By Amy Wadas

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ALLEGHENY TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Sparkles the cat isn’t on the payroll, but she gets paid with love alongside her counterpart Pete.

“We try to make it calm here. We have cookies and cats,” said manager Linda Ban with Kiski Garden Center.

These cats are pet ambassadors that greet customers as they come into the Kiski Garden Center in Allegheny Township. With the holiday season quickly approaching, shopping can get stressful.

“I’ll find myself going to pick her up, come here Sparkles. And I’ll want to hug her and stuff. You think it’s for no reason, but I think it’s comforting to me,” said Ban.

Having two kids, Stephanie Shank knows all too well the stressors of holiday shopping. But, when two furry felines are roaming around, she said it helps tremendously.

“It helps keep them interested and it helps me to get done what I need to get done,” said Shank.

Punkin and Yoda are fixtures at Stanford Home Center in Leechburg.

“These animals just lay around. They’re being calm and relaxed just puts you in a calming mood,” said customer Shelley Lucjak.

Amy Martello, the Therapeutic Services Coordinator at Animal Friends, says that calming mood can help lower blood pressure, heart rate and decreases anxiety.

“Holiday shopping, especially Black Friday for example, can be a very stressful time for people to shop, and having the animals there can really bring down that must grab fight or flight reaction,” said Martello.

“I’m not used to seeing them in stores. The only place I’m used to seeing them is the pet store,” said customer Mira Koster.

These aren’t the only stores with pet ambassadors. Hole in the Wall Gallery in Lower Burrell has a dog as their pet ambassador. Barbara Ann’s Country Home Furnishings inside Westmoreland Mall also has a dog that is there a few days a week, and also volunteers as a certified therapy dog at a local hospital.

This is a trend that seems to be getting more popular around the area.