back to article Cat accused of wiping US Veteran Affairs server info after jumping on keyboard

A four-hour system interruption in September at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri has been attributed to a cat jumping on a technician's keyboard. So we're told by a source, who heard the tale on one of the regular weekday calls held by the US government department with its CIO, during which recent …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Purrhaps the technician should stop being a pussy and own up to his mistake?

    Either way, I bet he's feline stupid after that little catastrophe.

    Still, this story gives us something to milk for puns and jokes.

    1. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

      Nobody's purr-fect

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        He should definitely own up and face the miaow-sic.

        Yeah, I'm not owning up to that pun though :)

        1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

          A story for Who, Meow?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Don't purr fuel on the fire.

    3. Andy Non Silver badge

      The technician certainly let the cat out of the bag. It should give him paws for thought unless he's since drunk himself catatonic.

    4. Andy Non Silver badge

      In response to the accusation, the cat said "Me-how?"

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wow, the claws really came out there!

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    A cat that can type "DROP DATABASE veteran-affairs;"? With a bit of extra training it could be set to work providing it doesn't spend too much time playing with the mouse.

    1. Catkin Silver badge

      I have long suspected that most cats are secretly BOFHs

      1. Flip

        Most cats are BOFHs, but aren't very secretive about it.

        1. Catkin Silver badge

          I have approached cats for comment on numerous occasions and the tricky blighters never give a coherent answer.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          A while back I was taking an online college course on ethical hacking. My cat was siting with me intently watching the demonstration videos. I mean she was just glued to the screen watching.

          I haven't left her alone with a computer since...

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Julian Catssange?

        3. Giles C Silver badge

          A book recommendation

          Read starter villain by John Scalzii . It features a criminal organisation who spying department is staffed with intelligent cats - who can’t talk but communicate by walking on keyboards

          Very good read - I wonder where the idea came from?

      2. matthewdjb


        I think it's pretty clear.

        "BOFH you have the morals a cat"

        "Take that back!"

        "Ok, you don't have the morals of a cat"

        With apologies to the Pratchett estate.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A cat that can type "DROP DATABASE veteran-affairs;"?

      This. It's a very poor system design if effectively random cat motions can delete a whole bunch of data. So blame the system designers/implementers rather than the poor operator.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. midgepad

        Re: A cat that can type "DROP DATABASE veteran-affairs;"?

        VistA isn't SQL

        It has other, estimable, qualities.

        1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

          Re: A cat that can type "DROP DATABASE veteran-affairs;"?

          If VistA doesn't use SQL, does it use MUMPS?

          If so, all the cat would have had to do was to stand on a shift key, type a few random characters from tbe numbers row, and hit [Enter]

      3. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

        Re: A cat that can type "DROP DATABASE veteran-affairs;"?

        Perhaps it went like this:

        [UpArrow] (recalls previous line, SHOW DATABASE veteran-affairs;)

        [Home] (puts cursor at beginning of line)

        [Insert] (toggles overwrite mode on)

        DROP [Enter]

        (Icon for BOFH cat)

        1. waldo kitty

          Re: A cat that can type "DROP DATABASE veteran-affairs;"?

          Perhaps it went like this:

          i was thinking something more simple... like there was a file manager up with some of the config files selected... kitteh pressed DEL key (bringing up are you sure dialog) followed by mashing the ENTER key with fluffy butt (triggering Yes response in dialog)...

          speaking as l'objet d'affection of my own owners, they used to come up with some of the craziest writings when they would sit on my flat keyboards licking and cleaning themselves... those keyboards now have hard covers over them and normal angled keyboards are used... kittehs don't seem to care for sitting on angled keyboards but they do still try to make biscuits on them at times... gotta go... i'm being commanded to put food in the dishes because they can see the bottoms of them... bbl... this might take some time ^•ﻌ•^

      4. teknopaul

        Re: A cat that can type "DROP DATABASE veteran-affairs;"?

        I have done a bunch of scary dB work in production (successfully) only to find out at the end that my copy paste buffer had some totally destructive sql in it. I was one misplaced paw away from disaster for hours.

        I am quite careful cleaning buffers nowadays. If its dangerous copy commands with # at the front or - - for sql.

    3. A. Coatsworth Silver badge

      If a million monkeys with a million typrewriters can write Shakespeare, surely one million cats walking on a million keyboards can hack any digital system.

      They are the spawn of the Devil, after all

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        They are the spawn of the Devil, after all

        [Sucks teeth]

        I'm reliably informed that Old Nick learnt all his tricks from a cat. So it's probably t'other way round.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Cat-Like Typing Detected

      > A cat that can type "DROP DATABASE veteran-affairs;"?

