how much can I pet my cat on video calls?

A reader writes:

I have a somewhat low-stakes question that has been puzzling me lately. I’m wondering where the line is for interactions between me and my cat on Zoom calls. What is professional and what is not? My team is informal, with no dress code, and we sometimes show off our cats on video chats. My cat definitely visits me more than their cats, though, and climbs up on my shoulder expecting to be held, so is highly visible. Once up on my shoulder, she will sometimes give me a headbutt or two.

Here’s a list of behaviors, from most permissible to least permissible (in my opinion): where is the line?

* Is it okay if my cat jumps into my lap?
* Once my cat jumps on, should I remove her or can I let her remain?
* Is it okay if I am visibly holding my cat on my shoulder?
* What about petting her while she’s on my shoulder? Or petting her when she’s on my lap? Should I be concerned that this movement is visually distracting to others?
* What if she headbutts me? (My cat loves to do this, often)
* Can I occasionally kiss her on the head when she headbutts me? (This is the one I’m most sure the answer to will be “no”.)

I will note, this question is only for my immediate team; I have more reservations about interacting with my cat when I have a meeting with other teams at the company who I know less well. I have a feeling if I asked my manager, she would say she doesn’t mind (she has a relaxed management style) but I want to get a feeling of what you think the baseline is in general.

The cat in question is Babka, the black one with the piercing stare. The other cat, Momo, loves her heated blanket and stays there all day; she has appeared on a video call exactly once.

The three guiding principles:

1. Your cat should not be a distraction to other people in the meeting (or, if your team culture is one where pet distractions are welcome, should not be a distraction more often or for a longer time than other people’s pets are).

2. Your interaction with your cat shouldn’t make it look to other people like you aren’t engaged in the meeting.

3. You should calibrate your cat interaction to the level of interaction other people on the call have with their pets — and in particular, people who are perceived as competent and engaged. (In other words, don’t calibrate to the team slacker’s level.)

That means that a lot of the questions you’re asking will be team-specific, but if I had to give general, widely-applicable advice (assuming an office where pets on camera is a thing that happens):

* It’s okay if your cat is in your lap as long as you don’t shift your attention from the meeting to the cat, and as long as her presence there doesn’t prevent you from taking notes if you need to. (In most Zoom meetings, your lap probably won’t be visible anyway.)

* A cat on your shoulder is more distracting than a cat in your lap, and I would not keep her there during a meeting unless it’s an extremely occasional novelty (like annually, not weekly). However, a cat on your shoulder is also awesome.

* Petting a cat who’s on your shoulder or in your lap: Keep her mostly off your shoulder, but if she’s there, petting her will definitely be more of a distraction since that’s movement right by your face. In your lap, people probably won’t see it anyway; just be aware of what movements are showing on camera so those don’t distract people.

* An occasional headbutt is delightful but, yes, distracting. Try to keep it to occasional.

* Do not kiss your cat on the head during meetings. You may, however, do this immediately once you are off camera.

{ 404 comments… read them below }

  1. the cat's ass*

    This whole post gives me life, on the last day of the longest January ever. Thank you! And PS those kitties are adorable.

    1. allathian*

      They are adorable! Several members of my team have cats and they sometimes appear on camera. Nobody seems to mind. It doesn’t happen often, maybe once a month or so.

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        “You may, however, do this immediately once you are off camera.”

        I also think I would change the “you may” to “YOU MUST, immediately pet your cat once you are off camera.”

      2. Dog momma*

        Personally, I would find this very distracting.. and unprofessional. and I have dogs that are always wanting attention.. always.
        If you have to ask all this.. bullet points! then its too much.

    2. NetNrrd*

      SPEAKING OF THE CAT’S ASS… Pro tip: Hold the cat’s tail down or something if your cat is in the shot but facing away from the camera. Nobody needs to see close-up of a cat’s butthole on camera.

      1. BlondSpiders*

        I do this all the time. My dumb as a box of hair orange in particular loves showing off his butthole. My immediate team is pretty used to seeing him jump up on my desk for meetings, though.

        1. Catabouda*

          I just wanted you to know there is a Facebook group dedicated to dumb oranges (I am a member lol). It’s called All Orange Cats Share 1 Brain Cell.

                1. Sharpie*

                  I’m currently not owned by a cat and miss it… My last cat was an orange cat, can confirm he may occasionally have had use of the Brain Cell. But not very often.

              1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

                I foster, and we once fostered a set of two orange brothers, one of whom I’m pretty sure never got the braincell!

          1. ArtsNerd*

            This absolutely does not apply to my old family cat (RIP) who knew how to bypass my parent’s locked (and then barricaded) bedroom door to sleep with them at night. At that point they just gave in to the snuggles.

      2. profpixie*

        We had someone’s cat walk across the keyboard, turn and give us a close up butthole shot during the early pandemic days. It is still talked about and my first thought when I read the title of this post!
        This was a coworker who did not have good cat or child control during teams meetings. It got old very fast.

        1. Healey*

          In the early days I was on a call with a vendor (fortunately we were their customer and not vice versa) and my cat hopped up and backed her butt right up to the camera. It was really hard to believe it wasn’t deliberate. Almost as amusing was seeing one of my colleagues trying not to laugh. She’s also good at being fresh right when I’m unmuted and don’t realize it and getting me to yell at her.

        2. Christine*

          That would be even worse with my present girl cat as her hygiene in that area is not of the best quality. *urp*

      3. mango chiffon*

        Have experienced many cat butt close ups with one colleague’s cat. Was amusing at first but also the cat not wanting to move from away from the screen made it less amusing after the first few seconds

      4. kay bee*

        I got in the habit of censoring my cat’s butts when they mooned the camera, which always ended up producing a chuckle.

        Not butt related- once I was screen sharing and note taking at the same time when one of my cats decided to jump up and nestle onto the keyboard. Suddenly there was “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” in the middle of our notes. Everyone agreed my cat was just typing out what we were all feeling. What a good cat.

        1. Hot Flash Gordon*

          They make little jeweled pendants that hang off the base of the tail to cover the borthole. It’s kind of worse than just the butt.

      5. UKDancer*

        Yeah I’m not a massive cat person, I don’t mind seeing cats but I prefer the front end. If it’s a serious meeting it can be offputting having it looking at a cat’s arse especially if it’s a recurrent problem. So I think if the cat enjoys mooning the audience, move the cat or adjust the tail.

      6. Why am I always tired????*

        Yes, our kitty cat has a fondness for waving her butt in front of my camera (she also waves her butt at us on a regular basis – not what I want to see first thing of a morning!!! I am always holding her tail down if she jumps on my desk during a call!

      7. DeathRidesAPaleVolvo*

        My cat Gilbert ONLY shares his tush on camera when I’m speaking to my CEO. I’m convinced he was inviting her to his OnlyFans account. Sigh…

    3. MEHSquared*

      Agreed. I don’t have much constructive to add to the excellent advice, but I l love the picture of the cats (especially the black one. I have one myself).

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Then you must be glad this OP ahs written to ask how much is too much, and that Alison said keep the motion down.

    4. Three Flowers*

      This may be my favorite low stakes AAM question…ever. (My cat sits in my lap for meetings, but gets right up in the camera for fitness classes.)

    5. aunttora*

      Exactly! The phrase “how much can I pet my cat on video calls?” is probably the best thing to come out of the covid era.

  2. Yorick*

    While petting, make sure you’re looking at the screen instead of at the cat. This will show you’re still engaged in the meeting while interacting with the cat.

    1. Yorick*

      Also, it depends on the cat’s behavior. For example, if she insists on being in your lap and will just jump up again after you put it down, it will be more distracting for others in the meeting if you keep removing the cat than it will for you to just leave her there.

      1. JSPA*

        Or screaming, scratching the door, biting your ankle, knocking plants off shelves, or whatever else works to get attention.

        Try angling your camera a bit extra, and maybe have a soft brush that’ll entice her down to your lap?

      2. I have a shoulder cat too*

        Yeah, my cat is in the “weekly on my shoulder” bucket, but ignoring him means kitty screams that would absolutely take me away from the meeting.

        I had a call with my CTO today where he screamed while I was talking, and they definitely heard it. Or I could have just held the needy cat. Which I did for the rest of the call and still took notes fine.

        1. Alpaca Bag*

          OhMyGosh, at first I thought your CTO screamed! I thought “Oh, no, was the cat scared???”

          1. I have a shoulder cat too*

            Ha! Not quite ;) Though I wouldn’t be surprised if the CTO (or others on the call) jumped, since the cat was juuuuuuust off camera. So, very close to the mic but no one knew he was around.

        2. Florence Reese*

          My scream-y cat went through a phase at the beginning of the pandemic where he seemed to believe that I must be lonely if I was talking in a room all by myself. So he’d wander in and scream at me every time I ran meetings, which was…often. I couldn’t do much to quiet him down — he didn’t need anything, and he’s not cuddly — and no one mentioned hearing him, so after a few panicked attempts at going “you’re fine, ssh, go away” I just hoped there was enough distance between him and the mic to muffle him. We rarely used video, so maybe nobody even realized!

          Then on a 1:1 call with my boss a week or two into that, he came in to scream me company again. My boss said, with a noticeable hint of sadness in her voice, that she’d had no idea I had a toddler at home. So not only could everyone hear him the whole time, they thought I was responding to my crying baby by saying “you’re fine, go away” and returning to work. It’s such a horrible thought but I still laugh my ass off when I remember that.

      3. New Mom (of 1 5/9)*

        Yup. I had a cat (RIP) that would either be let in to sit on my lap or would meow incessantly at my office door. It was much less distracting to have him come in before a meeting and establish himself on my lap, where he could stay contentedly for long periods of time.

    2. Keyboard Cowboy*

      Yep, this. Idly petting a pet while participating in a meeting = fine. Doing face scritches and snuggles and zoned out from the meeting = nah.

    3. Dr Evil*

      This is also the opportunity to establish dominance as the meddling spy is slowly cut in half by a laser

      1. Prof Ma'am*

        Follow up question… what is the etiquette of installing trap doors under the chairs of everyone else in the meeting and pulling levers if someone wont zip it?

        1. English Rose*

          Well I think it’s probably better than the electrocution option because it’s more disturbing to have the former employee still slumped over the table.

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            I’m now flashing to a scene in Venture Brothers where someone is killing the board members of the bad guy group. I can’t remember enough of it, but yes, the meeting went on amidst slumped bodies… but the remaining board members were much less quarrelsome.

        2. KB*

          As long as the meeting won’t be disturbed by the opening and closing of the trapdoors, and you are quick to mute their microphone as you pull the lever (screaming can be SO disruptive in the middle of a finance report, as I’m sure you know), then it’s acceptable.

        1. GardenerGirl*

          I know, my first thought when I saw this question was, “Not like a James Bond villain.”

      2. Little Bobby Tables*

        Also, it’s much better management practice to personally take responsibility for the fact that people are about to die instead of blaming Mr. Bigglesworth.

    4. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      Occasionally, let out an evil “Mwahahahaha” laugh as you pet the cat in your lap. Just when appropriate to the meeting.

      (I can’t help it, whenever I think of people in a video meeting petting a cat, all I can think of is the bad guy from Inspector Gadget)

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Exactly the hard-hitting advice we all need, want and crave.

      I petition for more cat related questions.

        1. Worldwalker*

          This. So much this!

          Our weekly team meetings periodically feature assorted cats, a very cute dog that I want to steal, another dog mostly known only by sound, and pre-meeting discussions about scorpions, tarantulas, and a red-headed Texas centipede named Monster. Mostly they all behave themselves. So do the pets. /snrk

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      The white kitty would be perfect for that, too. Stroke the cat while making villainous pronouncements.

      “This organization does not tolerate failure,” for example, has much greater impact if you’re petting a white cat while doing it.

