My cat loves to climb on my desk at home. Problem is, he is constantly knocking things off (he broke a cup and a couple other things this week), and messing up stuff on my desk, bumping my monitors, etc.

I have tried spraying him with water to get off my desk, I have tried scolding him, I have tried putting unpleasant things on my desk, and also bodily removing him every time he gets on it while I am home and can see him. I can't take everything off my desk, either, unlike, say, a table. He's three years old now, and I am getting super frustrated by this behaviour. It only started since he has been the only cat in the house (for about a year now).

Nothing seems to stop him.

I know I keep his treats in one of my desk drawers - could this be part of the problem?

How can I keep my desk cat-free, while still keeping my stuff on it?

  • 9
    Easy: don't use a mouse :)
    – user6796
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 1:39
  • 3
    Tell him, "Vamoose, ya little varmin'!" like Data in TNG. It works, apparently. Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 23:04
  • @allquixotic, Vamoose = suppletive 1st plural imperative of "to go" : to depart quickly. "It's getting late, so we had better vamoose!" First known use of vamoose: year 1859. Origins in Spanish and Urdu. Urdu is spoken in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh. Commented Mar 2, 2014 at 7:57
  • 4
    I just wanted to note: It's not your desk. It's his. He lets you keep stuff on it. Temporarily.
    – Coronus
    Commented May 31, 2014 at 6:25

8 Answers 8


He gets lonely after losing his companion. Attention seeking adventures on your desk help him a lot. Every kind of attention you give a cat is attention. The cat gets noticed. Be it just a lifting off the desk or whatever, he gets what he came looking for.

When you know you are going to work at the desk, start by playing with your cat first. After a healthy session of playing, you feed him. If he is on constant food offer, then you feed him those treats. What is important is that after the play he eats something. After eating you should have a satisfied cat lying on the sofa instead of harassing you on the desk.

First of all, remove the treats from the desk drawer. Put garlic in there instead. The unpleasant smell of garlic should turn the previously interesting hiding place of treats not so interesting. There are a <selection of scents> that cats are said to dislike; for example citrus, lavender, rosemary etc. The smell of garlic has worked wonders for me.

There is also a technical approach to this. It is a movement sensor actuated spray of odorless liquid that is supposed to scare a cat away from a certain place. In this case you would place the device somewhere on your desk and turn it On when you leave the desk. I have not used this myself, but a cat owner friend (having two cats) tells me it works nearly perfectly. Product name is "ssscat" in Amazon.com and you can order refill bottles for it too.

ssscat automatic spray
photo by Maritta Arvilommi, used here with permission.

If this does not work, I think giving up is advisable. Give up like you own the place: if there is a shelf of sorts on your desk, or right next to it, I suggest to make a bed for your cat up there. You know, something that he finds comfortable to lie on. If you currently have no suitable platform for this, buy something. Your cat should find the platform/shelf a good vantage point from where to keep an eye on you and your business. This leaves only the problem of how he will get there.

  • I forgot to ask beforehand, is the cat jumping on that desk all the time, or only when you are working at the desk? Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 21:35
  • Mostly when I am at the desk - sometimes he will jump on it when I am not there, like when I am in the kitchen, but usually it is when I am working on something or playing games or whatever at my desk.
    – user53
    Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 22:24
  • 2
    @AshleyNunn Unless your cat is getting in the drawer, the garlic cannot harm the cat. Garlic is really only dangerous as an ingredient in foods that a cat will eat, since other flavors/scents will mask it.
    – cimmanon
    Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 22:29
  • 1
    I am slightly worried that the stuff in the desk might start to smell like it, though.
    – user53
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 4:23
  • 3
    Upvote, especially for giving him HIS OWN PLACE on the desk. With multiple cats and multiple desk-beds, we can usually keep everyone from being super annoying.
    – Zaralynda
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 19:47

Cats can't stand the odour of citrus. We trained our cats to stay off our bookshelves and my desk by leaving orange peel on them for a number of days - replacing dried out peel with fresh when necessary.

The nice thing about this approach is that it doesn't hurt the cats and there's no spray involved either, so it can't affect anything electronic left on the desk.

  • Do not spray I wouldn't advise spraying your cat when he is on your desk, the risk to damaging electronic equipment is too great.

