Paul has owned pet hamsters as a child, as well as experienced being the parent of a hamster owner. This article looks at the downsides.
Consider the Pluses and Minuses
Hamsters are a common pet, especially for children. They are cute, clean, relatively easy to care for, and they can form bonds with their owners. There are also quite a few challenges to having these rodents as pets, however, as many will know from experience. This article lists the main negatives of hamster ownership.
The main purpose of the list is to enable people to understand the challenges involved in owning and caring for hamsters. If you or your child understands the negatives and still wants a hamster, you should go ahead with your plans. They do make adorable pets when they are appreciated and well cared for.
The 5 Main Negatives of Having Hamsters as Pets
- Nocturnal behavior
- Diseases and bacteria
- Short lifespan
- Adult supervision required
I will give more details on each of the downsides below.
Hamsters bite—and they tend to do it more than other pet rodents. The main reason is that their eyesight is poor. They rely instead on other senses such as smell, sound, and taste. Sticking a finger into their cage can often result in a bite, as the hamster wants to know if this strange new thing is edible.
Hamster bites hurt and can cause bleeding. While it can help an older child to understand the need to be sensitive when handling and interacting with the hamster, some younger children can become fearful.
2. Nocturnal Behavior
Many people who choose hamsters as a pet fail to take into account the animal's nocturnal lifestyle. These rodents will spend much of the day curled up asleep and can become aggressive and bite if they are disturbed.
At nighttime, when their human owner is trying to sleep, they get active. It's amazing how loud a hamster running around inside its wheel, or scratching around in its cage, can sound in the middle of the night. If you are considering putting the cage in a child's bedroom, I would reconsider.
3. Diseases and Bacteria
Hamsters are prone to diseases and viruses, which can put some parents off from having them as pets for their children. Although rare, small children are most at risk of catching these conditions:
Particular problems that are worth highlighting are:
- Salmonella bacteria: This can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, and fever.
- Lymphocytic choriomeningitis and hantavirus: These viruses can be transmitted from hamsters to humans.
Issues can be minimized through the animal being properly cared for, as well as through appropriate hygienic behavior being undertaken by the pet owner (e.g., always washing their hands after contact).
4. Short Lifespan
Hamsters generally only live for two to three years. This means that the owner will experience the sadness of the animal's death after a relatively short period of time. This can be particularly difficult and emotional for children.
5. Adult Supervision Required
While hamsters are relatively low-maintenance compared to many other pets, adults still need to provide plenty of support for children who own them.
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Hamsters are sensitive to mishandling and will bite if they aren't treated appropriately, so children need to be shown the correct way to interact. Children also need guidance on feeding, cleaning out the cage, and making sure that the hamster gets enough exercise and play.
It's my experience that hamsters are generally not a good pet for children below the age of eight. Also be prepared, if you are the parent of a hamster owner, that the child may lose some enthusiasm for the hamster once the novelty of having the pet has worn off. Cleaning the cage out regularly, for instance, is a chore. Being kept awake by a noisy hamster at night can also be annoying.
What Do Hamsters Eat?
Below are some examples of what to feed and what not to feed a hamster. I should add that all lists of examples are non-exhaustive. The foods on the "never" lists of examples are generally there because they may give your hamster diarrhea. Generally speaking, giving the hamster treats is one of the fun parts of having them as pets.
- Hamster mix. Available from most pet stores, a good mix is designed to give the hamster a balanced diet. A standard seed and pellet mix should generally be the hamster's daily staple with other foods added as treats in limited amounts.
- Fruit. Do give them apples, pears, peach, pitted cherries, and banana. Just a small cube of fruit is enough. Never give them citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, or limes. Rhubarb should also be avoided.
- Vegetables. Do give them cauliflower, cucumber, squash, broccoli, romaine lettuce, peas, sweet corn, spinach and other greens. Carrots are particularly appreciated by hamsters, but they are high in sugar, so don't give them too much. Never give them eggplant (known as aubergine in the UK), garlic, leeks, or onions.
- Boiled or scrambled egg. This provides the hamster with protein, but should only be given to them sparingly as a special treat.
- Whole grain breads and cereals are another occasional treat to consider.
- Dandelions are good, but never give them buttercups or bluebells.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2019 Paul Goodman
TNT on July 28, 2020:
I feel so sad
Alex Einstein on July 23, 2020:
why do you say READ THIS BEFORE YOU GET A PET HAMSTER that just rottens dreams
Emily on June 30, 2020:
THIS is mean the person who made this website is dumb!!!!!!!!
AJ on June 02, 2020:
why dont you like hamsters those are not reasons!!
Sdex on May 30, 2020:
Welp, just read this two months too late. :/
Rhubarb nora nibbles on May 19, 2020:
I own a hamster and it has only bitten anyone once (it bit me) . They are more for older children but that does not mean that you shouldn't get one. If you raise the hamster with love and care at the very beginning then it won't bit you. Also you do get used to it move around at night and if you find it that annoying then put it in a different room. Also, I have never caught anything of my hamster. Hamsters are cute, energetic animals and mine makes me smile everyday.
Lady Dixon on June 11, 2019:
I agree 100% on hamsters not being suitable for children. Their bodies are very frail, require lots of attention and tender carefulness, which a young child simply cannot provide. An adult may well look after them with appropriate knowledge and understanding of hamsters in general. Pets are not toys, nor a whim to content a crying toddler.
Cristina Cakes from Virginia on June 10, 2019:
A few years ago I decided to let my children get pet hamsters. I wish I had thought better of it. They were adorable, but terrible pets. Stinky, messy, mean. The only well behaved ones were a couple we had adopted from some people that were moving away.
My sister had hamsters growing up and I remembered how cute they were... What I wished I had remembered prior to buying them for my children was the vast hamster cemetery my sister ended up putting in my parents backyard. Luckily for my backyard, all my childrens hamsters "ran away" or so my kids think.
I was able to break them from the hamster craze but recently my cat passed away. I didn't want another cat and definitely didn't wants another hamster so this time I decided to go for guinea pigs as pets for the kids. I have to say, they are MUCH better than hamsters.
Liz Westwood from UK on June 10, 2019:
I once looked after hamsters for a friend who was on holiday, but we avoided having any in our household. You make some good points. I remember my niece being bitten by a hamster they were looking after.