    2. geek5508*

      When I sit on my couch with two Terriers in my lap, I tend to refer to my living room as “my lair”

    3. Armchair Analyst*

      Yes. Also spin around slowly in revolving chair while petting the cat in your lap

      It is known

      1. Dinwar*

        Bit of trivia, but: As I understand it, that cat wasn’t in the script. It just wandered around the studio. Brando started petting it, and the director decided it was perfect for the scene.

        The whole making of that movie was absolutely wild. Well worth looking into!

        1. Forrest Rhodes*

          That’s the story I heard too, Dinwar, from friends in the business, and I absolutely do believe it.

          And you just know it had to be the cat’s idea, no one else’s—if someone else (even Brando?) had suggested it, the cat’s response would likely be, “Yeah, no, I think not …”

  3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    When I was working from home more frequently (in my former role/also during the height of COVID), my one dog (a vizsla, IYKYK) would not infrequently hop up behind me on the chair and pop on camera. I knew which meetings this would be an issue and which ones this would be a no-go (and, if I knew it was exceptionally sensitive I’d lock myself in a bedroom upstairs so random bouts of barking wouldn’t be an issue!). It wasn’t frequent she’d do this during meetings, but she was enough of a presence that I did make it my Linkedin photo. :)

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My dogs’ favorite way to play tug is in my office, directly behind me at my standing desk, and three seconds after the camera gets turned on :P

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        My dog’s favorite time to play tug and/or shove a squeaky toy in my lap (presumably for tug) is about 10 seconds after I get on a call. I think they all talk and get ideas from one another!

    2. Snowflakes mom*

      My dog occasionally will look for attention when I’m on a call so I’ll usually pet her with one hand so she doesn’t start barking/getting more distracting – but if it’s a super important call I’ll crate her before it starts so that it’s not an issue.

    3. Nonanon*

      I was in a video call with my PhD advisor, who randomly demanded why I was growling at him.
      Reader, my dog was sleeping next to me and the laptop mic picked up her snoring.

      1. Yoyoyo*

        Why would your advisor jump right to “my advisee is growling at me” instead of just asking what the sound is? Sounds like a not fun person to work with!

        1. Despachito*

          On the contrary, I can see him delivering it with a deadpan face, Buster Keaton style if Buster was not in silent films. Dry English humor I suppose?

      2. Corrvin (they/them)*

        (I think I’ve told this story before, but I’m gonna bring it up again)

        My very special boy (18 pound spotted cat, Checkers Linsky) chose to participate in my portfolio defense for my masters, on Zoom, by:
        pulling down a bookshelf full of books (no injuries)
        thundering up and down the stairs
        howling nonstop like Satan’s own kazoo band

        My partner whisked him off to the bathroom at the other end of the house, from which I could still faintly hear him howling, until my committee had me leave for their discussion. I retrieved him from the bathroom and *we* received the news that I passed.

        1. AKchic*

          “Satan’s own kazoo band”

          If that is not an accurate description of a howling cat, I don’t know what is.

    4. Dog and cat fosterer*

      My fluffer happened to walk behind me just before a meeting started and the grumpiest old man asked for a better look so I popped this large dog in my lap for a close-up.

      It might be a coincidence, but our working relationship improved a lot after that meeting! He was always polite but tended to disagree with everyone and suddenly he was more supportive of my ideas.

        1. Seal*

          One of my late kitties was a gorgeous Persian who I affectionately referred to as my big fluffer kitty. No one batted an eye over it, especially once they saw him posing regally on the couch or back of a chair. Very sweet kitty, although he definitely knew how pretty he was!

  4. Anonymous Pygmy Possum*

    This reminded me that I need to be slightly more professional in meetings! I would be lying if I said I never gave my cat a little smooch and then immediately remembered that I was on video and felt extremely mortified. That being said, my entire team are cat lovers and many of them own cats themselves and show them off in meetings, so I’ve never had major problems, but I’ll refrain from doing that.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

      I think depending on who’s in the meeting matters. My boss has three cats and I have a dog In our 1:1’s the pets sometimes become the topic of conversation and a quick smooch isn’t a big deal. But we both know the other does not care.

      In a large meeting, obviously we both try our best to ignore our furry coworkers should they force their way on camera.

    2. Kara*

      If remembering is an issue, have you tried putting on chapstick right before a meeting? The fur sticking to the chapstick trained me fairly quickly!

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Hee, reminds me of the one where the attorney was on Zoom and started singing to her chittering cat about the birdies it could see, until the JUDGE had to say “will whoever is singing about bird murder please mute??”

      1. Avery*

        Bit of a tangent, but that comment reminded me of a story my dad likes to tell:
        My dad’s an attorney, and this story takes place in the early days of Zoom court during the pandemic, when everybody was still kind of figuring things out.
        So, he’s in court, the other side is telling their side of the story… and he hears a dog barking in the background intermittently.
        We have two dogs, and there’s also a neighbor dog who barks sometimes. These days we have a routine that minimizes the odds of dog barking during important Zoom calls, but that bit wasn’t figured out just yet. My dad couldn’t tell where the barking was coming from, or which dog it was that was barking, but he was mortified.
        Then a few minutes later the other side wraps up their argument, and the judge comes on and says (slightly paraphrased), “That story is so bad, even my dog doesn’t buy it!”
        Yep. Here my dad was, so worried about the dogs at his house… and it was the JUDGE who had the dog barking in the background the whole time!

    2. Alex*

      In my head that song is to the tune of ‘Jingle Bells’:

      Kit-ty fangs
      Kit-ty fangs
      Poin-ty kit-ty fangs
      You have poin-ty kit-ty fangs
      Poin-ty kit-ty faa-ANGS

      (Yeah I know the OP said the only words were ‘kitty fangs’. I’m happy with my version)

  5. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I love your kitties!

    If you worked in my office – which is pet-positive, jeans-are-okay-business-casual, and hybrid – I would say everything up to the kissing is perfectly fine as long as I can tell you’re still listening and responding (and frankly I’d probably be fine with an average of one kiss per meeting).

    One thing I’d consider which I don’t think is mentioned here – it depends on the content of the meeting. Some conversations are lighter, more casual, require less laser-focused attention, etc. But if a conversation was particularly serious/heavy/detailed/professionally bent – I would prefer not to see the cat at all, if possible. I would trust your professional judgement on this up until I had good reason not to, and if it seemed like you were having a hard time drawing those lines I’d err towards you having less on-screen cat time.

    1. Anon Again... Naturally*

      Agreed that it is so, so dependent on the meeting. My teammates all know I have three cats and know their names, and they frequently make brief appearances on camera during team meetings. A few regular collaborators who are also pet-positive do as well. For formal meetings I lock them in a room on the other end of the house so I can’t hear them cry, after a particularly memorable video call early in the pandemic in which 60+ people got to see an up close view of my cat’s butt because she was made that I was ignoring her.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “after a particularly memorable video call early in the pandemic in which 60+ people got to see an up close view of my cat’s butt because she was made that I was ignoring her.”

        I’ve been on that call. It’s always hilarious.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        So, so dependent on the meeting and also so, so dependent on the cat. I had a colleague at one point whose cat was sometimes mistaken for some sort of fur stole or unusual sweater or something because it was huge and fluffy and extremely chill and would hang out draped over her during meetings. That cat is okay to have in a wider variety of meetings than the ones that like to stomp all over the keyboard and otherwise insert themselves into things.

      3. Misssy*

        Yeah, mine wants to sit on my keyboard and meow in my face, lining the other end up perfectly to the camera. That’s about where I draw the line with my team & most internal meetings.

    2. Olive*

      Agree on the content of the meeting, and I think that managers should err more toward professional behavior than peers. I’d love to see someone’s cat in most circumstances, but recently I had to talk to my manager about bereavement leave, and having them be paying attention to their cat during that talk would have really left me even more distraught. I would not have found a cat butt funny at that moment.

    3. ScreamingBeagle*

      I’m currently in a meeting where the CFO is explaining layoffs that happened this morning. The only thing that could make me feel less stabby toward the man-children that run our start-up is if one of them had a cat on his shoulder.

    4. M*

      Yeah, I’d second this – I think there are office environments that are a fair bit more relaxed about feline interruptions than Allison’s advice here reflects.

      But then, I’ve got a colleague whose cat’s preferred perch is the top of his home office chair, directly behind his head, and will blithely clamber up him to reach it during calls. There’s meetings that would be a no in, but outside of that, it makes my day each and every time.

  6. Shawn Spencer*

    I would be very disappointed if a coworker removed their cat from their shoulder during a Zoom call…but I’m also (at least during Zoom calls) one of the people Alison would recommend taking cues from as to what is appropriate. I have been known to interrupt meetings by shouting “Show us your dog!” if I see one walk behind someone. I regret nothing.

    1. Shawn Spencer*

      This should say I am NOT one of the people to take cues from. Which is pretty obvious from the next sentence, I think.

    2. br_612*

      I am still devastated YEARS later that I never got to meet a former colleagues bunny rabbit. Towards the beginning of the pandemic one of my cats made an appearance while we were waiting for everyone else to log in and he said “Oh I have a bunny around here somewhere” . . . I lost my chance to say “SHOW ME THE BUNNY”. But knowing that patent attorney has a free range bunny roaming around his home does make me smile.

      1. Contracts Killer*

        LOL, I’m a contracts attorney with a free range rabbit. He hops his way into meetings occasionally. Sometimes by hopping into my lap for scratchies. Sometimes by making me scream (always professional) when he nips my ankles for treats.

        1. Baby Yoda*

          A former co-worker had a bunny that friends had not met. One night after some casual drinking, the friend did a double-take and called out, “Please tell me someone else saw a bunny run by!”

          1. SHEILA, the co-host*

            Better than my colleague’s naked toddler! (Which, by the way, is how she learned he was no longer actually napping during his afternoon nap!)

    3. Keyboard Cowboy*

      Because of Google Meet’s continued insistence on not giving us a dog or cat emoji reaction, I’ve had to limit myself to messaging the human whose frame the dog appeared in with “DOG!” during the meeting. Alas. Once upon a time my boss’s cat always used to wail at the door when rejected (even though she didn’t really want to hang out with him) and I would greet her by name when I heard her. That was nice :)

    4. Phryne*

      Ha! I am also pro pet in calls, and yes I will be completely distracted by your pet, and no, I don’t care. I have coworkers who have kids running through the background, they can tolerate me occasionally running off too stop her from noisily destroying something in the background.
      Probably bad advice if your workplace is less informal and easygoing than mine though.

    5. EmmaPoet*

      I was on a serious phone call with my doctor last week and her dog barked. I immediately forgot everything we were discussing and squealed. I also asked her to please tell her dog I love them. #IRegretNothing

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        That’s me–when taking phone orders and I hear a barking dog I immediately say “someone saw a squirrel!”

        1. EmmaPoet*


          My doctor was very amused and duly told Dog that I love her. Dog wagged tail politely in acceptance. I was thrilled.

  7. Lydia*

    I don’t have lap cats. I have a “I have to be on the desk stomping around and sniffing, so I am not allowed in during meetings” cat. And two more who are silent and do not want to be anywhere noticeable.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      I have often said I could never work remotely because my cats take great umbrage when I pay attention to the people inside the little box rather than them. I can’t even check my email at home without them hopping on the desk, blocking the screen, stomping all over the keyboard to the point where they jack up my settings, open random windows, hit the power button… (at least until I got one of those plexiglass keyboard protectors). They noodge, swat, headbutt, and moon the camera.

      I don’t have any place downstairs that I can close off, and locking them out wouldn’t do much good anyway because they’d just meow and scratch at the door nonstop.

      There’s four of them and only one of me.

    2. zuzu*

      Mine is a “I must parade across your desk, with my tail in your face” kind of a cat. The way I have my desktop set up, the rest of her is not visible on screen, just the tail moving across my face.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I watch the YouTube channel Dark Corners, and the host often does Patreon episodes where he discusses a certain director. Poor Akira Kurosawa never had a chance against Norris, the neighborhood kitty, strolling in and casually leaping upon the keyboard.