      Oh, yes. Little Kitty Tables, we call him.

  3. Richard Gray 1

    When they said to cat the file... I don't think that's what they meant

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      They may have said cat it to /dev/null and he used mv instead.

      1. Roger Kynaston

        cat /dev/null

        They meant to type cat vista > /dev/null

        but it got changed to

        cat /dev/null > vista

        1. Bill Neal

          Re: cat /dev/null

          But was it a sudo cat?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: cat /dev/null

            Sounds more like 'useless use of cat' to me....

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: cat /dev/null

            But was it a sudo cat?

            No - was a real one..

  4. tiggity Silver badge

    learning experience via cat

    I was blissfully unaware Windows had a screen rotation option*, until a cat of mine (a long time ago, one of my ex cats) walked on my work laptop and I then had an upside down screen.

    * Not a fan of the OS (home PCs run other OSes, so learn enough about windows to coerce it into behaving vaguely sensibly, within the limits available), just that windows is usually the OS installed on company provided based "corporate" laptops so no real choice but use it.

    1. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: learning experience via cat

      Like 99% sure that was actually a function of certain drivers, not Windows. More specifically, I want to say it was an Intel driver thing, which would make sense considering most work laptops would likely be using some Intel IGP.

      1. BartyFartsLast

        Re: learning experience via cat

        Was primarily an Intel driver thing, ctrl + cursor key IIRC but I think some other drivers had the same or similar functionality.

        It used to cause several support calls a month and was often done as a "funny" prank.

        1. aerogems Silver badge

          Re: learning experience via cat

          - Hello IT (have you tried turning it off and on again?)

          - Uh, yeah, my screen is upside down

          - Do you have anyone sitting near you who thinks they're funny? Maybe likes playing pranks.

          - Yes, why?

          - OK, here's how you solve the problem. First, get up and smack the "funny" person upside the head, and tell them IT said to stop creating these pointless support requests. Then, when back at your desk press Ctrl + <key> until the screen is right-side-up.

        2. usbac Silver badge

          Re: learning experience via cat

          Years ago I worked for a company where in our internal audit group we had one of the worst human beings I've ever worked with. This woman was a total c**t. When a support ticket would come in for her, we would literally draw straws to see who had to go.

          I was working out the last couple of days of my notice period, when a ticket came in from her. I stood up and said "I've got this one". My two co-workers looked at each other dumbfounded. They of course followed me as I went to take care of the problem.

          It turned out that she had hit the famous hot-key sequence for the Intel display driver, and flipped the picture upside-down. She had this enormous 25 inch CRT monitor (she threw one of her usual fits some time before, and demanded a huge monitor - total c**t, remember). The thing must have weighed about 60 lbs.

          I walked over calmly, picked up the monitor, flipped it upside down, and not very softly plonked it down on her desk. I then walked out of her office without saying a word to her.

          When we got to the hallway, my two co-workers burst into hysterical laughter. We could hear her shouting from all to way down the hall.

          1. aerogems Silver badge

            Re: learning experience via cat

            I considered changing my script above to include a comment about just rotating the monitor 180 degrees. There's got to be some kind of BOFH material in there. I mean, there was already a story where Simon was literally pissing on someone's computer, and then claimed he was trying to put out a fire when caught in the act, but surely this could serve as a rough outline for a new story.

  5. KarMann Silver badge

    Won't someone think of the rodents?

    Back in Windows 3.1 days (which for me, was around '97, I took a while to go '95, and almost another year to go fully Linux), my cat did it right. As I was browsing in something like the C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM\ directory, she suddenly took a swipe at my mouse*, as cats are wont to do, managing to select a fair number of system files and drop them I knew not where. I immediately realised I had to find those files before any shutdown, reboot, or system crash (Windows 3.1, remember?), and fortunately managed to do so before things came to a screeching halt.

    * I had also had a rat for a pet previously, but that was completely unrelated to this mouse.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Won't someone think of the rodents?

      "I had also had a rat for a pet previously, but that was completely unrelated to this mouse."

      Obviously. Different species.

    2. Xalran

      Re: Won't someone think of the rodents?

      the worst that would have happened would have been Windows 3.1 to crash back to DOS...

      Then it's DOS CLI to find back the files. ( or Norton Commander/PCTools )

      After all Windows 3.1/3.11 were just GUI on top of DOS... Even 95/98 were also GUIs on top of DOS, they were just better at hidding it. It took W2K to really remove the DOS from the boot path.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Won't someone think of the rodents?