  • Food and drink sources: remove the treats from your desk drawer, it can only help. I keep all food sources away from anything I do not want to be damaged by food, liquid, pets, children or pests (for example we are having an ant invasion and they recently destroyed my coffee machine - which has resulted in extreme tiredness and sour mood - but this mood would only be worse had they invaded my laptop).

  • Persistence, all you can do is to continually mechanically pick him up and tell him no as you do so whenever you see him there.

  • The mice will play when the cats away Ultimately you cannot control your cats behavior (beyond all sort of complex electronic surveillance equipment) when you are absent. This is always a dilemma for pet owners and parents of teenagers.

  • Cat proof the desk Pets can be similar to having toddlers and toddler proofing a home. Unclutter your desk. Cats are notorious for knocking things over in their explorations. Remove anything from your desk that you cannot afford to be knocked over. This may mean keeping pens in a drawer, as opposed to a pen cup holder. As a general rule, I never keep a drink on the same surface as a pc, I assume it can be knocked over, I always have my drinks on a separate surface to electronic equipment, and books this will immediately alleviate some of your stress levels).

  • The other answer is quite right, in he wants your attention, plus it is an interesting adventure. You can adopt an attitude of the following:

    • Realistic expectations Accepting that he is a cat and it's their nature to be explorers. By cat proofing as much as possible, thereby limiting consequences, his behavior will be less annoying.
    • Perspective It is a compliment he wants to be in your business and have your attention. By changing your attitude it will help you to cope with the stress and replenish your patience.

Another thought is to encourage your cat to sit on your lap when he climbs onto the desk whilst you are sitting at it.

  • Do Not Spray - Depends on desk (Although it's safe to assume electronics are nearby)... Secondary options include nerf guns and other assorted shock treatments to say Desk = Bad.
    – WernerCD
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 5:13
  • @WernerCD the op states in the question that the cat bumps the monitors. I suggest that you are attempting to answer the question within the comment with your added ideas and it's really out of the scope of the comments to continue discussing that here
    – user6796
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 6:20
  • 1
    @WernerCD I could spray the desk, but I don't want it to hit the monitors. Nerf guns and the like might work, although I don't want to hurt him.
    – user53
    Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 2:10
  • @AshleyNunn and also it comes to the sort of relationship we want with our cats. I find by accepting that he can get into things, it's best not to leave chicken on the kitchen counter rather than to train him not to jump up and eat it.
    – user6796
    Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 2:12
  • 1
    Are you worried that he will damage your pc? And no, dismantling the pc is not an option. I can't see the cat damaging the pc, if the monitor is well back from the edge and there is nothing that can be knocked over ie coffee
    – user6796
    Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 2:17

Have you tried giving him a space of his own on or near your desk?

My husband had the same problem. He works from home once/week and our cat would constantly lay on him, on the keyboard, steal his chair, etc. Soon enough, our other cat would join in on the fun and his productivity for the day would tank.

I ended up putting a square box, slightly bigger then a shoe box, right next to our window and tucked into the corner of the desk. To guide them to it, I put an old washcloth at the bottom, dumped a bunch of catnip in it and rubbed it all over the box. Worked like a charm - they were fighting over it within a few hours so I had to make a second one.

  • Also, consider putting the box on the desk, in a corner. Once your cat has a place of his own, he will probably stay there contentedly while you work, and be much less likely to bump or break things. Plus, I find having a cat in view while I work is very relaxing.
    – mhwombat
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 18:39

Of course the most effective solution will depend on the individual cat, but a couple of things to try (which I have done myself) are fairly simple:

  • Tuck the chair in when not in use—of course this depends on the agility of the cat and the height of the desk (my cat kept using it to jump on the desk; without it, she can’t jump high enough).
  • Make sure there are not other items nearby that they can use (her cat-perch was close enough that she would jump across to my desk; moving it a little further fixed that).
  • Remove anything tempting from the desk (I used to keep a bag of cat-treats on the desk, so of course she would try to get to it; removing that removed the motivation).

And to add to a couple of things already mentioned:

  • Remove anything fragile. This is obvious enough; if the cat makes it up there despite your best efforts, then it’s not a problem if you have nothing light or fragile that can be dropped or broken.
  • Put a perch or bed or something nearby so that they take ownership of that and instinctively go there instead.

