Anyone who has ever spent quality time with a cat knows that they have weird habits. One bizarre thing we can’t figure out is why cats love to walk or lie all over your laptop or book when you’re in the middle of using it. Whether you’re reading the Sunday paper or catching up on your favorite Netflix show, they always manage to find a way into your lap, and then onto whatever it is you’re giving your attention to.

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Is it because cats are needy? Because they like the warmth of the object?

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You laugh because it’s accurate. Cats do this stuff all the time. You might be interested to know that cats have literally been doing this for centuries. Emir O. Filipovic, a medievalist in Croatia, was perusing a fifteenth century manuscript, where he discovered cat paw prints. Apparently, whoever was writing this book had a cat that was very keen to walk all over their work.

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Sound familiar?

There are a few reasons why cats like to position themselves on items.

First of all, those things smell like you because they’re yours and you’ve been using them. Just like any other animal, cats are strongly influenced by scent, especially when it comes to the space they inhabit. If they love you, they’ll love anything that smells like you. If you place a few decoy books on your bed, you’ll still find that the cat only wants to lay on the book that has just been in your hands. That’s how much they’re driven by the sense of smell.

Another thing to understand about cats is that they’re very territorial. Urinating is certainly a way to mark your territory among animals, but cats also claim what’s theirs by rubbing themselves on it. That’s why you’ll see cats rubbing their face on the edge of your book or on the keyboard of your laptop. They’re trying to transfer their pheromones to the object, because if it’s taking up so much of your time, they figure it’s important and they want in on the action.

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Cats are also smart, so they know that whatever you’re reading or typing is taking up all your attention—and that’s the very attention they want for themselves.

So when cats walk or sit on your belongings you’re in the middle of using, it’s because they’re sending you a message: Get off your dumb laptop and pay attention to me instead. And it’s hard to say no to them, isn’t it?