        Norton Commander/PCTools

        I install Midnight Commander on any linux box/VM I own. And on my Macs.

        Norton Commander of one of *the* great PC tools of the 1990s

        1. PRR Bronze badge

          Re: Won't someone think of the rodents?

          > 'Norton Commander/PCTools'

          I install Midnight Commander on any........

          He meant Norton Unerase in Norton Utilities. Peter invented the E-Z tool to un-erase files in MS-DOS filetables. (They were not really gone, just masked and marked available for re-use.)

          That's a different tool than Norton Commander, a filesystem browser with many tricks. (Cloned as Midnight Commander.)

          PCTools also had an undelete function.

      2. Michael Strorm Silver badge

        Re: Won't someone think of the rodents?

        > It took W2K to really remove the DOS from the boot path.

        Not quite- W2K (Windows 2000) was really just the next version of Windows NT, which had already done so upon its release in 1993. (Even though the DOS-based versions including 95, 98 and ME continued to be developed and sold concurrently for the better part of a decade).

        Nor could W2K even be credited as the version which finally killed off the old DOS-based versions, even if that was the original plan.

        MS had originally meant to use what later became W2K (i.e. the next version of Windows NT) as the basis for all future versions of Windows. But W2K still had too many issues for lower-end/consumer use, so the final switch away from DOS didn't happen until XP (effectively a more consumer-friendly W2K) came out.

        This likely explains both why Windows 2000 had such a "consumer-friendly"-sounding name and why Windows ME (the generally unloved and pointlessly short-lived last gasp of the DOS-based line) came out at all- it was just a "Plan B" backup and stopgap release.

  6. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    Not me

    Nope, wasn't there. I think a dog ate his data.

  7. aerogems Silver badge

    I dunno

    A typo here and there, sure, but the sort of thing they're describing as having happened should have required at least one confirmation dialog. Not sure I can believe the story as told.

    Also, dogs are not above this kind of behavior. Had a dog as a kid who delighted in plopping himself down in the middle of my mother's stacks of neatly sorted coupons or stack of newspapers she was trying to read. Then if you tried to move him you'd get a low throaty growl saying, "piss off, I'm trying to take a nap!" Parents currently have a dog who likes to come along and stick her muzzle in the crook of your elbow when you're sitting at a computer, and then try to get you to pay attention to her. Dogs just tend to be a bit better at learning what their people don't like them doing, and modifying their behavior accordingly. Cats don't seem to give a shit.

    1. Andy Non Silver badge

      Re: I dunno

      My German shepherd cross is well known to my Zoom associates, when he wants to go out he puts his front paws in my lap and his large head in front of the webcam and tries to push me out of my chair, once almost succeeding much to the amusement of my Zoom associates.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: I dunno

      I have no problem believing it, because the confirmation dialog probably sets keyboard focus to the yes button when it opens and the space bar is really big and easy for the cat to hit by accident, pressing that button. I've inadvertently pressed space on a button I didn't want pressed with my fingers and I was using the computer at the time. A cat can manage the same.

      I wonder if I've had the only cat who didn't step on keyboards. She didn't mind walking on my desk while I was working or even getting in the way, but she was always very careful not to step on the keyboard as she did it.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: because the confirmation dialog probably sets keyboard focus to the yes button

        OR you have a tabby cat.

    3. Coastal cutie

      Re: I dunno

      Of course they don't - they're cats

    4. teneriffe trail

      Re: I dunno

      A typo here and there? My cat says HA! With two paws and a nose, she could bring down civilization as we know it!

  8. Mark 85

    Seems like a good "Who Me" article to me.

    See title.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Seems like a good "Who Me" article to me.

      Who Meow? Surely.

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "their cat jumped on the keyboard"

    I can confirm that I have found my cat louging on my laptop keyboard often enough to totally believe that.

    It's come to a point where, especially in winter, if I leave my home office desk for more than a minute, I have to lower the laptop screen to 45° above the keyboard else I find that my cat has edited my code in a strikingly surprising manner.

    1. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: "their cat jumped on the keyboard"

      When your cat starts writing better code than you, be afraid. Though, if your cat can be the one to earn a living and you can just lounge around the house all day, maybe it's not so bad after all.

      1. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: "their cat jumped on the keyboard"

        Also on the positive side, while the cat is busy coding you can take a cat nap.

        1. aerogems Silver badge

          Re: "their cat jumped on the keyboard"

          A grudging upvote for that oh-so groan worthy comment.

