What are hamsters like as pets?

Thinking about adding hammy to your home. Here’s what you need to know.

Hamsters are cute and fun to watch. Yet if their reputation as a ‘starter pet’ for kids have you considering bringing home a hamster, there are a few things you need to know. 

What are hamsters like as pets? Hamsters may be small and docile, but they are complicated little beings. Caring for a hamster can be rewarding, but it is a commitment of time, money, and energy. Getting a hamster on impulse or to teach children about caretaking can be disastrous for you and the hamster if you are not prepared. 

Nighttime is the right time

You brought home a furry friend and now you’re trying to sleep. The problem is, your new hamster is just getting the party started. Hamsters are nocturnal. This means that if your family plans to sleep at night and interact with an animal companion during the day, you are in for a disappointment. 

Forcing a hamster to be awake during his normal sleeping hours in order to play or cuddle is stressful for your hamster. 

Let sleeping hamsters lie and plan for playtime in the early morning or evening hours. My kids are young and have pretty early bedtimes, so their time with Daisy is limited to right before bedtime and early mornings (which we experience frequently in my house).

In sickness and in health?

Hamsters can have health problems and it can come as a shock to discover that veterinary practices are not one size fits all. 

Check to see if there is a small animal specialist in your area. I have seen numerous posts on animal care social media platforms from people who are desperately seeking medical advice online because there is no small animal doctor where they live. 

In a best case scenario, a pet hamster may go their lifetime without medical issues or injuries. 

Yet bringing an animal into your home or classroom requires a commitment to be prepared for the animal’s needs, which could include medical care. 

Hamsters are prone to heart deficiencies from overbreeding. 

They can also contract colds, diarrhea, and parasitic infections. 

Be sure to pay attention to warning signs that your hamster is ill or injured

Unexpected surprises and hamster care considerations

Hamsters are clever, dexterous and like many rodents, they can slip in and out of small spaces so make sure to hamster proof your home. 

Hamsters are inquisitive, intelligent, and while they prefer to live alone, they enjoy the interaction. Exercise is a must. They can get bored easily.

Their cage should be spot cleaned daily and thoroughly cleaned weekly. 

If your hamster’s hygiene starts to lag it is a sign of potential illness. Never bathe a hamster, seek medical attention instead. 

Consider how much time and energy you have to devote to maintenance and cleaning, as well as play and interaction. 

Also, consider whether your child is seriously likely to follow through on their responsibility to the hamster. 

As rodents, hamsters’ teeth are always growing, and they need to chew. Keep them away from wires, but be sure to provide chewing surfaces. They also like to hoard their food in their cages. This means you may feed them a lot only to find buried treats. Be prepared to offer your hamster variety in their diet, including fruit, nuts, seeds, veggies, and pellets. Also, be prepared that some of it will go undigested into their secret stash, only to be thrown out when the cage is cleaned. 

And don’t forget constant access to clean water with a water bottle.

Finally, remember that a happy hamster is a quiet hamster showing no signs of outward distress. 

Conclusion

Hamsters can be warm, affectionate, and fun, but caring for them requires commitment and responsibility. Be realistic about what your child can manage. Prior to adopting a pet, you may wish to see if your local shelter allows children to volunteer. Getting a chance to safely interact with and care for a hamster before it is their full-time duty may give your child perspective. If your lifestyle and needs can easily match those of a hamster, the experience of sharing your home can be a rewarding one. 

References

The Humane Society of the United States – Is a hamster the right pet for you? 

PetMD – Hamster care 101: how to care for your hamster 

Well Minded – Is your child begging for a hamster? Do hamsters make good pets for kids?