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Tell me about hamsters, please

(26 Posts)

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Aureservoir Wed 18-Oct-17 08:24:11

DD (14) wants a dog (we had one when the DC were younger). However, as a working single parent, I am not in the market for another one. We have had guinea pigs (which were adorable) and rats (which were unspeakably smelly, depsite the fact that I cleaned them out thoroughly every single day). I have said I will investigate hamster possibilities, though I remember them being pretty boring pets when I was a child (we had dogs, cats, ponies, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens and hamsters - and the hamsters always seemed pretty pointless. They belonged to one of my sisters).

However, I am willing to think about it. What would hamster-owners recommend? DD claims she will look after it (her siblings are variously at university and boarding school, so there's no chance of any help from them - though I am willing to do the necessary if need be). Any advice would be most welcome...

Aureservoir Wed 18-Oct-17 08:25:01

Will also add that our house is tiny, which is why I am not having guineas again. Much as I love them, we can't accommodate a big enough enclosure!

TheQueenOfWands Wed 18-Oct-17 08:26:01

They're cute but frequently psychotic.

What about a nice cat? Cats are cool.

Aureservoir Wed 18-Oct-17 08:27:39

Thanks, QueenOfWands. I had wondered about a cat, but a) we are slap bang on a huge main road and b) DD will be off to university (or wherever) in four years' time, leaving me with a cat that I'm not desperately keen to have...

Aureservoir Wed 18-Oct-17 08:29:00

Oh, and DD is severely allergic to cats. Sorry: she is a neglected last child, so that completely slipped my mind... grin

user1471598890 Wed 18-Oct-17 08:34:48

Syrian hamsters are great pets. They are slower than the smaller breeds so you can handle them. Dd has had a few and thoroughly loved them all. If you clean them they don't smell, sounds like you will be fine if you have already had guinea pigs n rats. Only thing is their life expectancy is about 18months to 3 yrs. We always chose of hamsters after school to try and get 1 which didn't sleep too late which worked well for us.

Aureservoir Wed 18-Oct-17 08:40:45

Thanks, User. When you say "if you clean them, they don't smell", how often do you mean? I looked up 'rats' on MN, and loads of people say they don't smell - yet ours absolutely stank. I sometimes cleaned them out twice a day (full clean-out: removing absolutely everything, washing it, and putting new bedding etc in) - and they STILL stank...

Aureservoir Wed 18-Oct-17 08:41:19

PS Life expectancy is good. I think we are looking at 3 years max...

IheartNiles Wed 18-Oct-17 08:42:38

Hamsters are cute but the nocturnal thing means they're pretty boring. Syrians or winter whites are the easiest to handle, Syrians can nip a bit until they are tame and it hurts. Once used to being handled they stop and are lovely pets. Gerbils are a nice alternative and fun in pairs, less smelly than rats but all rodents have a bit of a pong if their wee section isn't regularly cleaned. My last Syrian had a little potty that he went in and he was a joy to keep clean.

Or a reptile is a fab alternative (Panther chameleons and Bearded dragons make fab pets, chameleons live about 5 years, dragons longer, Geckos are sweet but again, nocturnal). You need to be able to stomach live food though, unless you go for a vegetarian reptile (e.g. Uromastyx which look like little ETs).

TheQueenOfWands Wed 18-Oct-17 08:45:06

What about chinchillas?

They're a bit gorgeous. Soft and spherical.

Thirtyrock39 Wed 18-Oct-17 08:46:41

Ours did smell after age one and cleaned really frequently but pet shop said they do get smellier as they get older ...the wee is really quite horrible and if you have tubes in the cage it always used to gather in there and was really awkward to clean though wevhad a enormous cage which took ages to take apart so the cleaning was a right old chore. They take a while to tame and you have to put up with bites to start with. They are very energetic when awake so I couldn't ever sit just holding it like you would a guinea pig they'll always want to be on the move. Very nocturnal as well
I think a cat is an easier pet overall as no cleaning and they do their own thing

villainousbroodmare Wed 18-Oct-17 08:51:51

Chinchillas can live 20 years! The short life expectancy of a hamster is a positive bonus in your situation. Their faeces are very dry and they really don't smell, unlike rats as you found.

