why are cats attracted to laptops?
Questions About Cats

Why Do Cats Like Sleeping on Laptops?

Some cats are obsessed with sleeping on laptops. While it looks and seems like an uncomfortable sleeping spot, laptops provide things that cats are drawn to and enjoy. So, why are cats so attracted to laptops in the first place?

Cats have higher temperatures than humans, so they enjoy the heat that laptops generate. They can also smell their owner’s scent on the keyboard. If your cat doesn’t feel that it’s getting enough attention, it’ll sleep on your laptop for affection. Cats are also territorial, so they’ll sleep on your computer to transfer their scent onto it.

Some cats are drawn to the flickering screen and will fall asleep watching what’s going on. Others want to sit up high to watch their surroundings. If your laptop’s in an elevated position, your cat’s more likely to sit or sleep on it. 

Why Do Cats Sleep On Laptops?

A laptop seems like a strange place for a cat to sleep, but there are several reasons why cats are attracted to them. If you’re wondering, “why do cats lay on electronics?” the answer is that cats rarely do anything without motivation. These are the most common reasons why your pet sleeps on your laptop:

Warmth

A cat’s thermoneutral zone is between 85 to 100 degrees. According to Lab Animal, this is the range of temperatures in the immediate environment at which a cat can maintain its normal body temperature without needing to utilize energy beyond its standard basal metabolic rate.

Because this is much higher than a human’s thermoneutral zone, cats constantly look for ways to keep warm, particularly in colder climates. Cozy blankets and sunny spots provide them with the warmth they need, as do laptops that are being used. Laptops generate heat while they’re in use, so cats are attracted to the warmth they produce.

Human Scent

Cats have a good sense of smell and possess 4 times as many odor receptors as humans. According to Applied Animal Behavior Science, cats rely on their smell to gather information and interpret the world around them.

Our fingers have over a thousand sweat glands, producing between 100 – 1,000 times more sweat than other body parts. Sweat from fingertips tends to evaporate as soon as it comes out, but it’s also easily transferred to a laptop keyboard. Cats can smell human pheromones through sweat, so your pet will lie on your laptop to be close to you, taking comfort from your scent.

Territory

Cats are territorial creatures and frequently use their scent to claim items as their own. This is an effective way to warn other cats and animals away from their territory long after they’re gone. Cats have scent glands in their:

  • Paws
  • Cheeks
  • Lips
  • Forehead
  • Flanks
  • Tail

According to VCA Hospitals, cats mark things with these scent glands, rubbing and scratching to deposit their odor to signal ownership. In this instance, cats rub themselves on their owners’ laptops to claim them as their own.

You may also find your cat becomes aggressive and agitated when you attempt to take the laptop from underneath it. This is classic territorial behavior.

Attention

If you’re on your laptop engrossed in your work, the likelihood is you’re ignoring your cat. Therefore, jumping on your laptop and getting in between you and the screen is the best way for your cat to get your attention. This is especially likely to happen if your pet enjoys sitting on your lap.

Many owners unwittingly reinforce this behavior by stroking or cuddling their pets. Cats quickly learn that sitting or sleeping on a laptop gets them what they want – attention from their owners.

Moving Screen

Cats are visual creatures that thrive on visual stimulation. Some cats enjoy watching the laptop screen move, particularly if a video’s playing or the screen’s continuously flickering. Doing so sharpens their cognitive abilities.

Scientists don’t yet know what cats see when they watch TV and laptop screens, but because their brains move faster than the images, it’s likely they see a series of flickering pictures. This piques their curiosity and encourages them to get closer to the laptop screen. Many cats even fall asleep watching the images.

why do cats lay on electronics?

Height

If you use your laptop at a desk, your cat could be looking for height. Being up high allows cats to scope out their surroundings and keep an eye on what’s going on, giving them a good vantage point. This comes from their instincts to protect themselves, as a high position gives wild animals a chance to spot predators and other dangers and allows them to retreat from harm. It also allows them to attack smaller prey in tree branches.

While domesticated cats don’t need to worry about these things so much, they’re hard-wired to prefer being high up. Your cat will be drawn to your laptop if the position offers them a good view of the room.

The Keyboard’s Texture

The feeling and texture of the keyboard tabs pressing down are interesting to cats. Every time your cat changes position, it’ll feel the keypads moving up and down, which is bound to pique its curiosity. Your cat can’t distinguish a laptop from a toy, so the keyboard likely provides the same mental stimulation as its favorite toys and games.

How To Keep Cats Away From Laptops

Not only is it annoying for people trying to work when their cats fall asleep on their laptops, but it puts your machine at risk of damage. The good news is that even the most persistent cats can be trained to stop sitting on laptops:

Provide a Heated Rest Area

We’ve mentioned that cats are naturally drawn to warmth, so provide a heated bed near your desk for your cat to sleep instead. During the winter, a bed that attaches to a radiator is a great way to provide your cat with all the heat it needs. Just be careful that you don’t leave the heating on too high to avoid burning your cat.

Alternatively, if you live in a hot climate, place your cat’s bed in a sunny position to keep your pet warm and comfortable. It might be too warm for you, but it won’t be for your cat.

Distractions

One of the best ways to keep your cat away from your laptop is to distract it with toys. When you get caught up in work, it’s easy to forget how long you’ve been at your computer, so schedule regular 5-10 minute breaks occasionally to keep your cat entertained.

You might want to consider letting your cat go outside during the day, too. Doing so allows it to burn energy and let off steam, leaving you to get on with your work while it’s out exploring its environment.

No Attention

Try to avoid giving your cat attention when it sits or sleeps on your laptop. Fussing over your cat only encourages the behavior, so you need to show it that it’s not allowed to do this. Instead of stroking or petting your cat while it’s on your laptop, quickly remove it and don’t allow it to jump back up. Wait a few minutes before giving your cat attention.

It’s up to you to teach your pet not to sleep on it in a safe, positive, and constructive manner. Your cat doesn’t know it’s doing anything wrong, and it’s also not trying to upset you.

cat sleeping on keyboard

Reward for Finding a New Spot

Encourage your cat to find a new sleeping spot by removing it from your laptop and calling it to a new position. If your cat responds and curls up away from your laptop, reward it with a treat. Your pet will eventually associate this new resting area with treats, forming positive affirmations that will dissuade it from sleeping on your laptop in the future.

Use a Laptop Stand  

Another option to discourage your cat from sitting on your laptop is to use a laptop stand. They position your laptop at an angle so that your cat can’t comfortably sit on the keyboard. Your cat may prefer to sleep underneath your laptop instead, which is better for the device and allows you to carry on with your work uninterrupted.

Decoy Laptop

A more radical idea is to provide a fake laptop for cats to play with instead of the actual electronic device. You can find decoy laptops made out of scratching cardboard, which stimulates their senses and helps them keep their nails filed down. The great thing is that they’re inexpensive, so it doesn’t matter if your cat destroys one.

Another option is to create your own using textured cardboard. Your cat may not like it as much as your laptop, but if you take measures to discourage your cat from sitting on your machine, a fake laptop is a good alternative sleeping spot for your pet to enjoy.

Lock Your Keyboard

If your cat walks all over your keyboard and you can’t stop it, download an application for your laptop to lock your keypad. That way, your cat can’t press anything it shouldn’t. This also reduces the risk of things being accidentally opened or deleted.

Do the best you can to keep your cat away from your laptop. Even though your cat may look comfortable, it’ll only get used to the position over time, damaging your computer in the process.