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Is There a Place for Cats in the Office?

Scout weighs up the pros and cons with Doctor Beatrice Alba, a research fellow at La Trobe University’s School of Psychology and Public Health.

The benefits of bringing dogs to the workplace are often talked about – they can lower stress levels, increase productivity and improve morale. Can cats offer us the same perks?

“Definitely, cats can have the same positive effect on people,” says Dr Beatrice Alba, research fellow at La Trobe University’s School of Psychology and Public Health (and proud cat owner).

“Interacting with cats has the same stress reduction and mood effects as it does for dogs,” she says. “We know that people who like cats show all the same positive responses to them as those who like dogs.”

There’s research to back this up. Results taken from this study show that when polled about the benefits of pets in the office, people found cats to be eight per cent more effective for relieving stress, and a 10 per cent more positive diversion than dogs.

Another example is the Ferray Corporation, an internet solutions company in Japan that reported increased communication between their employees and decreased stress levels after introducing nine cats into their office.

“When people interact with animals, you can measure a hormonal difference,” Alba says. “People will have lower cortisol – a stress hormone – and higher oxytocin, a feel-good hormone.”

Cats and dogs offer similar psychological benefits, but there are some behavioural differences to consider.

“If a cat is keeping to itself and sleeping all day, there’s less interaction time, but this can be good because they’re less distracting and they’re lower maintenance,” Alba says. “Cats also cope better with being indoors and they don’t need to be taken out for walks.”

Despite being more independent and less noisy than dogs, there are drawbacks to consider before bringing your feline friend into your workplace: allergies are the biggest barrier, and employee preferences and the cat’s nature are also important to keep in mind.

“Always check with staff for any allergy issues and ensure that people will be okay with having the cat around,” Dr Alba says. “Respect cats who need their own space – disturbing them while they’re trying to get some alone time isn’t great for them, either.”

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