Sunday 27 November 2022

Five cats make a supermarket their home. Is this a problem?

NEWS AND COMMENT-WALES: It has been reported that five cats have made an Asda store (a UK supermarket chain) their home. They stroll into the foyer of the supermarket and sit there. Clearly, they are coming in out of the cold seeking some warmth. 

Some might be also seeking some company. These must be domestic cats because they're not frightened of people. They probably live nearby, and their owners are away all day, so they saunter into the store as a way of passing the time in relatively warm conditions during the winter.

Five cats make an Asda store their home after they stroll in and get comfortable
Five cats make an Asda store their home after they stroll in and get comfortable. Image: Asada. Dan Roberts/Pwllheli Store Manager

That's my assessment. Initially there was one who routinely started to visit the store. That cat became a feature of the store, and it appears that the vast majority of shoppers accepted him or her. Some actually found his presence charming and I guess some fed him.

It appears that some of the staff tried to discourage the cat from visiting but he returned, and his presence has encouraged for others to join. On the face of it this presents a problem to the store manager because some customers will think that the cats are unhygienic.

There is this mentality about distancing domestic cats from the kitchen counter in the home. The reason behind that is because people don't want the cat to bring pathogens onto the counter which can contaminate food. I get that but this is an overreaction because domestic cats are no more likely to introduce pathogens to food than are humans.

So, these five cats are completely harmless in my view to the customers' welfare. They remain in the foyer in any case. Any disease that they might have will nearly always be not zoonotic. This means that nearly all feline diseases cannot be transferred to humans.

There is no genuine problem but there is a presentation problem in that it doesn't look good to have a group of cats in the foyer and I understand that. It's a presentational thing which goes against the culture of a well-run supermarket store.

But people shouldn't be worried about it except for the fact that if a gaggle of cats habitually start to gather in the foyer of this supermarket on a regular basis it is going to cause a problem. Some people won't like it and the manager won't like it. It depends if it can be contained.

Ciara Faulkner, the 'ambient manager' at the supermarket said that they tried to encourage customers not to feed the cats, but they can't monitor them constantly. They encouraged the cats to leave but they come back.

Fortunately, Ciara Faulkner reports that: "We have had one or two customers who aren't very happy, but most people think it's cute. They just sleep there really; they are not causing any harm."

That I think is the attitude to take. Leave them alone provided the existing maximum five cats don't encourage another five and so on! Then it will be a problem, not of disease transference but in giving the wrong impression that the supermarket has become a cat rescue centre!

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