When I first heard about National Bring Your Pet To Work Day (which is today, Fri. June 21), my first thought was, "That's great for dogs, but is anyone actually bringing their cats to the office?"
To my surprise, the answer was a resounding "Yes!", and Purina even put me in touch with one of their own employees, who brings her kittens to work on a regular basis.
Lisa Pacatte is a Senior Brand Manager for Purina Pro Plan, who works at the Nestle Purina Petcare headquarters St. Louis, MO. Thanks to Purina's pet-friendly office policy, her two adorable kittens, Fletcher and Finley, are able to join her at work at least once or twice a week.
I had a million questions for Lisa about how she makes the Pets at Work program work for her. We covered everything from car rides and cat trees, to what happens when it's time to use the litter box!
Read on for more!
Lisa and her furry office assistants, Finley and Fletcher.
Hi Lisa! Please tell us a little about your cats.
I have two male Siberian kittens, Fletcher (9 months) and Finley (8 months). Previously, I had two cats that both lived to be almost 17 years-old. Chelsie passed away a year and a half ago, leaving Cali, who passed away just last November. After Cali passed, I began my search for the next generation of cats that we would welcome into our family. Although they are not litter mates, they are the best of friends.
Not all cats are cut out for office life. When did you start socializing them, and how did you know they were ready to go to work?
I had never adopted a cat through a breeder until I got Fletcher and Finley, and the breeders I worked with are conscious of socializing cats early in life. They introduce their kittens to a lot of things before they adopt them to families, and it’s well known that exposing kittens to as many experiences as possible can be good for their development. So they were fairly social by the time I brought them home.
Anxious for my coworkers to meet the adorable new additions to our family, I didn’t wait long before I brought them to work. So in mid-January they came to Nestle Purina for the first time. I could tell right away bringing them to the office was going to work out. They were not shy around my coworkers – in fact, they enjoyed all the extra attention.
What about the car ride?
As for the car ride, they are both very content – spending the time sleeping, grooming each other or looking out the window. Both of them had spent quite a bit of time in the car with me when we brought them home for the first time. They don’t associate car rides with a trip to the vet, which I believe makes many cats nervous during car trips.
For the first couple trips to the office, I had them in separate cat carriers. Finley’s carrier, however, only allowed him to see out the front and back, and he would cry during our commute. I realized that he was missing his “brother” Fletcher since he was not visible. I then tried switching Finley to a carrier that allowed him to see out on all four sides. He was much happier when he could see Fletcher sitting in the carrier next to him. But carrying two cat carriers plus my computer bag into the office was difficult. I had my hands full! So I scoured the internet to find an extra-large rolling pet carrier that would accommodate the both of them. They love this even more – it’s tall enough for them to be able to sit up, move around and best of all, be together. And the carrier allows for me to buckle them in safely.
How often do Fletcher and Finley join you at the office?
I bring them to work once a week on average, sometimes twice a week.
What benefits do you think come from being able to bring them to work?
I believe Fletcher and Finley enjoy coming to work. It gives them a change of scenery and I like to think they enjoy spending the day with me vs. being at home by themselves. Plus they are very social cats, and enjoy all the attention they get from my co-workers.
For me, it’s such a pleasure to have Fletcher and Finley here with me all day. Studies have shown that employees who bring their pets to work tend to have lower stress levels and are more relaxed and happy. I can definitely attest to that. It definitely helps with my stress level and makes work more enjoyable. I’m in my “happy place” when I’m around them and it’s terrific that Nestle Purina encourages its employees to bring their pets to work. Having Fletcher and Finley in the office also brightens the day for a lot of my co-workers, who drop in from time to time to play with them and chuckle at their kitten antics.
What supplies do you recommend having on hand?
I want to make my office an enjoyable space for them – like a home away from home – with plenty of toys for them to play with and soft places for them to sleep. When Fletcher and Finley come to work with me my office gets transformed to a kitty play land – full of tiny balls to for them to chase and feather wands for them to stalk. But their favorite is the six-foot tall cat tree I recently added. They love their tree at home and I thought it would be a great way to help them exert their energy in the confined office space. They love to perch on the very top and look out at all the activity happening around the office. They also love to taunt the dogs that are on the floor.
Other necessities include keeping a supply of their food on hand, bowls for their food and water, and scratching posts. I even have a cat bed, although Fletcher normally chooses to sleep in the lid of a copy paper box.
How does litter box duty work?
I keep the litter box under my desk and out of view for my co-workers. Plus it provides them some privacy when they need to do their business. It’s important that I clean the litter box frequently, and I keep fresh litter in the office at all times. When they’re not here I take a trash bag and cover up the box so that it’s not exposed.
And don’t forget to have air freshener handy for when they use the litter box. They’ll usually decide it’s time to use the litter box when I am having a meeting with co-workers in my office. I have to admit, this is somewhat comical, but also a little embarrassing at the same time.
Do you have any other advice for people thinking about bringing their pets to the office?
For my cats it’s important that I have an enclosed office vs. an open-air cubicle. And you have to be prepared to keep your office door closed, which is not always ideal in a workplace. I tried several ways to keep my door open and use baby gates and other taller barriers to contain my cats, but they quickly learned to jump over them.
Remember to be respectful of people who suffer cat allergies. Even though Siberian cats are believed to by hypo-allergenic, I will always ask co-workers if they would prefer to have a meeting elsewhere, besides in my office. I totally understand. But luckily, those with allergies have had great luck being around them and even petting them without any problems.
Give your cats lots of things to do and keep a lot of toys in your office, or they will be bored. And start bringing them to work when they’re young so they get used to the car and the office environment at an early age.
We have a lot of tips and suggestions for people to help create a welcoming, pet-friendly program at their workplace at www.PetsAtWork.com. It works for a lot of people here at Purina – we’ve been doing this for 15 years, and we usually have hundreds of dogs and cats on our campus every week. We encourage pet lovers who can’t bring their pets to work to speak to their employers and see if they’ll try it on Friday (June 21), which is “National Bring Your Pet to Work Day.” As pet lovers, it would be great to help spread this movement throughout the country.
Special thanks to Lisa for taking the time to answer my questions! With these two cuties around, I'm not sure I'd be able to get anything done!