A pet store may advertise hamsters for five dollars each or a guinea pig for twenty dollars, but adult owners should realize that the REAL cost of taking Fluffy home can be much higher. Quality cages for small animals are not cheap, and the cost of water bottles, bedding, food, toys and snacks can add up quickly. It's not unusual for a ten dollar gerbil to end up costing a hundred dollars or more at the cash register. There are ways to find supplies for your small animal, however, that won't necessarily break your bank. Here are some ideas on finding the right supplies for your exotic pet.
- Commercial pet stores which sell small exotics like hamsters and gerbils will often put together a 'starter kit' for first-time owners. This starter kit should include a basic cage, one bag of bedding, a small supply of pellet food, water bottle, food bowl, an exercise wheel and perhaps a toy or snack. Everything you need for the first week or so should be in the starter kit. The pet store may not even charge for the animal if the would-be owner agrees to purchase a starter kit. This is an excellent way to make sure you have all the essential supplies, but pay attention to the brands of bedding and food pellets. Once they run out, it falls on you to find replacements that match.
- If you purchase your new hamster, gerbil or guinea pig from a private owner, ask the seller about additional supplies such as the cage, toys, food bowls and water bottles. Bedding may be easily obtained elsewhere, but finding these items can be a hassle if you don't live near a pet store. The previous owner might be willing to throw in these supplies for free, but be prepared to pay at least 'friend prices' for the more expensive items. The seller may want to keep the supplies for another pet in the future.
- Many department stores carry a surprisingly large array of small animal supplies, from pellet food to bedding to toys. These stores may not carry the high-end supplements or cages offered by specialty pet stores, but what they do carry is often cheaper than the equivalent product at a commercial pet store. Even groceries stores have been known to carry a few items suitable for hamsters, gerbils or guinea pigs. If you find yourself out of food or bedding at 2 in the morning, you may want to try your local 24 hour retail store first.
- If a pet store offers the animal, it most likely offers the supplies. Some pet owners discover their guinea pig needs a shampoo or their hamster needs a grooming brush. A well-stocked pet store should offer these unusual supplies, or at least be able to order them from a supplier. Oftentimes a small exotic pet requires special food supplements which aren't compatible with other breeds such as rabbits. A local pet store would be the best chance for finding appealing treats and unusual cage designs.
- There are pet superstores which promote their wares online. For those who cannot afford to make too many trips to a distant pet store, supplies can often be ordered in bulk through online pet supply stores. This might prove appealing for non-perishable items such as bedding or Habitrail parts, but food pellets bought in bulk may not remain fresh enough for small animals to consume. A gerbil or hamster may spend his or her entire life in the original cage, but a growing guinea pig may need a bigger home someday. Superstores that offer wholesale prices may be the best sources of larger cages for multiple pets as well.