As with most retail venues, not all pet stores are created equal. The varying needs of pet owners have led to the creation of uniquely-defined subcategories. Unfortunately, this diversity also means that not every pet store may carry the item you need—especially if you’re looking for airline-friendly equipment. We’ve identified the four most popular subcategories to explore what, specifically, they can offer traveling pet parents. We hope these categories, Natural/Organic, National Chains, Multi-Purpose, and Online stores, will help you shop more strategically for airline-friendly supplies, regardless of the type of pet store in your neighborhood.
Natural or Organic
The “mindful living” trend has extended into the world of pet care, and pet stores have begun to capitalize on the growing demand for organic and “all-natural” pet supplies. Whether it’s chemical-free cat litter or BPA-free toys, natural and organic pet stores have a strong consumer base. These stores often carry natural and organic food, toys, clothing, and cleaning products, as well as a range of handmade or independently-produced supplies, such as collars and leashes.
If this is your only option to prepare for your upcoming pet-friendly trip, stick to stocking up on toys and treats. These pet store tend to be exorbitantly priced despite the lack of data to support “all-natural” pet products. As a result, you may want to hold off on larger, more expensive purchases, such as large bags of food and pet carriers. In fact, a natural/organic pet store may not even carry the heavy-duty, airline-approved carriers you need to fly. If you’re in the market for one, opt for an online retailer or find another pet store.
Large, national pet store chains, such as PetSmart, Petco, Pet Supplies Plus, and Petland Discounts, are the tried and true favorites of pet parents across the world. These large stores have nearly everything you need to raise a pup from infancy to adulthood. If you have one of these in your town or neighborhood, consider yourself lucky—this is a one-stop shop for all things pet travel.
If you’re stocking up on supplies for an upcoming vacation, you can find nearly everything you need at a national chain: food, toys, treats, harnesses, seatbelts, and crates and carriers of all sizes. However, those with access to these types of stores should prioritize carriers and other safety equipment. National chains have wide selections of airline-approved carriers, and they are often sold at the lowest prices available at brick-and-mortar stores. These are also excellent stores for purchasing dog seat belts, safety harnesses, and secure collars to guarantee your pet’s security for the duration of your trip.
Multi-purpose pet stores are as ubiquitous as they are varied. These retail venues are often presented in conjunction with another service; they might share a space with a groomer, a pet boarding facility, or an independent veterinary office. Though the selection is often limited, the items are likely carefully curated to support the product offered through the venue. If your local groomer has a retail section, you should expect to find a selection of shampoos, brushes, and collars/leashes. If a boarding facility has a boutique, you’ll likely see toys, treats, and a limited selection of food.
Multi-purpose pet stores are some of the most difficult for pet travel shopping. Odds are, you won’t be able to find specific items unless they are similar to the service the shop provides. However, most will provide a few travel-related necessities: collars, leashes, and small toys. Though the selection will be very limited, the products offered at multi-purpose stores are chosen for a purpose. If you’re shopping at the boarder, you might see more sturdy collars and harnesses for in-facility use. If you’re shopping at a salon, you might find handmade or artful collars and leashes. However, don’t plan to stock up on travel supplies at these stores—they are often very expensive.
As with most industries, pet supply providers have moved to online venues. If you shop online, you’ll be able to find everything and anything related to pet travel. Online shoppers can utilize customer reviews to steer them in the correct direction, and purchasing several items from varying sources is possible from the comfort of your living room couch. Online retailers can come in the form of large, national chains (Chewy.com, for example), or small, local boutiques trying to branch into the online market.
As with all pet store options, online retails have their own set of disadvantages. Purchasing large, important items, such as airline-approved carriers, may be more accessible, but you will not be able to experience the quality of the product until after you have made the purchase. If you’re torn between shopping online and at a brick-and-mortar store, check out our guide; we break down the benefits and drawbacks of each option to help you decide which is best for your travel needs.
If you’re on the hunt for some airline-friendly pet supplies, you can find the appropriate materials at nearly every pet store. If your options are limited, you will be able to find a version of what you need at every iteration of pet store we have described. However, if you have a couple of options, be discerning with your purchasing—it could save you a lot of money and guarantee a better-quality product.