Little Isis, Shop Cat at The Wren’s Nest in Dowagiac, Michigan. Photo by Bonnie Koenig.
This week is “Take Your Pet to Work Week”, and we celebrated a bit early by taking Skeezix into Catster headquarters last Thursday.
I’m no stranger to cats in the workplace. Years ago when my Siamese, Mao, was a kitten, I had the opportunity to take him to work. One of the engineers at work had a kitten, too, a tabby named Oski. At the time, both Mao and Oski had older female cats at home who held them in low regard, so we wondered if Mao and Oski would enjoy playing together at work.
Turns out, they did, and they quickly became very best friends. This presented some problems. Oski’s owner usually came in to work pretty late, which meant that Mao had no playmate for an hour or longer in the morning. Mao took this as a cue to wander through the office calling for Oski in his eardrum-piercing meezer yowl. He’d shut up the minute Oski arrived, at which point the two would happily play and nap together all day long.
Mao’s pre-Oski-arrival yowling wasn’t really appropriate for the work environment, so I’d sequester him in my office. When it got really bad (or when I had a conference call with clients), I’d put him in a closet in my office that had his cat bed and toys inside. (Note to PETA: it was a large closet, and he was content inside.)
Oski’s dad was hesitant to get Oski neutered, and he waited too long. One day, Oski sprayed the office (but good!) and cats were thereafter banned from the premises. I’m sure that Mao looks back on his days with Oski as the best time of his life.
v.1 Office Cat from the Mad Men era. [Photo courtest of The Daily C]
Generally, cats are not as easy to take to work as dogs are. They require a litter box and a scratcher, co-workers may claim to have allergies, and there’s the risk of people getting scratched or bitten.
If there are a number of dogs who typically come to work in an office, you may have to alternate days on which you bring one or the other to work, depending how your cat reacts to dogs, and vice versa.
So before you take your cat to work, carefully evaluate whether it’s a good idea or not:
- If yours will be the first cat to visit among the office dogs, talk to your boss and co-workers beforehand. Don’t assume that because dogs are okay in the office, cats will be, too.
- If your cat–male or female–is territorial and has a propensity to spray (even occasionally), leave her home. One surreptitious blast of cat pee will ruin it for all cats–and maybe all animals–in the office.
- If your cat is prone to biting–even non-threatening “love nips”–leave her home.
- Are you frequently in meetings? Who’ll mind the cat while you’re away?
- Is there an empty office or quiet room in your workspace where you can stash Fluffy if the work environment is too crazy for her?
If you have your own office and can contain the cat inside, great. If you’re in a cubicle or work in an open floor plan, give some thought as to how you will contain your cat, and any dangers she might encounter as she wanders through the office, including:
- Doors that open to the outdoors. Could she escape?
- If she were to jump up on shelves, is she in danger of bringing heavy or breakable objects down on top of her?
- Are there windows that open through which she could escape?
- Are there any hidey places in which she could get stuck or refuse to exit?
- Do you work in a rocking chair factory?
If you think you cat will acclimate well and safely to your office environment and you’ve got the OK to bring her in, it’s time to make preparations. Here’s a checklist:
- Chip, tag and bell your cat.
- Your cat should be both flea-free and up-to-date on flea treatments (and that doesn’t mean dousing her in flea powder before you leave the house).
- Your cat should be up-to-date with all her vaccinations, including a rabies vaccination. If she bites someone and does not have proof of a rabies vaccination, she could face a mandatory health department quarantine or worse.
- Consider taking her to the groomer, or bathing and FURminating her before her visit so she makes a good impression. Cats will tend to shed more fur when stressed, and you don’t want your co-workers’ clothing or workspaces covered with a fine patina of cat hair and dander.
- Trim her nails and consider applying Soft Paws for the visit to reduce the risk of a co-worker getting scratched.
- If your cat has special dietary needs or habits, communicate that to your co-workers. For example, “no people food” or “no treats, please.”
- If possible, do a trial run–for example, on a day when you’re working a half-day.
- If you take public transportation to the office, make sure that pets are permitted, and that Fluffy is comfortable riding public transportation during the craziness of a commute.
- I recommend a covered litter box for the office. If your cat doesn’t currently use a covered box, you’ll need to acclimate her to it beforehand.
- Check out The Cat’s Meow’s Travel Guide for tips on transporting your cat.
If you are a manager, be mindful of the way the employees react to the workplace animals. Some may not speak out in front of a group against having pets in the office, but still have issues. At one office in which I worked, management would distribute a survey periodically (responses were anonymous), evaluating the pet policy. The survey asked if the pets were disruptive, what could be handled better, etc. This provided an incentive for pet owners to behave well, as well as an outlet for those negatively impacted by bad owner behavior.
On a not-altogether-unrelated-note, during our Road Trip series, several of you left comments asking how Skeezix travels in the car.
The answer is, he’s generally a very calm traveler. He’s a little vocal for the first few minutes on surface streets, but when we get to the highway, he settles down for the ride. I open the side door to his carrier, and he sits in it–half-in, half-out–for the trip. (We are going to get him a “booster seat” we can hook him into.) Here’s a short video clip of him riding in the car to Catster HQ last Thursday for our celebration of Take Your Cat to Work Day:
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Do you take your cat to work, or plan to do so this week? Tell me your story!
And don’t forget to take this week’s Catster Poll on taking your cat to work.