      2. Elitist Semicolon*

        Mine does this too. It’s especially odd when I have a virtual background on so my coworkers can’t see that I’m lying on the living room floor – suddenly a random part of a cat will appear.

    3. Sloanicota*

      Yes I read this advice and now I need more advice for how to keep my cat off the danged keyboard, which she is relentless about sitting on, and she WILL press buttons and close your windows and whatever else, and no she will not accept substitutes, fake laptops, beds of her own, etc. God forbid anyone try to close a door in this house.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        The one I have is somewhat wider than the keyboard and about 3 inches high, so that when a cat is sitting or parading around or flopping on it full length on it, it can’t mash buttons.

        I got it on Amazon (search “keyboard protector for cats”) and it was around $20 but was money well spent.

        The downside is that I can’t see the keys and I’m not a really great touch-typist so I don’t get much accomplished anyway.

      2. A Person*

        Unfortunately the way we kept the cats off our keyboards involved a very strict no cats on tables or desks policy, enforced since kittenhood including with the “hissy can” (can of compressed air that makes the sound/feel they don’t like). Probably a bit mean, but they don’t go on tables when we’re watching, which is so helpful for meetings – my cat will cry until I put him on my lap, but won’t jump on my desk.

      3. GoryDetails*

        Re keyboard protection: decades ago, I got a small sheet of plexiglass – and a computer desk with a recessed shelf for the keyboard. I rest the plexi over the recessed keyboard, leaving enough room for me to reach under and type. This lets the cats do as they please without tromping on the keys. (Also keeps the keyboard less dusty, so possibly a good idea even for those without curious cats!)

  8. Miss Chandler Bong*

    My aunt has a cat who comes and sits on my shoulder when I visit her. I’ve worked remotely from my aunt’s and she will do this while I’m working, and will sit there and meow if not given immediate attention.

    My own cat is 18 pounds. She once jumped on me when I was on the phone with a teammate. There was a giant crash on my end and my cat has since learned not to attempt to sit on me when I’m working unless she’s invited, lol.

    1. BellyButton*

      My cat recently sat on my laptop when I walked away and sent a Slack message to the entire company. It was the most liked post of the day. LOL, which says a lot about my company.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Destructobot believes in attempting to send messages by interacting with the keyboard, especially during video meetings. At one point she managed to designate all mail from my boss as spam, and I had to make him a VIP because I could not undo it.

        1. Potatohead*

          One of my cats has managed to send a few Teams messages to co-workers when I left the laptop unattended. Mostly they send gibberish messages on Discord though.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            Mine once sent a mid-level manager in my org a three-screen text full of P, L, M, and the occasional K.

        2. Kyrielle*

          I miss our sweet tortie – we lost her to cancer – but I don’t have to guard my laptop as carefully. It was fine when I was using it. But if I went away, it had to be closed. Otherwise she’d curl up on the nice warm keyboard, and being very happy with the warmth and the place I spent so much of my workdays, would begin to knead with her claws.

          She removed keys more than once doing this.

    2. Magenta Sky*

      Friend of mind had a cat that liked to say on the top of a very high backed chair, and get there by running full speed into the room and climbing up the person sitting in that chair (with claws out).

      He didn’t learn to not do that until the night there was no one in the chair, and he weighed enough to tip it over.

      That was the nerdiest cat I’ve ever known.

  9. BellyButton*

    LOL, I love it! My company is 100% remote and pets showing up– a cat’s butt coming into view, a cat giving cuddles, a dog watching the screen or squeaking a toy, one of our employees has some sort of giant lizard-y thing that sits on their shoulder 90% of the time. We all love it, it makes us all happy, and even the CEO does it. That said, my company is very casual, we are all remote, and if we are on an external call we keep it more professional. But often my tiny little dog is on my lap and will pop his head up from time to time.

    1. BellyButton*

      Our internal org chart (only visible to employees) are pics we have snagged from Zoom meetings when someone’s pet, child, or SO is visible. :)

    2. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I once asked a coworker to pick up her cat so I could see the cat’s face. The cat’s tail moved back and forth across the screen during most calls but I’d never seen the kitty’s adorable face. I didn’t find the tail distracting – I just felt incomplete!

    3. TinySoprano*

      Once, and only once, my pet python made an appearance on a Zoom meeting. He’d been begging for slithers and I was worried he was going to rub a scale off if I didn’t let him out, so I warned the lab and let him out. Normally he just cruises around the kitchen bench sniffing all the kitchen smells but no, that day he had to be all, “mother what doing with the tiny peeple in the box?” He’d been secretly yearning to learn about multiple regression, it seems. Definitely one of my weirder pet x Zoom moments.

  10. Beth*

    My team would LOVE a team member’s cat sitting on their person’s shoulder through zoom meetings. But this is definitely a team culture thing–if you aren’t confident it would be a hell yes, I’d default towards keeping it rare.

    Overall I think the goal with WFH and pets is to do the least disruptive thing. If your cat is going to be either wandering around screaming or sitting quietly in your lap, put her in your lap. If she’s wandering back and forth across the screen every few minutes, maybe put her in the other room for most calls. You know your cat best.

    1. gmg22*

      Well said! It all comes down to culture and good judgment re circumstances. My organization’s culture has always fallen toward the animal-lover end of the spectrum (pre-pandemic, dog owners were allowed to bring their pups to the office) and pets on camera are happily welcomed as long as they don’t interrupt what we’re doing, so I let my kitties come and go for the most part. When I am hosting or actively involved in a larger external meeting or especially an event that will be recorded like a webinar, however, the home-office door is shut (which my younger cat does NOT care for and will respond to with frantic scratching, lol).

  11. Just Want A Nap*

    My cat got “permission” to be visible on team meetings if I’m at home because if I don’t let her wander/lock her out of my work from home space, she howls loud enough to be heard through noise canceling tech.
    She has also previously jumped down on my back from above, knocking me forward into the computer as her chunky self settled in for snuggles, and THAT was just a zoom call fail. I rearranged the wfh space after that to prevent repeated incidents.

  12. LiberryPie*

    Depends if you work in a library! I am an academic librarian, and we love seeing cats in meetings :)

    1. cat-aloger*

      As a fellow academic librarian, can confirm! As long as the entire meeting isn’t derailed to talk about someone’s pet, they’re generally welcome to attend :)

      1. Nativefloridian*

        I used to work in a library, part of the library lore is how one librarian’s remote interview was (loudly and persistently) interrupted by his Siamese cat, to the point he sighed, picked up the cat, and held him up to the camera to introduce him. “Meet .” After giving everyone a chance to see kitty; “Kitty is going to leave the room now.” Then he carried kitty out and closed the door before continuing the interview.

        1. Nativefloridian*

          I used to work in a library, part of the library lore is how one librarian’s remote interview was (loudly and persistently) interrupted by his Siamese cat, to the point he sighed, picked up the cat, and held him up to the camera to introduce him. “Meet ‘kitty’.” After giving everyone a chance to see kitty; “Kitty is going to leave the room now.” Then he carried kitty out and closed the door before continuing the interview.

    2. Jen*

      I work at a library consortium and cats make frequent appearances on our meetings! I try to keep mine off-camera when I’m conducting trainings and such but there is only so much I can do. Luckily most librarians are delighted by pets.

  13. Buttercup*

    I have a very clingy, needy cat who will sit on the arm of my desk chair (preventing me from using it) to ask for cuddles. How I react will depend on how formal a meeting is. On the more formal end, since my background blurring also blurs her, I either ignore her completely or subtly encourage her to leave the arm of the chair by nudging with my arm, then give her cuddles when the meeting is over. On the less formal end, I’ll let her be where she wants (on my lap/arm) as long as it doesn’t impair my ability to participate. It does create some levity when she eventually decides she’s done and climbs over my shoulder as her exit route, which is why this is saved for less formal meetings only.

  14. thatoneoverthere*

    I have a Bernese Mountain Dog (another IYKYK) who insists on being pet all the time. Once I had a video interview. I asked my husband to keep her upstairs during the call. He got distracted with something in the house and she made her way down to my video call. She came up sniffed loudly 1o million times, head butted me, scooted under my arm all during the call. LOL

    I got the job still! Been here since and have been very happy. A few months into the job a co-worker noticed a pic at my desk. And said “Oh is that who interrupted our interview?”

  15. Happy meal with extra happy*

    I sometimes work on a sofa being used as a desk chair because comfy and so my dog can lay next to me. If he’s laying down, he’s not visible, but he is if he sits up. 95% of the time, he would sleep the whole day next to me, so I admittedly played with fire a bit during lockdown and would attend Zoom court (I’m an attorney) with him laying out of view. Fortunately, most of my appearances were telephonic, and the ones that were video, were usually only about five minutes. If I had a longer matter, I’d kick him out of the room.

  16. Lionelrichiesclayhead*

    I kissed my dog ON THE MOUTH on a video call last week. So. Just don’t do that maybe.

    1. mreasy*

      I was moderating a virtual panel with hundreds of attendees once when my usually-not-disruptive cat (not to be confused with my other, tremendously disruptive cat) walked right up onto the table, into view of the screen, and licked me on the mouth! It was not only gross, but also embarrassing. Anyways she had never done it before and has never done it since.

    2. No kissing please*

      Yeah, kisses and licks are where I draw the line as a viewer. I was in a meeting recently (related to a hobby, not work, so slightly different context) where one member was being licked in the face by her dog, and encouraging it via almost performatively aggressive petting, for a good minute or two. In general I’m not a dog person but have no problem with dogs making appearances. But this… I am not okay with dog licks, especially face licks, and I found this beyond distracting, almost gag-inducing; I ended up dragging another window on top of her video so I could keep participating myself. So please don’t do anything like that!

  17. AKchic*

    Ah, the furry interns and fuzzy shredders!

    If we lock them out, they get loud (and possibly destructive). If we let them in, they sometimes take over the meeting. There is no real middle ground unless we actively train them. How do we train them? By allowing them in and dealing with the chaos.
    Sure, my shittens have shown their pooploops to the camera (they have no shame). My dog has demanded butt rubs and growled in pleasure so loudly that she sounded like a bear in heat (and I forgot I wasn’t muted!). We learned! Now we’re on mute unless we need to speak. Now the shittens generally don’t walk across the keyboard or in front of the camera (but they will rub their fuzzy faces against the laptop screen).

    Furry interns are known for shenanigans and minor chaos. It takes work to limit the chaos. Just know that I love your furry interns.

  18. gmg22*

    “Do not kiss your cat on the head during meetings. You may, however, do this immediately once you are off camera.”

    I would edit “may” to “should,” but otherwise lol yes!! I have a colleague whose cat behaves exactly like the one described by LW, and I admit my only feeling about it is admiration. (I have one lap cat who occasionally appears on screen while he is making a beeline for my lap, and one non-lap cat whose appearances are even more rare and almost always at the end of the day, when she leaps onto my desk, purrs loudly and sticks her face in my face to remind me that it is time for dinner to be served.)

    1. Llellayena*

      I was going to say “must” instead of “may” and yay for the obligatory pet photos when asking a pet-related question!

  19. Intrinsically Knotted*

    When I have to teach my college classes on Zoom due to snow or emergency, my cat Cricket can usually be relied upon to jump on my desk halfway through and walk in front of the camera. Full disclosure: I encourage this by leaving the door open a crack so he can get in (while informing my roommates that I am not to be interrupted). I find that the chance of a cat sighting concentrates my students’ minds wonderfully!

