Hartz Mountain Small Animal Cages

I’m not the victim of this; rather customers were.

I was an employee at a Wal-Mart that still sold small animals besides fish, and I’m a college graduate with a degree in biology. One of my first jobs was in the pet department and as a result I ended up being the first contact many new potential owners had with pet care. I had to educate more than one fish owner about not cleaning a tank completely, and to never clean with bleach(!).

I often had questions about how to take care of gerbils, hamsters, and other small mammals. I would recommend glass aquariums of at least ten gallons; they prevented litter from digging, were easy to clean, with a screen cover had plenty of ventilation, and prevented the animal from chewing the container as can happen with plastic.

Plastic is bad for a number of reasons for small mammals: urine tends to stain and stay in plastic as with other odors, it is easily chewed and potentially ingested, clouds quickly from digging activities which also increases the surface area for bacterial growth, and the list goes on. Hartz mountain made a number of very small (less than 1.5 gallon volume) plastic small mammal containers. They were cheaper than a 10 gallon aquarium, but I never recommended them.

Here’s why: on top of the plastic design, they had a water bottle that was unusual. For the ease of the owner, one can assume, it was an accordion design that didn’t (and indeed couldn’t) open to be refilled: one needed to only squeeze it underwater and it would refill when released.

Nice in theory.

Here’s what would happen in practice: the animal is in the cage. The air pressure changes, which can happen with a phenomenon we call “weather.” If the pressure drops, the water-bottle is now overpressurized and the easier-than-normal-flow nozzle sprays water into the very tiny plastic poorly ventilated cage of a small mammal that has a hard time maintaining it’s body temperature with dry fur. With the small cage, not only is there no escape from the liquid there is also no place to go to dry off.

Result: small animal dies quickly from hypothermia, or a slow lingering death from disease as the damp conditions quickly take their toll on the animal’s system. (Hamsters and gerbils are arid to desert living creatures, not adapted to cold and damp.).

I dissuaded customers at every turn against Hartz Mountain after only one or two distraught owners came in with pets that were dead or dying (about one week on the job). I could never in good conscience recommend any of their products after that.

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