Cats in Studios - does it work?

In the next couple of weeks, after a long hard year, we’ll be moving
into our new home and separate studio. We are owned by several cats,
one an older female who is constantly harassed by one of the
neutered males. I’m seriously considering having Rosie become my
"shop cat". This would involve providing her own special bedding,
litter box, feeding area etc. I suspect she’d really appreciate a
break from Jake the Brat.

After a lifetime with many feline friends, I know how they get into
stuff and I realize I’ll need to be more careful about securing
breakables, chemicals, etc. Don’t want to poison my old lady nor do
I want her playing hockey with my latest project. Any hints,
suggestions, personal experiences from other cat-loving Orchidians
who have had studio cats? Is this just a really bad idea?

Walk in Beauty,
Susannah Ravenswing
Jewels of the Spirit
Winston-Salem, NC

I too am owned by three cats. When I was in another location I had
only two cats but they had to be kept away from my work area. It is
amazing how much they like to play with that little stone that
sparkles that I would be in the process of setting. Anyway my wife
has a cat that is my shop cat. He is six years old orange tabby and
weighs in at 23lbs! He is Max the jewelry cat. Since Max is 23lbs he
does not care to leave the safety of the floor except to get on the
bed to take a nap with my wife. So he is safe from all the chemicals
in the shop. He just likes to lay by my feet and purr and nap. My
shop is in the garage so he just goes over and looks at the door and
that tells me he is ready to do something else, like nap with his
mommy. So fortunately I do not have these issues to worry about with
him. I remember about nine months ago we had a thread on our shop
cats. You might check the archives.

Rodney Carroll
RC Gems

Any hints, suggestions, personal experiences from other cat-loving
Orchidians who have had studio cats? Is this just a really bad

Hello Susannah,

I do my work in an apartment studio and share it with two young cats
(1 yr +). My work arrangement is somewhat unusual to begin with
because of the small space I have available but I have managed to set
things up so that I can do my work and co-habitate successfully with
our cats. In fact my studio has become their place of choice, no
doubt because I’m always in it and it’s got loads of light and

In practice what I’ve done is build a wall-to-wall, floor to ceiling
shelving unit that stores all of my tools, chemicals, etc. It’s
literally a workshop on a wall. My “bench”, simply a long, narrow
table, sits directly in front of the shelves so that it is easy to
sit at the table and reach stuff on the shelves.

The trick for me has been to set things up so that dangerous or
troublesome stuff like my soldering and pickling gear is easy to
“lock” away. To do this I’ve enclosed the central portion of the
shelving unit in tough mosquito netting --front, sides, top, etc–
with the netting on the front being easy to roll up out of the way so
I can access the tools. When I’m done for the day or take a break I
roll down the netting, secure it on simple hooks and everything is
safe again. It takes about 30 seconds to “open” or “close” the shop, a
minute or so more if I have to put a few things away like firebricks,
pickle pot, etc.

Bottled chemicals go in a snap-top rolling bin that tucks into one of
the bottom shelves. Small fiddly things like my current projects and
the wire I use --cat magnets all-- get stashed in fishing tackle boxes
within easy reach. The section of the table that has all my everyday
tools --dividers, scribes, etc-- is covered underneath with heavy
canvas so that pointy things won’t hurt curious faces. My sweeps
“drawer” slides away under the tabletop. Any shelves that have things
that could potentially tumble off have little security ropes on
hooks. All metals, rods, wood, etc are in a bin and tied to a wall.

I think you get the idea. I know it sounds like a lot of work and
frankly it was more effort than I expected to get things set up but
in the end it is a cat-safe place when it’s shut down and the
inconvenience to me is minimal. When I’m open for business I do have
to keep an eye out but they’ve pretty much learned that when I’m busy
it’s not a good time to visit. Having comfy chairs nearby for them to
sit and watch, either me or the birds outside, has helped enormously.
The odd time when I’m up to something really tricky, and therefor of
immediate interest to all felines, I simply escort my audience out
into the hall and close the door for a while.

