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Creature Comforts

Your guide to all things pet parenting

By Jennifer Morrell

OUR PETS ARE our “children.” Our sunshine. Sources of unconditional love. We’d do anything for them. Animals undeniably contribute to our happiness in tangible ways. Research shows that even small interactions with our pets trigger oxytocin in our brains, fostering feelings of relaxation, trust and empathy, while simultaneously alleviating stress and anxiety.

Along with the feel-good benefits of pet ownership comes a significant economic boost for pet products and services. The numbers are rather staggering. In 2023, the pet industry supplied an overall economic contribution of $303 billion, according to the American Pet Product Association. Pet care also tops the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) category, surpassing even grocery and dairy.

Known for its thriving, small business dynamic, Decatur is rich in pet products, services and veterinary care establishments. Take Taj Ma-Hound, the pet bakery and specialty cake shop that opened in 2007 with hopes of becoming a draw to the Oakhurst neighborhood as an uncommon option for nearby residents. “Our customers come here from all over Georgia and even Alabama,” says owner Krista Aversano. “After they shop with us, they often ask us to recommend a good place for lunch. We can then tell them about our dog-friendly restaurants around our neighborhood.”

The synergy is a win-win for small businesses and establishments, especially as they vie for customers with area big box pet stores. The advantages can be found in what Aversano says are the increased quality offered by a small, independent retailer. “Our products are made fresh every single day. You can trust the ingredients and see the process, which also makes the visit a fun experience. Come into the shop, and bring your pet for an enjoyable time. It really is a win-win, because you’re also helping support small, neighborhood businesses. We have prices comparable to online retailer Chewy, for instance, so why not buy from a local place?”

At the heart of Decatur’s civic pride, the bond between humans and their pets is celebrated through establishments that embody community spirit and dedication to quality. Supporting these local treasures not only enrich our pet lives, but strengthen the fabric of the community.

3 TIPS FOR CHOOSING A PET SITTER

Our pets are precious cargo. So, when we need to leave them, they need to be in good hands. Decatur Living gathered tips from some local experts for selecting a pet boarding facility, daycare or a pet sitter.

Don’t skip the temperament test:

Bring your pet to the facility ahead of time, whether for boarding or daycare. “You can get to know the people, and they can get to know your pet,” says Taj Ma-Hound owner Krista Aversano.

Be selective:

Just like when using a boarding facility or daycare, if you are having someone be a pet sitter, get to know them. “Just because someone likes animals doesn’t mean they’ll care for them the way you’d like,” Aversano says. “Be selective with pet sitters as well.”

Do your due diligence:

You can never ask too many questions when you’re looking for the perfect boarding facility for your pet. Keira Cooksey, Manager of Spot for Dogs, says every facility is unique regarding play areas and the amount of time to be spent playing versus being kept in a kennel. “Keep this in mind when you choose that home away from home for your beloved animal.”

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