Office pets: they’re the cat’s meow, the bee’s knees, the gnat’s elbow, the monkey’s eyebrows, the duck’s quack, the turtle’s neck, the dog’s b*llocks… You get the point.
And you don’t have to take my word for it!
There has been much scientific research on the topic, with all studies and experiments reaching the exact same conclusion: pets in the workplace are good for employee morale. They also help reduce stress, encourage collaboration, increase productivity, promote good health and, in effect, keep employee turnover rates low.
Simply put: they belong in the workplace.
But just which animals exactly make the best office pets?
As far as I’m concerned, cats should be in every workplace. (Can you tell I’m a cat lover?)
One particular company seems to agree with me: Ferray Corporation, an internet solutions business based in Japan, which has not one, not two but nine resident felines free to roam around the office. Although they’ve pulled out plugs, chewed away on internet cables and clawed the walls (even I will admit that cats can be a**holes), the Japanese firm has seen an increase in productivity while staff report decreased stress levels.
They’re not the only company to keep cats as pets, though: Poopy Cat (a cat accessory company based in the Netherlands), Mars (a global confectionery and pet food manufacturer headquartered in the United States) and Blue Cross (a registered animal charity in Oxfordshire) are just a few more.
Cats may not be low maintenance pets, but they’re definitely cute and fluffy, and they can keep you entertained for hours. Did I mention that they’re also cute and fluffy?
When it comes to pet ownership in the UK, dogs beat cats by 8.5 million to 7.5 million – but that doesn’t mean they’ve won the Great Dog vs Cat War, of course.
Nonetheless, dogs make excellent pets (not just in the office) as they’re loyal, friendly, playful, goofy and just fun to be around. But, owning a pooch comes with a lot of responsibility – more than owning a cat (just saying) and can be a little physically demanding, as you’ll have to take him out for frequent walks. The good news is that you’ll be able to share this responsibility with your workmates.
If you’re looking for a job at a dog-friendly company, your first choice might be Nestlé which began allowing employees to bring their pups into work way back in 2003. There are currently 47 pooches participating in their PAW programme.
Fish are enjoyable and low maintenance companions and will make a great addition to your desk. Having said that, your selection of fish will be limited by space and lack of sunlight.
Here are a couple ideas:
- Betta fish: A single male or a group of two to three females will do. Males can be aggressive and will sometimes become highly possessive of their territory if it is trespassed by rivals (there’s an excellent reason why they’re also called Siamese fighting fish). Because Bettas (pictured) go to the surface for oxygen, they don’t need a filtered fish tank, but you’ll have to clean it at least once a week.
- Guppies: These brightly coloured fish are incredibly inexpensive – where you’d typically pay £15 for a male Betta, you’ll be able to pick up a group of five guppies for the same price! A word to the wise, though: don’t get male and female guppies, unless you want enough for every cubicle in the office.
Goldfish, meanwhile, should be out of the question. Despite popular belief, they do not ‘grow to the size of their tank’; when properly cared for, they can grow to be quite large!
Tortoises aren’t what you’d normally call cuddly, you can’t teach them tricks, they’re asleep for half the year and they don’t exactly come cheap (a 5cm juvenile will set you back some £100). But they’re still fascinating creatures and have been a common family pet for almost 50 years.
They can live for up to 150 years (though an Aldabra giant tortoise named Adwaita is estimated to have been the longest living tortoise when he died in 2006 at the age of 255) and can grow to be quite large: up to two metres long!
Meanwhile, alligator snapping turtles (cousins of tortoises) do not make very good office pets, as evidenced by this short skit by Diply.
Rabbits are highly social, playful, inquisitive and intelligent animals, making them one of the best office pets there is. They enjoy interacting and playing with other friendly rabbits, and many also enjoy interacting with people (for example, through gentle petting).
If you’re worried about any smell or mess, don’t. Rabbits are actually very clean animals and can be trained to use a litter box to drop all their urine and droppings in one place, making the whole cleaning process a much easier one for you.
A healthy diet is essential for their health – make sure that good quality hay or grass (or both) make up the majority of your rabbit’s diet to avoid serious dental disease. They’ll also need regular and frequent opportunities to exercise every day to stay fit and healthy if you keep them in a hutch.
Who would’ve thought that reptiles could be cute?
There are some 2,000 different species of gecko found all over the world, with the leopard gecko (pictured) being the most common to be kept as a pet. They’re quite docile, easy to tame and they require little maintenance.