I’m sure that there are those who think that this whole cat-in-shop
business is ill-advised but for me it was a simple choice: I don’t
have a choice. It’s a small apartment, I’m in here 10 or more hours a
day and neither I nor the cats can bear to be closed up in rooms for
that long every day. I needed to find a way to make it work and I

I hope some of this is useful to you. Please don’t hesitate to write
if I can be of any assistance. If you’d like to see pictures just let
me know and I’ll throw a few up on the web. I know I always find that
pictures bring clarity to a jumble of words.

Trevor F.

I have 4 very young, playful and curious cats. My studio is in the
basement where it is completely open to the rest of the house - no
walls or doors to close. There is no way to keep my cats separated
session I have to completely clear off my bench - make sure every
stinking little piece of anything is enclosed and put away or they
will try to play with it or pick it up in their mouths. I even
caught one of my cats chewing on my sawblades!!!How’s that for
fiber!!) I bought a large cabinet with big wide shelves and doors
that close. I put things I am working on in various stages into the
cabinet when I am not working. I never leave my studio without
sweeping the floor (get a shop vac) In short, I would say it is OK
to have your cats where you work, just a pain in the ass and you
always have to be one step ahead of them - keep very clean work
habits and every time you leave your studio have a checklist of
things you have to cover or put away, etc. It is definitely more
work and time lost but it can be handled safely if you are careful,
very careful!!!

LUV those felines!!!

I’ve had cats longer than I’ve done jewelry (more than 20 years).
Currently the census is 3. Admittedly, I don’t work with flames or
many dangerous chemicals, but do have lots (I mean LOTS) of
materials lying around covering every surface. They seem to know what
they’re doing in there better than I. The only problems I’ve had is
when they really insist on my attention. When all else fails, they
will deliberately and systematically scootch items over the
table’s edge, onto the floor - with their eyes on me the whole
while. They’re Burmese. They have an Agenda. They stick to it.

Best thing to do is just try it. If she is an older cat, she’s
likely to be less adventuresome anyway. I wonder if she might miss
the company of other cats,though, Jake the Brat excluded, of course.
Get her used to the new digs, give her a lot of attention to reassure
her. Of course, take all reasonable precautions with your equipment
and supplies.

These guys sleep in a pile in the center of my old gas stove (pilot
light keeps the surface warm) and they seldom bother to budge even
when I fire up a burner. They even know when the grate is too hot to
touch, even after the flame is turned off. It made me very nervous,
initially, but, like I said, they seem to know, and accommodate,
their environment far better than I would expect.

Give her a hug for me
Mitak’ Oyas’in,

Any hints, suggestions, personal experiences from other cat-loving
Orchidians who have had studio cats? 

I don’t allow my two cats in the studio (though anyone who has cats
knows that’s impossible unless you can shut the door on them :-).
Since my studio opens onto the kitchen, with no door in between, this
means that they get yelled at loudly if they dare stick an
inquisitive nose or paw into the studio, so they generally stay out.
Clapping helps too.

Of course I can’t control what they do when I’m not around although,
as far as I can tell, the studio doesn’t interest them much unless
I’m in it. However, just in case, I keep all chemicals tightly
covered especially the pickle pot which is the most accessible and I
use a large roaster pan to cover the top of my bench. This serves to
protect the pieces I am currently working on and to hide small
objects which furry, four-legged creatures would undoubtedly enjoy
batting around the house.

Since your goal is to make your senior cat comfortable in your
studio, you’ll need to take extra precautions, but the basics will be
the same: secure all chemicals, remove small objects from temptation,
and keep anything especially dangerous behind closed cabinet doors or
too high for a natural acrobat to reach. Also, cover any equipment
that could cause problems to a cat (or you!): I doubt you’ll want to
see rouge-red paw prints all over the place. Thick plastic should do
the trick.