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: "their cat jumped on the keyboard"

          Also on the positive side, while the cat is busy coding you can take a cat nap.

          I'd be more worried about *what* they are adding to the code.. Subliminal messages? "You must feed the cat immediately". "Tuna is proper cat food" "Spend all you money on the cat, not yourself"

          Or, more worryingly, code backdoors that let the cat control things from afar.

      2. RosslynDad

        Re: "their cat jumped on the keyboard"

        My old cat Minstrel sat on my keyboard, reprogrammed my Visual Studio shortcuts so she could surround my dodgy code with a try/catch block by using the shortcut 'cat' that she could invoke with a twitch of her tail. So, yes, she wrote better code than me. Her code reviews were brutal but fair: "sign this off and it's sardine time..."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "their cat jumped on the keyboard"

          You must never encourage a cat to play with your electronics.

          My one kid thought it was fun for the cat when they found a iPad app that simulated a fish swimming around the screen.

          The cat loved it.

          Took years for the cat to quit looking for the fish every time the iPad was out.

    2. emfiliane

      Re: "their cat jumped on the keyboard"

      When the kittens came along, I got back in the habit of hitting Win+L every time I step away from the desk, after waking up one day to find my entire downloads folder empty. They love the warmth, and even in summer, cats are all the embodiment of the most "did it for the lulz" coworkers out there.

  10. BartyFartsLast

    I was recently introduced to the joy of cat ownership, I have two keyboards now, a wireless one for my use and the one built into the laptop.

    Which was easy to disconnect so the cat can lounge on it and warm its butt, beans and chest as it chooses.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      I was recently introduced to the joy of cat ownership

      [Sucks teeth]

      How cute - he still thinks he 'owns' the cats.

      [Aside to room]

      That won't last long..

      (Been around cats all my life except for the 3 years between starting Polytechnic and getting married and buying our own house. First thing we did was get some kittens. My wife had never lived with cats before but now, 35 years later, she wouldn't be without them. But, oddly, she seems to prefer black cats to the more rational choice of tortoiseshells and gingers.)

      1. Huw L-D

        My tabbies say they're the best.

  11. TVU Silver badge

    "Cat accused of wiping US Veteran Affairs server info after jumping on keyboard"

    ^ That comes across as a very convenient excuse and it usually involves blaming a child, dog or cat although I have not yet come across a pet ferret taking the blame for a computer outage.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Ferrets are too good at weaselling out of things.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        I think you’ll find that weasels are a stoatily different kind of animal.

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Probably the dog that did it

  12. DS999 Silver badge

    No wonder companies want employees to return to the office

    This sort of thing can only happen when people are working from home!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Misdirected attack?

    Perhaps the cat had the same problem I have with the (US?) usage of the abbreviated term "vet" and aimed havoc at the wrong target?

    1. KarMann Silver badge

      Re: Misdirected attack?

      Another when-I-were-a-lad story: I lived out a bit into the countryside, what was then a fairly farm-ish area, and most of my youth, I thought it seemed a bit odd that veterinarians got their own special license plates (then in the US, so yeah, 'license'), but reasonable. You have to know if they're on there way to a veterinary emergency, right? It took a long time for the penny to finally drop that they were veterans, not the other thing.

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. that one in the corner Silver badge

    I really hope I've misinterpreted this

    > This reporter has personal experience with typos introduced by an orange tabby conducting a keyboard crossing to reach a sunny spot by the window, and one of El Reg's editors has suffered similar issues.

    Followed immediately by a picture and the words:

    > The late Boo was a Register disruptor during editing

    My mind immediately leapt to "just how long was the gap between 'suffering similar issues' and Boo becoming late?".

    Unholy shades of:

    (Man holding cat enters.)

    Compere (Michael Palin): That is Tiddles, I believe?

    Man (Graham Chapman): Yes, this is, this is Tiddles.

    Compere: Yes, and what does she do?

    Man: She flies across the studio and lands in a bucket of water.

    Compere: By herself?

    Man: No, I fling her.

    Compere: Well that's extremely interesting, Ladies and gentlemen - Mr Don Savage and Tiddles.

    Weee-eeeeee-eeeeee-ooooooow clunk.

  16. Rikki Tikki Bronze badge

    I can't believe you are all taking this so lightly. The cat was clearly a Russian Blue, indicating to me that Putin has begun activating his FSB (Feline Stealth Brigade) to infiltrate and disrupt US and allied IT systems.

    President Biden (and PM Sunak) must immediately institute American Shorthair and Cornish Rex countermeasures, otherwise we are all doomed!