TheQueenOfWands Wed 18-Oct-17 08:55:11

20 years? Really?

Blimey. Didn't know that.

A fish? Get an Oscar, like having a dog in a tank.

silkpyjamasallday Wed 18-Oct-17 08:55:27

A had a Syrian hamster as a child, he lived until 3 and was a wonderful little soul, never bit anyone, was happy to be handled and easy to care for, I was around 6/7/8 and did most of the care myself. I had the cage in my bedroom and he did wake me up quite frequently though!

Chinchillas while lovely can live 20 years, so maybe not the best choice. We were on the verge of getting one just before I found out I was pregnant with DD, I'm glad we didn't now! A hamster has a more ideal lifespan for your purposes unless you are happy to care for a pet long after your daughter leaves home and loses interest

Nancy91 Wed 18-Oct-17 09:05:43

Hamsters aren't very smelly creatures if you clean their cages often enough. They generally go to the toilet in one corner of the cage so maybe scoop that bit out and replace it more frequently. They can be very tame and cute.

I'd personally get rats but I know not everyone is a fan.

palmfronds Wed 18-Oct-17 09:15:44

I was never that keen on hamsters until I ended up with a Syrian by accident (long story....)

Well, he was just WONDERFUL. A bit nippy when he was young but he was handled every day as soon as I got him so he got tame very quickly and as soon as he woke up in the evenings would come and stand next to the door waiting to be let out. When I opened the door he'd run out onto my hands ready to say hello. He wasn't a very 'cuddly' hamster as he was super active and liked to run around, but I have a friend who had hamsters who loved being held and would cuddle up with you so I think it depends on their personality. I used to clean him out every few weeks (I changed his bedding & 'toilet corner' more often) and he rarely smelled.

I would say that hamsters need more space than you think - they need a cage size minimum 360 sq ins and I always used to let mine loose in the living room for a few hours a day so he could run around properly (modern flat so no worries about losing him under the floorboards), he loved climbing up the furniture and you'd see his little face peering at you from the top of a cupboard. The plastic balls that people put them in are actually quite cruel as they can bruise their noses running into things, and they can't smell anything properly through the plastic, which is what they really enjoy doing.

I would love to have another but I've moved and any small rodent would be lost in seconds in this flat. I'd feel cruel having something in a cage all the time as it is such a boring life for them.

Aureservoir Wed 18-Oct-17 09:20:37

Wow - much to think about here. Thank you. I remember one of ours getting stuck in one of those balls... Anyway, I am now not ruling a Syrian out, which is a start. I wouldn't dare let it loose in our ancient house (gaps in the floorboards etc), but DD's room is big enough to accommodate a decent cage (she would have to be willing to have it in her room, as there's no space downstairs - though the nocturnal habits are a disadvantage from this point of view. That said, she's pretty nocturnal as well, unfortunately)...

HebeMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 18-Oct-17 09:27:37

Hello AuResevoir. Just chipping in to say I'm about to buy a Syrian hamster for my primary school age DS. Having read the above I'm now thinking that this is not such a great plan and I should have pushed harder for stick insects or 'a nice cat', as suggested above. But it's promised now <sigh>. Although if they are as nocturnal as suggested I'm wondering if I could get away shaping something hamster-sized out of the contents of the Hoover bag and tucking it into some sawdust in an empty cage. He might never know! Will let you know how it goes anyway.

Aureservoir Wed 18-Oct-17 10:33:55

HebeMumsnet: thank you for your post. We also had stick insects when I was a child, and they are deadly dull, so we should perhaps be grateful to be spared that one. Are Zhu-Zhu hamsters still around? They might be an option. grin

HebeMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 18-Oct-17 12:02:29

I had seriously wondered if I could fob him off with a Hatchimal.

