But why does your cat always come to your computer when you telecommute?

By Julie-Solveig SAINT-GERMES

With telework, many of us have found that their cat loves to come and sit on their computer. A surprising and sometimes annoying behavior, but completely normal… Sonia Paeleman, behaviorist and specialist in cats, explains why.

“Fezrzrzerzerzrez” or “gggggggggggg”. Many teleworkers who have a cat have seen this kind of digital logorrhea appear on their screen, one day or another. The fault of the little domestic feline, which came to trample the computer keyboard with its pads and wallow on it… Because our friends the cats seem to particularly appreciate lounging on the desk dedicated to telework at home, near the computer, even downright on it, sometimes for a nap or simply to keep us company. A surprising behavior, funny, sometimes a bit annoying, and yet perfectly normal.

While teleworking has become a permanent part of our professional habits, we are republishing our interview with Sonia Paeleman, author of Understanding your cat: the secrets of a behaviorist and book What does it mean when my cat does this? published in early 2021 (Éditions de l’Opportun), which we contacted in January 2022.

Sonia Paeleman, many teleworkers have noticed that their cat particularly likes to snuggle up on their computer… How is this?

To answer this question, we must first understand the feline functioning, why and how the cat favors certain spaces more than others. This behavior you describe existed long before digital. Many writers like Colette, for example, have described how their cat came to settle on their blank sheet.

The first thing to understand is that for the cat, occupying a space, feeling good in an environment and having control over its vital area, is something very important. Today we tend to qualify the term “territoriality”, since the cat can share its territory with its congeners or humans, but it remains an animal that needs to occupy and mark out an environment to feel good there. .

To mark out its environment, the cat will essentially rub against objects and beings to deposit olfactory marks there. It appears that when it rubs against something, the cat, which has sweat and sebaceous glands in different parts of its body, releases chemical molecules.

This marking is very important for the cat since the smell that reassures him the most… is his own. Thus the cat will feel particularly good in an environment where it will have preferential access to its own olfactory signature.

Occupying the office where you telework is also an olfactory tagging strategy for your cat… (Illustration photo: Marie Toumit / Ouest-France)

What explains why it lands on our computer to deposit its smell?

It is indeed a behavior of occupying space. Occupying a space for a cat is never trivial. But in my opinion, there are three hypotheses that justify the increased interest of the cat for our computer: it is a strategic place, pleasant and where a relational dimension intervenes.

But it looks like he’s also doing this to get attention…

Yes, by settling on our computer, the cat monopolizes all our attention. A very important phenomenon for him since the relational and reciprocal dimension that can develop with “his” human, is really the preponderant element of his daily life. Often for cats, especially for those who do not go out, we are indeed the most important element of their environment, since when we are not there, not much happens.

So from the moment we are there, that we use this work space where there is generally a flat surface, where there are our arms, this space appears to him not only strategic, since it monopolizes our attention, but also emotional, since he is simply in our company, and pleasant…

For some cats, this can really be “a request for attention”. Without seeing the cat as a Machiavelli, he may still have understood that once installed on our computer, he has the right to caresses, positive exchanges and kind words… This constitutes for him an additional motivation to come back. In any case, he certainly does not come to bother us. Because for him, being chased or scolded is an unpleasant response, which he does not want to confront.

No doubt, that’s where he feels good… (Illustration photo: Marie Toumit / Ouest-France)

Some evoke the hypothesis of a sensitivity to magnetic waves…

This is a very hypothetical option. According to some studies and various observations, cats are sensitive to magnetic, electrostatic and electrical waves. For example, some cats have been observed to relieve themselves next to electrical installations or rub against the corners of computers. According to these observations, the cat could perceive elements that will “trigger” it and push it to deposit its odors on it to regain “olfactory control” over its environment.

But this remains a hypothesis which, in any case, cannot be the only explanation. As I told you, we have indeed already seen this behavior in cats with leaves, books, newspapers, etc. The cat wants above all to be there “where it happens”, in a place that monopolizes our attention and where it will deposit its scent to feel good.

This behavior can still annoy sometimes…

Whatever the reason the cat comes there, you have to understand that it’s really because that’s where he wants to be. This is the basis. But if he wants to be there, close to us, and we can no longer move or work because of him, we’re not going to sacrifice ourselves either! The relationship has to work both ways… So we have to try to discourage him.

It looks like this cat is trying to get attention… (Illustration photo: Marie Toumit / Ouest-France)

The best way to go about it?

To do this, we can try to bring it down with a ball or a feather duster, just to occupy it elsewhere. But this trick can be a double-edged sword, because if the cat comes to your computer for attention and stimulation, then it gets its way and this may paradoxically encourage it to come back.

To “get rid” of it, we can also offer it something interesting in another place, by enriching its environment. A ball, a game, high posts, a cat tree, scratching posts, etc. Anything that can attract him to do things elsewhere.

And if that still doesn’t work, and he absolutely wants to be next to “his” human or at a height, then don’t hesitate to put a basket on the desk, on a shelf, etc. In short, something “cosy” with materials he likes. It is also necessary to encourage him to go inside, while being careful not to “apologize” for moving it since that would blur the message.

In any case, there is no point in scolding him since the cat does nothing wrong and does not do anything stupid. He is like us: he seeks to be well. It would therefore be unfair and inappropriate to reprimand him.

But why does your cat always come to your computer when you telecommute? – Ouest-France evening edition – 09/22/2022