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to be daunted by the thought of getting a hamster!

(45 Posts)
MimiSam Mon 10-Oct-11 12:50:02

My (sensible) 8 year old is desperate for his first pet and wants a hamster. We have never looked after any pets before and we can get lack basic info online about cages, food, etc. But as to whether we need vetinary insurance (ie do hamsters get ill often?) or whether we could go away for the weekend and leave it (with enough food and drink of course), we're clueless...what are people's experiences of hamsters as pets for young chidlren? Advice gratefully received.

loveglove Mon 10-Oct-11 12:52:12

I wouldn't bother insuring it, and you need to leave it in the care of someone if you are going away.

It's too small to cause much in the way of vet bills.

loveglove Mon 10-Oct-11 12:54:41

As long as there is plenty of gentle handling with clean hands from a young age you should avoid a biter too. No food smells on hands is important.

Also avoid giving treats through the bars, as this might make the hamster think every time something (little fingers) is poked through the bars it is for eating.

Get a hamster ball so it can runaround - when it's in it, tape it shut many a hamster of mine has bashed into things and knocked it open.

loveglove Mon 10-Oct-11 12:55:40

Get a book about how to look after hamsters - there are lots aimed at children!

MysteriousHamster Mon 10-Oct-11 13:00:07

It's hard to get insurance for a hamster, but I would try to do my own version if I was you - put £5 a month or so away in case of illness, and that way you have your own insurance fund to dip into if need be.

Make sure you get a big enough cage - most sold in shops are too small.

Be wary of plastic rotastak types - I had these when I was a kid but they are not good for syrian hamsters as the tubes can get too small for some.

Good breeders are supposed to be better than pet shops but I wouldn't personally know where to find one - there are several hamster forums out there that could help.

Be prepared that hamsters don't always live very long. Some manage a good few years of course, but it can be hard as a kid to see your beloved pet die - thsi is true of any pet, though.

Good luck!

ddubsgirl Mon 10-Oct-11 13:02:15

hammys are lovey,look in to different breeds tho as some all nippers,nice big cage-please do not use the `cotton-wool` type bedding tho,my friends hammy died after some got stuck in its pouches and got infected and died sad his vet said its awful stuff and only use the shredded stuff,remember they dont live that long 2-3yrs shouldnt need much or any vet care if looked after well.
plenty on things for it to nipple on the keep teeth trimmed an as said up^ a ball to get it out and running around.

TheTenantOfWildfellHall Mon 10-Oct-11 13:02:58

Feed it and change the water daily, clean the cage out once weekly, change the bedding area midweek. They also like to eat carrots, apples, dandelion leaves (unless you've used weedkiller on them!), and cheese.

Don't worry about buying special disinfectants for the cage, we wash ours with washing up liquid and sterilise the equipment every 2 months in a milton solution (as you would for sterilising baby things) and rinse in cold water.

We always had hamsters growing up and always did this. We rarely had any problems with them healthwise and they were always brilliant little pets for us as children and now for my own.

squeakytoy Mon 10-Oct-11 13:14:18

Hamsters and gerbils were my first pets as a child, from the age of about 6 onwards. We had cats and dogs already, but the hamsters were my responsibility.

They are very easy to look after, and it is good to teach children how to care for their pets, so a hamster is ideal.

If you go away, many pet shops offer a boarding service for small animals, and it is usually not very expensive at all. Or you just ask a friend to mind him.. they are very portable little things, cage included!

toboldlygo Mon 10-Oct-11 13:15:41

I have to say that I think hamsters are rubbish pets for kids. They are nocturnal, so grumpy during the day when you want to play with them and then up all night chewing on the bars or squeaking on the wheel. I've been bitten twice by them despite being an animal-savvy careful handler, without really putting a lot of work in to handle them I'd worry that the kids might end up scared of being bitten. They don't live very long. They're just a bit... small and boring.

Much rather a pair of guinea pigs or a pair of fancy rats - would need a bit more planning re: cage space but second hand equipment is often very good and cheap and they are so much more sociable creatures. smile

loveglove Mon 10-Oct-11 13:23:06

I LOVE guinea piggies. They are lovely, and much less likely to bite. More robust too. You can get indoor pens for them, you have to get two though, they get lonely.

OhMyGolly Mon 10-Oct-11 13:23:25

We had a hamster a few years ago and she was a lovely pet. She only once bit anyone, that was when we were taking her home. Looking back though, the cage we had was probably too small. My sister had one at the same time though and that was a bit of a biter, her and her daughter were quite wary of handling her.

PomBearAtTheGatesOfDawn Mon 10-Oct-11 13:24:51

Hamsters are nocturnal, solitary, and don't make very good pets really. Guinea pigs, or rats make much better pets, or even a ferret - although each of them have pros and cons you'd need to consider before you actually go and get them.

savoycabbage Mon 10-Oct-11 13:25:11

We have mice. They are great pets. Very playful and awake during the day.

worraliberty Mon 10-Oct-11 13:25:32

Remember to use 2 water bottles as they have a habit of falling off no matter how tightly you strap them on. So if that happens, there'll be another one for backup.

dickiedavisthunderthighs Mon 10-Oct-11 13:32:03

I was 8 when I got my first hamster and I'm onto my 20th now (I am 26 blush).
All the advice on here is brilliant. I'd definitely second the poster who said avoid Rotastacks, and avoid Ovos as well. They are tiny and hamsters needs lots of floor space, not loads of tubes and tiny compartments. I personally think the IMAC is the best one and you can get extensions for it as well.

