The cliche is that every bookstore has a cat, but it’s actually fairly rare to encounter pets at bookstores anymore. Chains definitely don’t have them, so only indies still have the classic bookstore cat. One of the common notes in listings for books on online venues is “comes from a smoke free, pet free home”. These generally appear in listings from people selling off items on ebay, Craiglist, and so on, who clearly aren’t operating a bookstore fulltime. While allergies are a concern for some, I’ve never had a customer actually ask whether the store has a critter in residence. Nor ask if I smoke. I can only recall one person with allergies severe enough that they decided not to buy once they saw the dog (and that was largely an issue of being unable to browse with the dog following her around going “why won’t the nice person pet me?”)
Have the days of the cozy bookstore with a cat (or dog) asleep in the window gone away? Are used bookstores now expected to be dust and dander free zones where every book and surface has been cleaned ’til it sparkles with everything in neat alphabetical order? Or is the dust, fluff, and the cat sleeping on top of the teetering pile of books part of the charm of the indie?
From the comments from my customers, much of the charm is indeed that there is a dog in residence. People bring her cookies. She amuses children while parents browse. And generally looks cute sleeping in the window or amidst a pile of books. People stop in just to pet the dog and something catches their eye while they were there and they walk out with another book they just had to have. They never would have come in if it weren’t for the dog in the window. She is the best form of advertising.
The dog also appears on the frequent buyer discount card. When someone else is minding the store and the dog is left at home, people are often disappointed that there is no dog to pet. If she doesn’t immediately come scampering at the sound of the bell on the door, customers first question is often “where’s the dog?”
While I don’t have a cat at the store proper, I have two cats at home that patrol the stacks of rare books, sleep in the shipping boxes and generally sit on whatever it is you’re trying to work on. There is, of course, the occasional crash noise as they tip over a stack.
Cats and dogs seem to be the only pets that appear at most stores, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a store out there with something unusual like an iguana or parrot. If you own a bookstore, do you have a creature in residence? Or if you’re a reader, does your local indie have a furry little helper? Is a pet in residence a turn off or turn on? (assuming that the pet is well mannered. Nobody likes a cat that bites your hand when you pet it… like the white beast shown here. There’s a reason he’s not at the store proper.)
Who rules the bookstore pet world, cats or dogs? (pictures are of course welcomed)