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Oct 15, 2007 03:17 PM

Cat at restaurant?

I was in Napa this weekend and was at a wonderful restaurant. We were eating dinner on the outdoor covered patio and I see a small bowl of cat food and water in the corner. Mid-way through our meal, I see a cat at my feet and on other peoples laps. It was very cute but when I'm out to dinner I prefer not to be around them. The waitress commented that sometimes the cat brings them presents (dead mice etc.) What if I was allergic? What would the Board of Health have to say about this? Does anyone know or am I just being stuck up? I just found it odd, let me know your thoughts.

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  1. A lot of outdoor cafes and restaurants become a haven for a friendly neighborhood cat or two. I think it's charming and it doesn't bother me at all. If someone is allergic they can always inform the waitstaff, it isn't as though pet allergies are fatal or anything like that. I'm sure people with severe allergies can ask to sit inside or avoid the place in the future.

    It makes me sad that something as relatively harmless as this can become a Board of Health issue, especially in an outdoor setting where it's harder to control everything. What about seagulls hanging out near seaside cafes? Should they be a concern for the board as well?

    2 Replies
    1. re: hrhboo

      Well, pet allergies are in the nose of the beholder, but the reality is that outdoor restaurants often have mouse and (shudder) rat issues. Trust me ... Puss is on your side.

      1. re: Meann

        It's common for the restuarants down here to work with the local feline trap-neuter-release groups because the feral cats are quite effective at rodent control as well as looking rather decorative when they flop around in the patio seating area.

        As long as the cats are kept out of the kitchen, I find that they add to the outdoor dining experience, and they tend to be too skittish to think of jumping on a table or lap during dinner service. (If they are that people-friendly to the extreme, the t-n-r group tries to get them adopted out to a residential household)

    2. I wouldn't refer to you as "stuck up" but it's not at all "odd". Nor is it really such a big deal. Personally, being a "pet person" I find it charming. I once stayed at an Inn that offered the choice of "catted" or "catless" rooms.
      If you report them to the BOH then you are just being mean spirited. Simply do not patronize the place.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Tay

        No, I would never report them to the BOH, I have never seen such a thing and wanted to get view points on the situation. It does add character I just never thought of any kind of live animals and food mixing.

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        1. The original comment has been removed
          1. Well, I would not say "stuck up" but maybe drama seeking. "What if I was allergic?" I often see people with their dogs tied up table side, or worst curbside, then they are inside. And Those mutts can bark, yelp, whine that it annoys everyone but the owner.

            I have seen plenty of posts here asking for places where they can bring dog, babies, toddlers, massive germ spreaders, server trippers and dining interruptions.

            I guess it is your frame of reference.

            13 Replies
            1. re: Quine

              I'll be the first to jump on and say I'd hate it if a cat jumped on my lap during dining. I have no desire to get their hair or germs on me or near me food.

              1. re: Rick

                Cats are cleaner than you or I am.

                1. re: lagatta

                  Except for that little problem with taxoplasmosis which can cause birth defects and food borne illnesses.
                  A pregnant woman might want to think twice about sitting at a café table that a cat might have walked across or snoozed on if she's not sure that it hadn't been thoroughly disinfected before she ate her meal off of it. OBs warn about changing litter boxes and being very careful with outdoor cats of your own. Unknown cats might be especially risky when you can't control the environment.

                  1. re: MakingSense

                    Unless that cat was pretty sick, just the fact that it had laid on the table would not be enough to make someone sick. Plus, if you've ever been around the litterboxes of indoor/outdoor cats, you've probably been exposed to toxoplasmosis already, and I don't think you can get it again. There's a test, and if you have antibodies in your system, you don't have to worry about it, unless your immune system is seriously compromised.

                    Plus, personally, I eat my meal off a plate, not directly off the table.

                    1. re: revsharkie

                      I'm sure you would be horrified if someone let a dog or child walk all over a café table and a cat is no different except for perhaps size and that cats are known carriers of taxoplasmosis.
                      Of course, you eat from a plate, but you can't avoid touching the table or touching something that has touched the table such as your napkin or flatware during the course of your meal.
                      Would you put your plate on the floor and eat from it? Who wants to eat on a table that has been used as a floor by an animal?

