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26 Secrets Your Pet Store Won’t Tell You (But You Should Know)

Before you restock your dog food supply, adopt a puppy, or buy that cute miniature gerbil, you'd best read this.

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You will spend a lot

Yes, that guinea pig or hamster is relatively inexpensive, but if you buy a $20 animal, we know you will probably spend another $100 on the cage or tank, grooming tools, food, bed, toys, and treats—plus you’ll be back to a pet superstore every month to restock. Also, be aware of these 50 secrets your pets wish they could tell you.

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Tell us when your animal goes to the bathroom

Animals pee and poop in our store all the time—that’s why all the products on our lower shelves are sealed in plastic! We don’t mind—as long as you tell us. You wouldn’t believe how many people let their pets make a mess and just keep walking.

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Don't get scared by a high price

It’s true: You may find lower prices for pet food in big-box stores or online (though beware of shipping fees that hike up the price). But most of us have great sales and loyalty programs, and many stores (including the pet superstore PetSmart) will match prices for identical products. Check out these awesome dog powers that prove the canines are cooler than humans!

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Don't get the same cages as us

Do as we say, not as we do. Many cages and tanks in stores are overcrowded or smaller than what we recommend. We justify this because the animals are small when we get them and don’t stay with us for long. This is what animals in shelters wish you knew.

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Don't focus on the food label

Unless your dog or cat has allergies or a medical condition, it probably doesn’t need a premium, higher-priced pet food. If you truly want to ensure your pet’s long-term health, focus more on how much you feed it (and keeping it at a healthy weight) and less on the label. Find out what vets say are the best dry foods for cats.

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Give animals time to adjust

Don’t handle your small animal (hamster, bird, etc.) for a few days after you get it home. Give it time to adjust to its new environment. Save some money with these clever pet products you can easily make at home.

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We get our puppies from mills

If we sell puppies, chances are they came from a puppy mill, even if we say our animals come from “USDA-certified” breeders. (USDA standards are minimal, and the department rarely cites violations, according to a 2010 review by its Office of Inspector General.) About half of the 2 million puppies bred in mills are sold in pet stores, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Make sure you avoid buying these 8 surprisingly illegal pets.

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Accidents happen

Even in a pet superstore, animals do escape. When our juvenile ball python got out, it took us five hours to find it and coax it back into its cage­—while the store was open. Of course, we didn’t announce that over a loudspeaker to our customers.

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Go to the vet right away

Don’t be surprised if the pet we sold you has parasites, a respiratory infection, or a more serious disease. Animals often won’t show symptoms until you get them home. Many states have “lemon laws” to protect owners, and some stores have warranties or return policies. So it’s a good idea to get your animal checked out by a vet right away.

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Don't use our vets

Many vets who are contracted to work with pet stores may be hesitant to point out health issues because they don’t want to lose business from the pet superstore. They agree to work with pet stores because they know it guarantees them a stream of business. Be wary of stores' “preferred vet” or offers for free vet visits. Here are the most expensive health problems your pet could face.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest