A Guide to Pet Etiquette

Last Updated on July 8, 2021 by Jenny

The subject of proper pet etiquette is an interesting one, and it can be divisive. Who gets priority, particularly when your guest might not be as much of an animal lover as you are?

Seal Mitted with a blaze Ragdoll Cat Charlie saliva on his mane Cerenia trip to the lake

I asked our readers on Facebook for their thoughts – they’re included throughout this guide, along with my view on the proper etiquette for guests and pets.

For the purposes of this article, I’m assuming that your cat or other pet is quite social. If your pet is shy or jittery, then keep them out of the way. Even if your guest is the biggest cat-lover in the world, it’s not fair to put your cat in a stressful situation for the benefit of a visitor.

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Pet first, or guest first?

Ultimately, it’s your choice on how you treat guests in your home, and how much you value their comfort over that of your pets. Some people will believe that it is the cats’ home, and so guests should understand that the cats have the right to behave as they wish when they’re in their own space.

Some readers are pretty steadfast that if guests don’t like cats, then they aren’t particularly welcome in the owner’s home. And they’re comfortable dealing with the pets of anyone they visit too. As one reader puts it, “I figure that when I go to someone else’s house that I’m fair game for dog slobber etc.”

For others, there’s more of a balance to be struck – guests deserve to feel comfortable too, and a pet parent should take action to make sure that houseguests feel welcomed. It’s good manners to bear everyone in mind.

This may involve putting cats or other pets into a different room(s) and keeping them there for the duration of the visit. If this is a couple of hours then that’s fine, but what if the guest is staying over? That’s an important consideration when inviting guests into your home – you need to work out a plan on how to respect both the person and the needs of your animal.

And then if your pet starts overstepping boundaries with your guest, should you intervene? Some people feel that telling the guest how to handle the pet is correct – have you ever been told by a pet owner to just tap an overzealous pup on the nose?

I know some people would be offended – they aren’t the guest’s pet to control and it’d be seen as bad manners to be told to handle it themselves. Plus, the guest doesn’t know how the dog is going to react to being treated by a stranger like this, and this would only make them more uncomfortable.

One reader sums it up perfectly: “I expect appropriate behavior from my cats as well as my guests. And I expect the same with other people’s pets.”

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My personal view is that it is important to accommodate your guest as best as possible. Yes, this is your pet’s home, but that doesn’t mean that people should feel unwelcome at your cat’s (or other animal’s) expense.  Much like you probably don’t behave exactly the same when you have a guest in your home than when you do not.  I was raised by parents who told me to be on my “best behavior”, and that’s what I still do when I have a guest in my home.

You need to be empathetic towards any concerns your guest may have – they might love having a cat stretch over them, or they might be uncomfortable. They might even be afraid.  They might have allergies or might have been attacked by a cat when they were a child, so don’t feel comfortable around cats because of it.

Communication is really important here. If you’re inviting a guest to your home for any reason, you should tell them in advance that you have a pet, and address any concerns they might have. For starters, they could be allergic and so need to know before they visit so that they can either bring appropriate medication or make alternative plans, and you may need to take extra care to clean away any stray pet hair.

Pet Etiquette for cats and company

Find out whether they actively enjoy the company of animals, or whether they are tolerant, or they simply don’t like them. And then use that information to ensure that your cats or other pets are accommodating. You may need to do nothing – your guests might love the extra attention of your pets. Or it could be that you need to set up a closed-off space for your animals to enjoy, out of the way of your guests.

This doesn’t just apply to social guests – it’s good manners to also inform any visiting tradespeople (electricians, plumbers, etc.) about your pets. Builders, plumbers and electricians may all have to spend a significant amount of time on your property if you’re having work carried out.

It’s good etiquette to just keep your animal out of their way while they’re working – they’re professional people paid to do a job – but again find out if they have any concerns or allergies that you can best accommodate.  It also keeps your pet safe to stay out of the way of tradespeople.  Good tradespeople can be hard to find, don’t scare them off with poor pet etiquette!

