How to Keep a Cat Off Your Desk – For Good!

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The age-old problem of a lot of cat owners. Cats going onto your desk or work area.

It might be cute the first couple of times they do it but as they continue to go on the desk and distract you, it can become a problem that is not only bad for your productivity but can also be a negative influence on your cat’s personal habits.

Way back in the day when I had my first experience owning cats (before actually learning about them properly), I too thought it was okay and it was just something that cats like to do.

I just chalked it up them trying to get attention or just being mean. However, as they continued to go onto my desk and throwing stuff off of the table, flipping over my monitor, or even biting cables – I knew I had to make a change.

Picture 1. Accurate reenactment of a resident cat on the desk

So how do you keep a cat off your desk or computer work area? Keep your desk area organized so that there isn’t anything that they can play with (to prevent unwanted associations), have more elevated areas to give cats more surfaces to go on around the area, and use deterrence strategies and tools as a last resort.

For the most part, cats will get the idea before the deterrence tools get used.

Again, it might not be a big deal to people at first but as your cats get used to going on there because you allow them to, then the more they see it as another play area – which could mean bad news for your equipment or valuables.

If you have other problems with cats turning off your computer or similar involving your work area – read my comprehensive post: Cat-Proof Computer and Work Area.

Why Do Cats Love to Be on Desks or Computer Tables?

Many cat owners probably have a cat tower somewhere in their homes. It’s a great item to allow cats to climb and play. However, have you noticed that cats usually like to be in the room that their humans are in?

One cat tower is not enough. Catification of the home is what we as cat owners should aim for. Catification doesn’t need to be expensive or take a lot of time or effort. I go through the easiest/cheapest ways to catify your home in this article: Catification of a Budget (Free -> $$)

*catification: creating or making adjustments to a living space to accommodate both our cat’s needs and our needs. These are the spaces that allow our cats to perch, play, and climb.

The short answer is that cats are more social than many people think and wherever their humans are, they tend to be in that same room. Or in the case of my Bengal cat, yell until they are let in.

Observe your working area – you might have one desk and a chair. Is there a cat tower near you in this area? Most likely not.

I’m not saying to have a cat tower everywhere – that’s impractical and space inefficient for small living spaces but what I am saying is to give our cats more options to be in our presence.

In this regular working area set up, there isn’t much choice for our cats. They don’t want to be too far but they also don’t want to be on the floor where they’ll risk getting stepped on or kicked. Therefore the most likely surface that they’ll jump to our computer desk.

Give The Cat(s) More Options To Be Near You

Graphic 1. Cat to Human Height Preferences

Cats like to be at least waist level and above when they hang out with their humans. So what’s the easiest way to give them this platform or height? Another chair beside you would likely be sufficient.

If they jump on your desk, put them on the chair and give them a treat for being there. After a week they’ll probably start to prefer the chair.

What’s even better than just a chair? Some sort of perch that they can go on. If your desk is near to a window, it’s easy to put a suction cup perch or hammock there to let them chill while you’re at your desk.

Picture 2. On the left are the multiple suction cup perches that I have near my computer desk. Cats almost never go on my computer to rest – they always go onto the perches and observe what I’m doing below.

The more options you give them in terms of perching and resting areas other than your desk itself, the less likely they’re going to go onto the desk.

Don’t Give Cats a Reason for Going on the Desk

Cats love small stuff to play around with and usually, there’s a lot of small items on the desk. Cats are likely to play with:

  • Pencils, erasers, pens
  • USB Drives, and similar tech items
  • Headphones
  • Accessories
  • Cables
  • Remotes
  • Mice and Keyboard
  • Loose papers

Organize to create an area that’s relatively minimal. Stuff that is sensitive should be put relatively out of reach from the cats. Small items and loose papers should also be put away in a drawer until they’re needed.

Picture 3. Sensitive items should be put in the back or above in a cupboard or drawer. It doesn’t need to be perfect but at least not out in open.

There’s a reason we’re organizing and it’s to prevent our cats from developing habits that will attract them to the desk.

For example, if your desk is unorganized and every time your cat goes on it they find something to play with – they start to associate your desk as a source of fun. So even if you do clean it and organize it for one day – they’ll still keep going and checking. So consistency is very important.

The way I stay consistent is right before I start getting ready for bed or when I finish my work, I give my desk area a quick check and pass through to see if there’s potentially anything that my cats can play with.

