Rebecca Rose over at Jezebel has alerted me to the existence of the CATable, a desk specially designed for human/cat co-working. As anyone who's ever been owned by cats knows, cats want to be where you want to be, preferably on what you want to use, which is a definite issue if a cat is gracious enough to share an office with you. Working with a cat involves some specific accommodations that you don't encounter with your average coworker, and this interesting piece of design promises to eliminate these issues.
In the designer's own words, the CATtable is "... a locus where the interaction occurs. It is a table for us, and a paradise for cats."
So, uh, what exactly is it? It's a giant slab of a desk with a winding network of holes and tunnels that run through the desk, allowing cats to explore the underside of the desk while you use the upper surface. The theory is that as you work, your feline co-workers will merrily entertain themselves in the desk, allowing you to settle down and focus. It also creates kind of a cool purposeful shared space that accommodates everyone.
Allow me to sum up the first obvious problem I see with this desk: cats.
Cats don't do what you want them to. They certainly don't go where you want them to go. And as someone with a buttload of furniture built particularly for cats, let me assure you that cats don't use cat furniture. They sneer at cat furniture. They want to be on your desk and counters, in your bed, and in your favorite armchair. If I was rich, I'd be the genderqueer edition of this lady, and my cats still wouldn't use the furniture I bought for them.
Let's take a pictorial stroll through cats and laptops, as seen through my years of being staff to varying numbers of felines.
This is Mr. Bell and the Infamous Cat Drawer, which he only consented to use after he was too sick to successfully jump up and down from the top of the desk on his own. From the cat drawer, he would survey my work, bat out to play with my leg constantly, and periodically moan dramatically if I didn't give him enough attention.
I considered this an amazing compromise over the previous situation, which involved Loki and Mr. Bell battling it out for the prime real estate on the top of my desk, usually while I was trying to work. People have asked why the top of my desk is so clean: it's because anything on my desk will get pushed off by cats if I leave it there.
Mr. Shadow demonstrates that it doesn't have to be electronic for a cat to need to sit on it. This photo was taken just a few days before he passed away, illustrating that a terminally ill cat in extreme pain can still manage to colonize not one, but two books. (This was punishment for my compassion when he decided to lie on the book I had just started so I decided to read a new one.)
Loki saw that I was about to write this article and took decisive action, abruptly getting out of his heated cat bed (yes, really) on the end of the desk so he could walk across my keyboard and then lie down as close to me as physically possible. As I write, his tail is lashing between my hands and the screen while he purrs to himself.
Think you can work casual-style? Think again. Get up for a minute, and a cat will take your place. It's in the bylaws. If you're lucky, your co-worker won't type anything for you while you're gone. (Hands up if you've ever returned to your computer to find that your cat has emailed, Tweeted, or chatted on your behalf.)
Were I able to afford such a piece of furniture (and the cat-owned know that furniture expenditures shouldn't exceed $IKEA Because Cats), I can 100% guarantee you that Loki would avoid the lovely little curved apertures like the plague (Leila can't get into the office, or she would, too). For one thing, he'd be too fat to fit. For another, he'd want to sit on top of the desk like any self-respecting cat.
I won't get into the lack of desk storage and the other issues I see from an ergonomic perspective, though I will agree that it's a beautiful piece of furniture. And I do love the idea of shared furniture for everyone to use, but cat people need to acknowledge that the furniture in their homes and offices already belongs to their cats -- we're just being allowed to share it for a limited period of time and at the discretion of the individual cat.
As little chunks of catnip fall from Loki's fur and scatter across my desk, as Leila caterwauls in the living room to remind me that I need to switch rooms so she can get some attention, too, I've succumbed to what all cat people eventually succumb to and accepted the reality. I'm a member of household staff, and no fancy-ass piece of furniture is going to change that.
Cats gonna sit where cats gonna sit, you know what I'm saying?