TWO GUINEA PIGS reshaped the dynamic in the Spencer-Tippet household, a busy three-kid family brought together by Snickers and Butterscotch. “Going to the pet store helps the kids see all the ways they can play with the pigs, what to feed them and learn how to budget for it,” said Nicole Spencer, who runs the crew of 5, 7 and 12 with her fiancé, Dale Tippet Jr. All the kids have different sets of ideas for their new pets, which makes their shopping habits interesting to watch.
The family’s middle kid and only boy, Aiden, is a Minecraft master. He’s interested in colorful pieces, the feel of bedding textures and small animal toys he can put together himself. “He’s also the most hands-on with the guineas, so we’re always looking for products that help with that,” Spencer says. Toys that give the kids interactive playtime are also a hit with all three.
Critterville Hamster Homes
MidWest Homes for Pets
KEY FEATURES: A variety of cages with fun themes like fast cars and butterflies, with clip-on art and colorful decals to dress up the home for hamsters, gerbils and mice.
SALES TIP: Heads up to gear heads, the wheels are fitted with external tires or flowers that spin around while the pet runs.
midwesthomes4pets.com, (800) 428-8560
Ware Loofah Salad
Ware Pet Products
KEY FEATURES: This small animal snack keeps hammies and rabbits from getting bored in the cage and trims their teeth, too.
SALES TIP: A true buddy treat — supervision is recommended so kids can plop down by the cage while their pets chow down.
warepet.com, (602) 257-8803
Small Animal Bear Rug
Marshall Pet Products
KEY FEATURES: Small animals of any size can play hide and seek here, slipping in and out of this rug through the paws and the bear’s mouth.
SALES TIP: Easy cleanup afterward. Toss this fleece blanket in the washing machine when it gets soiled.
marshallpet.com, (800) 292-3424
The youngest, Abby, is a budding preschool performer who brings gifts to the people she loves and walks her imaginary dog every day. “We’d have a much bigger pet if Abigail could have her way,” Spencer says. When Abby shops, she’s investigating ideas for her next companion pet, maybe a ferret or a rabbit. “You can count on her to ask for the biggest toys in the store.”
Teach ’N Treat
Living World by Hagen
KEY FEATURES: An interactive and educational toy that teaches small pets to search for treats through observation, listening and learning.
SALES TIP: Help kids bond with their pets using these interactive tools that keep small animals’ minds active and alert.
hagen.com, (800) 724-2436
CritterTrail Wide Open Door Fun-nel
KEY FEATURES: Designed with Syrian hamsters in mind, this tube is 10 inches long and easy to attach and clean.
SALES TIP: The large top access door is good for kids who want to get both hands in their pet.
kaytee.com, (800) 529-8331
LED Lighted Run-About Ball
KEY FEATURES: The illuminated exercise ball for hamsters or gerbils gives off a soft glow that lets people play with pets during their most active hours.
SALES TIP: Good timing — this ball includes a 10-minute timer that can be set for strategic amounts of fun.
kaytee.com, (800) 529-8331
On the verge of being a teen, Addison likes to chill. She’s also recovering from a scoliosis-related spinal surgery, so she spent a lot of the summer playing inside. “She’s the most patient with the small animals,” Spencer says. “Our house has a lot of energy, and Addison is the one who will sit quietly with a treat and encourage them to come out and play.”
KEY FEATURES: Triple baked for crunchiness and covered with a variety of seeds and grains so you can sneak in calcium, vitamins and nutrients.
SALES TIP: Crunch a bunch: These sticks stimulate the natural urge to forage in chinchillas, prairie dogs, degus and hamsters.
exoticnutrition.com, (757) 988-0301
Monsters Wood Munchies
KEY FEATURES: Kids can introduce their real-life pets to big screen characters from MONSTERS INC. with wood munchies based on the film.
SALES TIP: Great for active chewers who need to chomp out their nervous energy.
penn-plax.com, (866) 625-2385
ZZZs Super Cozy Suede Hammock
Prevue Pet Products
KEY FEATURES: This super soft brown suede hammock offers a space saving, elevated design for small animals in tight quarters.
SALES TIP: This one-step room renovation gives small animals an instant spot to snooze.
prevuepet.com, (312) 243-3624