Hi Susannah,

My cat is allowed in my studio, mostly when I am there to supervise,
but sometimes when I am not. My pickle is covered and I keep a plate
over the water bowl that is near the pickle so it won’t look like a
water dish. I keep any string I use for tying tags put away and
anything string-like. My cat is particularly oral, so I keep all
chemicals stored away, wipe down my soldering area well to clean up
any flux overspray that contains boric acid (toxic), rinse well
anything that stays out that has been in contact with chemicals. She
is pretty disinterested in my torch and tanks but I lure her away
from that area if she is looking suspicious. I don’t let her get too
close when I am soldering or polishing. She mostly likes to get in
the windows, nap on top of the polisher or in a chair, sometimes paw
at my spools of wire on the wall. She is a major paper shredder.
Luckily we have a door so she can be kept out when she gets in a
shredding mood. It is a glass door so it is quite funny when she is
locked out and stretches real tall on the other side of the glass
looking at me like “Come on! Let me in! I’ll be good. I promise”.
Many times it is her and the two dogs mashed against the glass trying
to get my attention. They leave lots of nose marks.

It can work with some care taken. Having them nearby while you work
can be very nice and comforting. Rosie will likely enjoy her own
space and special private time with you.

Good luck with your move!
Carrie Nunes

   It's literally a workshop on a wall. (snip) If you'd like to
see pictures just let  me know and I'll throw a few up on the web. 

Trevor: I would love to see pix. I’m in the processing of
“designing” a workshop out in my garage and any input I can get is
helpful - especially since I am owned by a cat who thinks the
jewelry bench was made specifically for her to lounge on. I have to
always put everything away or she plays “pack cat” and drags it gosh
knows where, but surely where I seldom find it until too late. And
she has proven that she can drag things I thought were too heavy or
of little interest to her (she once dragged my scribe and buried it
in the couch cushions. Fortunately no one sat on it - or I’d have
known immediately. But I was horrified to find it there. So please
do put your pictures up. I’m trying to devise a way to “cover” the
soldering station so both it and the cat are safe when I’m not


I don’t know how senior your senior cat is, but when they reach
advanced age and declining health, most cats have lost a lot of
their bounce and just want a quiet place where they can eat, sleep
and hang out in peace without being annoyed by rambunctious
youngsters, feline and human. When one of our cats reached the ripe
old age of 18, he all but begged to have a place of his own. So we
put him, his bed, his litterbox and his food and water into the
laundry room (which also contains my workbench) He was too arthritic
by then to jump on the bench, so my work was pretty safe. However, I
had to do torch work and polishing elsewhere ,which was a nuisance.
This summer, when he reached 20, he departed this life, and I have
full use of my workspace once again. But the other cats do not get
past the door… especially the one who likes to munch on silver


I've enclosed the central portion of the shelving unit in tough
mosquito netting --front, sides, top, etc-- with the netting on the
front being easy to roll up out of the way so I can access the

This is a studio I’d like to see a picture of. Sounds very


My Siamese followed me from room to room. Whenever I sat down, there
he was ready for a lap. He was no problem in my basement studio. He
had a pillow on a corner of the bench where he slept when we were
there. When he would decide that he needed attention, he would sit
up, make sure that I was looking at him, and pull needle nose files
from the block and drop them over the edge edge. He would also have
his ears down and flattened backwards against his head. He also
would sit up and bop me on my arm if I were making trips back and
forth. In response, I was expected to flip my finger against his
shoulder. I couldn’t do the ear trick though. He didn’t get into
other stuff and I didn’t miss little things. I admit that I have a
messy studio so I might not have noticed. I still miss him but found
out that I am allergic to cats and so did not replace him when he

Marilyn Smith

I had my cat in the studio for over a decade, and it worked very
well. She sat in my lap at the bench and at my desk, and never
interfered with my work except for her interest in pencils & pens
that were in current use in my hand, or abandoned on the desktop.
These she batted to the floor, and then lost interest in. And she
tried to bite silver chains that I was packing up many times, but I
was firm in not allowing her to do so.

Once, I entered the studio to find the benchtop in disarray, and
thought she had messed it up, but then I found out that a red
squirrel had entered through a screen and scurried about here and
there in its apparent efforts to get back out again.