    1. NervousHoolelya*

      My daughter completed second grade remotely during the pandemic. Her teacher has a dog and a few cats who were regular presences in their Zoom classes. You know who is absolutely thrilled to have pets on camera? Second graders! My daughter and I shared the dining room as our workspace, and one of my favorite memories from that year is Ms. Miller saying, “Cats don’t belong in math class!” in that delightfully peppy voice that elementary teachers use. It still cracks me up, because cats clearly do not agree with that rule!

  20. nofiredrills*

    My cat likes to stand in front of my keyboard and headbutt me sometimes, and when it happens in meetings (internal) I always get an IM saying “thank you for the cat” haha my team is very into our pets though :)

  21. The Other Evil HR Lady*

    I knew this cat would be black, because my own black cat (La Gigi) is EXACTLY. THE. SAME. WAY! Why are they like this? Love both cats, BTW.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Miss Cleo, my black cat, is a fearlessly ferocious and adorable beast who also hates when my full attention is not on her.

  22. AnotherSarah*

    No comment except to say I know two other cats (I think they’re different cats!) with the same names. A+ food names.

  23. Audogs*

    This reminds me of a scene in the Peta Wilson version of La Femme Nikita. She had just gotten a kitten, but Michael made her rehome it because the kitten had distracted her in a training mission type event at her apartment. My cat is a professional head butter.

  24. br_612*

    I am breaking all of these guidelines on a daily basis :)

    I have a VERY emotionally needy cat. When she hears me speak, on Zoom, on the phone with my mom, to myself, she comes running. Because clearly if I’m speaking it must be to her, right? So she makes an appearance in like . . . 90% of my zoom calls. Sometimes just her tail sticking up like a shark fin while she settles herself on my lap. More often on my shoulder, where I hold her like I’m burping a baby. That’s where she wants to be, and that’s where she’ll sit quietly for thirty minutes or more. It’s less distracting to hold her there than fight with her to leave me alone.

    She doesn’t like being held on her back like a baby, and doing that will get her to leave me alone. For about 5 minutes. And then she’s back.

    She has shown an . . . unfortunate number of coworkers and clients her butt. Either when she leaves my shoulder or as she gets settled. I try to stick a hand up to block that visual.

    It’s this or she screams loud enough to be heard on Zoom from behind a bedroom door. Yes she was always needy, even pre-pandemic. But now she’s full bore about it. I’ve been trying to get her to let me babywear her, but so far no go.

    1. Pyjamas*

      Have you considered talking to your vet about giving her Elavil? It dues make a cat sleepy but is very calming for both the cat taking elavil and the human administering it. (I highly recommend greenies pill pockets for cats. I still have to shove pill in mouth but like a spoonful of sugar, the pill pocket helps the medicine go down. )

  25. Potato*

    My cat headbutts me constantly during meetings, and I have never once thought about it. Perhaps my bar for his behavior is too low, but my only intervention is to redirect him if he decides to position himself so his posterior is directly facing the camera (which he loves to do).

  26. melonsmoocher*

    Oh noooo. I am a chronic puppy kisser on camera! Always smooching them on the tops of their heads while they cuddle in my lap or under my arm. Good thing I saw this. I’ll dial it back.

  27. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    I have a Golden Retriever who does that whole nudge-you-under-the-arm-while-you’re-at-the -keyboard-typing thing. I would tell him (on mute) nicely to go back to his bed and of course he would but imagine everyone’s delight when we had a thunderstorm and he leapt with his front legs on to my lap. Everyone would after that would ask where Puppy Hawiggins was…Faxing out his resume, I said. I did my best not to look distracted, and of course picked up playtime when Zoom was over.

    That said, pets can be a distraction to some extent. I say limit your contact on screen and get them to as best you can -stay put with a toy or a treat or something if you know they’ll be clingy. Not everyone is going to be amenable or understanding. One coworker always had his iguana in the background and one day it didn’t feel well… He green screened after that episode.

  28. Jiminy Cricket*

    A shoulder cat can be successfully hidden from Zoom calls using a strategically angled shoulder and a virtual background. Don’t ask me how I know.

    1. Jiminy Cricket*

      Also, do yourself a favor and Google “TV commentator’s cat climbs onto his head during an interview.”

  29. Magenta Sky*

    Petting a cat in one’s lap that isn’t visible on camera could be . . . misinterpreted. In ways that we might see a letter about here, shortly thereafter.

      1. CV*

        After seeing what the screen showed of me energetically petting my dog today, I realized interpretation of that motion could be a big problem in a professional setting.

        I solved it by quickly tilting the webcam to show the dog, but that might not work for some situations.

    1. Lizard the Second*

      Yeah, a lot of videos calls just show you from the chest up, not your lap. The last thing your work meeting needs is a… distracting motion.

  30. EC*

    I’ve also had video meetings from home where my cats are. I would say, the cat sitting near you or jumping into frame is okay, but do not look at the cat. Look at the screen, and don’t appear to ignore the meeting by playing with the cat. You already know that kissing the cat is something you absolutely should not ever do in a professional setting.

  31. Ms. Murchison*

    I’m always delighted when my coworkers’/teammates’ fur babies show up on camera but wow is it distracting. Especially the teammate whose cat loves climbing on his shoulders and the back of his chair. I think that the presence of a cat near your face is fine at the beginning of a call if/when there’s small talk before you get down to business, but after that appearances should be minimal and limited to animals that can be chill [not disruptive] on your lap. Despite how much I enjoy it when they grace us with their presence.

  32. Addison DeWitt*

    I was on a phone call with a client (at the bank where my wife would eventually work, no less) and my cat jumped into my lap… but missed. She was falling to her death a whole two feet below, so she extended a claw and plunged it into my finger to save herself. I had to try to remove her without my client noticing too much (and also without screaming in agony). Pets are the best!

  33. Natalie*

    My kitty likes to sit on the bookshelf right behind my computer and then sit very still for a long time. I had forgotten she was there, and in the middle of a Zoom call, one of my coworkers suddenly shouted, “Oh, it’s a real cat!”
    She had thought it was a statue.

  34. ivra*

    I thought about submitting almost this exact question, except I knew that no matter what advice Alison gave, if it wasn’t “love the cat with all your might” I wouldn’t follow it.

    One of my cats sleeps next to my desk and is super needy during morning meetings, so I am often cuddling her. Head kisses do happen as well. She is an aggressive smuggler and gets upset if not attended to.

    The official response from my company has been as follows: my colleague made her her own website featuring more than 40 photos of her. She has her own emoji in Slack. I gave out stickers of my cat’s face at a recent company retreat and now the COO has one on her laptop.

    I have not received any feedback that she is too distracting, possibly because everyone is too distracted to notice.

    But your milage may vary.

    1. Slartibartfast*

      We get daily email news bulletins at work. One day we got a bulletin accidentally sent out all about the author’s cat’s upcoming birthday was, including fake gift registries should one want to pay tribute to his royal highness. Obviously a template not meant to be sent and it was retracted pretty quickly, but it was amusing

    2. ivra*

      I can’t edit my comment, but I sent this article to my manager and asked him if I was sharing my cat too much… he responded by reminding me that he and his cat do the same thing, so he might be the wrong person to ask. (His cat is very beautiful and has an Instagram.)

      Maybe I just work for a uniquely cat-crazy company.

  35. Ridic Needy Cat Lover*

    My needy needy cat once jumped into my lap as I was leading a training of 1000+ people. She laid down and was chill.


    I was 15 seconds away from being done with my part when she decide that she had had enough of both being off camera and also not getting attention. She stood up, leaned against, and put her paw up my nose. All before I had time to process what happened.

    The good news is that most people thought it was delightful and I am still good naturedly teased about it. She became “famous” across our large team for her part in the training, and people still ask after her.

    tldr – You can pick your nose and you can pick your cat, but only your cat can pick your nose on camera?

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I have two brown tabbies. One is a standard dark brown tabby. Dark brown everywhere. The other one is lighter and has a lot more variation in coat color, including on her unmentionables. Guess which one flashed my entire department during a Zoom check-in?

    2. Nativefloridian*

      I was presenting my screen when mine jumped down from the cat tree onto my keyboard, minimizing the Skype window. I thought he had disconnected me. One heck of a disruption, though at least my coworkers were generally amused.

  36. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Great set of questions!

    Last year we were on a regular group call, and a coworker’s cat knocked a potted plant off the windowsill while he was talking. It was a wide video shot and he couldn’t see the cat. We tried to warn him but it was too late.

    I think the answer in that case is “you’re allowed to shoo your cat out of the room and make sure there isn’t wet potting soil on the couch or carpet.”

  37. honeygrim*

    “* Do not kiss your cat on the head during meetings. You may, however, do this immediately once you are off camera.”

    I would say you are in fact REQUIRED to kiss your cat on the head immediately once you are off camera.

  38. JABinLBC*

    I was on a 1-1 with my new boss yesterday when my cat jumped on my lap. I apologized for the distraction as I moved her, but he asked to see her and then moved his camera to show me his cat sleeping on the chair back behind him! Made my day!

  39. Someone Online*

    Ok, but if I don’t immediately kiss my cat on his wee little head how will he know is is the bestest, goodest, cutest little boy in the whole world?

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Absolutely. I just recently saw a funny post about how cats have never had imposter syndrome a day in their life, they are firmly convinced they are in fact the bestest and greatest cat that ever catted, and we should all strive to be like cats.

  40. Optimus*

    The way it works is that you store up all the smooches you can’t share during the call, and put them all on that smoochy spot between the cat’s ears immediately after you hang up.

    Man, I love huggy, smoochy cats.

  41. tiny*

    I uh once (once!) set up my backup laptop so that my cat could attend a meeting on her own screen. It was high pandemic but I don’t remember the context beyond that.

    1. AKchic*

      I have been known to set up decoy devices for my shittens to lay on while I’m working from home just so I can get through meetings in relative peace. I even “type” on the decoy keyboard once in a while to make them think they were hindering me while they laid across the keyboard.
      The things we do to train our fuzzy interns…

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        A friend had to open a decoy book and put it down on the bed if he wanted to be able to read his actual book in bed.

  42. SopranoH*

    One of my kitties is a bit of a lap cat but rarely gets on my desk. You can’t see my lap from the camera, but invariably, he will pick our monthly meeting to jump on the desk. My manager always says, “look at the kitty!” He then jumps off. I guess he likes the admiration.

  43. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    Puppy Hawiggins got scared during lockdown as it was raining and thundering (summer 2020) and henceforth jumped his front legs into my lap while I was at my home office desk, during a Zoom. He’s a 75 pound Golden Retriever. I wasn’t speaking/talking but people took notice, and would literally ask to see him each time after that. That too is another way pets can derail meetings – people start wanting to see them more than wanting to see you…

  44. ACollins*

    I was once in a Zoom volunteer training, and I think one guy forgot he was on camera. He was taking his cat’s tail and rubbing it under his nose like he was stroking a mustache. It was hilarious to watch.

  45. Lucia Pacciola*

    “or, if your team culture is one where pet distractions are welcome, should not be a distraction more often or for a longer time than other people’s pets are”

    I would go so far as to say, be a distraction less often, and for a shorter time, than the team norm”.

    This kind of thing tends to have a ratcheting effect. One person does something slightly more often than the norm, but still totally acceptable. Other people see it’s okay, and do it too. Now it’s the new norm. So someone goes a little beyond that. Eventually, the norm is a completely disruptive culture, and nobody can remember how it got that way or why it’s a problem. Ultimately, management lays down the law: No cats, ever, for anyone, not even for a moment.

    If you want to keep having nice things, be conservative. Reinforce moderation as the norm. Don’t calibrate your behavior to the outlier.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yes … everyone on my team is a massive pet lover (and multiple foster-er) but one person shows their pets, and then the other people want to show *their* pets, and now we’re twenty minutes after the start time and no business has been discussed. Because of this, I try to be conscious of not getting the ball rolling.

  46. NetNrrd*

    I refer to my cats as “the interns” when on zoom calls. [cat-headbutting] “Sorry, the intern is a bit agitated…”

    1. Threetailfox*

      I referred to mine as HR – Human Resource management – they were managing their humans. I miss working from home.

