Best Place to Get Tanked
5055 W. 44th Ave.
Which came first--the fish or the tank? If you're planning a home aquarium, we suggest it should be the tank. You can get that--in any size--at the Fish Den, as well as aquatic plants to gussy it up. Then you can pick out your fine, finny aquarium denizens. The Den carries both fresh- and salt-water varieties in all sizes, dispositions and color combinations, along with snails, anemones, eels and octopi. Go with the flow.
Best Items Sold for a Song
Wild Birds Unlimited
Three metro locations
Folks looking to create a user-friendly environment for birds are all a-twitter over Wild Birds Unlimited, an emporium designed to turn back yards into mini-nature preserves. The stores not only have all the stuff--an array of birdfeeders, various feed mixes, and birdhouses ranging from a studio efficiency model to a split-level ranch--that you'll need to attract a flock, but they also give you something to do once your yard is alive with song: Handbooks and videos, bird-identification manuals, viewing scopes and checklists galore await shoppers who don't yet know what to do with 25 pounds of seed and a fancy birdbath. The shop offers in-store programs and classes as well, and if you desire an entire menagerie out back, Wild Birds Unlimited also deals in butterfly and squirrel supplies.
Best Snakes and Lizards
5500 W. 44th Ave.
If you're looking seriously for a little cold-blooded something, Reptilian Haven is likely to have it. But even if you're merely a lizard lookey-loo, it's still the best place to go to see snakes, frogs and geckos this side of the Denver Zoo's Tropical Discovery exhibit. Some of the creatures here are downright obscene (including boas, scorpions and tarantulas for the heavy-metal crowd). Others--gentle, pale green iguanas up to four feet in length, neon-bright tree frogs and Cameroonian blue-bellied toads--are strangely beautiful. Reptilian Haven also sells things reptiles like to eat, but remember what the sign says: "All rodent and insect sales are final."
Best Cat Paraphernalia
5985 W. 11th Ave., Lakewood
This no-kill shelter run by the Cat Care Society is so thoroughly into cats that it not only houses and adopts them, but it sells just about any item a feline could ever hanker for in the Meow Mart, an attached boutique. Soft, purr-inducing pillow beds in tailored kitty sizes are among the most popular products sold here, but you'll also find toys--some catnip-infused, others just plain guaranteed to drive cats wild: feathery, weighted thingies called Kitty Birds, oat seeds for windowsill chewing gardens and various interactive amusements on sticks. Cats and cat lovers alike will find something to sink their claws into.
Best Cat House
Cat's Cradle Cattery
4363 Kipling St.
If you're overwhelmed with guilt at the thought of leaving your beloved kitty at a kennel while you jet off to some glamorous resort, fret no more. Cat's Cradle, where the motto is "Like staying at Grandma's," is just the place for her. With available amenities such as skylights, stereo, air-conditioning and a strict "cats only" policy to keep out the ruff!-raff, chances are Pusskins will have a better vacation than you will.
Best Dog Hotel
Tenaker Kennel and Vet Clinic
895 Laredo St., Aurora
At Tenaker, dog guests are housed in heated kennels with access to indoor/outdoor runs. There's a grooming shop and veterinarian on the premises, as well as a therapeutic swimming pool for pups in need of special care. Rates are set by the dog's weight, so you know Fido will be well-fed. Reservations are recommended--and inspections by doting comparison shoppers are encouraged.
Best Designer Dogwear
Pooch! An Emporium for Dogs and Cats
2817 E. 3rd Ave.
Walking a Chihuahua when it's 5 below is an ordeal for all concerned. So don't bark up the wrong tree--get your little handful outfitted for winter at Pooch!, where patrons can choose from fashionable designer doggy coats, sweatsuits, velvet capes, cowboy hats and functional fleece booties in all shapes and sizes. While you're there, you can pick up a personalized chow bowl and a handmade cloth collar or two.
Best Place to Get Help for a Problem Dog
Denver Dumb Friends League
2080 S. Quebec St.
Forget the private trainers--some have the habit of being "picky" about what problems they'll bother themselves to deal with. Denver Dumb Friends League training is cheap ($30), and they don't give up unless you do. Classes run for eight weeks and focus on "reward" training, which means you don't have to be a sadist with a choke collar to get your dog to listen to you. It even works for dogs that hate other dogs.