Pets Rule

Chris Edwards
Winner: Buster, Basset Hound, 3 years old

Whether you’re a cat person or a dog person (or a hamster person or a fish person or a bird person), chances are you agree on one thing: nothing is too good for your pet. And while pet-loving Charlotte is full of great shops, boarders, and walkers, we’ve found the ones that stand out from the crowd. From a dog gym that will put your workouts to shame to the city’s cattiest fashion show, here’s the ultimate guide to pets in Charlotte

Best of the Pets

Dog treats: CANINE CAFE
We may have Amelie’s, but our Charlotte dogs have Canine Café. And trust us: once you see the treat display case at this South End pet boutique and bakery, you’ll be drooling just as much as Fido. Owner Barbara Burg makes her all- natural, fruit- and vegetable-based treats on site, creating adorable canine indulgences that include pumpkin cinnamon biscuits, peanut butter banana nut muffins, and even sugar-free birthday cakes decorated with cream cheese icing. 1447 S. Tryon St., 704-588-3647,

Birds have developed a reputation for being high- maintenance pets (turns out crackers don’t cut it), but at Last Place on Earth, also known for its exotic reptile and fish collections, the staff makes sure that the feathered friend you take home is the right one. They’ll find out what kind of time you’ll be able to give to the bird, where you can keep it, what other breeds you have, and make sure that—whether it’s a rare Amazon parrot or a loveable parakeet—it’s the right match. 5655 N. Tryon St., 704-596-4214,

Cat sitter: FOR PET SAKE
While cats generally don’t need the amount of outdoor run-around time that dogs do, cat owners know that their kittens’ individual quirks (a penchant for hiding under the bed, or a love for cat nip) require specialized care. That’s why Matthews’s For Pet Sake, with thirty-two trained pet sitters, can help you make sure that Fluffy finds the perfect sitter. Its staff can do in-home visits or overnight stays, and will do a prescreening interview to make sure they know what to expect when dealing with your cat. From $15 per day. 5724 Court View Dr., 704-364-7297,

A fish is the pet with the most color and the least amount of attitude. Any food, aquarium, or friend you could ever want for Goldie (no matter if he’s a living room accent or a life confidante) is bound to be at Fintastic. Whether you just want a countertop bowl dweller or are investing in a 300- gallon aquarium, it carries standbys like guppies and goldfish while still offering exotic swimmers like saltwater clownfish, freshwater stingrays, snails, and even coral. 2135 Ayrsley Town Blvd., 704-525-0049,

At Pet Paradise, your dog’s day off is just as relaxing and reenergizing as yours. Located just a few miles from Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Pet Paradise provides each dog with a private suite equipped with a doggie door that leads out to the yard, so they can head outside whenever they feel like it or whenever nature calls. There’s also an enormous stash of toys for chewing, a bone-shaped pool for splashing, and daily playtime with kennel associates. From $20 per day. 2919 Boyer St., 704-393-3647,

Cat adoption: KITTY CITY
Adopting a cat is, in some ways, like finding a roommate: if personalities clash, drama ensues. This six-year-old Concord adoption spot, which frequently rescues herds of cats from mill busts, has around fifty cats on-site at a time, and because the staff knows the habits and personalities of each kitty, they can make sure that, whether you’re hoping for a couch companion or a playmate for the kids, you find the right match. There are even two visitation rooms to test out the kitty chemistry. 36 Union St., 704-795-5219,

Located in the William R. Davie District Park, this five-acre, off-leash play area is the largest of its kind in Charlotte. You’ll find south Charlotte dog lovers strolling their pups through walking trails around the park lake, and with horseshoe pits, volleyball courts, and playgrounds, it may be the one spot in Charlotte where the entire family can be let loose for a day. 4635 Pineville-Matthews Rd., 704-554-0402,

Baths on-the-go: AUSSIE PET MOBILE
Typically, giving your dog (or, Heaven forbid, cat) a bath is a lose-lose situation: it’s either a smelly, soapy, scratchy battle, or a torturous car trip to the groomer (they always seem to know where they’re headed). Aussie’s Pet Mobile grooming service simplifies the process by sending a grooming van straight to your home. They’re equipped to take care of tough pet hygiene tasks like shampooing fur, trimming nails, and brushing teeth—all while reducing stress you and your squeaky-clean friend.

On Saturday, April 9th, owners and their canine pals gather uptown for a one-mile noncompetitive walk and fun-filled day of contests and games to raise money and awareness for the American Cancer Society. After the walk, finishers (the dogs, not you) can look forward to goodie bags of treats.

