One of the things that everyone I talk to in SHORTER (US|UK) advises is to focus on your core work, and cut down on open-ended or low-margin commitments. Turns out that’s great advice for non-human workers, as well. The Times recently revealed that the UK Foreign Office’s cat was overstressed from managing too large a part of the building, and had to take the summer off and have its duties scaled back:
Palmerston, the Foreign Office cat, has been taking his duties a little too seriously closer to home and has been banned from parts of the building because of stress…. [I]n a vast building once described by one of its architects, Sir George Gilbert Scott, as “a kind of national palace, or drawing-room for the nation”, it was always going to be a demanding portfolio.
Like many other civil service workers, the cat was beginning to show signs of stress, which included over-grooming of the front legs.
So this year he was given a well-earned summer holiday and on his return mandarins declared parts of the building off limits to ensure that he stays happy and healthy.
New rules, known as the Palmerston protocols, have had to be introduced after it emerged that his lifestyle, which included too many treats, was bad for him. A Palmerston zone has been also been created to stop him ranging too widely with signs denoting the cat-free areas….
“Cats are territorial. They fret when their territory is bigger than they can manage,” Sir Simon McDonald, the permanent secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has told staff.
There’s a lesson here for us all: don’t try to manage more territory than is comfortable.