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Tell me everything about pet hamsters!

(15 Posts)
dustyanswer Wed 02-Nov-16 12:18:03

I know this has been done before but those threads seem quite old (one poster recommended Harrods as a good place to buy one but their pet dept closed nearly 3 years ago!)

Anyway, 12 yr-old DS wants a hamster for christmas and I promised to at least research it. I'm thinking Syrian? But,
1) Where do I buy one (North East London)?
2) How big a cage/tank do they need?
3) When you get them out for a run-around how do you contain them? Our house has floorboards & leaky skirting...

ps whilst I'm in the market for alternatives to hamsters, please don't suggest rats.

pinkmusicstand Wed 02-Nov-16 15:57:02

Hi Dusty,

I would wholeheartedly say that hamsters make great pets. We had one, which sadly passed away on Sunday, which was totally devastating for both me and my 5 yo old DD (that is the only downside, is that you get so attached to them but they don't have a very long life span).

I found ours very easy to look after. They need quite a big cage, many pet shops (like Pets at Home) sell these tiny little ones which are woefully inadequate for their needs. I ended up getting a big, three story one on line (sorry can't remember the name of the site).

They also need a lot of exercise. I initially had one of those balls where she could run around my flat, but she worked out that if she took a run up, and crash against a wall she could break it open and escape. In the end I would just close the living room door and let her run around in there. She was adorable - climbing up the bookcase, up my legs, along the window ledge. A downside of this is that she loved to chew up my carpet, for such a small thing she managed to make quite a mess of one corner of my living room.

She was relatively easy to tame. It took about a week. We did it by putting a blanket in the bathtub and let her run around. Gently we would pick her up and get her used to being handled. She was very affectionate, she would sometime fall asleep on my chest whilst I stroked her.

ShowMeTheElf Wed 02-Nov-16 15:59:05

Smelly, bitey, nocturnal, must be handled every day or they become vicious.
'Please take it away' wailed our 8 year old at 3am when the damn thing wouldn't shut up in her room.
Rats a much more intelligent pet which can tolerate a cagemate so not to angry all the time.

SuburbanRhonda Wed 02-Nov-16 16:01:29

I have a two-year old Syrian - she is adorable. They love to climb so I would always say get a (very big) cage so they can climb along the bars and hang off them.

I think pets at home sell Syrians but ours was a rescue - maybe have a look on your local rescue first?

SuburbanRhonda Wed 02-Nov-16 16:03:06

Smelly? confused

Only if you don't clean them out often enough.

ShowMeTheElf Wed 02-Nov-16 16:06:25

They have a really distinctive smell even if you clean them out every day.

I will grant they look cute but apart from that I can't think of a less suitable pet. Teeth like needles.

dustyanswer Wed 02-Nov-16 16:48:51

Ha ha! - some rather diametrically opposed answers there...

Hmmm, not sure what to do. I'd prefer guinea pigs myself but whilst we do have space to put them outside, we also have (urban) foxes.

I might have to re-think the whole pet thing. Trouble is, he's been desperate for an animal for years, especially a dog, and I feel so mean to continually say no.

SuburbanRhonda Wed 02-Nov-16 17:16:55

My hamster has never been smelly except when I went away for the weekend and DH "forgot" to clean her out.

I've also had guinea pigs, which I love just as much. As long as they are only out in the run when you're home, then in a secure cage the rest of the time, they'll be fine. I kept my guinea pig cage in the shed and put them out in the run when I could keep an eye on them.

Ginmakesitallok Wed 02-Nov-16 17:23:13

I think the smell depends on the individual hamster. Our current hamster is lovely - but v lazy. The only time I've been bitten was years ago when I unwisely tried to poke a hamster out of a tube and poked the wrong end.

Buy as big a cage as you can - small cages can stress them out. We've got a glass tank just now - last hamster was a bar biter. I'd thoroughly recommend a glass tank - much less mess than a traditional cage.

CoshPunt Wed 02-Nov-16 17:27:56

Would you consider a pair of rats instead? They're generally very friendly and intelligent, and they can learn their names/some small tricks etc.

CoshPunt Wed 02-Nov-16 17:31:34

Oops, just noticed the disclaimer at the end of your thread. Ignore that then.

In my experience hamsters can be fun but they generally sleep all day and are awake at night - and if you wake them during the day (which you shouldn't, but if you do) they become extremely grumpy. They also need much larger cages than people think.

For running around - you can buy small pet playpens but would need supervision still.

I noticed you like guineas - could you have a pair of them in an inside cage if worried about foxes etc?

bassetfeet Wed 02-Nov-16 17:34:17

Lovely wee animals . Handle them gently frequently for short periods. Ours became tame quickly and was a joy . Like previous poster he would scamper up my arms and neck ,down my sleeves and loved a tummy rub on his back in my hand . They pouch their food and it is lovely to watch them scurry of to bury it under their bedding . Not smelly at all if cage changed often ,
Largest cage you can get . They are escape artists mind . Recall the Boxing Day chewed telephone wire incident well.

CoshPunt Wed 02-Nov-16 17:37:12

Also, with rodents, I noticed male rodents generally have a stronger smell, so my choice would generally be females. This is especially noticeable in mice!

I also hated the tubing you get in a lot of cages - I think they're not actually recommended anymore anyway as syrians get quite big.

For cage size:
"There are many suitable homing options for hamsters. The NHC recommends a minimum of 1000cm2 (useable floor space) x 19cm high for Syrian hamsters and 750cm2 (useable floor space) x 17cm high for Dwarfs. If you can afford a slightly bigger cage of the same type, so much the better."

I've used cages like the Zoozone 2 (essentially indoor cages aimed at rabbits etc that are far too small) because my buggers used to toss bedding out of the bars otherwise - however the bar spacing is quite wide on the top so you have to mesh it too. But having the plastic all round the sides solves the waking up to bedding pushed out of the cage every day!

Soubriquet Wed 02-Nov-16 17:42:03

What about mice if you don't like rats?

I've had both mice and hamsters. The mice were better

Awake during the day, friendly, happy to be handled and relatively clean.

Hamsters needed taming, slept during the day, sometimes not happy to be handled. Still clean as long as I kept on top of it

dustyanswer Thu 03-Nov-16 09:08:35

Lots of food for thought there. I'm still undecided! But not uninformed, thank you everyone.

(No suitable space for guinea pig cage indoors btw)

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