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Photograph: Courtesy Mission Critter

The best pet stores in San Francisco

Take your four-legged friend on a tour of the best pet shops across San Francisco for toys, treats and more

By Aiden Arata

Bay Area pets have it good: between the temperate weather, the parks, and the cosmopolitan tastes of SF dwellers, it’s no wonder the city is home to a bevy of pet stores devoted to pampered animals. With passionate staff and tantalizing goodies to peruse, pet shopping can be more fulfilling than your basic errands (move over, fancy grocery stores). Plus, these spots welcome furry friends who like to pick out their own swag, turning a routine litter run into an outing with your best friend. The Bay’s alternative roots shine through in these neighborhood establishments, where you’ll find organic catnip, raw dog treats, and other bespoke treasures that you won’t see in a chain store (it's easy for both you and your dog to eat vegetarian in this city). There’s even something for those of us whose furry friends are, well, not so furry—bird and reptile experts ensure your best friend gets the care they deserve. If you’re looking for treats, training aids and so much more, San Francisco’s best pet stores have you covered.

SF’s top pet stores

Photograph: Courtesy the Animal Connection

1. The Animal Connection

Shopping Outer Sunset

While the Animal Connection may be off many San Franciscans’ beaten path, the city’s largest independent pet store is well worth the trip. The shop’s spacious interior is filled with all things animal, from food and bedding to toys and care guides. The Animal Connection’s devotion to educating pet owners is bar none: in the shop’s front entrance, stacks of complimentary literature offer information on critters from chinchillas to aquatic turtles. In addition to supplies, the Animal Connection sells live fish, birds, reptiles, and rodents. If you’re looking for a new friend but unsure of where to start, the on-staff bird and reptile experts are nonpareil; with the largest selection of reptiles in the city, lizard lovers will be especially pleased. If you already have an exotic pet, take advantage of the shop’s moderately priced grooming and boarding for reptiles, birds, and small animals. Additionally, the Animal Connection frequently offers free wing and nail grooming for owners of birds and small animals, and all new parents to shelter pets get 15% off their first purchase if they bring their adoption papers.

Photograph: Courtesy Animal House

2. Animal House

Shopping Lower Haight

Animal House is the perfect cap to a day at the Duboce dog play area: a short walk from the park, this snug shop offers a tantalizing assortment of balls, tug toys, and squeakers for spirited pups. Your other pets won’t feel left out—Animal House offers staples such as food, litter, toys and grooming supplies for dogs and also cats, birds, and small animals. After a greeting from resident pups Buffy and Bochy, peruse aisles of organic pet shampoo and grain-free food. Holistic and outdoorsy pet owners will want to stock up on Cedarcide, a natural flea and tick solution—Animal House is the only stockist within 500 miles. The staff here is cheerful and knowledgeable, fielding an array of questions with expert recommendations that won’t break the bank. In fact, most products at Animal House cost less than comparable items at nearby chain stores, and the accompanying warmth and professionalism are priceless.

Photograph: Courtesy Cal's Pet Supply

3. Cal’s Pet Supply

Shopping Outer Richmond

Cal’s Pet Supply is tucked into a quiet stretch of Outer Richmond; the shop’s quaint, friendly atmosphere is befitting a 30-year-old neighborhood staple. Antlers, bully sticks, and other natural chew toys are displayed in wicker baskets, and clothing and toys for dogs and cats are laid out to best catch the store’s bright natural light. Additionally, Cal’s offers bulk birdseed, a variety of fish foods, and, for the adventurous, cans of dried crickets for birds and reptiles. The best buy here might be the Pet Odor Exterminator candles, which are enzyme formulated to remove even the most persistent odors, replacing them with sweet scents such as strawberry and lavender-chamomile. Cal’s prices are competitive, and the service is top-notch. Stop by the counter for a treat for your pet and a lollipop for yourself.

Photograph: Courtesy the Animal Company

4. The Animal Company

Shopping Noe Valley

Stepping into the Animal Company and the first thing you’ll notice is noise. Chirping, cooing, cawing: San Francisco’s oldest pet store specializes in birds. This includes sales, boarding and grooming for domestic breeds, though curious window shoppers are welcome to stop in just for a meet-and-greet. In addition to the cacophony of feathered friends, you might hear one or both co-owners—who have over four decades of experience in the pet biz—chirping about their day with a customer. (When we visited, we overheard regulars discussing human health and relationships in addition to the standard animal fare—that, in our opinion, is devoted customer service.) This store may be for the birds, but other pets aren’t left out: the front section offers a selection of fare for dogs, cats and other small animals.

