At one point or another, your child will likely ask you for their own pet, and in many cases, this pet will be a hamster. While hamsters can make an excellent starter pet for some children – they are playful, cute, and fairly low maintenance compared to other pets – they do require careful, gentle handling, and might bite if they feel unsafe in small hands.
It’s almost certain that a toddler won’t be able to handle a hamster properly (squeeze too hard or drop by accident), which is why it’s best to wait until your child is at least six years or older. Even then, hamsters need to be handled only with adult supervision by children under eight years old.
We’ve listed a few pros and cons to help you make an informed decision before bringing a hamster into the family.
- Hamsters can be tamed if played with often and become quite loving and social.
- These critters are undeniably cute and love to play.
- Their housing set-up is fairly low maintenance – they require a roomy cage, food, water, bedding, exercise wheel and nesting box.
- They are relatively inexpensive
- They teach children responsibility
- They don’t take up a lot of space
- They prefer living solo, so you don’t need to pair up. They won’t get lonely or bored as long as they have plenty of toys and accessories to keep them busy.
- Fully grown hamsters can take several weeks to tame.
- Like all pets, they may need medical intervention during their life. Hamsters are prone to a bacterial disease called wet tail, as well as dental problems, pneumonia, skin irritations, diarrhoea, abscesses and tumours. You can expect to pay the same vet rate for a hamster, as you would any animal.
- Hamsters need clean cages to keep them from getting sick. If their cage isn’t cleaned regularly (at least once a week), it can smell.
- They can easily get lost in your child’s bedroom, and are able to squeeze into tiny holes and hiding places.
- They don’t interact well with other pets in the home, including dogs and cats.
- Hamsters love running on their wheel at night and can be loud and disrupt your child’s sleep.
- They have a short life expectancy. Domesticated hamsters typically only live for two to three years, while Syrian hamsters may live slightly longer.
Remember to adopt, don’t shop
When little animals like hamsters are raised for pet stores, they are frequently mistreated and forced into awful conditions; if you’re thinking about adopting a hamster, call a local rescue organisation first, and avoid pet stores.