Safe Pet Care for Kids: 16-year-old Bethesda Twins Pave the Way

Twins Yvonne and Sky Zhu with their hamster, Mocha | Provided Photos

Sixteen-year-old twins Yvonne and Sky Zhu are on a mission to change the way people think about and care for the smallest, and often most vulnerable, pets.

The Bethesda-based twins founded FatPotat two years ago after discovering the dearth of safe and ethical products for their own precious hamster, Mocha.

Through their business, the pair are tackling the harmful idea that small pets require minimal care and are cheap or replaceable.

“We really wanted to help spread these suitable products to a wider audience because we had gone through this struggle ourselves,” Yvonne says.

Yvonne says the struggle came from seeing what products pet stores would have on hand for small pets—especially knowing that in many cases, they would be for kids taking care of these pets.

“Most of the time, lots of these small pets are marketed as starter pets for young children, and a lot of the accessories sold in pet stores are marketed also for kids—for example, a lot of them are brightly colored and made of plastic and are very small, which makes them difficult to clean and you [have to] clean them more often,” Yvonne says.

Additionally, the girls caution that enclosures that are too small cause hamsters and other small rodents to exhibit stress behaviors—like excessive digging, biting handlers or other hamsters, chewing their enclosure bars, freezing in their owner’s presence or refusing food.
The twins say their enclosure for Mocha, which they built themselves, is around 5 feet by 2 feet. PetMD places the minimum floor space needed at 40 by 22.5 inches, or about 3 feet by 2 feet, for Syrian hamsters like Mocha. Many hamster enclosures on the market at common pet retailers can be a mere third of that size.

Yvonne and Sky’s passion for pets and education took root before the duo was even 10 years old. Early in life, the pair weren’t able to have larger pets like cats or dogs, but they always enjoyed seeing them at an annual pet expo.

This year, for the first time, the twins won’t just be attending the expo—they’ll be presenting their own exhibit.

Jamie and Jessica Hatch of “Gone to the Snow Dogs” will share best practices about hotel and RV travel with pets at this year’s Super Pet Expo | Photo courtesy of Super Pet Expo

The Super Pet Expo, which will be held March 15 to March 17 at the Dulles Expo Center, in Chantilly, Virginia, will include doggie capture the flag, a romp pit, a fashion show and frisbee stunts by champion stunt dogs. The twins will represent one of more than 100 exhibitors who will be addressing pet adoption, pet care and health, grooming, food and daycare. Adult day passes for the expo (12+) are $15 and child passes (4-11) are $10. Weekend passes are $20 and $10, respectively. Kids ages 3 and younger can attend free with one per adult.

The twins will be donating their proceeds from the expo to small animal rescue organizations. One-hundred percent of FatPotat’s shop profits go to supporting these rescues.

“We believe as an organization that small animal rescues are extremely important to helping stop pet mills because a lot of the animals you get at pet stores are from these mills where the ethics aren’t really the best, so we want to support these rescues,” Sky says.

Currently, the girls say they are supporting six rescues—one of which is a local Maryland rescue called Small Angels Rescue, which rescues gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters and other rodents in Maryland and the DMV.

One of Yvonne and Sky’s products, which is available through their website and at the expo, is the DIY Wacky Hut Hideout Kit. The kit was designed to give kids an active role in providing for their pet. The kit is composed of nontoxic glue, birchwood dowels, nontoxic paints and birch plywood. The DIY hideout is available for $20.45.

Keep up with the twins and their projects at Find more information about the Super Pet Expo at


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here