I have a small-ish desk/lab workbench at my house with basic gear (meter, scope, PSU, etal as well as probes for same) as well as my PC and project stuff (boards, mostly, although a few parts-on-cut-tapes, boxes of parts, and loose wire bits too) on it. I rely on wrist straps (often used as improv ankle straps, but that's neither here nor there) for ESD protection (mostly when soldering or working directly with ESD-sensitive components) as I do not have ESD matting down, though. Also, I do not have any high voltages exposed on my bench, nor do I solder on it as I keep my soldering iron packed up as I have to use the kitchen table for that job in order to not defeat the grounding on my iron.

My family is looking to acquire a cat, as well -- this won't be our first rodeo, but one hard rule I had with the last cat was "no cat on workbench" partly due to my concerns about cat fur and ESD (I've seen said cat get sparky with a bed comforter).

However, I was watching some of The Signal Path (i.e. Shahriar)'s YouTube videos and he lets his cat, Pooch(?), have free reign of his workbench! So, how is it possible to make an electronics workbench feline-compatible? Or, being a digital type (vs. Shahriar being an RF dude), am I best off sticking with "no cat on workbench" as a bright-line rule? Are my concerns about feline ESD damage to boards misplaced?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Unless the cat is directly touching parts with his fur like rubbing on boards, I would not be to worried... get a cheap ESD mat otherwise. If it is digital hobby work, I would not be to worried about ESD in the first place, since most chips now days have ESD protection other then Discrete FETs. Finally keep in mind a cat has much less capacitance then a person... \$\endgroup\$ – MadHatter May 31 '17 at 1:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd be more concerned with the cord chewers ruining cables and probes \$\endgroup\$ – sstobbe May 31 '17 at 1:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Spray bottle. Just don't get your parts wet lol. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby May 31 '17 at 2:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Humidifiers might help but will likely get you a wet pussy (did I just say that LOL). \$\endgroup\$ – Andy aka May 31 '17 at 7:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ You should use shielded CAT cable . \$\endgroup\$ – Autistic May 31 '17 at 12:01

Without a detailed schematic and system testing of your new cat, it's impossible to say with any confidence. You'll know from past experience that cats have personalities. You might find that it just decides to never go into that room. Or it might live on top of your warm PSU.

And those personalities evolve over time, and also depend on your behaviour towards the cat. Remember that you're talking of typically around 15 years of a love /hate relationship. Keep kicking it and it'll stay away. Keep loving it and it'll come for strokes and cuddles on the work bench.

I can only relay what happens with my cat. He has free reign everywhere and often gets on the work bench. My issue isn't static discharge, although you can light him up if the weather is just right. My issue is the play. He'll sit on things, clamber over things and swat anything shiny onto the ground. So all loose passive components, screws and small tools gravitate towards the floor. I loose 5% of my inventory as it's dispersed across the room, down cracks and into the bin. His worst deed so far has been hiding a small clip from a £30 connector that rendered it useless. I gave him a proper beating for that. He also likes to bite through thin wires. Stuff around 7/0.2mm stranded is the favourite, although he also likes thicker flavours. I have some Sennheiser head phones where you can see the copper conductors through the insulation /shielding. Cable impedance has probably been ruined.

Actually the soldering iron is the least worrisome problem. Cat's aren't stupid (well yes they are), but they'll never burn themselves on a hot iron as they can sense it.

Electricity is the important issue here. The cat can't sense it or see it. The very nature of an electronics work bench means you have electrically hot kit laid out. Clearly you don't insulate it when you're developing /testing equipment so you rely on laying it out safely on the bench. I do some valve work at 300VDC which will straighten out any cat's whiskers.

On serious working or testing days, I have no recourse but to close the door on him. I would suggest that you either get a door, cat type screen saver, or a gold fish. Just keep it in another room as electricity and water do mix.

Tip regarding bins: Never have an open bin vertically below the edge of the work bench. The cat will swat things off the bench into the bin and before you've missed it, you've emptied the bin and one of your £150 hand matched Electro-Harmonix valves has gone. You see they're vole sized and shiney.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I need a link to the datasheet of that cat. \$\endgroup\$ – mark b May 31 '17 at 16:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @markb The rescue centre doesn't give out its datasheets so that you don't know what you're getting into. Their spec. just says Kitten, Type: Cute. Although, if he scraps a hand matched pair of valves I'll gladly show you his insides. \$\endgroup\$ – Paul Uszak May 31 '17 at 20:33

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