A local baker caters to critters
Most bakery owners whip up their new treats from butter, sugar and chocolate. When Milia Bell, 41, tries out a recipe, it might feature albacore tuna, minced parsley and cheddar cheese decorations. Her customers won’t complain — they have fur and play with squeaky toys. Since 2004, Bell has been baking for canines and felines as the owner of PupCat Bakery , which she runs out of the South Burlington home she shares with a large Maine Coon. Her wares range from $1 cookies to pricier custom cakes.
We caught up with Bell — who supplements her income by working 30 hours a week at ReCycle North  — to learn more about how she began baking for Buster.
Seven Days: How did you end up running a bakery for pets?
Milia Bell: A love of cooking and a love of animals. I started back in 2004, when a friend of mine’s dog had a rare kind of cancer. I started making treats for her and really enjoyed it.
My friends said: “You should sell these things.” I created a logo and packaging, and brought them to Pet Food Warehouse . It just kind of grew.
SD: What inspires you when you’re creating a new treat?
MB: When I have a new dog in my life, I play around and make something based on what [he or she] likes, but I always maintain the integrity of keeping things as local and organic as possible. I should play around with cat stuff more than I do.
SD: You do make “tuna sushi.” My cat loves it.
MB: I created that for my [late] cat Artemis. It had three things she really loved: dried bonito, nutritional yeast and seaweed, which are great ingredients for cats.
SD: That tuna sushi might not, but some of your “celebration cakes” for pups sound pretty appetizing to humans — for example, you make an “Apple Carrot Spice Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting.” Are any of your products good for two-legged folks, too?
MB: At the farmers market I would have this problem where people wouldn’t know [my cookies] were for dogs and would just start eating them. All of the ingredients I use are organic, human-grade ingredients, but the one thing that separates them from being really delicious for humans is that they have no sugar.
SD: Some of your treats, like the fetching “PupCat Tortes,” include carob — as most people know, chocolate is toxic to many animals. Is carob particularly good for dogs, or is using it more about being visually appealing to the humans?
MB: Carob is a great source of potassium, but I think that, because it looks like chocolate, people think it will be a decadent treat for their dogs. I sell a lot of canine confections around Valentine’s Day.
SD: What’s your most sensual pet creation?
MB: One of my best-selling cookies is a “Buster Pie,” a calzone-shaped cookie with a peanut butter filling. At the farmers market, I tried one that was salmon with cream-cheese filling. I could go crazy doing innovative ideas, but there aren’t a lot of places with cooling bakery cases for pets, so [the results have] gotta be shelf stable.
SD: Do you ever think about doing this full time?
MB: It’s growing. I do have accounts in Vermont, Virginia, Maine, New Jersey and Georgia. But I don’t have the start-up capital to take the big risk — I’m not quite there yet.