Taking Your Cat To Work

Personally I have never worked in a place where cats were allowed; or dogs or any other “pet”. It was never even considered. It didn’t enter the minds of anyone let alone the people in charge. Now that I can look back on it, I generally worked in sterile, slightly dehumanising environments. I was glad to get home after work.

Old cat at a book store
Old cat at a book store. He was in charge of the place despite being very old.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

On the internet, you will see pictures of cats at workplaces and the cats always look at home and they always seem to be an asset to the workplace. However, it can’t always work well. There are downsides or complications to having a cat in the workplace but I think they can be accommodated if some sensible rules are in place.

The sort of workplaces where I have seen cats are veterinary clinics, cat shelters, a hospice (Oscar) and bookstores. A cat is a perfect addition to the staff at a book store in my opinion. They provide a nice talking point, make the place more like a home and help to get people reading and buying.

Another sort of workplace where cats can be useful is theatres. In London they are often old buildings were there is possibly a risk of rodent infestations. Cats can sort that problem out.

It seems to me that some of the problems with cats at the workplace are:

  • Some people don’t like cats! Silly people…
  • Some people like cats or don’t mind cats but are allergic to them…
  • Both the above potentially make the workplace a health hazard for some people. This may cause a headache for a employer who likes cats and wants to try out the idea of having a cat in the workplace.
  • Cats like to do their own thing and roam around. How do you keep control of that? Is the place safe for a cat?
Cats at workplace
Oscar at a Hospice

There is no doubt that some fairly tight but sensible rules would need to be in place at the workplace if cats were allowed.

There would be a much better chance of success in a small business of say about 20 people as you could get an agreement at the beginning and even work out some rules together with an eye on any laws and government regulations. What are the relevant workplace laws? Well there are rather hard to find as usual.

In England, Wales and N.Ireland the general law on health and safety at work is the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Clause 2 (2) (e) says that it is the employer’s duty to ensure…

the provision and maintenance of a working environment for his employees that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe, without risks to health, and adequate as regards facilities and arrangements for their welfare at work.

I would not have thought that a cat presents a health hazard in general at work. One issue might be that if a person has a fear of cats he might claim that the employer is discriminating against him in allowing someone else to bring a cat to work. That might depend on whether a fear of cats is treated as a disability in the same bracket as being in a wheelchair. The trouble is that for an employer the law is complicated and burdensome. They don’t want to get involved and therefore steer clear, which is a shame.

Cat "Babado" at Animal Shelter
A Cat named “Babado” at Animal Shelter

In America the relevant disabilities laws are: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 1990 and ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) 2008. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (final regulations issued 2011) helps interpret these Acts.

In the past they were interpreted in a restrictive or limited way so would not be relevant to the matter of a cat in the workplace, I would have thought. The position may have changed.

In England, Wales and N. Ireland the definition of a disabled person is found under the Equality Act 2010. Essentially there has to be physical or mental impairment. It has to have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. On this basis I cannot see “cat-phobia” or a fear of cats qualifying as a disability. In which case an employer should not be concerned about this aspect of the law when keeping a cat at the workplace. Does someone know any better?

Benefits of cats and dogs are work

  • De-stresses the workplace
  • Improves morale at workplace and
  • Adds some laughter…
  • Makes you more likely to stay at work rather than dash home
  • Accommodates the employees in making life more manageable for single people who look after a cat or dog.


  • Dogs present problems such as barking
  • Cats present problems such as allergies to cats or a fear of cats
  • Adds another layer of complication in the employer to employee relationship.

The kind of rules that might be in places would be:

  • Cats should be confined to certain areas
  • Cats should be on a leash when leaving a certain area
  • Cats would have to be litter trained and there would have to a perfect track record of using the litter at work.
  • Employees who were allowed to bring a cat to work would have to agree to clean up and manage their cat properly.

The only way an employer will allow a cat at work is if it improves the productivity of employees. It would be up to the employees to demonstrate that that was the case.

There is no doubt though that the modern workplace is very different. The classic, advanced, no expense spared workplaces are found at the offices of Google and Facebook. Apple probably have a similar work environment.

These places are like home from home. They are very pleasant places to be. They have nice color schemes, open plan areas, lots of food and an airy feel about them. The one thing they lack is a cat.


  • Cat at shelter: photo by Tjflex2
  • Cat in bookstore: Photo by terriem
  • Photo of Oscar in the public domain.

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12 thoughts on “Taking Your Cat To Work”

  1. “Cats would have to be litter trained and there would have to a perfect track record of using the litter at work.”

    Dogs at my workplace routinely have all sorts of bodily fluid accidents on the floor. No one complains and someone cleans it up. (Usually the pet owner if they are around.) So this isn’t just a problem with cats.

    “The only way an employer will allow a cat at work is if it improves the productivity of employees. It would be up to the employees to demonstrate that that was the case.”

    This is another ridiculous notion. You don’t have to be google or apple to have a relaxed environment. Most small engineering or web firms that I know of try to emulate the big dogs with incredibly relaxed work environments, ping pong tables, beer on tap, animals at work, flexible hours, etc, etc. Just look at the about page for a few web firms in the closest metropolitan area to you. They go out of their way to recruit amazing employees and make them happy. Not the other way around. There is no needing to prove that a foozeball table, a dog or, or a cat, makes one more productive. Just having those options improves overall workplace quality. (Everyone at my work constantly plays with the two dogs.) I also don’t think beer helps productivity, but hell, if it’s been a good day and you decide to cheers a shot at noon, no one is going to stop you. That’s the modern workplace, and it doesn’t take ton of money to be that flexible.

