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I really want a cat, but the problem is that my hobby is electronics. Half my house is a lab. I don't have dangerous equipment, but I do have tiny pieces. Most of the time are inside boxes, but when I work on a project they're all over the desk (such as resistors, chips and stuff) that could be very easily be eaten by a cat and I'm almost sure that it'll find them VERY interesting to at least play.

What can I do to be able to have a cat? I know that training a cat is a fairly difficult and time consuming process, but I'm willing to do it. The problem is, until then, it may eat something and that would be a serious health hazard (especially if it eats a toxic component, such as a capacitor, which includes very toxic fluids).

I'm willing to make more than enough interesting spots for the cat (shelfs to climb and scratch spots) which I think it'll love. Though most cats can't leave their human alone sometimes...

Also my apartment is fairly small (I live by myself and I'm a uni student), ~ 45 square meters.

  • this question is relevant for a lot of hobbies where one handles small parts,it might even be expanded to include this. – trond hansen Sep 12 '17 at 16:20
  • This is a great question! – Zaralynda Sep 12 '17 at 16:39
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    eevblog.com/forum/chat/… :) – rackandboneman Sep 12 '17 at 19:29
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    @rackandboneman the comment in that thread about a heating pad is a great idea, especially for an elderly cat. We have one in the living room and our old girl practically lives on it in winter – Zaralynda Sep 12 '17 at 20:37
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    Most of the answers cover this in more detail, but as someone who has several cats and builds both computers and miniatures, I find that training them to know boundaries (NO CATS ON THE TABLE/COUNTERS!) can be very effective, but for peace of mind nothing beats being able to close the door to a dedicated area. Works very well; just make sure to also give the cat(s) a space of their own. Also note that some breeds are more prone to climbing/jumping than others. On an unrelated note - PLEASE make sure you've considered what you'll do with the new cat when you leave uni... too many get abandoned. – A C Sep 13 '17 at 16:04
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As background, my husband has a similar electronics hobby and I sew. We lived in a house where we did our hobbies in the living room for a few years, but eventually moved into a house large enough that we each have a 'hobby room' and can shut the door to keep the cats out. I honestly believe this is the best long term solution.

While we lived in our small house, we relied on self-discipline, supervision, and training.

Self-Discipline

Basically, if we weren't actively working on a project, all of the dangerous parts had to be put away into containers that the cats couldn't open or swallow.

One way to make this easier (especially if you have things intricately laid out), you can work in the lid of an underbed storage box. When it's time to put things away, put the body of the box on top and hope the cat doesn't knock the whole thing off your table. I'd recommend a box with a locking lid.

Supervision

Make sure that you can easily see all of your dangerous parts at all times so you can shoo away the cat before he starts disturbing stuff.

One method we've used for distraction is to keep a large supply of toys nearby. When the cat starts looking interested in the dangerous stuff, throw a toy into the next room. Catnip mice in bulk are a good option for distraction.

Training

Train your cat to not ever get on your work surface.

First, you need to make sure that you provide other surfaces that meet the same needs (generally, height, interesting toys, and easy interaction with you).

Then, you need some sort of discipline system that is not associated with you. We use ssscat, which uses a motion detector to shoot a puff of air at the cat. People also sometimes use carpet protectors placed nubby side up.

Finally, when you are working if the cat jumps onto your work station, you need to quickly, firmly, and with no emotion, put the cat on the floor. Once the cat is on the floor (or their own nearby surface), then pet the cat or give him a treat. Additionally, when he's nearby (on his own surface or the floor), you should also reward him with treats or affection.

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    Especially the last bit--you need to "train an incompatible behavior". Teaching the cat not to do something is difficult, easier to train it to do something (jump on a designated surface) that automatically prevents it from doing what you want it to not do (be on your work surface). – user3067860 Sep 12 '17 at 19:54
  • The lid of a plastic storage box is a terrible work surface from an ESD standpoint, though... – rackandboneman Sep 12 '17 at 19:55
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    @rackandboneman oh geez you're right. I was trying to think of something easy and readily available. I suppose you could fabricate a similar metal box if you have the skills, or attach a metal sheet to the box lid and run a grounding line ... somewhere? I'll think about it a bit more. – Zaralynda Sep 12 '17 at 20:34
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    @rackandboneman would an esd mat be enough on top of a plastic storage box lid? uline.com/BL_7403/Anti-Static-Table-Mats – Zaralynda Sep 12 '17 at 20:42
  • If it can still make a mechanically stable work surface ... – rackandboneman Sep 12 '17 at 20:57
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Full disclosure: Electronics hobbyist, not pet owner speaking.

"I don't have dangerous equipment" - be aware that harmful/safe voltage/current/exposure time levels are not the same for various animals as they are for humans, and do your research before assuming anything.

Also, hot objects (recently used soldering equipment) can become a fire hazard if dislodged. Same with wiring fed by low voltage, high current power supplies (a 15V, 5A power supply can perfectly set things on fire - so can almost any lead/acid battery). Etching chemicals, if used, also can contribute to fire hazards or seriously damage stuff if spilled (they are usually potent oxidisers, and per definition corrosive to metal).

Other unexpectedly dangerous objects you could find in an electronics lab: Mercury switches (Glass+Poison), any larger tubes (unencased CRTs/photomultipliers/camera tubes: Glass+implosion hazard), sharp tools (probe tips, knives), dust/debris from working on FR4 boards (inhalation hazard, probably also for animals), heavy objects with long wires hanging out from them (transformers), ...

For any other aspects, I can only second what is said in other answers: Keep unattended parts and equipment under lock and key, and restrict activities to a dedicated area. Make sure there is a way to disconnect all power to bench equipment when leaving it unattended with the cat around.

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    I'm told cats can't really feel heat on their noses, so will sniff a soldering iron and get burned. No personal experience, so I didn't harm any cats in posting this comment, YMMV. – Ralph Bolton Sep 13 '17 at 10:21
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As well as the other recommendations, I would be sure to wipe down your work surfaces after working with lead solder, so that the cat can't get lead residue on its paws if it walks across your bench.

This is just an extension of the safety rules we humans follow when working with head solder: don't eat, drink or smoke. Or put your paws on the bench and then lick them.

Do not pet the cat when working with lead solder, to avoid transferring any lead from your hands to its fur.

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  • Very good point – Sonevol Nov 26 '18 at 4:28
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As you suspect training the cat not to get involved with the all the associated "interesting" bits and pieces involved in the electronics would be difficult, time-consuming and by no means garunteed of success so I think you would be unwise to rely on it.

Do you have room you could shut the cat out of while you work on your projects? Or one you could shut the cat in to during the same? Make sure that wherever the cat is that it has access to plenty of toys and other safe objects of interest (plus litter and water etc)

If you can keep the cat temporarily separate from you while you work then it's a matter of good discipline with your components and tools - making sure that you tidy everything away before opening the room back up to the cat. You'll also want to keep an eye on the amount of time you spend shut away/shut the cat away so it's not excessive and make sure you give the cat plenty of attention/play/treats afterwards.

It's not great, and believe me I can sympathize as I frequently have to shut my two away while I renovate my house but with some effort and self discipline there's no reason you can't keep the hobby going and have a cat.

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You can attach ultrasonic sensors to your workstation and set alarms if your cat comes near in that region. This will help you to keep an eye on cat even if you are not present there. Also, it is very easy to train your car according to alarm sound .

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