                      Perhaps you have the antibodies against taxoplasmosis, perhaps not. Getting sick is rotten way to find out.
                      If you happen to be pregnant, it can cause birth defects. That's not worth taking a chance on however much you might adore cats.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        I'm certain I have the antibodies. I've had a cat underfoot since I was six years old (I'm 39 now); all of them have been indoor/outdoor cats who had contact with wildlife. I'm responsible for cat box scooping. I have a calcification in one lung that the doctor tells me is the result of having had toxoplasmosis or histoplasmosis (which you get from exposure to bird poop), probably in my youth.

                        Given my houseful of cats, the only time I eat on a surface on which there hasn't been a when I go out to eat. But I wouldn't necessarily object to an outdoor cat at a restaurant with a patio, personally.

                        I truly think that, for most folks, the risk of getting toxoplasmosis from touching a napkin that was on a table that a cat might have walked on is pretty minimal. (And, you know, if those tables are outside on the patio all the time, heaven only knows what gets on them after hours, perhaps worse than a cat's feet.) Those at risk because of their immune systems might wish to eat indoors.

                        1. re: revsharkie

                          The ground underfoot is dirty. Feet that walk on it are dirty and shouldn't be on tables, whether they belong to people of any age, dogs, or cats, specific diseases aside.

                          Today, there are signs in restaurants warning against eating raw oysters and consuming alcohol during pregnancy, places that refuse to serve rare hamburgers or sunny-side-up eggs, butter can't be at room temperature. Small risks, but risks nonetheless.
                          Why would a restaurant allow a cat to stroll across food preparation and serving surfaces? Why would health regulations allow this?

                          You might well have antibodies protecting you but not everyone might be willing to live with calcified lungs as the price for enjoying cats in their lives. The risks might be minimal but they are avoidable if animals are simply not allowed on food preparation and serving surfaces.

                          Can you figure out a way to keep cats on the floor with the kids and dogs?

                        2. re: MakingSense

                          If you want to go that far as to worrying about all the "bad" things sitting on the table, then think about all the restos that place the chairs up on the tables at closing. Feet of the chairs resting on the table surface. If you dwell on this stuff you'll never eat out again.

                          1. re: Leonardo

                            Or when they turn them over.

                            Required disclaimer: I own two cats. They are not allowed on any surface that has food on it regularly -ie tables and counters. That's been true since the day we brought them home and they understand their limits. The whole Toxoplasmosis is a bit of a red herring, our vet, our perinatal specialist and my wife's ob/gyn said you have to be at crazy cat lady house full of cats level before this becomes a threat.

                            Makingsense -- Restos that are animal friendly on their patio are far from letting them wander about on the kitchen counters and prep surfaces, where have you seen this happening? I've never seen it and I've been in resto kitchens all over the world. Even in the most pet friendly places I've never seen them on tables in dining rooms. If you are eating outdoors you have way more to worry about than the cat snoozing in the sun on one of the chairs. Flies must just scare the bejabbers out of you.....

                            1. re: Scrapironchef

                              right, scrap iron chef, they aren't on the tables if any kind of common sense person is around. confess: lifelong cat owner. cat(s) NEVER on tables/counters/food prep areas. love them. am smart!

                  2. re: Rick

                    I totally agree with Rick. I don't like seeing animals at restaurants and I would really hate it if a cat jumped on my lap.

                    1. re: Rick

                      Yeah, I agree. I'm allergic to cats and I generally don't want them near me; definately not when I'm eating. I love dogs, but I would let one sit on my lap during a meal. A lot of restaurants in Key West, FL have local cats that hang around the patios, and it never bothered me, as long as they remained decorative and not interactive.

                    2. re: Quine

                      <<I have seen plenty of posts here asking for places where they can bring dog, babies, toddlers, massive germ spreaders, server trippers and dining interruptions.>>

                      Amen! I'm waiting for the posts that ask 'where are the child-free restaurants?'
                      But back to the topic. I love cats and wouldn't mind in the least if some tried to share my chow, and I'd feel bad that they had to resort to begging. I do understand though that some people don't like/ are allergic to cats, and I can respect that.