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We check out three fauna-friendly brands in FT Undercover


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Rescue cat Molly surveys the cat lounge at Cafe Meow in Minneapolis. Nick’s dog, Olive, is dried—and calmed—after her bath at Wag N’ Wash.

Oh, how our interests evolve with time. I’m into bird stuff now: feeding, bathing, watching, discussing and pulling out my Audubon Society ID book whenever I spot a newcomer flying into my yard. I had no idea Wild Birds Unlimited existed, nor that my parents have been happily shopping there for years. After promising my better half I wouldn’t bet our farm on birdseed, I strutted into the St. Paul, Minnesota, location with one simple goal: buy new bird seed. But that was before I spoke with a delightful employee, met the store cat and learned about the most interesting of seeds, including a newfangled blend made with hot peppers. You see, birds don’t have spicy flavor receptors; squirrels do. What a world. I loaded up on the seed rounds, and while browsing stumbled into a section with heated baths. After adding that, plus accessories, I was relieved at the total of $110, all in. Husband Kris pointed out that we’ve yet to spot a single bird bathing or drinking at our new avian pub. Maybe they’d rather have party mix or shelled peanuts.

The upshot: I’m feeling less existential guilt knowing wayward birds can stop by for a sip or a quick bite. Sometimes that’s all we need. Until Amazon delivers free birds to eat the seed, I’ll be returning to Wild Birds for the next refill. —TK


I first saw the concept pitched during an episode of “Shark Tank” a couple of years ago: the combining of a coffee shop and cat lounge into one purrfect cat café (no, I couldn’t help myself). I don’t recall if the Sharks offered a deal, but since then the business model has popped up in Los Angeles, Louisville, Savannah, Orlando and elsewhere, including my city of Minneapolis. Café Meow is my version of heaven, with expertly prepared coffees—try the Sassy Cat mocha tinged with cayenne pepper—and other human treats sold on the coffee shop side and a clowder of cats lazing about on the other. Customers can patronize the café during regular business hours, while reservations are made online for hour-long cat lounge sessions. Café Meow works with local feline rescues to facilitate adoptions, and the $10 fee supports the lounge while the café operates profitably on its own, an employee said. Ten cats perched atop pedestals and cuddled inside cubbies during my visit, with Jupiter, Mercury and Tuna among the most social, winding themselves around my legs and taking turns in my lap. My husband maintains our two cats at home are enough but I have other ideas.

The upshot: Get your feline fix and caffeine jolt in one place while appealing to the huge market of pet lovers and rescue supporters. Someone needs to snap up this franchise idea right meow. — LM


My wife and I are those absurd new dog parents who spend most of our time talking to our dog, Olive, buying her toys, treats and bowties. Bringing our dear daughter to the groomer was an anxiety-inducing thought. Will she get scared? Will another dog mess with her? Could she get hurt? So when we got to Wag N’ Wash, we were a ball of nerves. Luckily, the staff is used to ridiculous people like us and assured us (and Olive) the whole way through as she got a nail trim and a bath in a self-serve washing basin that cost $50 total. Admittedly, our girl was not a big fan and looked traumatized the entire time. But our expert nail trimmer was fast, efficient and clearly loved dogs; the clerk was quick to move Olive to a different basin away from a big, friendly pooch to calm her nerves; and the manager was ready with more towels as we tried to keep our wet and annoyed dog from leaping out of the wash tub and running for the hills.

The upshot: With a smorgasbord of natural treats and a few new toys piled in the back seat, Olive forgot her recent trauma almost immediately. We, meanwhile, needed extra snuggles with Olive to get over the ordeal.—NU

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