    2. AKchic*

      Mine are my interns, or my shredders. Occasionally, the dogs are my cafeteria managers (because I’m not allowed in the kitchen without them escorting me).

  47. ED*

    Based on the comments, I few like I’m opening myself up to a lot of potential hate….. BUT as someone who isn’t a pet person, I would be really put off by someone frequently petting or kissing their cat during a virtual meeting. I know there are a ton of people who love seeing pets on calls! I’m just not one of them. So, I’d say it is probably good to know your audience or be cautious if you are meeting a group/individual for the first time.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I am a cat lady to the bone and I would consider ongoing petting and kissing to be far too much for a work call.

    2. Dog and cat fosterer*

      It’s easy to pet a cat or dog by massaging a cheek or ear or shoulder rather than actively moving a whole arm. I love my pets and have been known to pay attention to mine when on a video call but I would never want anyone to know! I don’t want to see anyone else’s pets during the call, although if it happens before or as things are wrapping up then I can leave if I’m not in the mood.

    3. Viette*

      Agreed, though I know there’s huge variance and this is the hard-hearted view. I don’t have a lot of marathon multi-hour meetings (or even that many video meetings overall), so I might have a different perspective on what’s a good use of time.

      But: I don’t want to meet anyone’s pets, and I don’t want to get derailed by someone’s pet’s distracting behavior. Most meetings I’m in end early if we get done early, and are full of people whose jobs are *not* centered around meetings. We all want to get done and get gone, and while I love my cats I don’t want anything to do with them during the meeting.

      1. CD*

        Also not a pet person and I think it would be beyond strange and distracting to see someone kissing their cat or dog during a work meeting. I have absolutely no interest in meeting someone’s pets during the professional day.

    4. Yellow sports car*

      I completely agree – keep your pets /children out of my meetings. I don’t want to meet them, I don’t want to be distracted by them, I don’t want to be interrupted by them, I don’t want to be derailed by them .

      For me, very occasional interruptions are fine, just like if working in the office and you introduce me to your dog/family. But not all the time.

      Honestly, train your pets so you can work without interrupting your colleagues with them.

  48. Chidi has a stomach ache*

    On the topic of pets crashing meetings: last summer I redid my bookshelves in my office, and started unblurring my background in meetings because I now had a nice looking background thanks to the shelves. I soon realized that unblurring my background resulted in my dog being pretty visible on the regular, because he likes to switch between staring out our upstairs window and staring out our basement window roughly 4x an hour in the morning, and his preferred path of travel was directly behind me. I finally started blurring my background again when his active hunt for a housefly accidentally derailed a planning meeting.

    1. AKchic*

      I was in an interview and because all of the animals decided to vocally chime in, I went into my son’s room where the snake was quiet. One of the cats had been sleeping under my son’s bed (unbeknownst to me) and woke up when she heard me close the door, so she (unhelpfully) jumped on top of the snake enclosure behind me and started singing the song of her people in full view of everyone on my screen to voice her displeasure at the bedroom door being closed… while I had two other shittens screaming and a dog whining at the other side of the door at the injustice of being locked out!
      Somehow, I managed to GET that job. And the snake ended up coming to work with me one day (we’d had a house fire, I was dropping my son off who was working the same contract, I had to sign some paperwork for extended leave while I was dealing with everything and forgot I had the snake wrapped around me).

    2. Distracted Procrastinator*

      You can take a picture of the bookshelves when your dog is out of the room and then use it as your background in your meeting. (I use photos I took for all my meeting backgrounds. They are a rotating set of outdoor pictures.) You get the pretty background you worked hard to make and no dog distraction.

  49. Freelance Historian*

    When I had a lot of Zoom meetings, I would hold the quieter of my family’s two guinea pigs on my lap. I would give her pets, and no one could tell what I was doing because it was all out of shot. It made some long meetings less stressful. Guinea pigs are wonderful, as are cats (we have three).

    1. Unsettled NFP staffer*

      Yes, I have two guinea pigs, and the Senior Pig in particular is very quiet and cuddlesome. However, he is so chilled now that he doesn’t signal to go back to his pen, and will pee on me in his sleep, so his online meeting time is now restricted!

      1. Freelance Historian*

        Ah, I have a solution for that: I use the pad that I put on my kids’ mattresses when they were getting potty trained. That and a towel keeps them snuggly and me dry.

  50. Peanut Hamper*

    Now I have Data reciting his “Ode to Spot” in my head! (I may have to rewatch that episode. It’s a good one!)

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      “You must tell him he is a good cat. And a pretty cat.”

      “….I will feed him.”

  51. WantonSeedStitch*

    This is the content we need! My own level of cat interaction in Zoom meetings definitely varies depending on the meeting:

    1) Meeting with my grandboss and folks up to the level of THEIR grandboss and presenting to them: cats shut out of room.
    2) Meeting 1:1 with anyone up to the level of my boss: cat welcome on lap and even picked up to say hi on camera once during the meeting, sometimes
    3) Meeting with a larger group where I am not a major contributor to the meeting: cat allowed on lap, but held down and petted off-camera
    4) Meeting where I am contributing more: cats not kicked out of the room, but often removed from my lap if I feel distracted

    One cat is much less distracting than the other: he will lay in my lap and chill. His sister gets kicked off my lap much more often, as she doesn’t sit still and likes to lick my hands.

  52. Lucy Van Pelt*

    Cats creep me out. Don’t know why, but they do. I would not enjoy looking at a cat during a meeting or thinking about it shedding on my coworker’s laptop. gag
    I wouldn’t say anything to you because I know my reaction is unusual.

  53. DannyG*

    I have taken turns holding our dachshund puppies during zoom meetings with my team. We’re all dog lovers so lots of support.

  54. HannahS*

    As someone who is not really into pets, I’d agree with Alison. Seeing someone’s cat walking around in the background or even on their lap is mildly pleasant but not very distracting overall, but once the person is petting them and interacting with them, it creates a lot of movement in their little tile, and it can be distracting.

    I did have a conversation with a friend while she ate a green onion pancake; her cat sat just off camera and all I saw was a paw enter the frame to bat at the pancake every few seconds. That was incredibly distracting, but also hilarious and it was a friendly conversation, not a work thing.

  55. HonorBox*

    Only going to edit Alison’s final comment slightly:
    * Do not kiss your cat on the head during meetings. You SHOULD, however, do this immediately once you are off camera.

  56. Nanny Ogg In Training*

    Our little black-and-white cat used to regularly sit in on my husband’s Teams meetings. She was very well-behaved and would sit in the crook of his arm looking adorable. She had her favourite colleagues and jumped up when she heard their voices. If she failed to appear, there would be cries of “where’s Bibi today?” No more, alas, as we lost her last November, and her brother is far less sociable.

    1. House On The Rock*

      I’m sorry for your loss, but so happy to hear how your girl brought joy to others during her time with you!

  57. Dust Bunny*

    I have one cat who will settle in my lap and doze quietly without asking me for engagement. The other one, though, will walk all over me and pester me for pets, which is unspeakably cute but really distracting. The first one is OK on video calls but the second one is just too active.

  58. Sloanicota*

    I happen to own the world’s most perfect and adorable pets, but I admit I am conscious of not showing them off “too often” – it’s really not that different than demanding the meeting attendees pay you any other form of attention if you’re being conspicuous. I allow myself to tilt the camera to show my pets only when someone else asks about them (they are always just off screen) and I do try to keep in mind that not everybody is entranced by the same things, whether cute babies, neat decorating, snazzy accessories, or whatever.

  59. Fluffy Fish*

    My cat decided to attack my bare feet (teeth and claws) out of the blue while I was in a meeting.

    Anyhoo – my personal opinion is it does depend on the meeting (and employer) but overall kitty’s participation should be kept minimal. If they jump up occasionally, they should be gently placed down. If they frequently try to participate, its best to have them on the other side of a closed door if possible.

    For external meetings – other side of the closed door.

    If they’re quitely snoozing in the background, that’s fine for most work environments.

  60. Ho-ho-holey hose*

    As someone with co-wokers for cats, I’d say petting a cat on your lap is totally fine. Petting a cat on your shoulder would be great for less formal meetings/occasionally, but moving the cat from your shoulder to your lap and then petting her would also be fine

  61. Awkwardness*

    I have no pet and find the love of pet owners to their pet most of the time very charming. But I find it distracting.
    Imagine a team meeting, lively discussion between several team members, mike is unmuted… and suddenly a pet owner is wispering to their pet. Through body movements it is clear what the pet is doing and you are left to wonder if they are still actively listening or if you should stop the conversation until they seem focused again.

    So, from an outside point of view, I would try to keep the interaction to a minimum.

  62. Always Bring Pickles to a Potluck*

    We don’t do video calls/meetings at my job, but my cats have been known to walk across the keyboard and send a message in Teams. One also will sit on my mouse and not let me work until she gets sufficient pets.

    And I was on a Zoom call with one of my church groups when my 70 pound lap dog decided I was lonely and needed kisses. Though since I made supper for my son during the call and my son decided he needed to get on and say hi (one of the other participants was his babysitter), that was not the least professional thing I did on that call.

  63. metronomic_13*

    Ha, one of my two young cats is very snuggly. When she was a kitten in 2020-2021 she was on my shoulder constantly and no one seemed to mind, even some external partners, and even delighted in seeing her. I also made sure her butt didn’t show to the camera, and kept myself engaged in the conversations. Never received negative feedback.

    Now she jumps on my shoulder less frequently during meetings, and stays there a shorter period of time. Colleagues remain delighted to see her.

    I can totally understand why some workplaces would be uncomfortable with this. But in a more relaxed culture, I think if it’s clear you are engaged in the content, aren’t leading a presentation/aren’t in a serious meeting, and don’t get too interactive with your pet it’s ok (eg, a little petting ok, kissing on their head, no).

  64. MistOrMister*

    My cats have yet to make an appearance during a work zoom, but they inevitably show up whenever I’m doing a job interview zoom. Every. Single. Time. I don’t think it’s counted against me but I do worry it could make me look less competent.
    Now, I am off to grab a cat to kiss on the head!!

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      This is one of those soft inadvertent things that ends up being an employer screening factor. I wouldn’t want to work some place that would negatively react to an unplanned accidental cat appearance.

      Sure it’s not the most professional thing in the world but it’s so minor that any employer that wouldnt want me for that reason is also not one I would want to work at. so it would work out.

      1. Pyjamas*

        Yeah there’s a TikTok making the rounds which figures a recent college graduate looking for work by walking into places with her dog in tow and asking “Are you hiring?” She can’t figure out what’s going so wrong. These are menial jobs she says, and she has two degrees (acting and communication)

  65. A Simple Narwhal*

    This question and answer are completely delightful, and exactly the palate-cleanser I needed today. :-)

  66. Dr. Rebecca*

    …John Scalzi, is that you?? j/k, he would just pet the cat.

    LW, thank you for brightening our days and providing such a wonderful palate cleanser after the racism post, and Alison, thank you so much for both choosing this letter and for curating such a cat friendly experience here at AAM.

  67. Anne Elliot*

    I may be coming in as the party pooper at the cat party, even though I also own a cat.

    For me, this is part of the larger expectation of professionalism on video calls, which I personally expect as a manager, in no small part because I think the lack of professionalism on such calls is used as a justification to try to drag people back in the office full time and I’m battling against that happening. So IMO you need to be dressed appropriately, in an appropriate-appearing space, doing professionally-appropriate things.

    So for me the question is: Would you do that thing in the office or, alternatively, can you pretend you are not doing that thing? By that standard, petting a cat in the lap is okay because it might only be minimally noticeable and you can keep your focus on the meeting and pretend it’s not happening, as if your hand is operating independently. But if you would not sport a cat on your shoulder in the office, then you shouldn’t have a cat on your shoulder in a business video call. Unobtrusive petting, preferably outside of camera range: Okay. Cat on head; cat headbutting you; crooning “Is Mr. Nibbles the best boy? Yes he is! Yes he is!”: Not okay.

