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Hamsters: Are They Really Good Pets for Children?

Your child begs and begs for a pet, promising to diligently and lovingly care for it. You’re not ready to commit to owning a puppy, so you opt for something slightly smaller: a cute, fluffy little hamster. Small, easy to care for, a good choice for a younger child. Perfect, right?

Maybe not so perfect. In today’s society, hamsters have come to be considered the ideal child pet, but that label is somewhat flawed. Avery Ranch Animal Hospital’s professional veterinarians urge you to consider the following factors before you decide to purchase a hamster as your child’s first pet.

Sleep Patterns

Perhaps the biggest surprise for hamster owners is that they are in fact nocturnal—they burrow underground during the day and then come out at night. This might be the biggest drawback to younger children owning a hamster, as a nocturnal schedule doesn’t jive well with kids’ sleeping habits. A hamster will likely be running around, scratching, foraging, and exercising on its wheel during the nighttime, disturbing light sleepers, especially if your hamster’s cage is in your child’s room.

Handling

Another reason to reconsider a hamster as an ideal pet for your child is the way hamsters need to be handled. These animals naturally have poor eyesight and startle easily. As a result, anyone reaching in the hamster’s cage to touch or pet the animal needs to be very careful and go slow. Often, young children aren’t good with the delicacies that are required to handle a hamster, and get painfully nipped as a result. If you do own a hamster, ask your Avery Ranch veterinarian for advice on properly handling the animal and how to avoid biting.

General Care

A hamster’s bedding needs to be changed at least weekly. Their food and water needs refreshing every day. If you think your child will be prepared for this level of commitment, it may be one area in which a hamster serves as a good pet. If your child doesn’t stick to the routine, though, be prepared to start cleaning and servicing the hamster’s cage yourself.

On the whole, hamsters are less of a time and monetary commitment than, say, a brand-new puppy, but certain traits don’t make them the best pets for young children. And give the hamster some credit—they can be wonderful pets if you’re prepared for their nocturnal nature and special handling needs, and can commit to caring for them on a daily basis. Talk directly with your Avery Ranch veterinary professional for further help deciding which pet is right for you and your family.

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