Tips for Finding Cat-Friendly Businesses

Shopping with cats, working with cats and traveling with cats present special problems as you try to negotiate retail and business activities with your cat in tow. But for those of us who want our cats to accompany us while we complete everyday tasks, finding cat-friendly retail and professional outlets is a challenge. Some of us would even like to take our cats to work on a daily basis.

While most retail outlets do not have a cat-friendly sign on the door, many will allow you to bring your pet inside if you follow the rules: no running, no accidents, no biting. The better your pet can behave consistently, the more local businesses are willing to bend the rules, look the other way or even welcome your cat with open arms.

While finding a cat-friendly business may be the result of a lucky accident, creating and cultivating pet friendliness in the business world is a diplomatic art.

You can assist the business world in a shift toward being more tolerant of cats by following a few behavior modifications to train local businesses you patronize to accept pets:

Patronize pet-friendly businesses consistently and tell your friends about them. It is your responsibility to reward good behavior with your patronage.

Work with your pet to make sure he is business friendly: gentle, clean, quiet and charming. You cannot blame a business that doesn't enjoy hosting your growling and leaping animal.

For service businesses such as salons or cafes that allow you to bring your pet, tip generously. It is very hard for somebody to prohibit visits from a good tipper.

At work, should you be allowed to bring your pet, make sure you have a comfortable spot for him in your work area, cubicle or office. Bring his food, keep water for him, and use your breaks to engage him. And remember, if you really want your pet to be allowed at work, demonstrate that a happy employee is a very, very productive employee. It is very hard for good bosses to take steps to de-motivate a good worker.

Recently, a more tolerant shift toward pet-friendly dining in cafes and patios and pet-friendly shopping in retail outlets has occurred. Businesses seek customers and will not turn away customers with four feet as they had in the past.

Inspired by the trend toward pet inclusion in all aspects of modern life, many local pet groups have begun to reward local businesses for being pet-friendly. Behaviors like this help take the stigma away from pet visits to retail outlets.

Nevertheless, some local businesses will always be off limits to pets and some major retail chains will always prohibit pets. An angry dog off leash at just one Home Depot store created such a stir that all Home Depot stores now forbid pets inside.

The best way to address whether pets are welcome or not is to try to take your pet inside. Most of the time, in fact the vast majority of the time, you and your pet will be welcomed and assisted. Consider a "No Pets" sign to be a clear indication that the gates are shut. No sign means you should give the business the benefit of the doubt and take the opportunity to change the world for the better by shopping with your pet.

About the Author: Helen Fazio and her dog Raja blog on pet travel and related topics at www.traveldogbooks.com. In their first book, "The Journey of the Shih Tzu," Raja tells the wolf to woof story of the development of this amazing breed. They are working on forthcoming titles.

Photo: Dennis Wong