Just bumped into this query on a public relations service and thought it was interesting:
I’m seeking an etiquette expert (someone who has an etiquette-related Web site, foundation or book) who can provide smart advice about the following situation for a reader Q&A page: “A friend’s cat is extremely affectionate and always curls up on my lap when I visit. The problem is, it makes me feel uncomfortable. How can I tell her to restrain her cat without hurting anyone’s feelings?”
My answer would be to simply be honest and say that while you like her cat, you aren’t comfortable with the cat laying on your lap.
Perhaps, you might add, she has a thick towel you could drape over your lap so that you don’t have to worry about the cat’s claws (if that’s the issue)?
If it’s allergy-related, then I’d say that directly and ask that the cat be kept in another room when you’re present (or not go there at all: if it’s a cat allergy, then it might well be that you’d have the same reaction from the dander in the room regardless of whether the cat is present or not).
If it’s fear and discomfort around the cat, well, maybe it’d be a good time to learn how to overcome that with a friendly, loving kitty in the picture? Or just say that you’re not comfortable around cats and ask that she either hold the cat on her lap or have it in another room while you’re present.
If you were answering this journalist’s query, dear reader, what would you suggest?