Humans have been keeping pets for so long that the exact moment when this practice began is long lost to the dusts of time. In any case, it seems that many of our most beloved pets at least partially “domesticated themselves,” partly due to the fact that there were drawn to early human settlements and gatherings, for the sake of finding some easy meals.
Hamsters may well be the ancestors of some ancient creature that used to hang around our campfires and refuse dumps in the paleolithic era, but whether or not that’s the case, today they are some of the most widespread and beloved household pets, for children and adults alike.
There are many benefits to owning a hamster. For one thing, they are much lower maintenance than certain other pets such as, for example, dogs. For another thing, they are active and interesting enough that they can give you, or your kids, plenty of joy and entertainment to play with. And, last but not least, they require enough care that they can be a useful lesson in responsibility for any children you may have.
While hamsters are often considered a very easy type of pet to keep, however, there are certain things that everyone should know before they head down to the pet store and pick up their own little ball of fur. Here are a few details to keep in mind about hamsters.
Maintaining and cleaning up a hamster cage may be a bit more work than you’d think.
The best hamster cages will tend to be robust, and structured in a way that makes them relatively easy to clean, and that ensures they have the right sorts of features to keep your pet hamster as comfortable as possible.
Even if you have a top of the range cage, however, maintaining and cleaning up your hamster’s cage may be a bit more work than you’d think.
Firstly, you will need to change the “bedding” – usually some form of wood chips – at least every few days, and this means a few things: putting your hamster somewhere out of harms way while you do the cleanup, managing to dispose of the old “bedding” without causing too much of a mess, and doing a good enough job of cleaning up the cage that the hamster returns to a hygienic environment.
Some strategies that people use include plugging the bath and placing the hamster in the tub (without water, of course) to prevent it getting up to mischief while the cage is being cleaned.
In any case, if you’re planning to get your child a hamster because it’s a low-responsibility kind of pet to keep, you should nonetheless be aware that someone’s going to have to do a decent bit of tidying up on a pretty regular basis.
You have to be careful and specific about what you feed them.
Hamsters may seem pretty indiscriminate about the kinds of things they’re willing to eat, but you should by no means give them offerings from your own plate, pieces of chocolate, bits of banana, or any number of other things that you think they “might enjoy.”
Hamsters famously store food in pouches in their cheeks, and certain types of food – including various squishy fruits, for example – can become stuck in these pouches, and cause the animals to suffer from infections and other health conditions.
Hamsters also have a certain quirk in common with their other relatives in the rodent family – namely, their teeth never stop growing. So, in order to keep them at a manageable length, the hamster needs to be able to “file” them down by gnawing on things like blocks of wood.
Then, of course, there’s the important point that hamsters are simply not able to properly digest certain types of food, while they will thrive on others.
Be sure to do your own research when buying your hamster, and only give them the sorts of foods and chewing accessories that will be good for them.
They can be very energetic and should get out of the cage from time to time – it’s just that they may mostly be energetic while you’re asleep.
If you, or your child, constantly wants to interact with your hamster, play with it, and watch it run on its wheel, or play with any other hamsters that might share its cage, you might be a bit disappointed.
Hamsters are nocturnal creatures for the most part, and although they can be quite active, they will generally come to life more in the evening hours than during the middle of the day.
Don’t be frustrated if you notice that your hamster seems to sleep a lot – and try not to get too irritated if you hear it’s wheel squeaking in the middle of the night.
Because of this, it’s also important that you don’t disturb your hamster too much during the day. Taking it out of its cage from time to time is fine, but overdoing it will disrupt the hamster’s sleep cycles and make it grumpy and unhealthy.
They don’t live as long as you might like
It’s a sad fact of life that we, as human beings, almost always outlive the pets we choose to share our lives with – at least, unless those pets happen to be tortoises.
Unlike dogs and cats, however, that typically live in the region of a decade or more, hamsters have a very short lifespan in comparison. In fact, the average hamster lifespan is around 2.5 years.
This may not be a problem for you – and if you’re looking for a short-term kind of an investment in your choice of pet, it might even be positive. But, if you’re looking for a pet to really make into a member of the family over the long term, or if you naturally become very attached your pets, a hamster might not be the best choice for you.
At any rate, it’s worth keeping this point in mind so that you aren’t unpleasantly surprised out of the blue.