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My girlfriend and I adopted our cat Beatrice (F, 2 yo, spayed) about 4 months ago. About 2 months ago (so 2 months after adoption), she started the annoying habit of getting up in front of the TV when we sit down to watch at the end of the evening.

As far as I can tell, it is attention seeking behavior. For the most part, she will sit there and stare at us, or pace back and forth. If left unchecked, she'll attempt to reach for the top of the TV, seemingly to try to get on top of it. Generally speaking, she doesn't seem intrigued by anything in particular on the screen. Occasionally something will catch her eye and she'll try to bat at that, but that seems like a separate behavior.

It most often happens later in the evening (8-10pm, prior to our 10pm bedtime). It most often happens when I am present (I am her designated favorite), but can happen when my girlfriend is solo with her as well. In other cases, she'll get up from my lap and go up to the TV. So it's not just general attention-seeking; she's after something more specific.

What We've Tried:

  • Added a Scat Mat to the TV stand. However, she very quickly learned that she can pick her way between the spikes and still get to where she wants to go. Some of the pieces are easily knocked down, allowing her to comfortably sit unless we replace them. Incidentally, this let's us see that she never does this when we're not home.
  • Have tried ignoring her. Easy to do with a sitcom rerun. Harder to do with something we're more intent on watching. Also, if she's reaching for the top of the TV, we have to intervene for fear that she's topple it on herself.
  • Have tried immediately removing her, either just nudging her off, or carrying her across the room to her cat tree.
    • In both cases, she'll immediately go back. I think she thinks it's a game.
  • Have tried feeding her earlier/later playing with her more or less to see if that affects it. There doesn't seem to be any strong correlation.
  • Tucked some citrus peels behind the TV. No reaction.

Now to the crux on my question:

How do I get my cat to leave the TV alone? Either through physical deterrents, behavioral modifications, or a combination thereof?

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    Is this your first cat? "Getting between humans and what they're paying attention to" is very classic cat behavior.
    – Allison C
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 14:24
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    This solution might cost you some money (hence posting a comment instead of a full answer, since I don't know if it fits your budget), but getting a wall-mount for the TV would completely solve the problem, assuming it's mounted high enough to be above any horizontal surface the cat can walk on. Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 19:39
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    Re: the tipping part, sooner or later your cat will climb on top of the TV maybe when you're there, maybe when you're not. Therefore you should ensure that it will not tip when she tries. She won't get hurt, but your TV may well suffer. Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 12:46
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    Hold your hand in front of the TV after it's been on for a while -- Is it warm? The places my cats want to sit seem nonsensical until I place a hand on it, realizing that a nearby appliance has made it quite warm and cozy.
    – Turbo
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 13:28
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    @xxbbcc You probably don't want to be squirting water in the general direction of expensive electronics though... Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 14:22

1 Answer 1

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When a cat has some undesirable habit, rather than just trying to stop the behavior, you should offer it some alternative that you're okay with. Make the alternative seem better to the cat than what it was doing before, and the cat will naturally want to do what you want. You can achieve this by both making the alternative even more pleasing to the cat than what it was originally doing, and also by making the thing you don't want it doing less pleasing.

The dissuasion

I'm not sure your scat mat is, but searching for the term turned up electrified mats. If that's what your item is, I would get rid of it. Electric shocks are meant to actually cause the animal pain. Surely no one wants to hurt their pet, and there are plenty of alternatives that don't cause actual pain:

  • Place heavy items the cat can't move, and make it impossible for it to sit comfortably.
  • Cover the area in double sided tape, or alternatively, place pieces of cardboard with double sided tape, if you don't want to get your furniture sticky.
  • Get a motion detecting air sprayer.
  • Place plastic carpet protecting mats on the area, with the teeth up.

The alternative

In this case, you want to make some spot that the cat would like to hang out in even more than the TV. Cats like their hang out spots to be elevated, warm, and comfy. And in this case, it seems located at the center of human attention. Therefore, I suggest placing cat furniture close to the TV, with a soft blanket and maybe even a heating pad.

If the cat is hesitant to try the new furniture, use treats or catnip to help attract the cat to the new spot. You can even try playing with toys and using the toy to lead the cat to the new spot.

Experiment

It will take some experimentation to figure out the right combination of things that will make your cat gravitate to the behavior you want. You should be careful while you're experimenting to make sure the cat doesn't decide that the furniture is a good ladder to the top of your TV. You might even move the new furniture away from the TV while you aren't going to be watching things to make sure the cat doesn't attempt to jump while you aren't there.

Alternatively, make it impossible for the cat to continue the behavior.

This type of alternative is often more expensive or more work, but it is a foolproof solution. In this case, you can change your TV setup entirely so that the cat can no longer sit there. One obvious way to accomplish that is to get a wall mount for your TV.

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    One of our cats likes to join us at the dinner table. We provided him a metal tin, a specific place for him to sit, on the far side of the table, and we encouraged him to sit there. He is very happy sitting there - he gets what he wants - time with us - but we get what we want - no tails in our food.
    – Steve
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 22:05
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    I've done a quick bit of my own googling, and found this result for a Scat Mat: amazon.co.uk/Prickle-Stopper-Repellent-Deterrent-Outdoor/dp/…. This version doesn't seem to be electrified at all, it's just a bunch of upward-facing rubber spikes that cats probably won't enjoy sitting on. I've also found variations that are electric, so it seems like there are a few different types, but from the way the asker described it it seems like this spiky style is the kind of Scat Mat they've gone with.
    – ymbirtt
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 7:37
  • The Scat Mat that @ymbirtt is the type that we have. Not electrified, but rather a bed of dull plastic spikes that would be unpleasant but not painful to step on. Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 16:46
  • There are currently two other spots near the TV that she has laid in the past but doesn't seems to like anymore. One is a basket of blankets right beside the TV stand, several inches higher than the stand itself. The other is the shelf under the TV containing the router. I assumed she liked it because of the warmth. Maybe it's too warm now that it's warming up outside? Or maybe she just likes the spot in front of the TV better? Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 16:59
  • Regarding using toys/treats to attract her to a new spot - will doing so reinforce in her that sitting in front of the TV is how to ask for those things? I've (rarely) distracted her with a toy in the past, but I've always hesitated with that because I was afraid I was teaching a bad lesson. Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 16:59

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