• Thu. Jun 20th, 2024

Why Do Cats Like Laptops So Much & How to Keep Them Off


Apr 21, 2023
man typing on laptop with cat sleeping on keyboard


man typing on laptop with cat sleeping on keyboard

As much as we love predictability in our relationships, cats excel at keeping our expectations for good behavior low. Listless blinking as we vie for their attention is par for the course, and they’re always ready to wake you up early by kneading your face. And now that many of us are working from home, our cats are there to reliably ruin our progress by flopping down on our laptops.

Although our cats may not be trying to mess up our work, they seem to make a habit of curling up on the keyboard. It’s not the most convenient quirk, but it’s also not the most challenging to fix. Let’s explore why cats like laptops so much and what you can do to stop it.


The 2 Reasons Cats Like Laptops So Much

Have you ever noticed that your cat only seems to hop on the laptop when you’re using it? At first glance, it might seem like kitty sabotage or one small yet essential step in their protracted plan for world domination.

Of course, that logic is overly dramatic and highly inaccurate. In truth, our cats often land on our laptops less out of malice and more out of love.

Cats want our attention, and for many people who work at home, their laptops steal much of it during the day. By a cat’s logic, there’s no better way to redirect your attention than by physically getting between you and your favorite focal point. Other than laying on your laptop, they may cover the touchpad or lay on the mouse, anything to keep you from placing your attention elsewhere.

A white coated cat lying on an hp laptop
Image Credit: Tra My, Unsplash

1. Laptops Keep Cats Warm

Warm-blooded animals all have thermoneutral zones (TNZs). In these unique temperature ranges, an organism maintains its normal metabolic rate, not having to expend extra energy to keep its body temperature at the proper level. When the temperature drops below the TNZ, their metabolism picks up, generating internal heat to make up for the low ambient temperature.

Humans have a thermoneutral zone around 82°F–90°F, with some variation between individuals based on physiology and acclimatization. Meanwhile, cats have a TNZ in the 86°F–100°F range. While we keep our environments cool for ourselves, our cats are often uncomfortable.

Seeking warmer resting spots can lead our cats to several atypical hangout spots. They might rest in a sunbeam shining onto a patch of carpet, cuddle up in a cardboard box, or, you guessed it, curl up on a nice, warm laptop keyboard.

2. Scent and Possession

Warmth and affection seem like two lovely reasons for a cat to take up a spot on the laptop, but let’s not kid ourselves—the primary reason is possessiveness. Cats have scent glands all over their body that they use to mark their territory. When your cat rubs up against something, like your leg, it feels like little more than a loving gesture. In reality, they’re often staking their claim, stating to the world, “Back off because this is mine!”

The same goes for your laptop. Your computer could be the focus of a power struggle, with your cat regularly reminding you that what is yours is actually theirs.

cat sitting on a silver laptop
Image Credit: Simon Hrozian, Unsplash

The 3 Ways for Keeping Cats Off Your Laptop

Cats have several reasons to lie on your laptop. Fortunately, you also have several ways to dissuade them and stop the behavior. It may take trial and error and a few techniques working in concert, but eventually, you can often get your cat to forget the laptop for good. Here are some suggestions for success.

1. Use a Laptop Stand or Lift Desk

Sitting in front of a laptop all day doesn’t benefit your posture or overall health. Plus, it makes your keyboard an easy target for an attention-seeking kitty.

Studies have shown the benefits of standing desks, including increased productivity in the workplace and enhanced cognitive function in a learning environment.1 At home, a lift-top desk can break up the sedentary sitting sessions and re-energize the body and mind. Meanwhile, cat owners will like that their feline friend has limited laptop access.

Even an inexpensive laptop stand can yield similar benefits at a much lower price. Raising the screen to eye level can help you avoid hunching over your desk and reduce related achiness. When your cat tries to set up, they’ll find the elevated and sloped surface impossible to make comfortable.

laptop on a table riser
Image Credit: Riekus, Pixabay

2. Try a Decoy Laptop or Keyboard

If your cat simply prefers the keyboard and your company, you may be able to fake it and accommodate you and your pet. Plug in an old keyboard and keep it next to you for them to use, or set up a fake laptop to see if they take to it.

3. Use Undesirable Textures

Cats can get nearly anywhere they like but don’t always like what’s under their feet. Materials like aluminum foil and sticky tape don’t feel pleasant to sensitive kitten paws. You can use that to your advantage by setting a textured barrier around your workspace. It can be challenging to find a place for it that doesn’t get in your way as well, but you can put it almost anywhere as long as it is in your cat’s preferred path to the laptop.


Tips for Keeping Your Cat Happy

Although physically blocking access to your laptop will fix your problem, it creates a new one for your cat. Sure, their laptop habit is annoying and inconsiderate, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a mutually beneficial solution. We want what’s best for them, after all.

Part of that solution involves communicating correctly. Cats often seek attention when they jump on laptops. And in most instances, we give it to them and reinforce the behavior. Resisting the urge to offer love and affection isn’t easy, but giving in will sabotage any chance of making them change their ways.

Instead, ignore your cat. Walk away from your laptop if you must. If your cat follows you as you leave, you know they want attention, not the heat or feeling of possession over the laptop. Take away their reward for getting on your keyboard and offer it again when they go to a more favorable spot.

person working on laptop with a black cat on the table
Image Credit: Kari Shea, Unsplash

How to Encourage a Behavior Change

Initiating a shift in behavior with reward and punishment takes patience and consistency. It can be challenging, but you can make the process easier by following these essential tips:

  • Set up a warm hangout spot that stays in your cat’s thermoneutral zone
  • Get a heating pad or heated cat bed to keep near your work area
  • Keep toys on hand to distract your cat
  • Give your cat enough playtime every day
  • Use keyboard covers and keyboard locking software to prevent cat-related mishaps when they get on your laptop

A clingy cat may require a conversation with your vet. They can offer advice and perform an exam to rule out any illness that may cause changes in behavior. If it isn’t health-related, you can help reduce causal stress or separation anxiety by maintaining routines, using positive reinforcement, and giving your cat adequate attention and stimulation throughout the day.


Final Thoughts

Given how much we’re stuck to our devices, it only makes sense that our cats would also love our computers. But while we want to give our cats everything they desire, sometimes work has to come first. There’s a win-win solution to any fight over the keyboard. With these insights into why cats like laptops and simple tips for fixing the issue, you’ll have no problem changing the dynamic in your workspace.

Featured Image Credit: Sharomka, Shutterstock

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