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Keeping kitty off the keyboard

If I can slide this out a bit more I can walk on all the keys!
If I can slide this out a bit more I can walk on all the keys!
Photo by Wendy Warwick White

“Cat like typing detected.” To unblock, click on the “let me use the computer” button or type “Human” into the box at the bottom of the screen.

A perennial problem if you share your home with a cat is often the illicit use of your computer by said fur-friend. Microsoft Windows has over 200 keyboard shortcuts built into its software and a cat is guaranteed to find them with absolutely no effort at all. How many people have had lost or damaged files, the computer crashed or the screen froze because kitty walked on the keyboard? Remembering to slide the keyboard drawer back under the desk or placing a rigid cover over it doesn’t always happen or may be inconvenient. What other options are there other than barricading kitty from the room? PawSense a computer program by Tucson, Ariz. based company BitBoost.

Not a new product, PawSense was first introduced in the 1990s; it is an inspired program for detecting and blocking cat typing. It also helps encourage kitty to stay off the computer keyboard altogether.

How does it do this? BitBoost’s website explains:

“If you carefully measure cat paws, you will find that practically all cat paws are significantly larger than a typical keyboard key. When a cat first places its paw down, the cat's weight plus the momentum of the cat's movement exerts pounds of force on the keyboard, primarily through the cat's paw pads. The cat's paw angles and toe positions also undergo complex changes while the paw lands on the keyboard. This forces keys and often key combinations down in a distinctive style of typing which includes unusual timing patterns. Cats' patterns of overall movement in walking or lying down also help make their typing more recognizable.”

Once kitty is detected the computer makes a kitty-unfriendly noise and PawSense blocks the cat's keyboard input. The cat can no longer enter commands to your programs or operating system, go online to purchase catnip and tuna, or email the tom up the street.

PawSense has a library of sounds to choose from or, if preferred, a personal message or noise can be recorded that is particularly abhorrent to a specific kitty. As an added bonus, if in earshot it soon becomes apparent someone is somewhere they should not be and the appropriate action can be taken. It doesn’t matter if kitty is deaf, PawSense will still block any cat typing once detected whether kitty hears the noise or not.

The program is already smart enough to recognize human typing errors and that sometimes people hold keys down to type repetitive characters. If an application demands it, it can also be configured to ignore combinations of keys that the program normally considered a cat-like combination.

The program uses very little memory: The BitBoost website claims:

“Except while playing a sound (when a cat is detected) PawSense occupies less than 79K of RAM. Even on a computer with only 16 megabytes of RAM, PawSense uses less than 1/200th of that RAM. PawSense does not use any non-system DLLs such as MFC, VBRUN, etc. that cause some programs to take up too much memory. PawSense uses very little time as well: typically less than 1/1000th of the available CPU time. When your computer is busy PawSense somewhat reduces its CPU usage accordingly. An installation of PawSense takes up less than 2 megabytes of hard drive space. While installing it may temporarily use as much as 4 megabytes of hard drive space.”

PawSense is available for Windows Vista, 7, XP and 2000 operating systems but is currently not available for Mac. It can be purchased from the BitBoost website.