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Real Hamsters Making a Comeback, But Beware

HamsterMany pet shops are seeing a upswing in people purchasing or asking about live hamsters.  Since the Zu Zu Pets toy hamsters are completely sold out around the country, some parents are coming up with bright ideas since they cannot find the real toy hamsters anywhere.  Some are going so far as buying real live hamsters for their kids.

However, anyone considering buying a real hamster on a whim should be well warned.  Owning a pet is a serious responsibility and most kids under the age of 7 will be unable to keep up with it.  They need to be fed and given fresh water regularly, played with frequently, exercised out of their cage, found after they escape, etc.  That plus the constant cleaning and re-bedding their cage at least weekly lest your house starts to smell like a barn.  Most children may have issues keeping up with the responsibility, so take care that you may end up being the hamster keeper in your house.

Note also that hamsters have some bad habits that you should be aware of before giving them to children:

  1. They eat their young.  Yeah.  Seriously.  If you get two of them, watch out.
  2. They bite, especially when awakened during the day to play after school.
  3. They are nocturnal, so expect to hear some serious hamster activity at night while trying to sleep.
  4. They are fragile, kids under the age of 6 should not be allowed to handle them as they can easily be crushed.
  5. They chew EVERYTHING.  Hamster teeth never stop growing and thus must be chewed down regularly.
  6. They die.  The average hamster life span is 2-3 years.
  7. They are more expensive than even the over priced eBay Zhu Zhu Pets.  Add up the expense of a cage, hamster wheel, hamster ball, food, bedding material and you are looking at over $400 a year in hamster related costs.

That all being said, there is no doubt that your children will enjoy a real live hamster and learn FAR more from the care and responsibility of owning a pet than they ever will playing with the robot versions.

If you want more details on hamster care, click here

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3 comments… add one

  • Tina Umlauft December 30, 2009, 5:43 am

    As an adult hamster owner I have to agree 100%. Hamsters make ABSURDLY BAD PETS for children, expecially under the age of 14.

    1. They are nocturnal by nature. When the hamster is awake, your kid should long be in bed! Waking them up during the day is cruel and the hamster can bite if awakened. Your kid will not see very much of the hamster. Also, the hamster will make noise in the night and disturb the sleep of your child.

    2. They don’t really enjoy being cuddled. While you can tame your hamster to come to your hand they absolutely do NOT like to be petted for a longer period of time. They will bite to defend themselves.

    3. They can bite quite seriously, esp. Syrian hamsters.

    4. Due to the above, your kid will lose interest in the hamster very quickly. And who can blame them? How keen would you be on a pet that always sleeps when you want to play with it, bites you when you try to wake it up or cuddle it and gets on your nerves when you want to sleep?

    5. they do not make cheap pets either if you want to keep them decently humane. Hamsters are diggers and runners which means a humane cage should be BIG. And with big I mean something like at *least* 3ft square. Cages that size are rare and very expensive, your best bet is to buy a big used aquarium (which also prevents bedding from falling out and bar chewing) or build a cage yourself. If you care about animal rights at all, you should not keep your hamster in a teensy weensy cage. Also, it is really difficult to buy good equipment (wheel, house, toys) for your hamster as most stuff sold by pet shops is just outright bad. If you want to do it right you’ll have to order from specialist online shops or craft stuff yourself. This is just not managable for a kid.

    6. do not get 2 or more hamsters. Most pet shops have no clue about sexes and you’ll be drowned in puppies. Hamsters can have up to 14 pups! Rearing the pups is a science in itself – the mother will eat the pups if stressed or for several other reasons. And how do you find good owners for that many puppies? Don’t sell them back to the pet shop, they might end up as snake fodder. Even if you get 2 hamsters of the same sex you’ll probably have troubles as most sorts of hamsters are loners by nature (only some sorts of dwarf hamsters can be kept in groups and only under certain conditions). Trying to keep more than 1 syrian in a cage will result in biting and fighting and most probably in a dead hamster.

    Hamsters make excellent pets for working adults who have no time to care for a pet during the day, are content to mostly watch their pet instead of cuddling it and have some space, money and time to burn on their hamster hobby. But for kids, especially young kids they are a complete catastrophe.

  • none January 10, 2010, 6:21 pm

    read Tina Umlauft, she is absolutely right.

    Unless YOU as a grown man or parent want to care for the animal; dont ever consider buying one for your kid(s). kids just cant do this kind of responsibility if too young.
    Tina, what about age? The youngsters i have within my family, i wouldnt trust them with a hamster below 6 or 7 years of age, if you want some(just some) of THEIR responsibility.
    (and even that might be too low)

    hamsters are fun, anyway!
    cuddling isnt that special thing wanted by the animals themselves, btw, just remember. watching is fine enough.

    i was fond of the dwarf hamsters, small and cute.

  • Tina Umlauft January 14, 2010, 12:55 am

    I would say a kid should be at least 12 years old, better 14+ if you want to buy a hamster. Not just because of the responsibility (which, in the end is *always* yours, as the parent) but because I think the kid should be able to actually see the pet. And that means that the kid must be old enough that you can allow her/him to stay up until the hamster wakes up.

    You might also want to consider getting the hamster from a shelter or a small breeder where they know more about it’s waking times. Some hamsters get up really late (midnight), some get up earlier in the evening. This depends on the individual animal. Dwarf hamsters usually also show several times during the day but their real activity phase is in the evening/night, too.

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