Common items such as hamster wheels and balls can be dangerous for small pets on account of their size. (Emma Allen)
Common items such as hamster wheels and balls can be dangerous for small pets on account of their size.

Emma Allen

Pitiful Pets Not Pampered: The Horrible Truth about Pet Stores 

March 9, 2021

It is a well known fact that many large incorporations have one goal: obtaining the most money possible. The pet store industry is no different. Though these stores claim to have the animals’ best interest at heart, the products sold in these establishments tell a different story. 

Much of the merchandise sold in pet stores are cruel and deadly, especially things marketed towards small animals. However, all animals are victims to these carelessly made products. 

Numerous toys and enrichment items pose a danger to the pet to which they are marketed. Wire and mesh wheels, for example, are known to cause something called bumblefoot in rats, mice, and hamsters. These wheels can also cause broken feet or legs. In addition, plastic hides and wheels can be harmful to pets that are prone to chewing.

There are also toys that can be harmful to larger pets. According to RSPCA Pet Insurance, “The main dangers that can inherently come with any cat toy include suffocation, ingestion, stabbing, strangulation, falling, drowning, choking, or some other kind of injury.” Toys with small ingestible parts, strings, or feathers are choking hazards. 

There are also beddings and substrates that can be harmful to small animals. In general, scented beddings are bad for all small pets, as they have weak upper respiratory systems. If you can’t handle the smell of your pet, you should not have purchased that pet. Cotton fluff/nesting is a product marketed to hamster owners, but the long cotton fibers can get wrapped around their feet, teeth, and body. 

In addition to enrichment toys, there are also multiple types of foods and treats that can cause harm to your pet. Rawhides, a type of bone marketed towards dogs, are known to contain a chemical that causes cancer in dogs. Even cat bowls are bad for cats, as they can cause something called whisker fatigue, or whisker stress. Whisker fatigue is an information overload that can stress out cats, causing them to refuse to eat. Plates are a better way to serve cat food, since their whiskers will not brush the sides. 

Pet stores continue to feed the misconception of certain animals’ diets by selling food with not enough variety, incorrect nutrition values, and an unhealthy amount of sugar. These types of foods can cause malnutrition and can also make animals more prone to illnesses.

Pet stores also sell enclosures that are unsuitable for the pet to which they are marketed. The main concern is the size of these enclosures. When you think about it, these animals were once wild and basically had unlimited space to roam free. Just because an animal is small doesn’t mean it can thrive in a small enclosure. 

The small animals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, require much more room than one might think. Some rabbit and guinea pig owners go as far as to dedicate an entire room for their pets. Fish cannot properly thrive in little tanks. Hamster cages are one of the worst cases of poorly designed enclosures. They are too small and too shallow for hamsters to properly burrow and act as they would in the wild. Also, none of the hamster cages in pet stores meet the bare minimum requirement, and are, therefore, unsuitable for the well being of the creature.

Not only do pet stores sell bad products, but they also dole out false information in order to sell these products. Many people considering purchasing a pet are aware from the pet care pamphlets pet stores hand out. There are also websites that give incorrect information. The best place to find information about small pets and reptiles is generally YouTube, where there are actually pet owners that have done the proper research and are willing to share their expertise. 

Hamsters, rats, and other small pets are not good pets for children. Small pets are extremely fragile and weak. For many, biting is their only defense. Children may unintentionally scare their pet or wake them up, which may result in biting. In addition, proper small care is very expensive. There are continuous costs and initial costs, as well as potential for vet bills. 

The animals themselves that are sold at pet stores are not the best, either. Though only meant to be temporary, the cages that animals are kept in at pet stores are much too small. Some of these display cases even promote harmful products, such as the aforementioned wire and mesh wheels. These displays are often overcrowded, especially for the small space provided. 

There have also been some accounts of leopard geckos being housed on sand. Sand is not suggested for lizards because they can end up ingesting it while eating. The heating and humidity in many of the reptile displays are incorrect. This hinders their ability to shed and may cause problems for them. These enclosures are often not cleaned properly, which can result in bacteria growth that can cause illness. There are many cases where customers find dead animals in the enclosures. 

Social animals, such as guinea pigs, rats, mice, and garter snakes, require other animals of the same species to thrive. Despite this, they are sometimes sold by themselves. 

Buying a pet to “save them” from these conditions just feeds the supply for these animals. Eventually, another animal will take their place and these replacements often come from mills.  Pet stores usually bulk buy from these mills. Buying animals from pet stores adds to the demand for these mills and allows them to continue treating the animals poorly. 

One actual way to “save” a pet from a pet store is to purchase a pet that has already been sold. If a pet is returned to the pet store, it cannot be sold again. This means that that pet lives out the rest of its life in the backroom of a pet store. The best option is to buy pets from responsible breeders or to buy pets that are in need of a new home. These pets can be from animal shelters or from websites such as Craigslist. 

One of the biggest reasons that pet stores are able to keep up with this cruelty towards their animals is because of supply and demand. Unknowing customers buy products that they believe are safe for their pets without knowing the truth. Common misconceptions misguide people just looking for a pet. The fact that these misconceptions continue to thrive, due to false information given by pet stores is unexceptable. Something needs to change to help these animals for the better. 

Animals are living breathing creatures. They deserve to be treated properly. Pet owners have a personal responsibility to give their pets the best life possible and to do that they need to do proper research. Before getting a pet, please, please, please research that pet’s needs. Do not impulse buy animals! Every pet, even fish, require research, time, and effort. 

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    Vincentia ThatcherApr 13, 2021 at 9:30 pm

    Maggie and Reilly spittin facts once again ,, great article!!