Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published June 14th 2014
An Aww-some Pet Shop
Pets at Home, 80 Bushey Road, Raynes Park, New Malden, SW20 0JQ
We'd been putting it off for ages, but when our guinea pig run practically snapped in half, we finally accepted that we would have to buy a new one. After searching online and looking through numerous designs, it was decided that the type to get was exactly the same one as we had before: a long ark with sheltered areas and doors on either end.
We bought the last run at New Malden branch of Pets at Home, the same place we bought our guinea pigs. Their website showed that they still had the same design available, so on my Dad's day off, we drove down.
Outside the store there were various rabbit hutches, runs, and bird baths, but not quite what we were after. The runs on display had a flat lid, which makes catching guinea pigs a lot easier, but would also an unfortunately appealing spot for our neighbour's cat to sun bathe.
Expecting there to be further choice inside, I stepped through the doors, intent on my mission. But I am easily distracted, especially when it comes to all things cute and furry. Is it unfaithful to gaze longingly at other animals when your beloved pets are waiting for you at home?
Gazing is as far as it went, I swear. I would never cheat, and secretly buy another guinea pig behind their back. Do you think they'd spot the foreign hairs on my clothing?
My gazing began at with the chinchillas, moved on to degus, then guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, and hamsters. As Pets at Home is such a big store, the pens they are kept in are generally larger than your average pet shop, allowing the critters to run - or hop - about a bit.
As well as being able to buy young animals, there is also an adoption centre for animals that either need rehoming or have special needs. Several were in need of new homes, including a black white rabbit called Ryan, who had respiratory problems.
Moving from fluff to feathers, the New Malden branch sells chickens too. For those looking for something more exotic, a trip to the reptile centre will introduce you to several species of snakes, lizards, and geckos. If you are interested in getting a reptile, but have never had them before, then there are several guide books;. I had a flick through a book on tortoises, and it was very comprehensive, naming all they different breeds, their diet, temperament, etc.
Having done so much browsing, Dad and I had split off in different directions, but being predictable, he was easy to find in the aquatic area. I'm not particularly a fish person, which you can probably tell by the fact that I was more interested in the tanks than I was the actual fish. Filled with water, swaying plants, and illuminated by lights, they looked quite beautiful. Hopefully the fish like them too.
Once you've decided which pet is right for you, you'll then need lots of accessories to keep them fed, sheltered, and entertained. I love buying things for my guinea pigs; I think it must be the same kind of joy parents-to-be get when buying loads of baby clothes that the child will grow out after three wears.
There were dozens of treats I would have liked to get them, but eventually I settled for a few nibbles, such as Excel Oregano Cubes, gnaw sticks, and a leafy dried salad mix. Another thing I couldn't pass up was a giant bag of wood shavings. Since it is not always in stock at the supermarket, it was a good idea to stock up, and because I was buying, there was a good saving to be had.
Now onto the thing I actually came in for. A guinea pig run. There they were, all lined out, but could I find what I was after? Of course not. There was something close, but it was the grating that came away, not a small door. Having a large opening like that can only result in one thing: The Great Escape music, please.
I asked a member of staff, who said, although what I wanted may be available on the website, they didn't have it in stock at their store. I could, however, order it on line, and get a 'click and collect' service, where it would be delivered to the store, and we could come and pick it up. To be honest, I've never quite seen the point of 'click and collect'; if you are going to order it online, then you might as well just get it delivered to your door.
On the other hand, one of my guinea pigs did need her claws clipped, and Pets at Home provide a grooming service. It was worth considering doing a 'click and collect', and booking an appointment at the same time. I asked how much claw clipping was, and she said £8. Obviously they do a lot more than just manicures. If you have dogs, cats, or animals with long fur, then you can get the full grooming experience.
If your pet's problems are a bit more serious that a scruffy coat, then they also have a veterinary surgery. Although the branch in New Malden has all the works, not every store will have all these features. You can find out where your local store is here, and see what facilities they have.
As a long timec guinea pig owner, it was great to see the lovely big playspace the guinea pigs had in the store. Do you keep yours inside or outside?
Also I learnt about a new animal, the degu, from reading your article. Thanks for the education.
I remember visiting a Pets at Home that had an African Grey parrot situated right next to the doors during winter. Every time the automatic doors opened, which was every 20 seconds, the poor thing got a blast of icy cold air. This being a tropical species, it soon died from exposure. They replaced it with another one, situated in the same place. I think that's when someone called the police.