Plus, tricks to keep your keyboard kitty-free.
cat laying on computer keyboard
Credit: vladans / Getty

If you're a cat owner working from home or browsing through Netflix titles, there's a good chance you're locked in a heated battle over your computer keyboard. What gives?

Cats exhibit a lot of peculiar behaviors (including staring at you and following you to the bathroom), but their adoration for keyboards is surely one of the oddest. Or is it? There are actually a lot of reasons why you might find cats on keyboards.

Keyboards Are Basically a Cat Bed

Your computer can get quite warm as you use it, creating an all-too-tempting spot for cat naps.

"Cats often feel attracted to the warmth of electronics and want to nap on a laptop. And if you hold the computer in your lap, your cat may believe (rightly!) that the lap belongs to Kitty!" says Amy Shojai, CABC, a certified animal behavior consultant and founder and president emeritus of the Cat Writers' Association. She adds that our cats might also think humans need something better to look at, like a beautiful feline, "rather than stare at the boring screen for hours on end." 

Your Cat Wants Attention

While some kitties meow to get your attention, others invade your personal space when they want something—and if that means blocking access to the computer keyboard, so be it.

"Yes, cats also can use this behavior to literally 'push your buttons' to get attention or anything else," Shojai says. "For instance, if you fill the food bowl or toss a toy to entice the cat to vacate your computer, Kitty learns to use that behavior in the future. You've been trained by the best!"

But a cat flopping onto or walking across your keyboard might also not have such nefarious intentions. Studies repeatedly show that cats love their owners, so maybe they simply use this proximity as a way to be close to us and ask for chin scritches.

Hunting Instincts Are Kicking In

It might be just another day of work for you, but Kitty sees you becoming quiet and serious, eyes narrowed, posture shifted as you click on the keys. To them, these are important behaviors to observe. 

Shojai writes on her blog "it's the sound and sight of moving prey that provides the stimulus to chase and capture, a hardwired behavior as natural to the cat as purring … and wait with infinite patience for prey to appear." Your tippity-tapping fingers might trigger something in their innate hunter's brain.

Does this mean they're … stalking you? Perhaps. For an indoor kitty, watching you type away could be exactly the stimulating enrichment they've anticipated all day. It doesn't mean cats are psychopaths or anything—they might also think you're playing and want to join in the fun.

Shojai adds that cats love routine. So when your pet sees you go into "work mode" by setting down a beverage and firing up the computer, they think "Ah ha! Time for me to get into position, too!" 

How to Keep Your Cat off the Keyboard

A cat on your keyboard, while distracting, won't hurt them unless they get too curious and start playing with the cords. Your system, on the other hand, might experience issues. Cat fur and dander often get stuck between the keys, requiring you to pop them off for a thorough cleaning. And if Kitty frequently sleeps on the keyboard, this could cause the system to overheat. 

So, since you don't want to discourage your pet from wanting to spend time with you, Shojai suggests using positive reinforcement cues and techniques to bond with your cat and keep your keyboard kitty-free. Here are some ideas:

  • Create a routine that involves your cat in pleasant interactive play before you sit down with the computer. 
  • Provide environmental enrichment to keep Kitty entertained when you must concentrate on the screen. "A box filled with leaves, for instance, or a bird feeder outside the window may help," Shojai suggests. "Do this before you work, or else the cat may think lounging on your keyboard makes you reward them with the leaf box."
  • Establish a cat relaxation area that's nearby but more attractive than your computer keyboard. This could be a cozy box with a fluffy blanket or, because our feline friends love to perch in high spaces, outfit a cat tree or shelf with a heated bed

Additional Reporting By Meghan Overdeep.