I’m looking forward to taking Cupcake to the BlogPaws conference in April. Knowing there is going to be a pet-friendly restaurant in the conference host hotel, premises, I knew it was important to get Cupcake accustomed to dining out.
I was pretty sure she was ready to sit still for the length of a meal, something she never would have done as a kitten. But I wasn’t sure how it would actually go.
Choose a pet-friendly restaurant
Obviously, you don’t want to try to smuggle your cat into your local diner. Find somewhere that welcomes pets.
For Cupcake’s first big meal out, I chose a local restaurant called The Glass Knife, whose web site advertises “friendly dogs welcome.”
Find a quiet table
I could tell from photos on the internet that The Glass Knife had a covered, semi-enclosed patio with both fans and heaters in the ceiling to help keep it comfortable. This seemed like a great idea, both because of the cool weather that day and because it made me think that the tables would be buffered from the road. A lot of outdoor dining here is tables on the curb.
The arrangement of the patio was a good idea in theory, but in practice, the open side of the patio fronts a fairly busy street, making it noisier than I expected. There was also a construction project going on across the street, which made it extra-noisy.
Cupcake was pretty skeptical about the noise, and it took her a while to relax. In the future, I will pay closer attention to the amount of traffic on nearby streets to try to minimize the noise at locations where we visit.
Be on your best behavior
People see dogs in restaurants from time to time, but they don’t see cats, so what you and your cat do will make an impression.
After we sat down to eat and Cupcake settled onto my lap, we heard a diner at the next table tell another, “Well, it DOES say well behaved PETS.”
Cupcake was extremely well-behaved. At first, she was frightened by the street noises amplified in the enclosed porch, and that kept her subdued. I gave her a little bit of turkey while she sat on my lap, and she relaxed quite a bit after that.
Be ready to leave early if it doesn’t work out
Cupcake’s initial tension at the noise level of the porch made me nearly decide to cut the meal short, so I was glad she relaxed after a while. No meal is worth freaking your cat out!
If you have to leave early, it helps to have a dining partner who can settle your check while you retreat to the relative calm of your car with your frightened cat. If you’re dining alone, politely asking the waitstaff to hurry the check will help. They have no doubt seen all kinds of emergencies cause diners to need to leave in a hurry.
Once she relaxed a little, other patrons came to visit Cupcake and tell me about their cats. Dining out in pet-friendly places is a great way to be an ambassador for cats going places.