Why You Shouldn't Believe What Pet Stores Tell You

Saturday, October 19, 2013
Ok, so I've written about this before (Research, research, research!) but recent threads on the Chameleon Forums have triggered me to write about this topic again. 

All the time I see people come on the forum with an animal that is not doing well. And the first thing we ask them is to fill out the "How to ask for help form," which is just a questionnaire that helps us figure out what could be wrong and how to give people the most relevant advice. All too often the answers that people put down (like size of cage, basking bulbs, supplements, etc.) are all wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. 

So when we start to suggest corrections to their husbandry, such as to replace the useless red bulb they have with a proper UVB one, or to switch out their supplements for a safer option, the answer we get is "but this is what the pet store told me to use.

Well, don't listen to the pet store

 Nearly 100% of the time, when someone shows up on the forum with the wrong supplies, it's the fault of the pet store. Practically without fail, it's the pet store that talked them into getting a cage that is too small, a light that is harmful, and supplements which are dangerous. 

The employees at the pet store (whether it's Petsmart, Petco, or a smaller independent one) probably have no idea what they're talking about. They may tell you that they have a 2 year old veiled chameleon at home that's doing just awesome with the exact same supplies as he recommended to you. Well, I've seen the chameleons people think are "doing just awesome," and it really scares me. I've had people show me their absolutely deformed chameleon, with bent limbs, broken bones, and wavy tails and bragged about how great they were doing. All the while totally oblivious to how severe their issues were and how completely and utterly horrible their husbandry was. 

Let's face it, most pet store employees are either teenagers or young adults that couldn't find better work to do while going to school. In the case of the horrible co-worker I had that I mentioned in the other entry, he was a 30-year-old man with a felony who had never gone to college and couldn't find a better job even if he tried due to his poor behavior and ethics. And that's the person who is giving you advice about how best to care for your pet. It makes you cringe, right? 

I'm not saying pet store employees are bad people or doing it with malice, but they're ignorant and their job is to sell pets and supplies. So that's what they're going to do - sell supplies. Even if you don't need them at all or if they're the worst possible thing you could buy. And if you follow this blog you know how often I recommend one product or explain why one is a waste of money, I try to recommend what is best for your chameleon while trying to save you a little money in the process. That's why I emphasize doing your own research prior to making an investment like the one it takes to buy a pet. It's the best way to find out what products you actually need, which ones you don't, and which ones will actually be harmful. 

So next time you're in a pet store and the employee brags about how great his chameleons are doing living under a red light bulb with no UVB, stop, and take your questions elsewhere. Best-case scenario you're just going to be wasting a few dollars. But worst-case scenario your chameleon could end up with serious, and costly, medical issues. 

So shop smart! And take advice with a heavy grain of salt. 


  1. Love this article so true!!!

    Have had a Chameleon for only two years and already know so much more than any of the employees at my local Petco. They continue to house Chameleons in aquariums with standing water to drink and dead meal worms :( And then weeks later, it never fails there is a "Sick" sign on the Chameleon house. My son has repeatedly told them they are housing the Chameleons wrong. Poor babies....

    1. It's unfortunate but true! Pet store chains have a big problem in that corporate writes the rules on how to care for the animals, and these are usually based on saving money instead of doing things correctly. The employees have no choice but to follow them, and since they don't usually know any better they don't make small changes either (like misting by hand more often, not using bark chip substrates, giving them plain calcium, etc.) They just want to make their $8 an hour and go home. So in the end no one in the entire company has the animals' best interest at heart.

  2. this article is just amazing i really wonders, how you are managing all of these things together.Pet classified

  3. Amazing post!! I'd say this is true about any reptile a chain pet store has. They know very little about the animal and will tell you anything to get you to buy it. Sad but very true!

  4. Hi Olimpia, I'm William. I want to get a female veiled chameleon, and am wondering if my 16.5x16.5x30 screen vivarium is large enough. I have read that this is an okay size from some sources, and that 18 in. width is optimal in others. Please respond, as your advice would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hey William. I think you could keep a female in that size cage, especially while she's little, but I personally believe that female veileds get big enough to use a cage that is at least 36" tall as much as 24" wide. I've seen a lot of female veileds that are bigger than some male panthers so I don't think they do as well as smaller females, like panther females.

      You can certainly start off with that size but after a year of age or so I would look into upgrading. Remember that females will need a laying bin in the cage eventually, so the bigger the cage the more room you have to add things like that without over-crowding.


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