  2. I worked in a wonderful facility in Stoughton recently, through the medical staffing company I work for. Stoughton is basically a small town surrounded by farms, but near a small city. I love going there because many of the staff members have animals and live on farms. I think it is good for people to have animals in their lives. They seem happier and more able to deal with stress. One therapist brings her young dog with her to work, and this is approved by the management. She hooks his leash to her belt and the dog comes along as she ambulates patients. He’s a well behaved dog and doesn’t jump on people, which of course, could be disastrous. He did bark a couple of times during the day, but no one seemed bothered by this. If a patient does have a problem with dogs she treats that person up on the unit and the dog waits for her in the gym, tied to a table leg out of the way, with his bed and toys. He seems lonely without her when this happens, but how much better that he misses her for an hour, than to be home all alone for eight hours or more! She also uses a special type of leash. It goes around the dog’s head, similar to what is used to lead a cow or a horse. She said that a traditional leash around a dog’s neck can cause harm to the dog’s windpipe, so the type around his head is much more gentle. I don’t know what kind of dog she has– he’s a pretty ginger color, medium length, very soft fur and he comes up about to her knees or a little higher, but is not full grown. Having the dog around really gave a nice feel to the whole day. It was a very pleasant working environment.

  3. I used to work in central Lond for a photographer back in the day of film and negatives. He had 2 grey cats, one boy and one girl. They were siblings. He loved them and would play with them and so did I whenever I had a spare moment. We photographed anything from people and models to still lives and products, even cat food once :). The cats knew where not to be. You can’t have a cat wander across the set and brush up against a carefully dressed model. Furthermore, back then, film was an expensive thing which you couldnt afford to waste. I got in big trouble once for loading a camera back and putting it on the camera, mid shoot, only to find out 2 days later when the film was developed that there was a cat hair in the corner of all 12 shots from that roll. Big trouble. It was my worst mistake in all the years of working on photography.

    Now that I think back to it, I cant believe cat hairs were not more of a problem in that environment. No model or makeup artist or person otherwise involved ever complained or was allergic to his cats. They were very sweet. They were the first cats I ever really got to know well in my life. I think they were British Shorthairs – or a mix thereof.

    I also worked in screen printing and the neighbouring studio’s cat would come and visit me when I was alone. She was a bit more shy so she waited til it was just me. I loved having her over although my cat was suspicious of her scent when I got home. Screen printing is another process where you cannot allow dust on the screen when you are exposing it nor can it or cat hair get into the inks or on the screen as you are pulling each print. But it never happened. There was never a problem and she would just sit at a distance. She knew exactly where not to go somehow. She just got it.

    I have also worked alot of gardening and lanscaping and always love when a client’s cat comes along to check out what I’m doing. Having cats whilst working is really the best. Right now I work in a sort of studio/office and a local cat comes running when she sees me and will join me while I sit outside and smoke a cigarette. She has even had a little explore inside. I leave the door open so she can go in and out and she has come in a couple times. Hope she sticks around because I love her company on a long workday. It really lightens me up and is nice to see her.

    Hey, but lets face it, I totally love cats so of course I’m going to like it. My other coworkers don’t mind her at all though. They know I love cats, it’s not an issue. One of them has a cat actually.

    So cats in the workplace have only ever been good for me, and for other people from what I have seen throughout my life. Most people just so ‘oh how nice, its a kitty’ and carry on. Cats usually respect a persons space when they don’t know said person. They are quiet. They generally don’t bother people or invade the space in any way. It’s quite hard to be negative about them for a person who happens to be in the same space but who is not responsible for them.

  4. I agree, having cats around the work area seems like a very natural and emotionally healthy thing to do. I know of only one cat that is a store cat by day and goes home with his owners at night. Oh wait, there is a book store cat that does the same. They bring in customers and, let’s face it. They bring a serenity that is of its only transcendental quality.

    Need sleep. Kids for the weekend and Doctor Who!!

      • It’s UK Doctor Who, Michael. I am a Whovian from way back. The new ones are too fast paced for me. We used to get the old Doctor Who on public television, but we got the entire story at once, instead of in 30 minute episodes. This made the pacing of the show seem very, very slow. My sister points out that with the old ones you could go in the basement, get ice cream out of the freezer down there, come upstairs, dish it up, take the rest back down, and come back the show not having missed a thing. The new show is much tighter, but now there are commercials, whereas on PBS, there are no commercials. We get Doctor Who on BBC America.

        • Pleased you get the BBC Dr Who. The new one is very modern and I think it looks very good. I don’t watch it but it is still very popular here. They choose the new doctors very carefully. They are younger these days and a bit funky but handsome.

  5. I think it would be nice to have cats permanently living in workplaces where everyone loved cats, or if they all didn’t love them, at least kindly tolerated them.
    Think of all the homeless cats in Shelters who could have a permanent place to live and people to love and care for them.

    But I wouldn’t think it fair to take a cat to work regularly though, cats are notoriously bad travellers and it would be no life being toted to and fro daily and confined for hours on end and forced to walk on a leash in certain areas.

    At the first vets I worked for, we had 3 resident cats people had left for neutering or whatever and never returned for, they had a happy life, they were very friendly and often used to sit on the chairs in the waiting room and they had the run of most of the place inside and out, but not the operating theatre or hospital wing or consulting rooms of course. At one time we had a resident dog too, a yellow labrador with a wounded foot, the people had left as they were sick of paying vet bills, she was lovely and I think she and the cats soothed some of the clients having to leave their pets for X Rays, surgery etc.

    I think we need to take into first consideration the needs and welfare of cats rather than the needs and wants of workers and realise that some workplaces just wouldn’t be a suitable environment for cats.

    • Very nice point I think. First consideration: cat welfare. And I think in general cat welfare would benefit if cats were integrated a bit more into our work. I am sure lots of cats are left alone for 12 hours and more every workday. I believe employers should be more open to the possibility.


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