Photograph: Courtesy Bernal Beast

5. Bernal Beast

Shopping Bernal Heights

Located in cozy Bernal Heights, Bernal Beast is a haven for neighborhood pets. The front window boasts handmade signs advertising everything from chicken feed to animal memorial service consultations; inside, you’ll find ample treats for dogs and cats—the bulk bins offer biscuits by the pound for dogs who have been very good—and a formidable wall of shampoos. Fish tanks glug happily in the back of the store. Goldfish, guppies and other standards are available for purchase on the spot, while rarer (and pricier) breeds can be ordered ahead of time and picked up from the shop. The staff is an excellent resource for conflicted buyers, ready to recommend a neighborhood groomer or help you choose between two brands of pet food. Bring your best friend by the counter on the way out for a complimentary snack.

Photograph: Courtesy Pawtrero Hill Bathouse & Feed Co.

6. Pawtrero Bathhouse and Feed Co.

Shopping Mission Bay

Pet portraits line the walls in this food and grooming hub in Portrero Hill, and you can expect to swap pet pics with the enthusiastic sales staff. Pawtrero is well stocked with everything from toys to health supplements for dogs and cats, but the main draw is the DIY dog grooming room. The first-come, first-serve bathing stations offer all the accoutrements an amateur groomer could ask for: aprons, shampoos, towels, air dryers, and an assortment of brushes, combs and nail clippers. At $12 a pop with discounts when you buy in bulk, there’s no reason not to keep Spot looking his best. And for those without dogs, consider this bonus of shopping sans pup: Kush, Pawtrero’s amenable kitty, will sidle up for a scratch.

Photograph: Courtesy Mission Critter

7. Mission Critter

Shopping Mission

Despite its location in the oft-swarming Mission, Mission Critter has a breezy layout with plenty of room for shoppers and their pets. Spaciousness is achieved by way of a carefully curated collection of wares that cater mostly to cats and dogs. Small dogs, especially, will feel at home here, where they can represent their favorite team with an ample selection of puppy sportswear repping the Giants, Warriors and Raiders. What keeps neighborhood animal lovers coming back? A staff who’ll remember your pet’s name, and Polka Dog’s chicken jerky, a bestseller that will have your dog on her best behavior. An additional treat is Louise, the store kitty. (Barkers beware: Louise has little patience for nosy hounds; get too close, and she might bat your pup on the nose.) Mission Critter also offers low-cost vaccination clinics and Ask the Expert events, in which professional trainers and behavioralists come in to field your burning questions.

Photograph: Courtesy Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Food

8. Jeffrey's Natural Pet Food

Shopping Duboce Triangle

Jeffrey’s Natural Pet Food boasts rainbow décor and seasonal window dressings—inside, the staff is just as enthusiastic as the shop’s façade would suggest. Boasting ten years in business and three locations, Jeffrey’s offers a variety of locally produced, eco-friendly goods for dogs and cats, as well as training classes at it North Beach location. What really sets this SF mini-chain apart, however, is the house brand raw food. After founder Jeffrey Dotson discovered that a raw food diet healed his two cats of two very different medical problems, he felt that he’d discovered his calling. Jeffrey’s treats and food, available for cats and dogs, are fresh, raw and handmade to provide maximum nutrition. If you’re worried about your pet eating cleaner than you do, consider this: Jeffrey’s food is sustainably sourced and produced down to its compostable packaging, which benefits all creatures.

Photograph: Courtesy Pet’s Corner

9. Pet's Corner

Shopping Inner Richmond

Don’t let this Inner Richmond standby’s unassuming exterior fool you; upon entering, you’ll find a wall of regulars and a resplendent dog statue that appears to also function as a fountain for thirsty canine customers. Pet’s Corner carries a wide range of supplies for dogs and cats—the shop’s strongest selection is probably its food. Whether you’re looking for freeze dried, raw, canned or standard kibble, you’ll find ample options at a moderate price point here. Overwhelmed by your options? The staff at Pet’s Corner is armed with advice from both professional and personal experience. If you have a little critter, the selection of bunny and guinea pig fare is smaller, but well curated, with plenty of bedding, snacks and toys for pets of all sizes.

Photograph: Courtesy Sunset Pet Supply

10. Sunset Pet Supply

Shopping Outer Sunset

This cozy spot is the perfect place to pick up a new treat or toy after a day at dog-friendly Ocean Beach. Sunset Pet Supply’s stock is skewed towards dogs and cats, with a more limited selection of supplies for small animals and chickens. Whether you feed Fluffy grain-free, raw or “biologically appropriate,” Sunset Pet has your pet’s health in mind—even their chicken feed is USDA certified organic. Local treats supplement the standard fare, and a feline-friendly wall of feathery toys and catnip mice is complimented by a display of balls and squeaky toys for pups.


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