Whiskers 'N' Tails

Cedar Park dog and cat boutique offers healthy pet food options

Kelly Williamson says she has always loved animals, so opening Whiskers 'N' Tails dog and cat boutique in April 2009 was an easy decision.

"Growing up, my parents thought I should have a zoo or go to veterinary school," Williamson said. "I've been in the pet care industry for quite a few years, and I have always had a love for the animals. So we opened the store because of my knowledge of different products and foods."

The store is unlike typical big-box pet food stores, she said. Whiskers 'N' Tails carries more than a dozen brands of food designed for dogs and cats on special diets in addition to a wide variety of other pet products.

"Our goal was to make it like a health food store with quality products for dogs and cats," she said. "We try to gear all of our stuff to be free of wheat, soy, corn, meat byproducts and food coloring, and some foods are also gluten-free."

With more than 10 years of experience and countless hours of research, Williamson said she tries to help her customers find the best food for their pet.

"A lot of people come in because they want to get their animals on a better diet. So the first thing I look at is what we want to accomplish with their animal health-wise, and then I'll give them the options and then we'll go on about the cost for things," she said. "We also get a lot of referrals through rescue groups and veterinarians that are trying to educate people whose pet has a certain issue that may be diet-related."

The best types of dog food have high meat content and no byproducts, added chemicals or plant-based protein boosters, according to online reference guide "The Dog Food Advisor," which Williamson uses for research. Foods with filler grains can lead to health issues such as obesity, diabetes, cavities and excessive hair loss.

"Dogs and cats are carnivores, so they are meant to have a high-protein diet. They're not meant to have greens in their diets because their digestive systems aren't designed that way and neither are their teeth," Williamson said. "Cats need to have a lot of moisture in their diet. Really, they should be eating raw or canned food to help reduce kidney issues, diabetes and other health problems."

Williamson said pet owners should consider the real cost of their pet's medical bills when purchasing dog food.

"A lot of people think that these foods are expensive, but when you consider the veterinary bills that can add up and if you don't feed them good, quality food, you're actually spending less on the animal," she said. "The animal in turn would hopefully live a lot longer than they would without those health issues."

In addition to pet foods, Whiskers 'N' Tails sells pet supplies such as collars and leashes, beds, toys and treats.

Choosing your pet's food

Owner Kelly Williamson said she utilizes several online resources to identify the best brands of pet food.

The Dog Food Advisor rates dog foods based on their ingredients and meat content and gives detailed reasoning for each rating.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists all recalled pet foods on its website. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that pet foods, like human foods, be safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances and be truthfully labeled.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials establishes nutritional requirements for pet food and for a fee can provide consumers definitions of common ingredients.

1525 Cypress Creek Road, Ste. I, 512-257-1039