More and more places advertise that they’re pet friendly, and that’s great. I love seeing this trend! It’s up to us to be sure that we are good ambassadors as cats going places so we keep these numbers increasing.
Ask for Pet-Friendly Permission, Not Forgiveness
There are a surprising number of chain stores with national policies welcoming cats and dogs as shopping companions. Even if the national chain’s policy is pet-friendly, a local manager can override the corporate policy.
This means even though I know Michael’s stores nationwide welcome pets, I ask the first time I enter a new store whether it’s all right that I bring Cupcake in with me. The manager at the store near the mall, which is a tourist area, may have had some terrible experience with a pet in the store that the manager at the store at the other end of town did not, and I have to respect that.
Asking the first time can be a little intimidating, since you’re putting yourself and your cat in a position to be turned away. I have always asked in person, figuring whoever I asked would be curious to see who was in the carrier. They always are!
You can also call ahead and ask whether the local store is pet friendly. This is a good idea if the store you intend to visit is a long drive from home and you are worried about wasting a trip.
Clean Up After Your Cat
I’m sure your parents raised you to clean up your messes, so you don’t leave a mess for people to clean up after you. This is especially important when you have a cat with you, since you don’t want someone cleaning up empty paper cups from a patio table thinking, “That guy with the cat couldn’t even toss these in the trash!” They may not remember your face, but they will remember your cat, and that isn’t the kind of bad impression you want to leave.
Leaving a good impression isn’t hard, though. All you need to do is be tidy! I like to carry a packet of Clorox wipes in my bag and wipe down a table where Cupcake has stood before we leave. This helps ensure anyone who is worried about germs from cat paws will not complain about your cat visiting with you. If you have a cat who is prone to shedding hair that is really visible on the table, it’s nice to be sure that the next person who sits there doesn’t find fur on the table, too.
I also carry a small blanket in Cupcake’s bag that I put on the table so she isn’t actually in contact with it. This helps with cleanup if she’s shedding a lot that day. As a bonus, the blanket protects her paws from the metal café tables when they heat up quickly in direct sunlight.
Respect Other People’s Space
If I saw your cat, I couldn’t resist asking to have a little visit. So it may be hard to remember that not everyone feels that way.
Warn people there’s a cat nearby if they aren’t expecting it. When Cupcake enjoys wandering around the coffee shop patio on her leash, and use conversation with her to let people at tables know she is passing by, saying things to her like, “I don’t think those nice people ordered a kitten with their coffee.” This gives strangers sitting at tables the option to ignore her if they want. Several people have heard me say this and responded that they would have ordered a kitten if one was on the menu!
When we are out shopping, some people will waver nearby, not knowing if it’s all right to approach her. You may be better at reading people than I am, but I can’t tell when someone is standing nearby because they are too polite to approach without an invitation or whether they are allergic to cats and don’t want to risk getting too close. To cover my inability to read people, I try to use offers to approach her without making someone feel like I’m pushing my cat onto them. I say things like, “This is Cupcake. You’re welcome to come say hello.”
Overall, being a polite visitor to pet-friendly establishments is as easy as minding your manners, and it makes you a great ambassador for cats who go places.