Keep cables neat and tucked out of the way. Keyboards and mice are tucked in somewhere so that cats can’t knock them off. Monitor stands are great for this. They have a compartment underneath for organization and keeping things out of reach.

Keep the Cat’s Environment Enticing and Engaging

The above section focuses on minimizing and preventing our valuables to be used as playthings, this section will focus on having other areas of play and fun that they can explore.

The thing we need to understand about our cat’s nature is that they love to burrow and find things in small spaces. That’s part of the excitement of a messy work area or computer table.

Now that we’ve cleaned the computer area off to be pretty boring for cats – we should provide them with an area that they’re allowed to do these things.

Some great toys I like to use are cat environment toys. They’re toys that vary the type of play that our cats get within an indoor environment. Most cats will have a cat tower but do they have a place to burrow and hide?

Simple Cat Straight Tunnel Simple Cat Straight Tunnel

When your cats need to expend some extra energy and you don't exactly have the time to play with them directly - create a play situation so that they can play with each other. This is great for multi-cat homes and folds up neatly when it's not being used. Lots of different designs to fit your home aesthetics too!

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My Pick
SnugglyCat The Ripple Rug - Made in USA - Cat Activity Mat SnugglyCat The Ripple Rug - Made in USA - Cat Activity Mat

While it takes up some horizontal space on the floor - this is such a great tool to let your cats hide and burrow and be cats. Multi-cat households love this item because of its durability and effectiveness. Also folds up neatly to be put away and organized!

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Lasso Brag

For some of the most effective toys and the toys, I would recommend for indoor cats (a list curated and kept updated by me) visit this article here: Best Toys For Indoor Cats (Minimal Clutter).

Deterrence Strategies and Tools for Keeping Cats Off of a Surface

Now in the unlikely chance that your cat still hasn’t changed and they’re very set in their ways, there is one last thing resort we can use.

Cats that have been doing something for a long time (similar to us humans!) will be hard to change. Therefore, sometimes drastic adjustments have to be made to break old habits and form new habits.

The first drastic change I would do is to completely move the computer desk to another area of the room. Still follow the steps above and see how your cats react. Usually, this is enough to shock the cat out of their routine and make new preferences (hopefully now to the chair or perches that you have provided them).

A step further is to create a “no” area. Just as a side note, we never want to scare or discipline our cats directly (spray guy, yelling, etc.). Cats respond to comfort and discomfort feelings.

So simply put if you make your desk uncomfortable – they’re less likely to go on there and vice versa, if you make other areas around your desk very comfortable, they’re going to be more attracted to those places.

How do you make things uncomfortable? Either make it loud or make it uncomfortable to walk/sit on.

Here are some recommended tools for you to do that. Cats hate sticky tape to walk on and they also hate loud hissing noises. Therefore, if you have employed any of these tools – leave them for a couple of days for your cats to get the message.

PetSafe SSSCAT Motion-Activated Dog & Cat Spray PetSafe SSSCAT Motion-Activated Dog & Cat Spray

The PetSafe SSSCAT Deterrent Cat Spray easily protects indoor areas and objects from your pets. This unique spray uses motion-activated infrared to monitor movement up to 3 feet away. When the SSSCAT detects your pet entering an off-limit area, it emits a harmless, odorless, and stainless spray to deter your pet from continuing.

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Sticky Paws Pet Sticky Roll Sticky Paws Pet Sticky Roll

When push comes to shove, this can be a good tool to our teach cats what areas are unacceptable to be on. This is for people that don't want certain furniture to be scratched up and for stubborn cats that are set in their ways scratching up a certain type of furniture or material.

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monsieurtn

With a science background and years of experience including learning, observing, and training cats - increasing our beloved feline's welfare and wellbeing is the priority and passion.

One thought on “How to Keep a Cat Off Your Desk – For Good!

  1. Yeah just built a new rig that has glass front and side panel which I have on my desk along with my monitor. I am worried that they may kick or knock something into it and shatter the glass. My gaming laptop is also docked on my desk on a 45 degree stand. My question for you is, would rubber snakes work? Put them on the desk after I turn out the lights so they don’t see me and associate me with them. My cats are 10 months old,female, sisters, stubborn, and needy.. Thanks for a great article! Nice setup by the way.

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