A Syrian is the best kid's hamster, they are bigger and easier to tame/handle. They are solitary so you don't need to worry about getting it a friend.

Buying from a breeder really is your best bet as the hamsters usually have a better temperament, are bigger (so easier to hold) and less likely to get the kinds of diseases caused by crap breeding.

Put a few quid aside every month instead of getting insurance. It's all or nothing with hamsters, they are either fine or get something catestrophic like a tumour. I had one that needed a two night stay in animal hospital (had a tumour removed, was perfectly well otherwise so didn't want to have her PTS) and it cost hundreds shock.

ChuffMuffin Mon 10-Oct-11 13:32:41

I had gerbils when I was younger. My dad specifically asked the pet shop how long they live, the assistant said 18 months.

They lived in a big aquarium full of peat. We never saw them but they must have been having an awesome time and their peat was full of tunnels.

They were 8 when they died. 8 years old. They'd gone grey.

Have you looked in to Dumbo rats? I've always wanted one of them but I don't have the space.

dickiedavisthunderthighs Mon 10-Oct-11 13:33:04

Oh, and I didn't mean 26, I meant THIRTY SIX. Double blush

troisgarcons Mon 10-Oct-11 13:34:49

get gerbils - much more fun - and not nocturnal like hamsters. Plus they live in grioups.

eaglewings Mon 10-Oct-11 13:37:08

Another vote for gerbils, as longs as you don't mind tails

Ours are 18 months old, in deep shavings only need cleaning every other week and have had one trip to vet at £15

ByJingoes Mon 10-Oct-11 13:40:01

We had every pet under the sun when I was a child, and hamsters are pretty boring IMO. They run around in those balls if forced to get up during the day, and don't do much else.

Guinea pigs are brilliant, though. Cheap to run, low maintenance (lower than fancy rats, which I also love), low vet bills, and as friendly as anything. They also have personalities, unlike hamsters. You need more than one, though. I would buy from a breeder. Before I bought our piggies, I did a lot of research on the internet and found a fantastic one.

Regardless of which animal you go for, the main thing is to make sure that they have lots of space to play in (far more than you think they will need - most indoor cages in eg Pets at Home are simply not big enough. Our piggies live in a mahoosive indoor rabbit cage, which is perfect for two of them).

Pseudo341 Mon 10-Oct-11 15:16:30

Hamster's a crepuscular which means most active when it's just getting dark in the evening and when it's just getting light in the morning, apparently they see best in this light. This means they're not the best pet for children as they won't want to be awake playing during the day, though you can train them to get up a bit earlier in the evening before your DD goes to bed. Definitely don't let yourself get talked into a pair of dwarfs, if they fight you're stuck with 2 cages.

Unless something's changed in the last couple of years you can't get hamster insurance anyway, putting some money aside is a good idea. Try joining a hamster keepers forum to get directed to a good breeder, you'll also be able to pick up lots of useful advice before you buy too.

Definitely don't get a rotastak cage, the only way a Syrian will fit through the tubes is if you get a really runty inbred one from a pet shop, please don't do that, and you can only get a 6 inch wheel in them. Show hamsters are on the scale of a baby guineapig, normal Syrians need at least an 8 inch wheel, I ended up needing a 10 inch one for my pedigree ball of fluff.

Your best bet with a cage is to get one big floor space, much easier to clean and more room for hammy to run about than one with lots of levels. Also with a cage on levels if the hamster becomes sick or a bit frail and elderly they get stuck on one level and suddenly have no space.

Anyway, I strongly recommend joining a forum. Hamster's are lovely pets, I plan to get another one once DD is a bit older.

gordyslovesheep Mon 10-Oct-11 15:19:32

we LOVE our guineapigs so another vote for them!

I had hamsters but they where noisy, causing sleepless nights, smelly and nippy - my pigs are much more child friendly

loveglove Mon 10-Oct-11 15:23:27

We had gerbils - be very careful that you don't get a breeding pair. They have babies CONSTANTLY and eat them.

SkinnedAlive Mon 10-Oct-11 15:24:10

I would say get a couple of books from the library on small pets and see what takes your fancy. Then try and find a good breeder and meet them in person.

There are pros and cons with all small pets. Personally I would go for a Guinea pig or a rat but I know now everyone likes rats! Ferrets I also find wonderful but they do have a certain smell!

Grumpla Mon 10-Oct-11 15:24:59

My hamster had an amazing house made of about six rotastak units and assorted tubes balanced on top of a fish tank full of shredded bedding.

She fitted through the tubes fine, lived to about 2.5 and cost my dad well over £150 in vets bills when she needed a course of steroid injections! She was worth every penny though.

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