OSU alumna creates chinchilla safe haven | News | ocolly.com

2022-04-02 05:51:25 By : Ms. Alina Fang

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Katherine Saravia, runs Pandamonium Pets, a pet store that sells items for chinchillas and other exotic animals.

After Katherine Saravia  made  Pandamoniu m  Pets  her full-time job ,  her sales tripled  and  she  and her husband  had to buy a new home to have more space for orders

Katherine Saravia, runs Pandamonium Pets, a pet store that sells items for chinchillas and other exotic animals.

After Katherine Saravia  made  Pandamoniu m  Pets  her full-time job ,  her sales tripled  and  she  and her husband  had to buy a new home to have more space for orders

Finding a home full of chinchillas down a rural road in Stillwater might be surprising.   

Pandamonium Pets owner Katherine Saravia’s decision to rescue an injured c hinchilla named Yuk i led to her starting a business. In 2015, w hile attending Oklahoma State , Saravia and her husband, Jose Marquez, started Pandamonium Pets in their one - bedroom apartment.   

“My wife showed up one day with Yuki ,” Marquez said. “ I didn't know what a chinchilla was , but I thought it looked pretty cool. A couple months later we got another chinchilla so Yuki could have a frien d. The chinchilla came with a plastic wheel that had been chewed up. A month later , the chinchilla died because of the plastic , and that's what made my wife upset. We decided we had to start making something that's safer for chinchillas.”  

Saravia searched for safer options at Petco and PetSmart but found nothing . She decided she was going to make a wheel and a few treats for her chinchillas.   

 “ I started posting on Instagram , and people started asking if they could order ,” Saravia said. “ I was a student at OSU at the time , so I opened an Etsy account . Pandas are my favorite animal, so I named it Pandamonium Pets. It took about three years to go full time. ”   

The shop makes items for chinchillas, rats, degu, birds, hedgehogs and cats. Saravia had to do her research before starting to raise chinchillas. Saravia said in school she had to work an internship to learn about exotic animals.   

After Saravia made Pandamoniu m Pets her full-time job , her sales tripled and she and her husband had to buy a new home to have more space for orders. The business was boosted again when COVID-19 hit , and people from around the world started buying online , causing her to move into her current house.   

“ We were doing wood work in the living room , ” Saravia said. “The only thing that wasn't overrun was our master bedroom. Every other bedroom, the garage and the backyard were all work spaces. Moving to this new house was really nice because downstairs is the size of our old house. Now we have upstairs as our home and downstairs as our office.”   

Through getting the word out on social media, Saravia has reached multiple countries. Saravia said being one of the only chinchilla stores that sells everything is the biggest thing that helps . She does giveaways on social media to grab people ’ s attention.   

“Most of our customers are from California, New York, Pennsylvania and Indiana ,” Saravia said. “ We ship to Canada and the United Kingdom a lot and a couple of times to Japan. In Denmark and Turkey, we have people who want to bulk order so they can sell in - store. We already do that for a lady in China.”  

Pandamonium Pets makes everything by hand for the chinchillas except the ceramic houses. Saravia makes all of the treats and food from organic materials such as bee pollen, herbs and dried flowers for the chinchillas because of their sensitive stomachs.   

Because of their sensitivity , they need specific diets. Saravia said almost every treat customers find in the store is bad for the chinchillas.   

“You have to be very careful on what you give them,” Saravia said. “If they don't get food at a regular time , they can go in to g astrointestinal s tasis, which is stomach bloat ing . If we use wood that is dirty , the chinchillas can get ringworm and we have to throw everything away that is wooden.”   

Pandamonium Pets work s with another small business to powder coat the metal cages  

because it's the only safe method for chinchillas . If a nything else is used to coat the cages , the  

animals can chip it off and eat it .  

Once business picked up, Marquez and his wife had to turn to their family for help.   

“We get at least 200-300 orders per week ,” Marquez said. “S ometimes we will get up to 400. It is hard to keep up. We have a lot of stuff premade , but there’s some people that want a specific size so we have to remake it . But it’s important that we are doing something for pets everywhere , so they can have a longer life. ”  

When Saravia’s mother, Elda Urrutia , visit ed , she help ed them pack items . Urrutia moved to Stillwater and started working a part - time job at the business in 2017.   

“I used to live in Frisco , Texas, and would visit every now and t hen,” Urrutia said. “ There was so much to do . In one day, we had enough orders to fill up my SUV with packages. Once I moved to Stillwater, I started doing the sewing for liners, hammocks and fleece items. ”    

Urrutia also enjoys making hats for chinchillas. Guatemalan hats are her favorite to make.   