What are some proper ways of handling your pet?

If your guests are happy to have your cats roaming around your home during their visit, make sure that you’re aware of the kitty’s behavior. If they start getting a little too friendly, or are climbing all over your guest, take action.

And remember that your guest might tell you that they’re fine even if they are uncomfortable – no one wants to be the fussy person at someone else’s home. So do step in and let your cat know that they need to give the guest a little space.

cat on laying on the bed

If the problems persist, or your guest has already let you know that they aren’t particularly comfortable around animals, you might want to confine them. That doesn’t mean putting them in a travel cage, but it does mean finding a part of your home where you can close the doors and keep your cat out of the way.

A great tip is to make this space a bit of a sanctuary for your cat – you don’t want them to feel like they’re shut in a box room with nowhere to go. Even if it’s just one room, make sure that you’ve added in a bed and litter box if there isn’t one there already, and maybe add in some hiding places and toys along with fresh food and water. Your cat doesn’t deserve to be uncomfortable.

How do you politely tell someone not to bring their cat?

Then there’s the whole other side of guests and pet etiquette – someone who wants to bring their animal to your home when they’re visiting you.

Most commonly this will be with dogs, since dogs are a pet that will accompany their owner on walks. If you have a dog owner friend in the neighborhood who likes to swing by for a visit, how often will they try to do so in the middle of a walk?

But it’s not just dog owners, anyone who loves their pet might want to bring them on a trip, particularly if they’re staying overnight.

There may be a number of reasons for you to decline – you might simply be uncomfortable having unfamiliar animals in your home, or (and this is likely if you’re reading my website), you might have pets of your own. And no matter how ‘friendly’ the guest says their pet is, there’s a very good chance that your own animals will feel unhappy or threatened, especially if they’re territorial.

So how do you tell someone not to bring their furry friend with them on a visit to your home?

Again, clear and honest communication is always the best way. If a guest is visiting your home then they should respect your own rules, but be fair by offering the reasons why. Ask your guest for their reasons for bringing their animal as well, and just talk about an option that works for all parties.

What are your own experiences of pet etiquette done well, or that have gone awry? Have you had to endure a sniffing, slobbering dog or a cat that’s too curious while visiting someone else’s home? And how do you manage your home when you have guests? Leave a comment to share your view with my readers along with any etiquette tips you have.

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3 thoughts on “A Guide to Pet Etiquette

  1. Kathy Amacher says:

    One thing I want to bring up is that many people are hesitant about eating a meal when a cat has been up on the counters. I would put my cats in the bedroom/bathroom (litter box is available) part of the house and then wipe down the counters and table. I’d prepare the meal, enjoy the guests, and then the cats can come out and visit with all of us.

  2. Beth Morey says:

    My kitties bring me more comfort and joy than everything else in my life. Those who know me well enough to visit also know my feline companions are my top priority. Anyone who’s allergic to cats, offended by pet hair or who thinks cats should stay off furniture, counters, etc., doesn’t belong in our home.

  3. Patti Johnson says:

    Fabulously pawesome post, Jenny honey! Wonderful topic! TYSVM for all the great info! 🙂 <3

    Any guest/visitor to our apartment is made very aware that we have our Miss PSB in residence and that she is a very beloved member of our family. We always stress to please be very careful when opening and closing our front door for entering and exiting our apartment (to ensure that Miss PSB can't get out). ​Never had an issue. She really isn't that curious about what is outside in our hallway. She got out there once as a kitten and it scared her so much that she's never tried to go out the door again (thank goodness). Plus, we are super diligent to ensure her safety when opening our front door, etc… 🙂 <3

    Miss PSB is very well-behaved when we have company. She's curious but doesn't really bother any guest unless they make overtures to want to greet her and pet her, etc… 🙂 <3

    Luckily, our apartment is just way too small to offer any 24 hour accommodations to visiting relatives or friends so overnight stays pose no issue to deal with regarding behaviors from Miss PSB or guests, etc…. 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love & purrs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3 <3 <3

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