At Ace hardware in Waverly, store manager Mark Dutton affectionately refers to Benjamin as his “best employee.” Benjamin is the store’s resident cat, who is often found lounging at shoulder height near the checkout counter for convenient petting by customers and cashiers.

Mark was inspired to have a store cat by the Federal Hill Ace location, which hosts a cat named “Decker” (after Black & Decker). When the Waverly branch opened up he immediately applied to get a cat there, and for a while didn’t hear anything further about it. But eventually he received a call which stated flatly, “You may not be ready for a cat today, but you’re getting a cat today.” And Benjamin (after Benjamin Moore), who was scheduled for euthanasia that day, was brought to the Waverly Ace to begin his new life as a store cat.

His presence seems to have a positive effect on the atmosphere in the store. Employees and customers alike exude easy-going positivity (even in the middle of a desperate search for the right metric bolts). Some of that might be attributable to Mark’s approachability setting the tone for the store. But I know when I’m looking for light bulbs that fit my ceiling fan (the ones that are smaller than normal but not really small), a glance over at the perpetually restful and happy Benjamin reminds me to take it easy.

Ace isn’t the only area employer that has learned to channel the pacifying power of non-humans. As a low-cost perk, many local businesses now allow pets in the workplace, including MICA in Baltimore (which welcomes over 150 pets onto its campus every day), IMRE Communications in the County, Gramophone in Timonium, and Marinalife in the Inner Harbor. With the almost universal success of these programs, expect to see more dogs, cats, and rabbits joining the rat race in the near future.