If you think your cat’s interest in electronics stems from a need to mark their territory, be sure to offer plenty of options around the house. If you have a multi-cat household, you will need multiple scratching posts available. Toys can also provide invaluable mental stimulation, keeping your cat’s brain busy as you work.

Whichever approach you choose to take, be sure not to punish your cat for trying to sit on your laptop. What they’re really trying to do, is be near you, their favourite person. Calmly work through the steps. This will reinforce time spent in appropriate spaces and help you work undisturbed, with the added bonus of preventing your cat from emailing your boss.

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