Saravia said depending on the item , some times it can take 6-8 weeks to ship. The items made ahead of time can ship the next day , but custom items take longer.   

Pandamonium Pets also makes things such as picnic tables, outfits and hats for the chinchillas. After a viral social media post, people requested picnic tables for their chinchillas , and Saravia sold about 50 of them. Saravia said someone once ordered a custom 6- foot bridge for his or her Bengal cat.   

Saravia said when she started getting employees it was crazy. She started with her family but figured she needed to hire more people. She said she has social anxiety, so the first year was hard for her as an employer.    

She started interviewing people , and most employees attend OSU. Keely Larison, a junior history major, found out about Pandamonium Pets on Indeed and has worked there for a year.   

“Most of the time we get small orders , but sometimes we will get orders with 30 items on the packing list ,” Larison said. “ I run through all of the orders and write down what I am missing. I go inform everybody in the morning of what is needed for the day and start packing. Sometimes I am alone and it takes me awhile , but sometimes there are too many people in the room.”   

Larison said holidays make it easier to fall behind because of the small staff . Larison said moving houses and having more space makes it easier because everything is where it should be.  

“We have grown so much we’ve completely moved houses,” Larison said. “When I started , we were in a tiny back office and packed in to the living room. It was so crammed. When we moved , it was like we flipped the switch and everything was easier to get done.”   

Saravia said she wants to build another room so the shop will have more space because the chinchilla room is full. She plans to move to a larger room with a better air conditioning unit because chinchillas can have heat seizures if they get too hot.   

Beyond the business, Saravia runs a nonprofit that rescues c hinchillas. In the past couple of months , she has rescued six chinchillas. Misty Concardo , a customer at Pandamonium Pets, adopted one of those rescues from Saravia . Condarco found out about Pandamonium P ets looking for a wheel on Esty for her first chinchilla.   

“I contacted (Pandamonium Pets) and asked what the adoption process looked like, ” Condarco said. “They take the rescues in and have a 30-day holding period for males and a 120-day holding period for females to watch the chinchillas and get to know them before they are posted for adoption. Pandamonium Pets reached out and told me to fill out an adoption form to make sure I knew how to take care of a chinchilla. I happened to meet Katherine in Grand Prairie , Texas, and she brought the chinchilla to me.”   

Condarco is familiar with chinchillas and had one named Stitch. After adopting Nash from Pandamonium Pets , she decided to let them bond together.   

“ I lucked out because my chinchillas love each other,” Condarco said. “Sometime s it looks like I have a two-headed chinchilla because they stuff themselves together. (The chinchillas) are living pretty nice ; they have plenty of toys and take a bath every other day.”     

Condarco said having to hold chinchillas for a long time and making sure the females are not pregnant is what makes the adoption process harder than for animals such as cats and dogs.   

In college, Saravia intended become a veterinarian after she graduated .   

Saravia said she went to OSU to study zoology and pre-med but fell in love with exotic animals instead.   

“ I’m not even using my bachel o r ’ s now ,” Saravia said. “When I get asked what my full - time job is , I get weird looks when I say chinchillas. People never know what a chinchilla is, so I got a tattoo of one on my arm. When people ask , I just tell them to look.”  

Willy Saravia is Saravia’s father and one of her biggest supporters. He works with his daughter at the shop a few days per week. He cuts, sands and prepares the wood for the hardware to be put in.   

Willy Saravia said his daughter is a first - generation Guatemalan American and to see how she has graduated college and grown her business makes him proud.  

“As a dad, it is sometimes hard to see your daughter grow up because to me she will always be my little girl,” he said. “She has grown so much from learning and interacting with customers and employees. Katherine used to be an introvert, but now because the business is growing , she is constantly in the hiring process . I think it’s helping with her personal growth.”   

Willy Saravia has a chinchilla of at his home in Perkins. He said Katherine Saravia brings treats over every few months and care for his chinchilla.   

“Katherine has a great heart for little animals,” Willy Saravia said. “She tends to them as much as she can. She found out about how sensitive chinchillas were and developed a line of products for them that is safe. She is protective of her chinchillas , so she is constantly updating herself on their needs . I f something changes , she makes sure she doesn't carry that product.”  

Eventually, Katherine Saravia wants to work with a veterinarian and try to open exotic veterinarian clinics in Stillwater that are proper ly prepared .   

Katherine Saravia said next year once Pandamonium Pets builds an addition to the shop , she will expand her business and hire about 30-40 employees to reduce wait time s . During the summer, she plans to attend the Payne County Expo Center with her exotic pets to spread the word about the rescue and adoption process.