Piles of paperwork – and for that matter laptops and important or engrossing tasks of any kind – are not likely to be the most comfortable places in the house to nap. Cats must have an ulterior motive for getting right in the way so effectively.
Bond movies and the internet have influenced our opinion of cat behaviour significantly in recent years. We are led to believe the stereotypical feline personality is either a megalomaniac or a complete doofus. Let’s face the truth, it’s all too easy to imagine them talking to us in lolcatspeak, “I can haz noms pleez?”
Despite the propaganda, cats are fairly intelligent creatures on the whole. Obviously there’s always the odd one that ‘rides the special bus’ but as a species their survival instincts are well developed. They have achieved this by having a functional social system, by being successful predators, and by learning and evolving to adapt to change. They see tactics that work, they emulate, and the species survives.
In a cat-owning household, the cat will understand that the owner is the Alpha animal – that is, the leader of the pack and the primary hunter-gatherer. The cat will also understand that humans are part of the pack but not the same as cats, and have different skills. What the cat will NOT understand is what these skills are. They see you concentrating very hard on your work, and then they see stacks of food magically appear. Since you are captivated by these tasks (the way a cat would be captivated by the hunt) they reason that it must be related. And they want to be just like you. They want to do these magical things for themselves. Even if they’re unclear on the details, they know that somehow your papers/laptop/work items are producing kitty biscuits.
Is this notepad a pressure trap, gathering food while we wait?
Do the buttons on this keyboard chase mice into tins?
If I sit in this washing basket, will the camouflage rating improve?
Most cats will give a good attempt at copying your everyday tasks in the hope that after enough practice they too will be able to summon free snacks like you do.