I was concerned that she might tip over the Sparex pot and hurt
herself, but she really did stay off the metal bench. She started her
workshop life as a tiny 5-week kitten sitting on my shoulder,
watching me work at the bench, and never, ever being allowed to get
on the bench top. She often got silver saw filings on her black fur
while she lay in my lap, and I carefully brushed them off so she
would not later ingest them. She, strangely, preferred to drink the
water in a bucket of settled investment rather than her own fresh
water bowl, but it never seemed to hurt her. The only problem I had
with her, and it was a big one, was her feral suitors/food thieves
who entered through her cat door and marked the studio area with
their urine. Phew!! I solved that with a magnetic collar cat door
that only she could enter. I had her bed on top of a file cabinet
the same level with my office desk, and she walked across the desk to
get to it, so I did have to keep drawings and papers put away when I
left. I was very firm about keeping her off the workbench, and it
worked out fine. She was a joy to work with.

M’lou Brubaker, Jeweler
Goodland, MN

     I doubt you'll want to see rouge-red paw prints all over the

This reminded me of the time a few months ago when one of our
tortoishell cats turned a strange pink colour. Eventually we worked
out what had happened. My tub of rouge powder had been knocked over
behind a bench and the cat had been sleeping in it. Of course it was
much more fun sleeping in a puddle of rouge than anywhere else in
the house. It took a couple of months for her to lose the rosy hue.

I have three cats, all have access, in varying degrees, to my
studio. I keep chemicals covered, all liquids covered. One will
steal anything - cabs, findings, finished pieces, wire, etc. If I am
leaving the door open so she can come in I have to be sure everything
is covered with a cloth if I’m not there, so she can’t grab it. The
other two completely ignore everything.

One is my “up” cat - she will get up on anything. Which includes my
bench and my work table, the window sills, etc. So I have to be sure
I don’t leave anything out that she might hurt herself on.

If I’m working on something that I can’t keep covered to my
satisfaction, then I keep the studio door closed so they can’t come

If I only had my male to deal with, I would not need to cover
anything, ever - he is completely uninterested! The two females are
the problems.

So it will depend a lot on the temperment of your lady.

Plus, you will be dealing with a certain amount of cat hair, no
matter what you do.

Good luck!
Beth in SC

If you’re looking for a for-or-against vote on this one, count me as
"against" cats in studios. We have now only 5 cats - down from our
all-time high of 15, but still a handful. Giving one cat or another
preferential treatment by allowing access to a room where others are
banned will not solve your cats’ socio-political struggles over
territory and power. True, there may be fights between them from time
to time, but, just like in Iraq, the real toll, the collateral
damage, is suffered by innocent bustanders. This usually takes the
form of fragrant puddles deposited here and there by cats’ favourite
means of emotional expression, the urinary tract. This makes your
studio an unhappy place and maybe even does damage to your work. If
an area is off-limits, let it be off limits to ALL of the cats.
Otherwise they will struggle forever.

We moved from a BIG house on 8 acres of farm and forest, adjacent to
hundreds of acres of wild forest, to a SMALL house & studio in the
city with a small backyard. We had 7 cats at that time - and our
fingers crossed. Would the cats adapt to their new situation after
all their lives in the great outdoors? We built a 10’ x 24’caged
enclosure in the backyard, connected to the house by a covered
bridge. The enclosure is full of bushes, a few elevated platforms,
and even has a tree growing up through the screened roof. The cats
have free access to this area 24/7. That was our one concession to
the beasts. Mirabile dictu! They sorted things out between
themselves within days - established rules of the road, even learned
to pass each other on the bridge without fighting like Robin Hood and
Little John. In fact, we have come to understand that they feel safer

  • that the Great Outdoors was always a bit scary for these critters.

