in the world of pets, there is obviously a wide variety of animals. if i were to break it down into two major types off hand, it would be ‘most pets’ and ‘exotic pets’. some regular pets exhibit many of the same mannerisms as exotics, and they can even share some food, treats, litter and living supplies. most cats and dogs are pretty straight forward, with some being a little more exotic than others. moving into the world of rodentia (and probably reptiles and others that i am less familiar with), it is a different story.
hamsters, mice and other small rodents are more quirky than most people realize. while care is pretty straight forward, taking care of them properly may involve a little more than imagined. forgoing this proper treatment doesn’t jeapordize the animal so most don’t realize it and it works out. guinea pigs, rabbits and some other animals require even more care and just throwing them generic small mammal food isn’t good for them. moving to the truly exotic, like a chinchilla, and improper care for a month or two will kill the animal.
pet stores in shopping malls are notorious for not giving their animals the proper care. small cages, poor ventilation and poor food/water conditions are the tip of the iceberg. fortunately for the stores, many pets get purchased before serious harm can occur and the pets go on to lead a better life. unfortunately for pet stores, people buying pets from them support the store which leads to other animals getting poor treatment and possibly living miserable lives.
pet stores cater to families that aren’t ready to adopt a pet. the local pet shelter and adoption facility (Denver Dumb Friends League) will not adopt a pet to just anyone. they briefly interview you and try to get some assurance that the pet will be given a good home. there is a reason they do this! when you see rabbits in pet stores shortly before easter, most get adopted by little kids who want a rabbit for easter, then promptly lose interest a week later. these rabbits are often out of sight, out of mind, or resold/rehomed without consideration.
today, we saw a female chinchilla at the pet store in FlatIron Crossing. being recently exposed to the world of chinchillas via spudlet, i have a decent bit of knowledge about the little creatures, proper care and what not to do. we both dread seeing a chinchilla in a pet store because they are invariably treated very poorly, usually at serious risk of killing them within months. today was no exception. the cage was big (good), very well lit (bad), had no circulation/ventilation (very bad), a plastic home (very bad to deadly), was too warm (very bad), had decent food (good), sitting water (bad), a dust bath left in there full time (bad) and nothing to chew on, other than the plastic house (deadly). the pet store wanted $249 dollars for the little creature which is cost prohibitive to most people and ensures the chinchilla will live in those bad conditions for a longer time.
when i say “deadly”, it isn’t a joke. chinchillas must have something to chew constantly. pumice stones, pieces of wood (not flavored/treated) and other materials are a good start. if a chinchilla doesn’t chew, their front two teeth keep growing and eventually it will require a vet to file the teeth down. while this sounds annoying but hardly deadly, consider that the teeth don’t only grown down, they grow up, and keep growing up into the base of their skull, into their eyes and eventually their brain. this condition falls under Malocclusion and can happen in months if the chinchilla is not given the proper living environment and things to chew.
so we have a pet store that has a chinchilla living in very bad conditions and priced to the point where most people will not buy it. this is essentially a guarantee that the chinchilla will not live a moderate life and will possibly die in months. the chinchilla was already chewing her own fur, had some form of ear injury and had overly red ears, all signs that the chinchilla is on a quick road down hill. the sad part about this is not only that it is very common, but that a well-breed chinchilla sold by a responsible and knowledgeable breeder goes for less than half the cost of that poor chinchilla.
pet stores should be required to certify before selling a given type of pet. there should be stricter laws that help guarantee exotic pets are not being treated poorly. there should be random inspections of these stores to stop them from housing and selling sick guinea pigs like one of the four this store had. improper care should equate to stiff fines and revocation of the certification, preventing them from selling more.
there is a loose collection of chinchilla owners and breeders that rescue chinchillas being kept in poor conditions, or being given up by people that can’t take care of them. such chinchillas are known as “rescue chins” and often end up in great homes and get the proper care by people who appreciate and know about the exotic creatures. while spudlet has the room to take in a chinchilla or two, we can’t afford to take in every one we see at pet stores like this (and you can’t just take any two chins and make them live together). worse, buying such a rescue chin only motivates the store to keep selling them. failing rescue, we did purchase three huge chew sticks (that should last for months) and get permission to give them to the little chinchilla. it should be enough to keep her teeth in better shape until someone can adopt her. hopefully, it is someone that has read up on chinchillas as they are excellent pets; high maintenance, not cheap but very much worth it.