Hamsters Make A Terrible Choice As Your Kid’s Pet – Here’s Why
STORY: Mandy Wong
29 January 2020
So your kid wants a pet, but cats and dogs are too expensive. While it may seem tempting to get a cute little hamster for your cute little kid, especially since it's the Year of the Rat, they’re actually a terrible first pet for children. Here’s why:
1. They’re actually nocturnal
Hamsters sleep for most of the day, and only get active really late into the night, when you and your kids are likely to already be asleep.
Forcing them to wake up for play time earlier in the day not only distresses the hamster, it’s also pretty cruel and could affect their health in the long run.
What’s more, if your hamster cage happens to be in your kids’ room, the rattling of the wheel might disrupt your children’s sleep through the night.
2. They need a much larger living space than you would expect
You’d think that the metal or plastic hamster cages sold by pet stores were good enough for the hamsters that they sell, but this is a tremendous misconception.
As cute and furry as they are, hamsters have not been domesticated by humans for as long as cats and dogs, and they’re closer to wild animals. Naturally, this means that keeping them perpetually cooped up in any closed environment is incredibly stressful to them.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends 200 square inches, or 1,290 square centimeters for all hamsters. Meanwhile, the Humane Society of the United States recommends a steel wire cage as big as 576 square inches, or 3,616 square centimeters. Most cages available in pet stores are woefully inadequate, and those that are suitable may cost hundreds of dollars.
3. They have personalities too
You may think that hamsters are simple rodents devoid of personality, but this is where you’d be wrong.
Some hamsters are able to recognise their owners and come when their names are called. Some are more affectionate and enjoy human contact. Some shy away from humans for their entire lives. Still others are always defensive when it comes to humans.
It’s highly unlikely you would be able to pick up on the hamster’s personality before you bring them home, so it’s really up to you and your kids to take the time and understand your new pet. This requires a lot of time, effort, and patience – things that most children may not have the attention span for.
On the flip side, not taking the time to understand your hamster may have the unfortunate effect of a shortened lifespan (stress can cause all sorts of illnesses), a nipped finger, or worse, pet death by neglect and abandonment.
4. They can give your kids a nasty bite when stressed
It’s ridiculously easy to stress a hamster out if neither you nor your kids know what you’re doing. Like we’ve mentioned before, stress could make your hamster more susceptible to a whole host of life-threatening sicknesses.
A stressed hamster’s first defence mechanism would be to whip around and bite the offending object, which could be your kid’s finger if they were poking the hamster or otherwise stressing it out during a bad time. Make no mistake, hamsters’ teeth are sharp and strong enough to chew through metal, so blood will certainly be drawn from such a bite.
Children must be taught and carefully monitored to ensure that they know how to put a hamster at ease while playing with it, rather than stressing it out.
5. They’re not disposable toys
We hope that reading the above tips didn’t make you think: “What’s the big deal? If it dies, we’ll just get a new one, they’re so cheap anyway.”
Hamsters are living things too! They used to be wild animals that had been captured and bred in captivity to become domestic pets for us humans – for the sole reason that we think they’re cute and fluffy and would make great ‘accessories’ to have at home, or to be ‘toys’ for our kids.
Animal lives are lives too, so let’s not treat hamsters as disposable toys, no matter how affordable they may be at the pet store. If you still want to take the plunge to get a hamster, considering adopting from the SPCA instead of shopping.