Why do cats do that thing? That thing when you're playing a game and they wiggle their way between you and the screen? Now I can't see anything, they're lying across my hands and purring like a lawnmower so I can't even be cross. It might be fuss, food, or both, or none of these things. Maybe they're a fan of Assassin's Creed Valhalla. No, that would be ridiculous.
Or, would it?
Well, we spoke to an animal behaviourist about this annoying if adorable thing that cats do as soon as you've got a spare minute to drop into Verdansk. The reasons why your cat is constantly crashing your gaming sessions might surprise you.
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There's a funny thing about the image of cats as the little domesticated creatures that we sometimes share our four walls with. Of course, they used to be honored in Ancient Egyptian culture and there's a saying that reminds us that they've never forgotten their luxurious past lives. In Japan, maneki-neko (statues of white cats with their paw raised) bring good luck to their owners. And, the prophet Muhammad was said to leave "without his cloak rather than disturb [a cat] that was sleeping on it." Which is fair enough because the cat got there first.
Because cats often exhibit a curious personality, it's easy to misconstrue that interest in their surroundings as disinterest in their caretakers. Hence, when a cat bothers you while you're mere moments from a victory royale, you'd likely think it's them hankering after a snack and trying to get you to stop whatever unimportant thing you're doing.
However, the cats you see in the "Pets of the PCMR" flair on the r/pcmasterrace subreddit are keeping their owners company while they fly the Normandy from planet to planet, for example. Speaking to Sally Chamberlain, a feline behaviourist and reiki master with more qualifications than you could shake a stick at, I showed her a handful of examples to understand why cats love gaming so much.
"Cats often bond with their owners and want to be wherever they are and often interfere with what they are doing to get their attention," explained Sally. The depth of the bond between animal and human depends on a number of factors like age and socialisation, but cats are after two things when they're looking for somewhere to curl up.
Firstly, it's got to be warm. Secondly, it must be somewhere where the cat feels completely safe. Surprise! Those two things are often together, so there is really a third thing that cats are looking for in a chill out spot. And that's you.
As gaming sessions usually have us set up for the long haul, with a comfortable supportive chair, noise-cancelling headphones and perhaps some snacks, this is an ideal place for a cat to share with you. "Electrical equipment is always warm and keyboards and controllers may be seen as interesting play things by a cat, especially when combined with the swift movements of their owner's hands and fingers as they use them," said Sally.
Looking at the photos of cats conquering their owner's gaming spaces, she told me that these animals appear to be relaxed and aren't interested in getting a second breakfast out of their caretakers (I know, I was similarly shocked).
"There is the possibility that if their owner is doing something, then this leads them to believe it must be good and rewarding," she continued, adding that cats are a little like your dad who wants to relate to you so he gives Warzone a whirl on the Xbox and still doesn't really know what it is afterwards. "The cat wants to join in to see if they can also gain some benefit from the activity," concluded Sally.
However, as adorable as all of this is, it's possible that your moggy's muscling in on your work or gaming desk isn't that convenient. Fortunately, Sally has some suggestions if you're tripping over your pet. Try setting up a platform over the keyboard so the cat can still flop out close by and you can still type to your heart's content. Or, a second keyboard might help your cat feel like they're a part of what's going on, if you're fine with it filling up with fluff.
A cat tree with a platform at the top, or a DIY version if you're so inclined, will also give the cat somewhere that's theirs and somewhere to watch what you're up to. If you use positive reinforcement like giving out treats when they climb up there, they'll soon associate it with feelings of satisfaction and they'll chill out there of their own accord in no time.
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