GreatBigPolarBear Wed 18-Oct-17 12:09:38

We have a lovely Syrian hamster. Kids are able to do all the care and he's no trouble at all.
He has bitten maybe 3 times in his life-always when a little finger has been poked into the cage which he's mistaken for a tasty treat!
He's awake in the evening and doesn't seem to mind being woken at other times (although I encourage the children not to do this) so they get plenty of time to play with him

vitaminC Wed 18-Oct-17 12:24:58

We have had a couple of Russian hamsters (consecutively - they're suite solitary animals and are happiest living alone!).
I was amazed to discover that they very definitely have their own, unique personalities and are quite sociable.
We got both of ours very young and they were handled a lot from bein tiny, so they were very tame. They would come to the cage door when they heard us come in the room and they loved to be stroked. Neither of them ever nipped or bit anyone.
It's a couple of years since the most recent one died and I still miss them, but as we have cats now, and my kids are teens, it doesn't make sense to get another one.
I'd definitely recommend them as pets, though, especially if you don't have much room (we stacked several cages vertically, with tunnels and pipes). I cleaned the cage out once a week and there was a never a problem with them smelling.
We also went on holiday for 2 weeks and left them several bottles of water and a couple of the Long sticks of grains and they were fine!

Aureservoir Wed 18-Oct-17 17:09:41

Thanks, VitaminC and GreatBigPolarBear - that's very helpful. I went to Pets at Home today; I wouldn't buy a pet from there, but thought I might as well have a look at them. I was surprised by how sweet they were. I also looked at cages, and had thought that vertical stacking and tubes etc might be the answer (when I was married, we had a huge house where the guinea pigs had their own room, so this is a very different scenario). I may capitulate, especially if it means the nagging for a dog subsides for a day or two.

Hebemumsnet, I am now feeling old. I would ask what a Hatchimal is, but I think the answer might leave me feeling tired of life. grin

TheColdDoesBotherMeAnyway Wed 18-Oct-17 19:29:27

The cages sold in Pets at Home are far too small, and cages that stack do not reduce the need for a large ‘footprint’ - they need a large floor space. Ours is in a Hamster Heaven cage, there are others of a similar size available. We have removed the tubes because he kept weeing in them.
Ours has never bitten, he is a proper little character. He comes to his door when he is ready to play and quite often falls asleep on the sofa! He doesn’t smell, I only do a full clean out once a month as it seems to upset him, so I clean his toilet corner every few days and his nest weekly. He isn’t a great pet for my dds though - he rarely gets up before 8:30pm.

insert1usernamehere Wed 18-Oct-17 20:18:44

They can be great pets - and at 14 your DD is old enough to appreciate one, handle it correctly and still be awake when the hamster gets up.

First rule of hamster keeping is to ignore anything you are told by pet shop staff unless you can verify it from another, more reliable source. Pet shop staff are invariably undertrained, and when they are trained it's to sell what the shop stocks, not what is good for the hamster.

Second rule is - if you can buy the cage in store, it's almost certainly not big enough. Hamsters need - at a minimum - a cage of 80x50cm footprint (levels and shelves are bonuses, but do not count towards the minimum). Even the P@H "large" wire hamster cage is only about half the minimum. I'd recommend the Zooplus Alaska / Barney / Alexander (ideally one of the latter two)
Unfortunately if you don't have space for an 80x50cm cage (which would be surprising - I've managed a 100x50cm in a houseshare before now) then you don't have enough space for a hamster.

Thirdly, make sure you get a big enough wheel (28cm diameter - about the size of a dinner plate). The running surface must be solid to avoid injury (no rungs)

Good food brands - Harry Hamster, Science Selective. Many hamster food brands lack the proper nutrition e.g. not enough protein.

Whimzee dog chews are great for teeth, universally liked and cheap (by contrast, the wooden chews are invariably ignored).

Bedding - deep enough to tunnel in, min 3-4". Fitch is widely liked Avoid any nesting material that resembles cotton wool as it's incredibly dangerous, and instead use ripped up loo roll.

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