Leopard geckos won’t eat plants or vegetables, and live insects like crickets are a must. But, all insects must be given a nutritious powdered diet for at least 12 hours before being fed to your gecko. This is essential for their health. Adults can be fed every other day and left alone for a weekend.
Geckos can live for 6 to 10 years, though many males live for 10 to 20 years. They will drop their tail when they feel threatened (which is why you should never, ever hold them by the tail) but don’t worry: it’ll grow back.
There are three main reasons why keeping a budgie (short for budgerigar) as an office pet is a really good idea:
- Although they’re known serial poopers, their waste tends to dry quickly and, therefore, doesn’t smell much. This means you can get away with cleaning their cages once a week, making them very low maintenance and an easy-to-keep pet.
- They can be taught to mimic words and phrases, a skill which tends to be stronger in males and which can be used against an annoying, noisy or messy co-worker.
- Finally, you can perch your feathery friend on your finger or shoulder and walk around the office, pretending to be a pirate.
Budgies, which can live for anywhere between 5 and 15 years, are social animals, so you’ll do good by spending an hour or so with them each day. Alternatively, you could get two (or more) budgies to keep each other company.
8. Guinea Pigs
One of the main reasons guinea pigs make a great office is because they’re so easy to look after. They require little attention, especially if they’re in the company of other cavies, and are generally well-behaved and sociable rodents.
Daily interaction and attention are essential for their well-being, so they’ll need time out of their cages to stretch their legs and explore their environment or cuddle in your lap. They also need frequent grooming – short haired guinea pigs can be groomed once a week but long-haired breeds require daily grooming.
Despite this, they’re affectionate little creatures and are known for squealing when they sense their owners approaching and at the sound of the office’s fridge being opened!
Arachnophobes, look away!
Although certainly not everyone’s cup of tea (I include myself in that category), tarantulas are another pet that’s relatively easy to keep and they’re among the most common pet spiders.
They are wild animals and can be dangerous if not handled with respect. Their bites are venomous; however, for most species, the toxicity of their venom is much like that of a bee. Having said that, they will generally prefer to retreat than bite.
On a side note, South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson keeps his pet tarantula Cronus (named after the Greek god who castrated his father and ate his children) in a glass box on his desk in the House of Commons. Despite demands from the parliamentary authorities to get rid of the eight-legged creature, Williamson’s team managed to convince them otherwise.
Another pet that most people would run away from (especially after watching movies like Anaconda and Snakes on a Plane or hearing about stories of boa constrictors slithering out of toilets), snakes are among the most misunderstood creatures in the world due to a lack of education. In fact, they can make good pets when properly cared for and handled.
Obviously, you wouldn’t want to keep an inland taipan at work (which is considered to be the most venomous snake in the world – a single bite can reportedly kill 100 fully grown men), but there are other – harmless – alternatives that would be a little more appropriate. Like corn snakes (pictured), for example, which despite their ominous appearance are actually very docile and are relatively easy to care for. They’re also quite inexpensive: you can buy one for £45 to £70.
Things to Remember
Here are some important tips to take into consideration when keeping pets at the office.
- Make sure that workplace regulations allow you to keep office pets before you bring them to work. There may be a ban on certain animals (especially if they’re considered to be dangerous), while many companies have a strict no-pets policy.
- Be mindful of people’s allergies and phobias. It is incredibly important to make sure all your co-workers are comfortable with having animals around the office.
- Understand how to care for them properly. This is especially important for keeping exotic pets. For example, aubergines and avocados are poisonous to tortoises.
- Get comprehensive liability insurance coverage. Even if your pet is the cuddliest and friendliest little fur ball on the planet, you need to understand the risk of animal attacks and bites – of which you will be liable for.
- Make a plan. If you’re going to share responsibilities with your coworkers for the office pet’s care and well-being, it’s a good idea to create a schedule for things like feeding times and walks, as well as make arrangements for vet visits, etc. If you bring your own pet to the office, you will have sole responsibility for it (though I’m sure your workmates will line up to play with Mr Whiskerson).
- Adopt, don’t shop. There are millions of animals throughout the country who need a loving home (or office) and who are often overlooked because of their age or special needs. Please, please visit your local RSPCA shelter or other animal charity if you’re thinking about getting a workplace pet.
Do you work at a pet-friendly company? Who are your furry (or scaly, feathery or prickly) workmates? Join the conversation down below and let us know! If your company has a no-pets policy in place, tell us what kind of pet you’d like in the office if given the chance!
I’ll go first: cats, of course!