    Again, I’m not a cat hater. But in my world, where some of the powers that be are actively looking for excuses to bring people back full time, I underscore the need for continued professionalism on video calls and if that means locking Mr. Nibbles in another room, he will survive.

    1. Jiminy Cricket*

      I don’t think this is party-pooping, just realism about differing office norms.

      And, coming from advertising, when there were often two or three dogs in any given meeting, including a golden retriever sitting on someone’s lap, WHILE WE WERE IN THE OFFICE pre-pandemic, yeah, those norms definitely differ!

    2. Olive*

      To be fair, if we could have cats in the office, I’d walk around with a cat on my shoulder. I do agree with minimizing distracting behavior though – I think a lot is dependent on if the cat will stay still and quiet. Else you’re right, the cat will survive being put in another room. The right pair of headphones will block out any noises.

  68. Thomas*

    Just one caveat. If you are a senior manager, especially if you are announcing layoffs or otherwise delivering bad news, do not look like Blofeld with your cat.

  69. CatMintCat*

    During lockdown, my cat was a permanent fixture sitting on my right shoulder, avidly watching everything that was going on. My team would ask where she was if she didn’t show up. However, my team was a class of 8 year olds.

  70. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    Personally, I was devastated when the person whose cat frequently came on camera and requested head boops moved into a new position and was no longer in our weekly meetings. It is, for sure, a casual and pet friendly office, though.

  71. tropical fruit salad*

    oof! My cat ended up on a video interview last week. She was on the desk, between me and the camera. So, yes, for a while 5 people were interviewing someone mostly obscured by a cat. No one mentioned it.

    Haven’t heard back, but this is a slow moving company.

  72. Rachel*

    My cat liked to snooze on my bookshelf. During Covid shutdowns, my makeshift desk was an armchair next to the bookshelf. He liked to wait until I was on a call and then drop down on my shoulder like a panther from a tree and dig his nails into my shoulder to get his purchase, often while I was having Very Serious talks with people about pandemic data. Good times.

  73. Curtis E Interview*

    My cat absolutely refuses to participate in video calls and it is a source of great sadness to me.

    Also this is maybe my favourite post ever on this site.

    1. Her For The Cats*

      I admit that sometimes I bring my cat up on my lap and then claim she jumped there because I want people to admire her and bask in her beauty. But that’s when I’m meeting with my own team or immediate peers who I know well.

  74. Babka & Momo's person*

    OP here – grateful to Alison for this excellent answer! I feel much more confident about my protocol going forward. Also, I am thoroughly enjoying everyone’s pet stories.

  75. GoldenHandcuffs*

    I was on a call recently with a coworker who was actively taking pictures of her cats doing silly things (like climbing on her chair) during the meeting. I personally found it hilarious but I doubt others would. She also then sent me one of the pictures and I now have in my work email a picture of her cat’s booty. Lol!

    1. GoldenHandcuffs*

      Also my manager occasionally takes calls with her not lap sized dog in her lap. We never care but I doubt she’s doing that with senior management. My cats also like very much to walk across my desk during calls but I gently push them out of the way and lower their tail for them, to avoid any kitty booty shots.

  76. Alice Quinn*

    Co-signing Alison’s recommendation on this! I was in a Zoom job interview a few months back and as we were doing introductions, one of the interviewer’s cats jumped up in his arms, which was no big deal – I admired the cat and we chatted about it for a while. Except instead of putting the cat down after that, he proceeded to keep it in his arms and pet it through the entire interview. It was pretty distracting and definitely felt like he wasn’t very engaged in the interview.

  77. sara*

    My coworker has a cat (name Butter) who’s incredibly adorable and chatty…. Our daily check-in used to be at a time when Butter was very active, and when it was said coworker’s turn to talk, Butter would also be the chattiest cat. We often couldn’t see him but would hear him trying to have a conversation also. Times when coworker got flustered/apologised for it were more distracting than us just accepting Butter’s status updates also…

    But now we meet when Butter’s usually asleep so we sadly don’t get Butter at huddle very often anymore. And also Butter’s more chill as he’s gotten older…

    But we’re a team of very casual software developers, and it was honestly not an issue at all. But again, very casual meetings, we often start with life updates etc anyways.

    1. Dulcinea47*

      I think ignoring it can be a good way to go. My cat is a yeller and will MEOOOOOW when he wants something. He yelled during some job interviews last year. I could see a tiny smile on the interviewer’s face but we all just ignored it like good professionals.

  78. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

    I’m a big fan of acknowledging early on in a meeting, “By the way my cat, my cat has been especially affectionate today — I’ll try not to let it become a distraction.” I think then people are more likely to be amused than otherwise when the boy makes an appearance.

  79. La Triviata*

    There have been many, many stories of pets in online meetings. Some are funny (I liked the one about a teacher whose cat interrupted at which all the students pulled up their cats). There was an Irish politician – president? – whose Bernese was beside him nosing his hand for pets during a TV interview. There was a Scottish MP who, during an online parliamentary meeting had his cat jump up into the picture and wave his tale (no butt) in front of the camera. And there was the poor lawyer who started a meeting with a cat filter and had to keep saying that he wasn’t a cat and was trying to get it fixed. (As a follow-up, one online law school had all the students on with the cat filter.)

  80. Kate*

    My cat has been to do many meetings that he’s quite good at accountancy now!

    My former team used to have a “show us your pets” slot, which expanded to include soft toys, an aunt who didn’t speak English, grandchildren etc

  81. Dulcinea47*

    My cat is scared of my office chair (too many moving parts) so if I’m on a meeting where cat distraction would be bad, I sit there. This prevents him from getting on my lap but does not prevent him screaming his dissatisfaction.

  82. AnonAnon*

    HAHAHAHA. I am dying because my black cat jumped up in my lap as I opened this story.
    And I have a white “cow” cat that likes to sit on my shoulder or give me hugs around my neck during the day. He is 15lbs!

    If I have a super casual workday or very low-key meetings (which are rare) I will let my cats come and go. I know based on the time of day if I will be prone to lap cat or parrot cat! If I can’t risk it or I am presenting, I shut my office door. And depending on who I am meeting with I know if I have to close my office door.

    I loved this question!

  83. Red5*

    How much one may pet their cat while working and remain professional is not a low-stakes question. Source: my cat. :)

  84. irianamistifi*

    I think your best bet is to really take your cues from super-villains. Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget limited MAD Cat’s screen time to occasional petting and a single MEOW at the end of the call.

  85. secret curmudgeon*

    I’m going to weight in as a counterpoint to all of the pet love on this thread. I don’t really like it when they make cameos on camera. I’m never sure if I should acknowledge them or what to say – I’m not a animal person myself, so saying ‘oh how cute’ doesn’t come naturally, and I don’t have any stories of pets to add. It usually seems like the other person is distracted, and that I’m the one interrupting. And I get a little grossed out by cat butts or kisses or licking. I try to make all of the appropriate appreciative sounds to my co-workers, since clearly, I’m in the minority, but I am happier to not see furry or feathered or scaled friends.

    1. Anon for this*

      Thank you for saying this. I am also missing the dopamine rush everyone else apparently gets when an animal comes on screen and no matter how much other people say they’re not being distracted by their pets, they seem very distracted by their pets most of the time. I also try to be appropriately appreciative, but most of the time I find myself wishing that if the pet actually needs something, they’d reschedule the meeting or tell everyone to take five for a bio break.

      1. melissa*

        “no matter how much other people say they’re not being distracted by their pets, they seem very distracted by their pets most of the time.“

        Yes. In my experience, as soon as a pet is on someone’s screen, I can expect that person to quickly be chuckling about it, taking up airtime to say “I’m sorry she just loves my computer!”, and basically seeming to focus a LOT on the pet. THEN, the other participants chime in to say “No, don’t apologize— we love dogs!” “What’s his name?” “Oh a poodle, I used to have one as a kid.” “Wait now I need to show you MY pet!”

    2. UKDancer*

      Yes I’m not wild about it (especially not in professional meetings with senior or high level colleagues or suppliers). I mean I’m not hugely an animal person. I try and smile and say something appropriate but it’s not something I’m wild about so I would recommend not being too excessively distracted by pets and moving the subject on.

  86. nora*

    I have four cats. Three of them enjoy being on camera. I don’t let them join me when I’m meeting with outside stakeholders but for (most) internal meetings, it’s almost a guarantee that one or more will show up. My oldest cat is very attached to me and if he hears me talking he will *fly* into the room from wherever he’s sleeping and crash onto the desk. He’s our work book club’s unofficial mascot. Once someone tried to call him an uninvited guest and other people in the meeting shot that down. Four years into being fully remote I generally will let the cats say hi and then usher them away. And then when the meeting is over they get a good snuggle.

  87. AnonPi*

    Former manager always let her cats get on camera during meetings. The problem was they’d get up on the desk, turn around to face her so we all got to stare at a cat butt (sometimes two if the other showed up) the rest of the meeting. With just parts of our managers head peaking out behind said cat(s). Now that was distracting.

    But she was the kind of boss you couldn’t say anything to or she’d take it wrong and put it back on you (are you not professional enough that you can’t concentrate with a cat butt on camera?)

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Ah, the dilemma of when you just want to conduct a meeting but your cat decides it needs more treats and wants to start an OnlyFans.

      FWIW, I’ll take cat butt over audit reports any day, but one pays the bills and the other doesn’t, so audit reports it is.

  88. melissa*

    I have no problem with a pet coming into view and people saying “Oh I see a puppy!” or whatever. I DO mind when that is followed by 5 minutes of discussion about the dog. I’m not some curmudgeon who hates chatting, at all— I really love to connect with coworkers when the occasion calls for it. But I’m also just not that interested in other people’s pets or children (I have both myself for the record) and I usually want to just get back to the agenda.

    1. Viette*

      That’s it for me too. There can *be* a pet, but I don’t want to spend a chunk of the meeting talking about our pets any more than I want to spend a chunk of the meeting doing awkward icebreakers. Rarely it might be helpful to lighten the mood, but I find that nobody’s cat is as amazing to me as it is to them!

  89. TLC at Work*

    I will just add that sometimes trying to remove a cat can be more distracting than just letting the cat sit on your lap. I have particularly stubborn cats who, when removed, just jump right back up. A spray bottle can help sometimes. But cats are their own creatures entirely, with no inclination towards being trained whatsoever.

    1. TPS reporter*

      I have one of the stubborn cats who will keep jumping up every time I put her down. and will scream and scratch at the door if I close it. so it’s just less distracting if I let her jump up and ignore her. if she butts me, I have some puppy teething toys that she can use instead of my face or hands.

    2. AnonEMoose*

      Our elderly cat (18 now) will often be snoozing in my lap if I’m working from home. Mostly she’s not visible on camera unless she decides to sit up (though sometimes, if she has her head up and you look closely, you can just make out cat ears at the bottom of my video).

      Or sometimes she’ll be on the back of the couch behind my head. People sometimes remark on it if they notice her, and my boss recently picked up his own cat to introduce him when mine suddenly popped into view because she’d been sleeping on my lap and decided to stretch in the middle of our meeting – LOL!

  90. straws*

    Not me logging off of a client meeting where my cats were begging my attention just to read this lol

    These are my rules:
    For me, lap & petting are fine, as long as my attention is on the meeting (no gazing lovingly into their eyes). If they try to get onto my shoulder, I redirect them to the top of my chair, where they usually lay down and take a nap – one they’re behind my head, the video call blur doesn’t capture them anymore. And when they go in for a head butt, I guide them back to my lap so they’re off camera. AND if they won’t listen to my physical prompts, they get placed onto the floor.

