By Janet McAfee
A Texas publishing company might not seem like the typical home for a cat. But for Jeffy, a tuxedo male cat rescued from the local public shelter, getting a “home” at Mike Byrnes & Associates Publishing, probably saved his life. He paid his employer back by entertaining their clients and calming frazzled office nerves with his playful antics. Jeffy now has his own business cards with the job title of Stress Manager.
Loving All Animals, a Palm Desert animal welfare organization, has 3 office cats residing at their office. They were rescued from local shelters, and spread the agency’s message by their presence. Although they have their own little room with feeding station and cozy beds, the trio have access to all inside areas and happily greet all visitors.
Having an animal at a local shop or business is nothing new, but now scientific studies prove that a cat in the office results in a less stressed and more productive workforce. Meredith Wells-Lepley, Ph.D, with the University of Kentucky’s Institute for Workplace Innovation, found that pets improve both employee and customer moods. One of her studies, “Critters in the Cube Farm” demonstrates that cats foster social interaction and make the work environment appear more friendly. Animals tend to make a setting appear warm and inviting. One third of American works experience some form of workplace stress. A sweet, purring furball in the office is a calming presence that can reduce a lot of office tension.
The owner of Artworks, a Northern California company, noted that her business actually increased after Goover, a homeless Siamese cat moved in. Theresa Espinola explains, “Our customers think better of us. He (Groover) is obviously well cared for and friendly, so that shows we are kind and friendly.” People subconsciously think that businesses with animals are kinder and therefore will treat them better in their transactions. Another employer reports the benefits, “We deal with lots of deadlines and client demands. I always kid that when employees get stressed, I throw a cat on their lap to calm them down. And clients love that we rescued the cats – – we get extra points for that.”
Companies that house cats need to inform prospective employees that a feline companion may share their office space. If an applicant is allergic, the job is probably not a good fit. The animal needs to be a good match. If a cat is a “door dasher” or skittish around strangers, it would not do well at a bustling office with lots of humans coming and going.
The biggest controversy may be deciding who changes the little box! People enjoy feeding, but keeping the litter box clean is a less pleasant task. Luckily cats are low maintenance animals and fastidious about using their litter boxes. The task may be shared, but usually it falls to the business owner by default. Business owners usually assume the responsibility for paying for food, supplies, and vet care. An “office collection” system may work at larger companies.
More and more companies now allow employees to bring their own pets to work, and in some cases dogs are the beneficiaries of this policy. For stressed, tired workers a tail wag or a lick on the cheek can be comforting and therapeutic. Workplace pet policies usually require that dogs be vaccinated, housetrained, and no aggressive behavior is tolerated.
Some government offices house a happy feline. One U.S. Forest Service office is now home to Molly who wandered in as a stray. The staff reports that this amazing feline is very vocal, almost to the point of appearing to converse. If someone comes to the front counter unhappy about something, Molly jumps to attention to “talk” to them, and the mood softens dramatically.
We could reduce the number of homeless cats in animal shelters if more companies would consider adopting one or even two. Sadly, cats in public shelters, particularly the adults, have a low adoption rate and many are euthanized. What about your workplace? You might show this article to your boss and propose your company adopt a feline. If you own your own business, why not give it a try?
Where do you go in the Coachella Valley to adopt a cat? Our three public shelters have hundreds to choose from. Contact the Palm Springs shelter for directions and hours at (760) 416-5718. The large Riverside county shelter in Thousand Palms, the Coachella Valley Animal Campus, has many fabulous cats, so call them at (760) 343-3644. If you are at the east end of the Valley, contact Animal Care Center of Indio at (760) 391-4135. All the shelters have a special visiting area where you can interact with a cat and see if it is the “purrfect” match for your office.