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      President Biden (and PM Sunak) must immediately institute American Shorthair and Cornish Rex countermeasures, otherwise we are all doomed!

      I suppose that the Maine Coons are too lazy to bother helping?

      (Next door has one. He's a big lad and can often be seen in their back garden, lying on his back, fast asleep in the sun..)

      I wouldn't tangle with a Norwegian Forest cat though. The size of a Maine Coon but with *attitude*

  17. ecofeco Silver badge

    Jokes aside

    How the hell was this even possible?!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jokes aside

      《How the hell was this even possible?!》

      I would imagine Mr Savage would need an unlimited supply of "Tiddles" as it would have to be a brain dead or outright dead cat to be flung across a room into a pail of water more than once.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pussy power

    One of those scenarios where the pussy won and the warmth of your lappy overcame all bounds. So, stop pussy footing around, own up and ffs, stop trying to get that feline into a courting.

  19. SnOOpy168

    "The Cat did it" This is new.

    Poor intern, no longer useful anymore.

    1. stiine Silver badge

      You've obviously never been on a video call with a cat owner. The first thing you see is the cat walking across between the camera and the user, followed by the user disconnecing from the call.

      The other thing they do is turn around and 'wink' at the camera.

  20. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Little Tabby Tables strikes again.

    1. pdebarra

      Very well done.

  21. Vincent van Gopher

    Pussy foot

    No pussy footing here - straight to delete that data.

    Icon: cats are the spawn of Satan - I love cats :)

  22. g4ugm

    There is Cat Detection Software available - PawSense...

    Perhaps they need to install this?

  23. The Boojum

    My cat knows every Windows keyboard short cut in the book, and a few that aren't. The record currently stands at 45 minutes for me to figure out what she did and undo it!

  24. vcragain


    The answer to why all cats seem to love keyboards is simple - you are seen to spend most of your day 'loving' that thing that sits on your desk - and NOT noticing them - so they plunk themselves down right there where you will HAVE to see them - if you seem annoyed that is a bonus - annoyance is better than ignoring them !!! Devious little buggers !!!

  25. Bebu Silver badge

    One solution...

    While a cat might operate a keyboard it is probably beyond the bounds of the possible for one to use a pen (stylus.) Pen based input should stymie these feline terrorists but I suspect also inhibit a fair number of humans apparently incapable of writing even their own name. Voice input might also serve but then a pet parrot could cause havoc.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. Richard Pennington 1

    Screen saver

    Did they have a screen saver of a little bright red dot that moved around at random?

  27. Richard Pennington 1

    Not just cats

    There was a story a few years ago about a tech support callout to a PC which had stopped working. Opening it up, it was found that the internals were severely corroded and totally unrecoverable. The tech support guy sniffed at the dead PC and asked the question: "Do you have a cat?".

    Not a cat, but a rabbit. Which had succeeded in getting a considerable quantity of bodily fluids into the PC casing.

    There was nothing which could be done for the PC or for the locally-held data. The PC had to be replaced and the data reconstructed from elsewhere.

    A week later, the tech support guy touched base again, to see how things were going ... "And how was the rabbit?".


  28. Huw L-D

    "If not for sleeping, why is it made of warm, Dad?"

  29. Rtbcomp

    Cats Rule OK

    The cat knew what it was doing and it was a deliberate act.

    I was tripped up on a train whilst walking down the gangway, I used a passenger's laptop to break my fall by putting my hand smack in the middle of the keyboard.

    I often wonder what the result of that was.

  30. Intractable Potsherd

    Big Red Switches have Molly Guards, keyboards need Moggy Guards!

  31. teneriffe trail

    An education

    My cat taught me so much about computing over the years, she gave me a diploma from CatTech.

  32. Fat Guy In A Little Coat

    Is the cat orange?

    If so, guilty as charged.

  33. Nifty Silver badge

    El Reg now featuring cat stories?

    This site has really gone to the dogs.

  34. Dizzy Dwarf

    I'm going to stare at the door ...

    ... until one of my human slaves gets off of their fat lazy arse and opens it for me.

    Honestly, you can't get the staff these days.

  35. Ilgaz

    "Windows key+ L"

    I remember playing with a 3d title animator program on my 68000 Amiga 500. I designed a logo set parameters and waited 20 hours to render until the cat pressed ESC and Y.

    That's why I keep locking KDE/Win at home while I am out. When I come back there is always some text in passwd field.

  36. s. pam Silver badge

    No more Pussyfootin'

    With all due respect to Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, this sounds very much like a furball explanation...

    [b] i'll get me coat and a tissue now [/b]

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