These tips go for any surface or area that you want to keep a cat (or other pet) out of. For example, we learned the hard way when we discovered that our cat had used a chair in the basement to jump onto the table where we put a couple of trays of freshly-baked mini-cheesecakes to cool overnight. Likewise when she jumped on several things to make her way up to a bowl of snack on a shelf in the dining room.

Now we always make sure she has no physical access to anywhere she shouldn’t be. In addition, we try to properly store all foods because even if she can’t actually get to it, it would be cruel to make her have to smell it all night.


Maybe nerf guns and water bottles, as per my comment, won't be well received but there are lots of other good options:

Ssscat or Stay Away. Odorless and "safe". Videos of it in action. #2 Stay away has an audible component which some claim is just as effective as a deterrent (and some claim was removed from #1 Ssscat to sell more canister refills).

Stay Off Matt or Sofa Scram are another two good, rather well reviewed options. No spraying, reusable in other areas for other animals.

Audible Deterent - Silent to humans, motion detecting. Maybe harder to setup on a desk but shouldn't be impossible. This one seems to have bad reviews, but others exist that are better recieved.

Personally, I'd prefer something that's automatic, reusable, works when I'm not present and is obviously not dangerous or harmful. this article has even more ideas for training and repellents for different situations.


Answer: lay down strips of Scotch tape, sticky-side up.

The problem is that the cat knows it only needs to avoid the desk when you're around with the spray bottle. If it learns that bad stuff happens no matter who is around, it will stop.

Just take numerous long strips of Scotch tape, and lay them sticky side up across all the areas the cat might step to approach the target. The cat will step on the tape, shake its foot, then realize the tape didn't come off. Then it will get super uncomfortable and run around the house trying to get the tape off. Since it's only Scotch tape, it's relatively weak and can be pulled off cat fur pretty easily. In my experience, the cat typically removes it themselves after several minutes of running around and shaking their foot.

I used this to protect a plant on a desk that the cat would get into constantly. The cat would only do it when I wasn't around because he learned I would stop him if I was there. The tape finally put an end to his plant attacks.


I prefer this method because nearly all cats will not respond to negative reinforcement at all. All cats will respond to natural instincts.

Felines(felidae) have a wide variety of social behaviors. House cats, Felidae Felinae Felis F. Catus, are descended from the Felidae Pantherinae subfamily. This subfamily includes: Lions, tigers, Jaguars, Leopards, panthers, and other panther-like feline.

Through many years of domesticating, house cats have adapted to human interaction yet retain several diverse instincts from their Pantherinae ancestors. Toms typically socialize more like panthers; they lean towards being dominant, territorial(spraying), less social, solo animals. Queens typically socialize as lioness; pride animals, solo hunters, providers, and protectors. Tell tale signs of panther-like behavior are: ignores you a lot, cat chooses when to be pet and left alone, doesn't bring you dead mice. Tell tale signs of pride like inclinations are: sleeping with you, waking you up in the morning, excessive meowing.

I've had my female cat since she was 8 weeks old. I've been able to raise the cat to be submissive. If your cat is the dominant in the household use the following technique with care as overuse could make the cat loathe you. It can also make the cat feel it is no longer welcome and needs to find a new family.

When my cat attempts to get on my desk I pick her up by the scruff of her neck (this is ok to do with cats of any age as long as they aren't overweight). This shows the first sign of dominance as this is how mothers carry their young. I turn around, putting myself between the desk and the cat establishing a barrier. I then initiate a "Stare Down" with that cat just like you might see on the discovery channel when two unfamiliar cats are contesting territory. This step can take awhile as this is part of their ancestral instincts. Remain still and maintain eye contact. If you blink do it quickly, slow blinks are an comfortable/affectionate sign. A dominate cat will turn its head away to the side and TURN away an pretend nothing ever happened. A submissive cat will turn its head down and BACK away. If a submissive cat turns its head to the side and doesn't back away this is the equivalent of "I don't want to challenge you but I still want up there so I'm going to stick around and see if you change your mind". If this is the case don't adjust your position to meet the cats eyes but continue to stare down the cat until it concedes and walks away.

Afterwards, I will get the cat's attention and rub my head on the desk, marking the territory just as cats do when they are depositing their pheromones to mark territory. This sets up clear territorial and dominance boundaries and overtime with will convert a dominant cat. When doing this it's important to let the cat have its own private territories that you do not invade to keep the cat comfortable.