Hungry pets are welcome at The Barking Cat at Kimball Junction
From the time she was young, Merridee Caruso has always had at least one pet dog.
But now, after selling her home hospice care business in Salt Lake City, Caruso has made pets more than just a passion — she owns three terriers she refers to as her children — it’s now her career.
Caruso and business partner Coleta Swenson recently opened the pet store The Barking Cat, a dream realized because of a non-compete clause in the sale of Caruso’s former business that meant she couldn’t open a similar business.
"We’d always talked about, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be fun to have a pet store up here?’" Caruso said. "So when I had my non-compete (clause), Coleta and I got together and said, ‘Why don’t we just do it?’ So that’s what we’re doing."
The main products featured at the store, which caters to owners of dogs, cats and birds, are healthy food options for pets. Caruso said The Barking Cat, which carries food in all price ranges, has been a welcome sight for health-conscious pet owners in the area, who previously had to drive to Salt Lake City to get many of the products the store sells.
Caruso said many pet owners don’t understand the importance of checking the nutritional value of the food they give their critters.
"It’s extremely important," Caruso said. "I think even I have underestimated it over the years. Just starting the store has brought me up to another level of knowing how important supplements and good food are. I’ve switched foods for my terriers."
The majority of the food The Barking Cats sells is made from easily identifiable ingredients, which helps pet owners know exactly what they’re feeding their pets. Caruso said that’s a far cry from the pet food found at most chain retailers.
"You go to the old bag, and it’s a lot of ingredients you can’t even pronounce, let alone know what they are," Caruso said.
As well as packaged food, The Barking Cat offers baked pet treats that looks like human food, such as cookies or cannolis. Swenson chuckled as she recounted the story of a puppy that recently slid the bottom shelf of the bakery stand open with his nose and ate several cannolis.
But despite the fact the treats are tasty for pets, Caruso admits their look is designed to catch the attention of their owners.
"It’s probably more for people than for the dogs," she said. "I don’t think dogs probably care. But they’re a lot of fun. It’s kind of unusual."
The Barking Cat also sells other pet supplies, such as collars and leashes, as well as art featuring animals that Caruso said are all either limited addition copies or originals. And pet owners tired of dealing with the mess of bathing their animals at home might find the store’s do-it-yourself dog wash useful.
The wash features specially designed grooming tubs, ramps for pets to climb into them and leashes to keep them there.
"It saves you the mess at home," Swenson said. "When I bathe my dog, I have to rip everything out of the bathroom and she shakes and it’s a mess. It’s a lot easier in a place like this."
Though neither Caruso nor Swenson had ever worked retail before opening the store, both say they’re pleased with the early returns. And while opening the store has been challenging, it’s also provided a lot of fun.
"It’s finally doing something that I actually like doing," Caruso said. "I mean, I liked my business before — it was very profitable and allowed me a lot of different things that I couldn’t otherwise get — but now at this point, I go to work and people bring their dogs in and it’s just a fun time."
The Barking Cat was set to host its grand opening today, with an open house from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Caruso said 50 dog bandanas will be given away, and the event will also feature drawings and food and drinks — for both pets and their owners.
The Barking Cat
1708 Uinta Way at Kimball Junction
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