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Guide to Shopping for Small Pets: What to Look For and Avoid at Pet Stores

It's essential to remember that not everything sold at a pet store is necessarily in the best interest of your small pets. In this informative blog post, we'll explore the critical aspects of pet store shopping, focusing on items like food, bedding, accessories, and cages for small animals such as hamsters, rats and mice. By delving into what to look for and what to avoid in each category, we'll empower you to make informed decisions for the health and well-being of your small pets. Let's ensure that your furry companions receive only the best care and provisions, starting with your shopping choices.

Before adopting any animal, it's crucial to invest time in thorough research. While there's a vast amount of information to explore, this article is a great starting point.


When perusing pet store foods for small pets, it's crucial to look at the ingredients list. Many products on the shelves contain subpar ingredients such as dried corn, so doing research on your pets diet is a must. It's essential to avoid foods that claim to be suitable for multiple species, such as "good for rats and mice." Each species has distinct nutritional requirements, and such generic products often indicate lower-quality options that may not meet your pet's specific needs. Personally, I opt for Oxbow as a trusted choice for food and hay due to its high-quality ingredients. You can find a link to it below for your convenience. Additionally, it's advisable to steer clear of trail mix-type foods, as these can promote selective feeding, potentially leading to an imbalanced diet.


When selecting bedding for your pet, it's important to avoid cedar and pine options at all costs due to their high dust content, which can lead to respiratory issues in small animals. For those considering adopting guinea pigs or pet rats, a safer choice is to line their cage with fleece blankets, significantly reducing the risk of infection. However, for animals like hamsters, recycled paper bedding is an excellent choice. It's dust-free and provides a warm, comfortable base for their cage, perfect for burrowing and great for the environment. Personally, I've relied on the living world Fresh n Comfy newspaper bedding for years as a trusted option for small pets. My last piece of advice for bedding would be to avoid anything scented. Small pets can smell, but if you clean their cage regularly this should not be a problem. Scented litters and beddings often have harmful chemicals that can make your pets sick if ingested, so it is best to avoid it altogether.


When it comes to small pet accessories at pet stores, it's essential to exercise caution. Many items may not be safe for your pets, or they could be disproportionately small. To ensure your furry friends' safety, here are a few things you should avoid purchasing at pet stores.

  1. Hamster tubes/tunnels

While they may appear cute and entertaining, it's important to be aware of the risks they pose. These accessories are too small and can result in your hamster getting stuck, leading to potentially fatal consequences. Additionally, they are made of low-quality plastic that can absorb ammonia, creating an unsanitary and harmful environment for your pet.

2. Colorful Chew Toys

When selecting chew toys for rodents, always choose options made from natural materials without added colors and dyes. These additives can be toxic to your pets and potentially harm their health. Prioritizing safe and natural materials ensures your small animals can enjoy their chew toys without any health risks.

3. Exercise Balls

Exercise balls, despite their intended purpose, can actually have adverse effects on your small pets. Imagine being confined in a small ball with no means of escape – this can cause stress and discomfort to the animal. Additionally, these balls often have poor ventilation, leading to potential health risks. Instead, consider using a small animal playpen made from materials that your pets cannot climb. Be cautious of options with metal bars or mesh, as they may pose escape or injury hazards. Remember always to supervise your small pets when they are outside of their cages to ensure their safety and well-being.

4. Wire Wheels

When searching for an exercise wheel, it's essential to choose one without holes or wire, as small animals can get their toes and feet stuck in them, potentially leading to fractures or breaks. Additionally, always remember to size up, as pet store sizing may not always be accurate. Using a wheel that is too small for your pet can result in spinal injuries. The bigger the better, so we ensure the safety and comfort of your furry friend during exercise.


When it comes to choosing the right cage for your small pets, it's crucial to research your specific pet's requirements. As a general guideline, rats need a minimum of 2.5 cubic feet per rat, with a cage tall enough to allow climbing. Avoid tanks for rats, as they lack the necessary ventilation for their sensitive respiratory systems. On the other hand, for hamsters, a tank can be an optimal choice as long as it provides a minimum of 450 square inches of floor space and at least 5-10 inches of bedding. Hamsters enjoy burrowing and tunneling, so the more space, the better. While hamsters have less sensitive respiratory systems and aren't avid climbers, they thrive in flat environments where they can run freely. When considering adopting a guinea pig, I would recommend avoiding traditional cages and instead opting for CC grids. These grids can be arranged in various configurations, providing flexibility and allowing you to get creative with your guinea pig's enclosure. This approach not only offers more space for your pet to move and explore but also allows for a customizable and enriching environment tailored to their needs. When in doubt, opt for a larger cage, as pet store cages marketed for rats and hamsters are often insufficient for your pet to thrive.

In conclusion, making informed choices while shopping at pet stores is paramount to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of your beloved pets. By being aware of what to avoid – such as low-quality foods, inadequate cages, and unsafe accessories – and opting for better alternatives, you can provide your small animals with a loving and secure environment. Remember to prioritize their specific needs, conduct research, and always prioritize safety over aesthetics. Ultimately, your dedication to making thoughtful and educated choices will result in a happier and healthier life for your furry companions.

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