Cat-proofing My PC

This is a troubleshooting log. The introduction of a kitten to the local environment can introduce new factors negatively influencing worker productivity.

The obstacles faced can be widely broken down into three categories:

  1. Peripheral Device Access
  2. Operational Hazards
  3. Inventory Management

Peripheral Device Access

Image source: Reddit

You’re minding your own business -wordprocessing your time away- when suddenly your resident feline approaches the home workstation. The keyboard, mousepad, mouse – all areas nearby are fair game. Efforts to firmly relocate the feline are unsuccessful, as they will invariably outmaneuver you with ease.

The (wired) mouse brings out a specific predatory instinct. A ‘gamer’ mouse will no longer serve its primary function: fast moving and jerky movements combined with a cord are all too inviting to the clawed carnivores. To make matters worse, my gaming mousepad has been recently repurposed into a scratching mat.

I followed the Swap-Components Troubleshooting Approach first, swapping my computer for pen and notepad. The results were worse: not only would a scribbling pen be attacked, but drying ink directly stepped onto and spread across the paper in paw prints.

The classic troubleshooting approach wasn’t working.

Core Issue

According to science, cats conquer our laptops and keyboards because they can tell this is the centre of our attention. Cats know fully well that this behaviour is likely to result in pets and/or snacks.

“Usually people reinforce the behavior by petting the cat and/or talking with him. Cats quickly learn that when they sit on the keyboard they get what they want—attention.”

Marilyn Krieger, “Here’s Why Cats Love Laptops”, Reader’s Digest

So far the most effective strategies have involved snack bribery and compromising to transfer to an alternative location nearby that would not directly hinder peripheral usage: the lap.

Operational Hazards

Image source: Petsoid.com

Cable management is important, and with a feline -if done badly- it can have fatal consequences. While the new cat has been attacking power cables, they have a preference for dangling USB cables, LED strips, and most horrifyingly – the cables leading right out of the PC. I had been warned that cats are pros at seeking heat.

The first preventative measure was to use a 50/50 water and vinegar mix to wipe down over all the cables, turning off all power at the wall when not in use. While an effective short-term solution, it again the case to focus on understanding behaviour.

Core Issue

I observed that the cable biting would occur after she had been vying to gain my attention: meows of increasing volume, restless pacing and chair-circling.

The key word was restless: and the key time that it frequently occurred was around dusk. I learned cats are most active at dusk and dawn as that’s the peak time for hunting their primary prey.

Inventory Management

Image source: The Spruce Pets

Bluetooth Adaptors. Cable ties. USB storage drives. Cables. Earbuds. Routers. Modems. Batteries.

A feline resident will force you to upgrade your home inventory management skills. If not, you will be subject to the following:

  • Small items disappearing and reappearing in unexpected locations
  • Piles of cables inexplicably tangling themselves
  • Various items dispersed across the living space within seconds

Core Issue

The likely attributed cause of this behaviour is boredom. When the selection of toys in rotation lacks variety, it seems only natural that a cat would sate their curiosity of anything and everything within reach.

The bottom line is that most undesirable behaviours result from either boredom, frustration/stress or a lack of attention. Addressing these three root causes by redirecting attention and restructuring playtime has proven more effective than any preventative measures (like covering cables in vinegar or “anti-cat” smells).

Published by Tech Neck Nick

I'm a cybersecurity major postgrad student from Sydney, Australia. Support my fight against Writer's Block.

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