  91. DenimChicken*

    I completely disagree with the advice given. Your most important job is snuggling your cat. If that interferes with work, quit your job and figure out how to monitize snuggling with your cat.

  92. Karen*

    At least you didn’t have to suddenly jump up and rescue your cat after he fell out of the window into the garden below. The cat in question happily sunbathing on the window sill, decided to check out the outside of the window, change his mind, and fail at reversing back into the open window.

  93. Pyjamas*

    “ Do not kiss your cat on the head during meetings. You may, however, do this immediately once you are off camera”

    — correction: You *MUST* do this immediately once you are off camera

  94. Xantar*

    So I guess that’s a no to holding my cat up and wiggling her like a Muppet while I talk so that it looks like she’s speaking?

    (My cat is extremely chill and actually does tolerate this treatment. I love her.)

  95. zebra*

    My workplace is fairly casual but I guess I let my cat do whatever he wants more than Alison does. It also kind of depends on the context of the meeting. My cat tends to jump up onto my desk between me and my keyboard. If I’m participating actively and speaking, typing, etc, I’m more likely to just quickly scoop him up and put him down on the floor without interrupting my flow. No one seems to bat an eye at that. If I’m more listening than participating, I’ll usually let him stay and he’ll often lie down right next to my keyboard. I really only intervene if he tries to stick his butthole directly in view of the camera in front of my face.

  96. SansSerif*

    I sit in a cushioned high back chair, not an office chair. My cat loved sitting on the back of my chair above my head and was often visible on camera. He was like a member of the team and on the rare occasions he was missing, people would ask where he was. He passed away in August and everyone was very upset.

    Of course another member of my team sits outside in decent weather and she has a bunch of pet ducks that walk around and quack. So we may be a bit of a pet-positive group!

  97. Frosty*

    I’m in grad school and classes are by zoom. I use my TV as a second computer screen, but one of my cats is obsessed & will sit in front of the TV and try to “catch” the mouse cursor. There is no door to the room so the best I can do is keep a stick/wand cat toy with me to distract her!

    Every new professor I have, I give the warning “If you see me flinging my arms around holding a stick, please know I’m focused on the class but I have to keep my cat from knocking over the TV!”

    1. Random Academic Cog*

      I actually have a cat tree right behind me when I’m WFH. I stand rather than sit, but one cat will claw my leg if I don’t pick her up upon first request and another will nip me. So I will admit that I am not infrequently holding (and petting) a cat during meetings. I don’t kiss them, however. Can’t lock them out because my office closet is where two litter boxes are located, but I will be a little more thoughtful about the issue moving forward.

  98. JennyEm56*

    my cat is a regular. He seems to know that when he hears voices on the computer, I’m not going to be typing much, so he plops himself down on my mouse arm.

    No one has ever had issues with it. Of course, I do library-adjacent work, so we have our share of crazy cat owners.

    For fun, I sometimes go Dr. Evil with the pinky point, even if the cat has hair.

  99. Aitch Arr*

    Clyde has taken to sleeping on my closed laptop, since I mostly use an external monitor. I guess it’s warm, plus close to me.

    He gets cranky when the laptop is open and thus unavailable to him, or even worse, when I went to the office yesterday and there was no warm sleeping platform available.

    Most of my meetings are internal team meetings, though embarrassingly, he has jumped up and showed his butt on both interviews and an exit conversation. (I apologized and quickly removed him.)

  100. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    I’d add to that: especially good not to pet the cat etc if somebody else is giving a presentation (or speaking about something meaningful). It might distract them and distract others from what they’re saying, which can come off slightly disrespectful.

    That said, a cat on your shoulder! The headbutts and kisses! So delightful, I think I’d melt if I witnessed that!

  101. LK*

    When I was still working from home, my one cat, Batman, insisted on jumping onto my desk, tail lifted, and showing his behind to the camera during meetings. Luckily no one minded, but he is *not* the hero Gotham deserves lol.

    (His sister is usually the social one, but she just cuddled quietly with her dad all day, not causing trouble.)

  102. Mad Mac*

    Counterpoint: Quietly affirm your career choice as an evil mastermind and pet the hell out of that cat as you contemplate your next villainous scheme.

  103. Dinwar*

    One of many reasons I see no need to have a camera on in a Teams/Zoom meeting. I have large dogs, and have colleagues with dogs and cats. If they were on screen we’d never get anything done–a dog barking can derail the conversation for ten minutes. If we were on camera we’d spend the entire meeting discussing the animals.

    1. I Have RBF*

      This. My company has a “camera off” culture, and we all just have avatars on Zoom. We don’t have a cat distraction problem.

  104. I'm just here for the cats!*

    I just came here to say that I love this post and am all for the cats in the lap, headbuts, and kisses!

  105. CharChar*

    Please come work for my company and have a regular meeting with me, I will love your cat and our #cats slack channel will as well.

  106. Raida*

    Once the cat is in your lap, keep ’em there – it’s more distracting to be removing the cat than just sitting.

    If they hop onto your shoulder, move them to your lap.

    If the cat’s gonna be interacting with you, try to do it in the most controlled and comfortable way – lap cat

  107. Abogado Avocado*

    I read this question and Alison’s answer to my cat. He agrees that Alison is very wise. However, his opinion is that everyone should kiss their cats whenever the cat so asks — and that companies that don’t appreciate cats should be de-listed from the stock exchange. (Of course, his world view is very narrow, but still. . .)

  108. Some People’s Children*

    My cat once brought me a slightly alive mouse. I said “they’re supposed to be dead” while not muted. He responded by whacking it hard enough to kill it. This was the highlight of that Zoom call!

    1. BBB*

      my (now passed on) cat was an avid mole hunter and all of his kills had to be placed at my feet, no matter where I was or what I was doing
      so yeah, I have had similar experiences lol

  109. IamNotaCat*

    Your cat is obviously there to run the meeting. Ask her what she thinks, and then do exactly that. If your manager won’t back you up, go directly over her head to your other cat. Hope this is helpful.

    1. StrayMom*

      My cat does this all the time – he likes to sit on my desk and chirps during Teams Meetings (I keep my camera off, but people can hear him, even with my earbuds in), and it was a running joke that started during COVID “Uh oh, it sounds like Binx doesn’t like that idea”.

  110. Always Tired*

    My cat comes RUNNING when I am on a call. It’s guaranteed 30-60 minutes of lap time. I don’t work from home right now, but he comes running when I say any form of greeting when the computer or phone makes noise, and he will NOT settle until he’s head-butted my face a few times and gotten at least one kiss on his fuzzy, empty little forehead. When I was doing zoom interviews, I would PRETEND TO BE ON A CALL 5-10 minutes before, so he’d come do the shenanigans and settle down before the actual call.

    This obviously doesn’t work with a shoulder cat or if you have impromptu calls or lots of meetings, but I do recommend for those whose pets always start nonsense then settle down as soon as you are on a call.

  111. Nespresso Addict*

    Can I ask the commentariat how distracting you find a barking dog to be on Zoom? I often have to present updates where I’m unmuted and on camera, everyone else is muted, and suddenly my dog goes crazy like 20 feet away from me at a squirrel out the window – but I’ve noticed that this seems to only distract me, not the others in the meeting. I don’t want to call attention to it by apologizing if they genuinely don’t hear the ruckus due to the dog being so far from the laptop mic, but also don’t want to ignore it if it actually is a huge distraction. This is top of mind as I have a big presentation later today and no doggy daycare…

    1. BellyButton*

      As long as I can still hear the speaker I don’t care. I use really inexpensive ear buds, I can hear my dog barking, but the people on the call say it is very muffled in comparison to using the mic/speaker on the laptop.

    2. HSE Compliance*

      If it’s really loud, then I get distracted. A lot of times though someone will apologize for their loud cat/dog and I will not have heard a thing.

    3. It's Me. Hi.*

      I think saying sorry, my dog must have seen a squirrel, is fine. But for more than 30 seconds, you should mute yourself.

    4. Epilogue*

      I have a couple of zoom meeting that regularly have barking dogs in the background and I only know because of the apologies from their humans; I can almost never hear the dog in the background. Zoom seems to cancel background noise efficiently.

    5. Hlao-roo*

      Are you using a headset with a microphone? Generally, the built-in microphone in the laptop will pick up more sounds (like you dog) and a headset microphone will pick up less sounds. I have been on Zoom/Teams calls where the other person apologizes for a barking dog/howling cat/loud child and I can’t hear the dog/cat/child because the other person is using a headset. It might be worth having a test call with a coworker (or asking a coworker after a presentation where your dog barks) to learn how much they can hear your dog.

    6. Caramel & Cheddar*

      For me the distraction is mostly a visual one, not an audio one. Obviously everyone’s equipment varies, but I’ve found Teams to be really good at isolating external sounds.

  112. BBB*

    the correct answer is ‘the limit does not exist’
    do you really want to work for a company where you can’t give your cat forehead kisses during a meeting? I didn’t think so!

  113. Dawn*

    Of course it’s the black cat.

    My Luna is exactly the same. Yesterday she actually fell asleep on my shoulder.

  114. Bookworm*

    YMMV, but one theme I’ve seen is that classes, panels, talks, etc. will end with “any questions” and someone types “show cat.” :D

    I think “so long as they’re not a distraction” seems to be a good rule of thumb?

  115. BellyButton*

    My mom owned a used bookstore when I was a kid, she had a bookstore cat, Tiffany, who lived in the store. People would come in and sit next to the fake fireplace and pet Tiffany as my mom chatted with them and picked out books for them,

  116. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

    Can we also *please* avoid the cat butt prolonged shot to camera activity? A coworker’s cat regularly jumps on their desk and moons the camera, tail up, extreme closeup, for minutes at a time, while the owner/coworker pets the cat. It’s gross. No one needs to be subjected to seeing that. I never need to be that familiar with your cat’s anatomy. Ick.

    1. BellyButton*

      At my company the majority of us laugh at seeing the cat butt, you can move the person’s video to be out of your view if it bothers you.

  117. It's Me. Hi.*

    Uh oh. I absolutely kiss my cat’s head during calls. I think only during immediate team meetings but…AITA??

  118. HSE Compliance*

    I do not have cats or dogs, but my parakeets definitely do not appreciate when I very occasionally WFH and have meetings. They will have been quiet (for them) the entire morning – just normal playtime for them – and then I start the meeting, one person says hello, and the birds must SING THE SONG OF THEIR PEOPLE AT FULL VOLUME. I was in another room, with the bird’s room door closed, and you could still hear them on the call. I also forgot to close their door enough one day and of course, meeting started, and they decided to escape their room and fly amok, screeching at the top of their little lungs. Then landed on my head. That was a great video meeting.

    1. HSE Compliance*

      I have also taken impromptu calls while doing chores at the barn and had my phone yoinked out of my hand by one of the horses, which was kind of hilarious.

  119. Bunch Harmon*

    With the right kind of cat, and the right color baby sling . . . no one will ever know your cat’s in the meeting!

  120. Epilogue*

    Just know that if your pet shows up in a zoom meeting once, I will be disappointed if the don’t show up in every meeting after that.

  121. Heffalump*

    My two cats lived and went to kitty heaven before remote work and online meetings were a thing, but it would have been fun to introduce them to my workgroup. One of them liked to drape himself around my shoulders; the other, not so much.

  122. KR*

    You know this whole post is great but I think that if you are ok with it OP you should just ask your boss. My boss wouldn’t care at all. It’s not a common for us to take department wide meetings, serious affairs, with a cartoon filter on our cameras. A cat would be probably shared for public enjoyment within the team & complemented

  123. WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot*

    My amazing cat-at-work story was when I was working for the US government, at home, during early COVID days. I was working in a make-shift at home office in a storage space in the basement. I had two twin bed-sized mattresses leaning up against the wall opposite my desk. (On the other side of my computer… so off camera.