Cat event: HEARTS A’FIRE
If you thought the pageants on Toddlers & Tiaras got catty, imagine what an actual cat beauty contest looks like. Nearly 200 cats, from Persians to Manxes, from across the Southeast gather at this event, sponsored by the Carolina Sophisticats, at the Cabarrus County Arena and Events Center to vie for titles in various age and breed divisions. There are even prizes for cage decorations (think pink, since the competition always falls the second weekend of February) and vendors selling everything from cat souvenirs to the latest scratch poles. 4751 NC Highway 49, 704-224-4472,

Dog toys: PAWTIQUE
This holistic Ballantyne pet boutique is Charlotte’s chew toy mecca. If you can get your pups past the cushy pile of dog beds at the front of the store, then peruse the wall of squeaky, fuzzy, colorful toys, ranging from rubber chickens from Planet Dog (great for a tug-of-war tussle) to cuddly, wool toys from Simply Fido. There are also plenty of bones to choose from, as well as a selection of hemp collars. 12206 Copper Way, Ste. 136, 704-544-7551,

Cat accouterments: PETCO
When it comes to cute outfits, collars, toys, and beds, dogs seem to get all the attention. That’s why, if you want to find Fluffy something fabulous, we recommend skipping the indie pet boutiques and heading to one of the bigger pet retailers. PetCo has piles of beanbag beds, flavored treats, fur-friendly shampoos, scratcher poles, designer collars, and a wall of cat toys that features feathers, balls, and catnip-packed mice. 3401 Pineville-Matthews Rd., 704-541-2473; 9515 South Blvd., 704-552-0515,

Dog Collar Designer: HAUTE DOGS
No matter what species you are, accessorizing is a pain. But whether you’ve got a Yorkie princess or a pit bull stud, Charlotte designer Kim Evert, owner of Haute Dogs, has a collar to reflect your dog’s style, and help it strut — or waddle — its stuff. Haute Dogs includes twelve collections of spe- cialty collars and leashes, from the funky Retro Rover (think flower puppies) to the edgier Born to Be Wild line. 704-756-2798,

Furballs: QUEEN CITY PETS Cuddlier than iguanas, but with less shedding than a Labrador retriever, small mammals are the “training wheel” pets for most households. At Queen City Pets (formerly Petland), you can watch (and pet!) gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, bunny rabbits, and even chinchillas as they scamper through cages in the front of the store. The staff will equip you with any infrastructure you need for your critter, too, whether it’s fresh wood shavings, a new water bottle, or an exercise wheel. 8120 Providence Rd., 704-540-0066

Opened in November 2010, the Dog Knowledge is as close to a YMCA as Charlotte dogs will find: in addition to offering members doggie treadmills, agility courses, and Doga classes (yoga for dogs), The Dog Knowledge offers a row of colorful, pup- size cottages built to resemble homes. Each is equipped with beds, heating and air conditioning, and flat-screen TVs for watching their favorite flicks. There’s also a community yard for playtime, and even—we’re serious—a doggie chapel. From $40 per day for members. 1110 Pro Am Dr., 704-365-1892,

All-natural food: 4 PAWS HOLISTIC PET SHOP
Much like shopping at GNC or EarthFare automatically makes you feel like a healthier person, picking up a few items at this brand new, Myers Park pet boutique may turn you into Spot’s ultranurturing Earth Mother. In addition to all-natural dog bones, 4 Paws carries organic dog food brands like Solid Gold (which comes in bison and potato flavors), as well as meat- and fish- based cat foods like Weruva. 2907 Selwyn Ave., 704-919-0467

Dog adoption: PROJECT HALO
When adopting a dog, you want to be confident that the people handing over your pup know him like he’s their own—his history, his disposition, and, of course, that all the vaccines and spaying have been tended to. With Project Halo, dogs
are taken care of both at the west Charlotte headquarters and in foster homes throughout the city, so you have the option of talking to someone who’s already had your potential new best friend in their own home.

When rush-hour traffic or a happy-hour invite throws a wrench in your plans to give the dog an afternoon walk, you’ll want to have Ellen Peterson’s number on speed dial. Peterson, the owner of Panda’s Pets, is on-call for such emergencies; with clients across the Charlotte region, she does between ten and fifteen thirty-minute walks a day. For a flat, $15 fee, she’ll top off their water bowls, take them for a ride to neighborhood parks, and even toss around a ball with them. 704-763-0789,

Doggie Boot Camp: METROPAWS
Graduates of MetroPaws Academy are the crème de la crème of “good dogs.” Instead of scheduling multiple classes and doing the reinforcement yourself, MetroPaws will set up your dog in one of its spacious boarding rooms for two weeks and develop a training program specific to their needs. The dogs practice their training exercises every day during their stay, and when you pick them up two weeks later, you can plan on enjoying much more peaceful walks. From $40. 2029 S. Tryon St., 704-574-1577,

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