Boutique pet store: Sounds awfully hoity-toity, doesn’t it? A boutique pet store is an independently operated business that often sells high-end food, toys, and other pet supplies, so I can understand how it could be considered a snob mecca. But it’s not nearly as snooty as it sounds. After my first experience shopping at a boutique pet store, I’ll never go back to the megamarts again for my everyday cat care needs, and here’s why.
1. Staff members know what they’re talking about
If you go to a small pet store with a question about the foods they sell, they can actually point you to a product that is likely to meet your cat’s special needs. In fact, their own cats probably use one or more of the foods, toys, treats, leashes, carriers and dishes the shop sells.
2. They sell foods that are not available at larger stores
This is particularly important to me because two of my three cats have special dietary needs. Most regular cat foods cause Thomas to have serious bowel trouble, and Bella is a diet-controlled diabetic. Boutique pet stores sell raw food (which I feed my own cats) and a variety of grain-free, low-carbohydrate foods with novel proteins.
3. They support local craftspeople
I’ve seen a huge variety of treats, toys and beds made by small companies or individual crafters. Not only are boutique pet stores supporting the local economy by sourcing their merchandise from nearby sellers, but the odds are very good that these products are cat-safe and high in quality.
4. They can connect you with services for your cat
Looking for a good cat sitter? New to town and in search of a veterinarian? Ask the staff at a boutique pet store. Chances are they know of, or have used, one or more of these services and can give you some recommendations based on their and their customers’ experience.
5. They treat you like a friend
If you shop at a boutique pet store on a regular basis, the odds are good that the staff or owner will remember you and know what you’re looking for. If the store get a new product that they think might interest you, they’ll tell you. They might ask about your cats, and if they know you to be knowledgeable on a subject, they may even ask you for advice about their cats.
6. They support local shelters and rescues
If there are pets on display at a boutique pet store, the odds are very good that they’re up for adoption through a local animal shelter. They often sponsor or help to publicize fundraisers for those groups. You’ll rarely find puppies and kittens for sale at a boutique pet store because the owners know about the perils of puppy-mill and kitten-mill pets.
7. I get to support the local economy
Given the choice, I’d much rather see my dollars go back into my community than to some big-box pet store’s headquarters a thousand miles away.
I’m not going to lie: The merchandise there does tend to be more expensive than it is at a larger store, and not every town or city has a boutique pet store. I’m grateful to be able to afford the special diets my cats need and to pay a little bit more to support local craftspeople and merchants.
Yes, I do still go to the megamart for my 40-pound bags of cat litter and Litter Genie refills, but for everything else I’ll head up the street to my favorite local pet supply shop.
What about you? Do you shop at boutique pet stores? What’s your favorite thing about going to one? Have you had bad experiences at boutique pet stores? Sound off in the comments.
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.