    We had a brand new kitten who liked to climb to the top of said mattresses and sleep. It was right under a heat register, so I think it was very warm. Plus she could stare down at me with impunity.

    One day, during an internal team meeting, she climbed up there and went to sleep. Cool.

    The meeting droned on and on and got to the point where I had to present to the group. Upon hearing my voice, the cat perked up and adjusted herself so she could see me better. As I was speaking, I could see her wiggling her rear end like she was about to pounce.

    I have no doubt that the cat intended to jump on my head. I was trying to maintain my composure while simultaneously terrified that I was about to have a cat drop out of the air on to my head. I fully expected blood to be spilled because she would USE HER CLAWS for everything. (She was in the habit of climbing my legs like a tree!)

    In an anticlimactic moment, she sprinted down the mattress, under my desk and immediately climbed up onto my shoulder where she promptly curled into a ball. Relieved that the worst hadn’t happened, I ignored her and concluded my remarks and passed the baton to the next speaker.

    In the next 30 second, my email, IM and phone began to blow up with messages from the 30-so people on the call! All were exclaiming how adorable my kitten was. They have no idea how close they came to witnessing a horror movie display instead!

    (And she is adorable!)

  124. Not The Target Audience*

    I may be the only non-cat person who reads AAM, but my personal opinion is – I would rather not see any cats, animals, or children on a work related call. Would I ever say anything if one appeared? Of course not. And I understand extenuating circumstances. But if I had a choice, I would rather keep all those out of a work call.

    1. Bookworm*

      Interesting. Is there something that you like that you would love to see on a work related call? Something that brings you joy?

      1. Dawn*

        Work, apparently.

        If I had to guess a single item, I’d probably say spreadsheets? Or maybe PowerPoint dissolves.

    2. I’m with you*

      Having to grin and bear it while hearing co-workers speak in baby-talk to (or about) their pet and use the term “fur baby” – just ick. So much ick.

    3. Yellow sports car*

      I’m with you there. I was incredibly understanding during Covid – forced wfh. Because it’s not like people had a choice of saying – I want to wfh so I’ll make sure I have a work appropriate office.

      I feel that Covid made people ignore a lot of basic workplace professional expectations – some of this is beneficial for everyone (eg more relaxed and climate appropriate dress codes). But other stuff needs to become more professional.

      I think if people want to work remote they need an appropriate workspace, where they can take meetings (if their job has meetings) without distractions. It’s not appropriate to do meetings from the bathroom anymore, or to homeschool the kids between meetings, to have your spouse/flatmate in the background of your work meetings etc, and for me interacting with your pets during meetings should also end.

      You might think everyone loves your pet, but people are often reluctant to have to point out that they do not – especially in an environment where that will be poorly received (unless the workplace is advertised as pets-in-offices).

      1. Dawn*

        I will just point out that “not having an appropriate workspace in the home” is frequently an issue of money and available space when homes cost so much. And working from home isn’t always a matter of “wanting” to but needing to.

  125. Bookworm*

    I think this might be one of my favorite posts that you’ve written Alison (and I love all your posts). But I really love 1) that you took it seriously (and as a fellow cat lover to someone like the LW, I can imagine myself writing this post) 2) That you made fantastic and hilarious comments about kissing the cat on the head immediately after the meeting or that having a cat on your shoulder is awesome (which OP – it totally is). I have had to ban one of my cats from my room while I WFH (because I see clients all day and having a huge (and my cats are HUGE) fluffy cat on screen is very distracting and definitely not professional. Honestly, I kind of wish I worked at an organization where cats were regularly show off as part of meetings.

  126. Dina*

    My dearly departed Buster used to meow directly into the phone immediately when I took a call. (This was at a previous job where they sent us home with desk phones during COVID as we didn’t have soft phones set up. I’m sure modern Teams filtering would have taken care of it…)

    Fortunately everyone was just greatly amused by this.

    My current buddy Zaphod just sits on the printer (which is in view of the camera) and my colleagues are forever asking after him if he’s wandered off somewhere :)

    1. Dina*

      Although… one time I was joining an online course on video and immediately upon my video loading, Zaphod lifted a back leg and started enthusiastically washing his butthole. Thanks, buddy.

  127. Thomas Merton*

    I just tell co-workers that I am the emotional support person for the cat on my shoulder. So far no objections.

  128. Avery*

    Oh hey, I’m not the only one whose black cat is obsessed with Zoom calls! Luckily my work almost never requires them, so it mostly comes up at our Zoom trivia calls every week, where it’s an ongoing joke as to guessing whether my mini-panther will make an appearance this week. (Odds of that happening are pretty good, but not 100%. She never lasts long, though.)

  129. Jennifer*

    In my previous position, I moderated continuing legal Ed (CLE) online. Early in the pandemic, when everyone was home with kids and pets, they (the kids and pets) would often show up on screen. So rather than make the participants feel weird, I decided to embrace it . Thus I began every Zoom CLE with “if your child or pet come into view, we will take a quick break. At that point, please tell us their name and a fun fact about your child or pet.”

    It put everyone at ease and sometimes we learned a fun fact about the children and/or pets of colleagues. Sadly, my new job has yet to yield any fun facts about kids or pets.

  130. ElinorD*

    Chiming in late on an appropriately popular post!
    I’m in higher ed (community college) and pets are frequent members of our meetings. It’s a nice break from the “new initiatives from administration,” but it’s usually the pet owner who brings the meeting back on topic. My boss’s shih tzu is our department mascot and she’s a cutie, but after a quick “squee!” we’re back to the topic at hand.
    I think that as much as we love pets, none of us wants to extend a meeting longer than is absolutely necessary, but a pet break is always nice.

  131. OtterB*

    Considering how many of my coworkers have pets, I don’t remember seeing any on our zoom staff meetings over the past few years. We do have a “[org]lovespets” Slack channel that gets photos and occasional video clips.

  132. Bruce*

    Do you have to have the camera on all the time? Maybe turn it off every now and then and indulge in kitty affection for a bit…

  133. Something Witty*

    I have 3 cats who are constantly on Zoom calls, some more distracting than others. I often have to remove my youngest cat from my desk multiple times throughout a meeting – I think of my interactions with her like I do my toddler, enough acknowledgement (toughing her), but also mostly ignoring!

    However, my oldest cat is quite loud an opinionated. She is quite well-known in my large company for her meows in meetings and in recorded training videos I’ve created. In fact, she is so well known and liked that she is also my team’s mascot (their idea, not mine)!

    One rule we all have: if your cat (or any pet) appears, it must be introduced at some point in the meeting (at an opportune moment, or if they are just being extremely distracting).

  134. Kara*

    One of my cats insists on what I call “Baby Rory Time” during Zoom meetings. This consists of me holding him in baby-burping position over my shoulder. I try to be diligent about keeping him less visibly in my lap during external meetings, but I don’t always succeed. He has attended so many work meetings that I made him his own agency badge during a particularly slow day.

  135. Dog momma*

    Personally, I would find this very distracting.. and unprofessional. and I have dogs that are always wanting attention.. always.

  136. Rainy Cumbria*

    Love the question and the thoughtful answer. This reminds me of something that happened a couple of years ago. I had a remote job interview over Teams. As I was about to join the call my cat decided she had to sit on my lap, luckily she was out of view. Something about having a snoring cat on my lap helped with calm and focus, and I got the job.

  137. Mim*

    Raise your hand if you’re also on the cats-worn-in-a-baby-wrap side of TikTok.

    Anyway, saw one yesterday where someone works remotely and often wears her cat in the wrap during calls. Which is a great solution because 1. the cat loves the snuggles, so is quiet and happy, 2. cat snuggles make working nicer, and 3. Good happy-kitty-head visibility for all co-workers who are into such adorable happy things.

  138. La Triviata*

    One of the sweetest stories I’ve heard was from South America (Brazil? Argentina?). The building where the national organization for lawyers had their headquarters acquired a kitten as a “greeter”. Cute, friendly little Siamese-type kitten. The building managers objected, so the lawyers’ organization “hired” him and made him a badge. His name was Dr. Leon Advogato. The story got out and people sent toys, food, etc., so much that they were donated to shelters. Dr. Leon has passed on, but his fame lingers on.

  139. Margaret Cavendish*

    Tangent question: what kind of photographic magic did you use to get a good shot of both cats? I have a black one and a white one as well, and I’ve never been able to figure this out!

  140. Jam on Toast*

    I’m very happy to see animals onscreen and don’t expect them to be invisible during a meeting. I think it humanizes my colleagues.

    At the start of the pandemic, I was teaching online college classes. My dog, who always hangs out in my office while I work, got use to popping her head up at the start of class while my camera was on. Students who would normally give me the black screen of death during the lecture would turn their cameras on and talk to her. She was far and away more popular than I was! I ended up calling her my DA (Dog Assistant), as a pun on the usual TA (Teaching Assistant). Students even sent *my dog* emails, written on behalf of *their pets*. It was adorable. One day, she wasn’t feeling well and didn’t come up to say hello. There was MASS PANIC! I ended up sitting cross legged on the floor, with my laptop on the rug, so 40 college students could coo reassurances to my sick dog. It remains one of my favourite teaching moments ever.

  141. SimonTheGreyWarden*

    My therapist has a hairless cat. When we have a session and she’s working from home, the cat always makes an appearance and I am always happy to see her. Naked gremlin baby!!!

  142. new old friend*

    Aw, another Babka kitty! A friend of a friend has a kitty named that.
    Anyway. I try not to be too visible petting the cats on video calls, but I do somewhat frequently have to prevent them from jumping onto my keyboard on other calls. I’ve warned my coworkers about it.

  143. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

    One of my coworkers has a cat that likes to parade by the screen and get in her lap occasionally. We all say “Hello Cricket!” and “Good job, Cricket!” and then she walks away. It’s like 15 seconds of pleasant distraction. Perfect!
    Of course, that’s in an internal meeting.

  144. Allura Vysoren*

    I have a 14lb tabby that is exactly like this, although because of his size he likes to be held like a baby and can’t sit on my shoulder. He used to have an uncanny knack to know whenever I was in a meeting and would show up to pull this routine.

  145. I Speak for the Trees*

    Thank you for this question. It made me happy and my day, which was previously cold, grey, and dreary. If I were on your team, I would actively promote more cat activity, but that’s just me. Oh, and my cat, Yoda, loves to make appearances at meetings. He learned that behaviour with my partner, with whom he attended Harvard Divinity School remotely during the Pandemic. Yoda is a well-educated kitty who sat through many classes and is now willing to sit through my boring meetings.

  146. DJ*

    I’d be dangerous if they ever invented technology that allowed me to reach in and pat other people’s cats.

  147. I Speak for the Trees*

    My theory is that most cats have heard of the trope of using laser pointers at business meetings and they’re hoping for the appearance of the fabled Red Dot

  148. genderqueer dad*

    From personal experience: during any breaks in a meeting, go on mute. Last year during an online class I taught, I came back to a student asking, “did you say “ooh big stretch” during the break?”

  149. Lenora Rose*

    My 8 year old was asking why I was reading a site called “ask a manager” and what it was about. So I scrolled back to the top and showed him this entry (He is ALL ABOUT CATS. Every cat is his friend. His socks have cats. his class used to motivate him to do schoolwork by giving him cut apart pictures of cats to assemble as a reward.). His opinion as to the answer to the header question “how much can I pet my cat on video calls” was “A million times!”

  150. Jennifer*

    I’m a children’s librarian. During Covid, I recorded a story/craft time from my home computer and my cat climbed briefly into my lap during the process. I didn’t realize until after the video was published by the PR department that she had been visible – the table was between my lap and the camera – inspecting the craft I was building, pawing at it and waving her tail visibly on camera as she jumped off. Under the circumstances, it was a lovely extra touch to the video, and coworkers told me so!

Comments are closed.