One of the most popular small pets, especially for children, are hamsters. Solitary in nature, easily looked after and supremely handleable it is little wonder that hamsters have become so popular.
If you’re looking for information and advice on hamsters as pets – both the pros and the cons – then read on to discover all you need to know. Below you’ll find a complete “beginners guide” to assessing whether a hamster might be right for you – or your children – and what to expect if you decide to take the plunge.
Pros & Cons of Hamsters as Pets
Having been domesticated for decades, we know an awful lot about the care of hamsters in captivity. However every pet has bad points as well as good ones. The key is fully understanding what these points are, so that you can make an informed decision about whether a hamster might be appropriate for your situation.
The first real benefit of hamsters as pets is they’re very simple to look after. With hamsters having been a core part of the pet trade for years, we now have a wide assortment of specialist equipment to make their care simple. We have, for example, bags of dry hamster food, toys that have been tested for safety and secure cages in which to keep your hamster. Consequently nothing about caring for hamsters should be considered difficult to master.
A second pro to hamsters as pets is that they are very clean animals. Most hamsters will quickly get into the habit of using just one corner of their cage as a latrine. The rest of the cage will be kept spotlessly clean. As a result of this habit, cleaning hamsters also becomes easy. One can “spot clean” just the toilet corner on a regular basis (simply scoop the area out with a trowel or dustpan) and then replace the removed bedding. A full clean is therefore necessary far less often. Furthermore, for those with sensitive noses, a properly cared-for hamster is unlikely to produce unpleasant smells, making them ideal for the home.
From a child’s perspective, another benefit of hamsters is their cheek pouches, which can make them absolutely fascinating to watch. Fill up the food bowl and watch your hamster busily trying to cram as much as possible into its pouches before stumbling back to its bed and depositing the food into a secret “cache”.
Lastly, the fact that hamsters are aggressive towards one another is also, somewhat oddly, a benefit. After all, when keeping many small mammals such as gerbils or mice it is kindest to keep two or more together for company. With hamsters, however, the situation is altogether different. While they will live together as youngsters, after a few months bloody battles can break out. As a result it is best to keep hamsters alone. This makes for cheaper setup costs and more modest-sized cages.
As you can see, hamsters have numerous aspects that make them great pets. However they are far from perfect, which is one reason why a number of people opt instead for one of the other small rodents frequently encountered.
In order to provide a balanced view of hamsters as pets it makes sense now to consider these downsides.
The first of these is that hamsters have quite bad eyesight. They tend to sense things far more by sound, smell and taste. What this means is that hamsters are far more prone to biting than most other pet rodents. Stick a finger through the cage bars and a hamster is likely to plunge its teeth into your skin in order to discover if it’s edible. It won’t see you as their keeper and just ignore the finger.
The pain caused by a hamster bite should not be under-estimated, and it is not uncommon for them to draw blood as a result. Worse, however, especially when the owner is a child, is that a few bites from a hamster can quickly put you off a hamster. There have been numerous occasions where a child has grown fearful of their hamster after finding it hanging off their finger a few too many times.
The second downside to hamsters is their nocturnal lifestyle, which means they are up and about all through the night. Equally, they’ll spend most of the day curled up asleep unless they’re disturbed (where they’re often less than pleased to be awoken).
This means that siting the cage properly is important if you or your children are not to be kept awake at night. Having a hamster cage in your child’s bedroom is consequently probably not the best medicine for a proper night’s sleep.
Hamsters as Pets for Children
While many adults opt to keep pet hamsters, the reality is that they are most common among children. Here they can help children to learn about responsibilities towards living things, the importance of keeping the cage clean and the benefits of patience when taming their pet.
Properly supervised by an adult, hamsters can make suitable pets for hamsters. After all, virtually all pet shops stock them so finding a suitable hamster shouldn’t present any real problems. There are also a massive assortment of colours available, so kids will be able to pick out a colour that suits them best.
Assuming that the hamster has been handled properly from a young age, and your child is taught how to hold it properly, bites should be kept to a minimum.
Fun can be had in selecting appropriate equipment, and effort can be put into providing an interesting and balanced diet for your pet (they will eat many fruits, vegetables and wild plants as well as standard hamster seed mix).
In all, potential bites aside, hamsters can make enjoyable and low-maintenance pets for children when approached in the correct manner. That said you, as the parent, will still need to oversee the situation and ensure that feeding, cleaning and handling occurs an appropriate times to keep your hamster in the best possible condition.