What’s new pussycat?

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Clay Adams | July 20th, 2015

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

If you are outgoing, energetic and someone who believes in following the rules, then you’re more likely to own a dog than a cat. If, however, you are introverted, sensitive and open to new ideas, then chances are you share your life with a feline.

At least that’s what research from Carroll University in Wisconsin found when it spoke to 600 college students back in 2014. About 60 percent of them self-identified as dog people while only 11 percent said they preferred cats. The remainder seemingly didn’t care or, presumably, couldn’t make up their mind which they preferred so took the easy answer of “either”.

Cooper - June2015

My dog Cooper.

Now those of you with enough time on your hands to read my blog will now that I’m a bit of dog person. Yes, I’ve had cats. In fact, at one point we had a household of two dogs and three cats but that BC (Before Child). Now, it is just us, our 15-going-on-25 year old princess, and Cooper, our water and walk-loving Havanese.

I’m also a supporter of dogs as a positive influence in the work place, as long as they are well behaved, trained and you’re not a cat person. In fact, there are rumors that Communications & Public Affairs has a member of its team in the Pet Policy Witness Protection Program but we are not in a position to comment on that on the basis of privacy.

They help

Not everyone shares that philosophy, as reinforced by our policy. A study by Virginia Commonwealth University found stress levels were reduced by as much as 70 percent among workers who had a dog at work. Studies have also shown reduced absenteeism, tend to work longer hours, and are more engaged. I’m not sure what impact cats can have at work, but given their tendency to be self-centred, arrogant and dismissive unless it suits them, I’m not sure they bring the same positive vibe.

Of course not everyone shares my philosophy of pets at work or necessarily agree with the research, but so be it. What I do find curious is that Vancouver is a buzz with issues around pets and food. Not pets AS food, but pets being around food.

Our first cat café

Only recently, Vancouver gave approval to the city’s first cat café. Catfé will open its doors in the fall and allow customers to share a jasmine tea and muffin with, well, Jasmine and Muffin. So how is it that we can’t bring animals into most workplaces and yet we can share space with them in an eatery – a traditional no-go in the world of public health?

The answer, according to VCH environmental health officer Mark Ritson, is all in the design. Because only service animals are allowed on food premises, the compromise was to have the felines at Catfé relegated to a separate but adjoining room. No food or drink can be served where the cats are, but patrons can bring food and drink to where they are. Again, we must go to the cats. They don’t come to us. Typical.

“In terms of infection control, it is fairly low,” Ritson said. “Cats can carry diseases like toxoplasmosis, which is very rare but can dangerous to pregnant women. Others can be gastro enteric illnesses like cryptosporidium – they can be passed from cats. The risk is low but they do exist – it’s a risk-management thing.”

More than 60 percent of Vancouverites reportedly have a dog or cat, so it’s no surprise that dog owners are doing their own bit to claim territory.  An online petition is seeking support for dogs to be permitted on restaurant patios. Some people just can’t bear to be separated from their pets it seems, as demonstrated by online match making sites such as DateMyPet.com and LoveMeLoveMyPets.com.  Given that only 1,354 of the estimated 100,000 dog owners in Vancouver had signed the petition at the time of writing, don’t expect to see doggie patios anytime soon.

Members of the family

Milka, the office dog.

Milka, the office dog.

Having said that, people clearly love their pets. A 2011 poll found 90 percent of pet owners see their dogs and cats as members of their family, while 40 percent of married women said they received more emotional support from their dog than their spouse or kids. People might be concerned about a police killing, but are often outraged should an animal lose its life.

Cat cafes and dogs on patios are potentially just fads right now. Opportunistic ventures to emotionally engage customers, relieve stress and make some folks that little bit happier. Just a shame that such opportunities are limited.




About the Author

Clay Adams
email iconClay.Adams@vch.ca  

Clay Adams is vice president of Communications and Public Affairs and has extensive experience in strategic communications and planning, media relations, issues management and stakeholder communications in Australia and Canada. Clay writes on communication related topics with a wry humorous style and has an interest in discussion about how we want to be understood by others. View all the posts by Clay.

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3 comments on “What’s new pussycat?

  • Maria says:

    Ok, at the risk of someone setting their dog on me, here goes…. I like dogs at work in LIMITED situations. They need to be on a lead, in control of their human, in an identifiable area, and people need to be ASKED if they want a dog (or lizard, which is MY preferred pet) in their healthcare delivery setting.

    Some of the situations I have encountered with dogs at the work place at VCH that did not go OK and did not do anything to lower blood pressure….

    – a dog that left a “calling card” in the group room
    – a dog that ate staff purses and electrical cords in offices
    – a dog that was left in a shared office with no note on the door such that the other staff member opened their office door and a large dog lunged at them (it was friendly but the staff member had no idea of that at the time)
    – a dog standing behind the glass door of an office with a client standing on the porch in a quandary as to how to get in for their appointment (they were scared of dogs)
    – client walks into office and then the staff member says “you don’t mind the dog here do you?
    – dog is brought into the office, staff member identifies their dog allergy only to be told, “that’s not possible, it’s hypo-allergenic”…staff member has to take antihistamines to go their own office.

    On the other hand I have also seen well controlled, trained dogs who have come to visit at specific times as part of programs that were an excellent addition to the program. These dogs were controlled, well trained, and were brought into the program in such a way that if a client did not want to have to interact with them they did not miss out on program and could participate without having to interact with the dog. At RVH we had therapy dogs who I watched clients talk to who NEVER spoke to humans, and at the Crisis Centre we used to have a resident cat that was great comfort and companionship on long night shifts.

    So, essentially I am all for pets on site within some clear limits, specifically so
    that if staff or clients don’t want to deal with animals, allergens or to have
    their phobias triggered they don’t have to take evasive action. Pets which are a great addition to some people’s treatment should not be a barrier to others in the process (which I think VCH’s policy does fairly well).

  • Kim says:

    hi Clay,
    I work in mental health and would love the opportunity to bring a trained therapy dog to work with me on occassion. I have never been able to find a policy about this at VCH. I don’t have a therapy dog currently but would be very interested in looking into same if this was a possiblity.
    Thanks from a dog person,

    • Clay Adams says:

      Sounds like a great idea. VCH does have a Pet Visitation policy on its VCH Connect intranet (meaning you will have to be logged onto a VCH computer to access it because it is behind our firewall). I suggest take a look at the policy then have a chat with your manager/supervisor about the idea. To me, pets bring enormous benefits to our patients, clients and residents as well as the workplace – as long as they meet the policy criteria of behavior and hygiene which, as a trained therapy dog, yours does. Good luck and please let me know if you have any further questions or issues. You can access the VCH policy at:


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