After reading an article about dog-friendly businesses in downtown Lincoln, I decided to write my own article about cat-friendly Lincoln businesses. My cat Rainy and I visited five businesses this past summer. For variety, we also visited a couple of parks.
Panera Bread was the first business on our list. My husband, Andy, and I took Rainy and our toy poodle, Barnaby, to Gateway Mall for lunch on the patio at Panera Bread. While I stayed outside with the pets, Andy went inside to order our meals. When he returned, Barnaby eagerly claimed his lap, while Rainy admired the scenery from the comfort and safety of her stroller. When the server brought us our meal, he complimented our pets. Shortly after he returned inside, another server came out to see our pets. Either pets are a novelty at Panera Bread or are just well-liked by staff. Encouraged by a few table scraps, Rainy coaxed at this point to sit on my lap
Earl May was the next business on our list. Andy and I took Barnaby and Rainy with us to research the mulch, rock, and brick selections available at Earl May. Unlike Panera Bread, our visit was low key. No one paid attention to the little leashed dog or the cat in the stroller. For their part, our pets had no interest in mulch, rocks, or anything else Maybe this was a sign that they were already becoming at ease in public places?
In July, Rainy also visited two parks. One was a neighborhood park. When my friend Ingrid came for a visit, she joined me on a walk with Rainy and Barnaby. She walked Barnaby on a leash, while I pushed Rainy in a stroller. Barnaby was on a leash; Rainy was in a pet stroller. Near the end of our walk, children at a playground ran up to us and asked to pet Barnaby. When they noticed Rainy, they asked to pet her too. They also asked questions. They wanted to know why she was in a stroller, why she wore a harness, and when I told them she was an indoor cat they wanted to know why. It was a fun and educational moment that I’ve been able to repeat throughout the summer.
The second park Rainy visited was Holmes Lake. As with every other outing this past summer, Andy took Barnaby on a leash and I started out with Rainy in the stroller with the canopy closed. After we’d gone about half way around the lake, I decided to take Rainy out and let her explore–leashed, of course. Rainy is not yet a fearless adventure cat. She did not want to explore. She wanted to crouch next to the wheels of her stroller and hide As soon as I returned her to the stroller basket, Rainy relaxed and began taking in the scenery again. I tried two more times to expose her to the outdoors. One time was near the water’s edge, but Rainy didn’t show any interest in the water. Another time was on a rock, where Andy took photos of Barnaby and Rainy together. Not long after I placed her on the rock, Rainy showed more interest in hiding in the nearby bush than sitting on the rock, and so again I returned her to her stroller.
Home Depot was the third business on our list. This time, Andy and I took just Rainy. I walked into the store wearing my “Proud Pet Mom” shirt and pushing Rainy in a pet stroller. Suddenly, I was struck by how much I probably looked like a “crazy cat lady”. I wanted to turn heel and leave. Then I told myself that I had deliberately picked my outfit for a reason. As a cat advocate, I wanted to invite conversation. I took a deep breath and tried to look comfortable. While Andy deliberated his choices of door knobs and other supplies, I lifted up the stroller top so that Rainy could look out. She calmly observed the happenings around her and never once tried to leave. At the checkout lane, an employee told her she’s pretty and asked if he can pet her. Rainy remained her poised self and soaked in the attention. When we reached our car in the parking lot and I opened the back door, Rainy jumped out of her stroller and into our car. She’d enjoyed her adventure but was also ready to go home!
Hobby Lobby was the fourth business on our list. Once again, Andy and I took both Rainy and Barnaby. As is my practice before I bring a pet to any business, I called ahead ask about the store’s pet policies: “In the case of this particular Hobby Lobby, small dogs on a leash are accepted; bigger dogs must be restricted from jumping on anyone; cats must be in a stroller. Andy and I were on a mission at Hobby Lobby to find pet-safe ink. I wanted to make paw prints of Rainy to give to seniors that she visits. As we roamed one aisle and then another, a family stopped to ask if they could pet Barnaby. They ignored Rainy due to their having allergies, but Rainy eventually had her moment to shine. In the checkout line, the man behind us told me that he used to have a cat and that he missed her. I invited him to pet Rainy, and he said this made his day.
Petco was the final business on my list. During the past year, I’ve taken Rainy to Petco occasionally, but always just to purchase food. In one of the online cat groups to which I belong, a member mentioned that she liked to take her cat to pet stores to look at the various animals for sale. This inspired a recent visit during which Rainy and a ferret took great interest in one another. They even “touched” noses through glass. Rainy and the mice were also intrigued by one another. Or perhaps the mice simply wanted to put on a show. At any rate, they danced for Rainy, and she watched enraptured. We visited the birds, turtles, and fish too; Strangely, none of them caught Rainy’s attention. The birds were probably too high up in their glass enclosures, while the others frankly seemed to bore her.
Thanks to our summer adventures, it’s become clear to me that Rainy prefers to see new places from the safety of her stroller. But it’s also clear that she does like exploring, unlike our other two cats. They act agitated at even the idea of going in a stroller, let alone being out in public. They’re homebodies. In contrast, Rainy likes to meet new people and see new places. When we’re in a store, restaurant, or some other business, Rainy sits up to take in the sights. She’s also eager to greet people with a purr. Finally, I’ve discovered new reasons to admire Rainy. While at home she jumps on counters and otherwise gets into mischief, Rainy is a model cat in public. She’s friendly and calm at all times.
I wish to thank the businesses that allowed Rainy and Barnaby to visit. Not all allow animals and I consider it a privilege that some do. If Rainy and I inspire you to follow our lead, please call each business ahead of your first visit to confirm that pets are allowed. Also, ensure your pet is on a leash or in a stroller and is well-behaved during a visit. Then treasure your time together, take photos, and leave a comment here about your experiences. Who knows? Maybe one day taking pets with us on outings will be an everyday occurrence.