I am an animal lover. I like all kinds of animals, particularly cats. I like dogs too, but I really like cats. I have always liked cats and I have almost always liked most cats more than most people. Believe me, if you were a social psychologist who has devoted an entire career to conducting research on human behavior, you might like cats more than people too. As an animal lover, I get negative vibes from people who: dislike animals; kill animals for sport (including a veterinarian I once knew who enjoyed hunting big game in Africa); have dead, stuffed animals displayed in their home or office; or don’t believe animals have feelings, etc. I often ask potential employees if they like cats and dogs during the interview process; gauging their reaction tells me a lot about the person. I have only hired one person who disliked animals and it was a hiring decision I regretted. (This person was cold hearted and was fired for generally insubordinate behavior, which may or may not be correlated with disliking animals, but disliking animals created problems for my company and me in other ways, including being around service animals in airports.) I believe “to each his or her own,” but suffice it to say, if someone doesn’t like animals, including cats, they just don’t have a place in my world.
I passed the “Ziggy test” when I first met Melissa or else I would not be writing this. Her cat, Ziggy, had to approve of me – and apparently he did, even though he occasionally bit the hand that fed him – mine. But while I may not consider someone’s affinity for animals or pets, which are 2 different things to me, as Melissa does, I don’t know that I am friendly with anyone who is not an animal lover or who is appreciative of wildlife. I know there is research on the connection in those who harm animals and things like propensity for criminal behavior. And, I know there is research on the connection on quality of like and affection from animals. I do not know whether there is a correlation between career success and being an animal lover, but it would not surprise me, given the quality of life findings. We have never made being an animal lover a criterion for a new hire. We don’t ask about it though it has sometimes come up in the conversations. In the instance Melissa mentioned, the bad hire, his dislike of animals, emerging from fear of them, was extreme and seemingly out of place for someone who did not seem afraid of much. Nonetheless, if such a topic comes up in workplace conversation, those who are not animal lovers should be cognizant of how their dislike of animals carries other messages.