Within the area in which the cats are free to roam - You can change
the “pecking order” between animals, even cats, by putting them
through some easy training exercises. I’ve done this with cats,
chickens, and dogs. Basically you place an object of desire where
they can see it and provide yourself with a collection of objects
which you can throw at them - objects large and heavy enough to
startle and disrupt their intentions WITHOUT doing any real damage.
Small beanbags or some such thing. (One time I used small green
peppers which were just the right size and weight and besides I had
a lot of them around for some reason) Keep yourself quiet and
inconspicuous at the periphery of the arena. Then allow the underdog
access to the desired object - but every time the dominant cat
approaches it gets bopped as if by the hand of God, a bolt from the
blue. Keep yourself out of the process, as invisible as possible; no
shouting, no laughing, no large motions. If possible toss the
missile when the cat has its back to you so you and your personal
relationship to the cats are not confounding factors. There is just
this mysterious divine retribution, the Hand of Fate. The formerly
dominant cat is allowed to approach the lure only after the underdog
has had his/her fill and wanders off. It takes a bit of your time,
but a surprisingly SHORT time for the dominance to shift. A few
short sessions should do it. Nobody gets hurt. This "punishment"
routine does not square with everything I ever learned in classic
conditioning psychology - but then, my cats never attended

And they never will!
Marty in Victoria


Can she switch on the polisher with her paw? Kinda makes me freak
when I think of that.


I've enclosed the central portion of the shelving unit in tough
mosquito netting .... 
This is a studio I'd like to see a picture of. 

Hello Tas,

Will do. I’ll put up a web page in the next few days and post the
URL when it’s up.

Trevor F.

When I worked in a back bedroom sawing, filing etc., before I had a
torch set-up, I let my 2 cats, both youngish and great jumpers come
and go at will although they always seemed to show up when there was
a ton of metal dust I hadn’t vacuumed up. It concerned me that they
were tracking copper, silver etc. dust through my house or maybe
were ingesting it by licking theirpaws. When I reconfigured my tiny
(6’x6’) laundry room into a studio with a torch I did a lot of
thinking about keeping them out, not wanting to be surprised while
soldering by having one of them jump up onto my soldering station.
My solution was to buy 2 of the plastic and wood gates that parents
of young toddlers install in front of stairs. I hung them upside
down attached to a piano hinge in the door opening to the studio.
The cats can see me and stick their paws in or get a head scratch
while I am sawing ,filing etc., but can’t jump over the gates to
surprise me when I have a torch in my hand. There is a wooden door
that I close when the studio in not in use. I am not sure whether
this is useful advice for accommodating one cat, but the gates
really worked out well for me.

Good luck,


I too know the company of “shop cats,” although my studio is in the
basement of our home rather than in a separate location. One of our
two cats, a portly female, has her own chair from which she
supervises all my activities. She doesn’t seem to show the least
interest in chewing on things (except crunchy plastic wrappers) and
doesn’t mind loud noises, but I do follow some common-sense
cat-proofing guidelines to keep her out of trouble, such as always
keeping chemicals sealed and stored away in drawers or cabinets, and
keeping workpieces and bits of stock (especially wire, which invites
play and could be extremely harmful) where she can’t get to them.

I suppose your cat’s suitability to your workshop depends largely on
her personality. My female is an easygoing, fairly lazy, and
imperturbable creature, which makes her a great shop cat. Our other
cat, however, is much more high-strung and easily startled by shop
noise; life in the studio would make him a nervous wreck. He’s also
a mushy lap cat and hard to keep out of the way. Also, I’d be
concerned about spending enough time with your cat if your studio is
not in your home; a lonely cat will not be a happy one and will
manifest this by getting into trouble.

HTH, and good luck,
Jessee Smith

I have two of my cats that like to hang out with me while I’m
working. Making them a special place to nap out of the way but close
was a must. They are safer and so am I. One of them is deaf, he
makes not a sound, he sneaks up on me. The other is a loud mouth so
I always know when he’s around, he usually tries to get my attention
by standing on his hind legs and streching placing his front legs
and claws into my jeans. Just his way of saying “PICK ME UP NOW”

They are not allowed on the bench, it would be to me like allowing
them on the kitchen table, NOT going to happen, bad manners.

Love & Light
Jurnee Moon