A Hamster is for Life not just for Christmas!
Hamsters are more than just rodents, they are living creatures. Despite them being small and having relatively short lifespans (2-4 years depending on species and health) they are actually amazing animals that deserve a lot more than many people can give them. Below is a list of the various species of hamsters available as pets.
The Golden Hamster: This is the hamster most people think of when they hear the word. These hamsters are the largest and most common species originating from Syria and are widely available all over the world from breeders and pet stores. This species are known for being easiest to tame and for making excellent beginners pets.
The Russian Dwarf: This is the second most popular choice of hamster. These cute little fur balls are known for their grey, brown or pure white colouring, their large eyes and their curved spines. They are smaller than your typical Golden hamster and can be slightly harder to tame.
The Roborovski: The tiniest hamster species in the world. These little ones grow between 2-4 inches in length at full adult size and are known for their curved spines, long back legs and timid nature making them more suitable for people with prior small animal experience. These are also native to Russia.
The Chinese: Native to China, these hamsters are small, longer in the body with the longest tails of all hamster species (despite them still being short). These are the least common hamster species due to them often being more difficult to handle and tame and the fact they are a little harder to come by.
What can they do? Hamsters, like many other pets, are capable of learning simply tricks or commands. They are also capable of playing some games with you. If cared for correctly with enough time spent, the hamster will truly come out of his or her shell and become very loving, affectionate and entertaining. That being said, they are also incredibly entertaining to watch playing with their toys or following their natural instincts such as; burrowing, stuffing their pouches, climbing and building nests. Hamsters are active creatures, mostly at night, and enjoy a lot of attention and mental stimulation.
Hamsters are mostly nocturnal animals meaning they are most active at night and in some cases they can become quite noisy. Hamsters require a lot of time and attention to tame properly and will not be tame and ready to play with as soon as you get them. Hamsters are not hard pets to care for, they are actually quite easy, however they do need to be thoroughly researched and thought out like any other animal. Hamsters are not for everyone, some breeds are worse than others.They are not a simple throwaway pet that can sit in a cage all day every day and entertain you on command and will never behave as one.
To correctly house a hamster you will need enough space. The correct size of a hamster cage for the standard Golden is about 3/4 the length of a dresser drawer set and around 70cm high (multi-floors) this is not a tiny amount of space. They also require fresh water, hamster food, toys and plenty of opportunities for exercise. Many of the cages and wheels and some of the toys on the market are not even suitable for most hamsters. Hamsters exposed to incorrect housing or toys that are too small are more likely to suffer severe spinal problems or injury. They should not be left in a draft, placed up against a heater or put in direct sunlight. They should also ideally not be housed around cats or other predatory animals due to the risk of injury or continuous exposure to stress in some cases.
Hamsters also require around 10-12 hours of quiet time per day to sleep and can become agitated or distressed is exposed to lots of noise. Hamsters that are stressed (especially the young or very old) are prone to a serious illness called Wet Tail where all of the water in its tiny body comes out in diarrhoea, this is often a fatal illness that requires immediate medical attention.
Pets as Presents.
Here's a list of some of the many reasons why you should not give a pet as a present:
- The pet may not truly be wanted by the recipient.
- The new owner may not be allowed to keep it for housing reasons, their parents may not allow them to have it or their partner/children may have serious allergies.
- Pets are not toys and should not be viewed as them by anyone - including children.
- Lack of research/preparation. Many pets given as gifts go to people with little-no knowledge of what that exact pet truly needs - this is especially true for more exotic or larger animals.
- It's never a good idea to introduce a new pet into a stressful situation. Christmas is stressful enough without a new distressed pet that has been taken from its mother, isn't tame, probably still a baby and is being jolted about in their new home with all different people around it. Stress can kill animals - especially hamsters or other small mammals.
- The novelty wears off quickly. Like with any new gift or toy - especially an unexpected surprise- that novelty can drop very quickly.
- The person you give it to cannot afford it.
- The person you give it to is irresponsible, careless or reckless.
- Animal shelters become drastically overfilled during the festive season - this includes for smaller animals as well as cats and dogs. The risk of a gifted pet being abandoned is much higher.
- When it comes to children they may unintentionally (or otherwise) hurt/kill a small animal e.g. feeding it things, rough handling, scaring it, knocking the cage down, etc.
- Pets do not teach responsibility to those whom are already irresponsible.
- Animals are living beings with thoughts, feelings and the ability to bite someone.
- An animal does not choose who will become his/her owner, only the owner should make this conscious choice.
- You can't wrap up an animal without a massive risk of suffocation, heart attacks from panic or the animal becoming frenzied - also, it is not fair.
- People don't give consideration to what owning a pet really means.
- Choosing a pet is personal. When we go and pick out a new friend at a pet shop we often see one that just clicks with us and we fall in love with. Choosing a pet for someone means they can't do this. If someone were to choose (e.g.) a rat from a pet shop and bring it to you and you didn't like the way it looked, you had no connection to it, you were afraid of it or it just didn't sit well with you, you wouldn't want the pet and may feel bad for it.
- Giving an animal as a gift gives away someone's right to choose/freedom of choice. They didn't choose this animal or to have it as a present, it was just sprung on them. Giving a pet as a present is like someone in your family coming home one day "surprise! here's your new baby!" and handing you a child.
"But It's Just a Hamster..."
But it's just a dog...
But it's just a cat...
But it's just a child...
Whether it's a hamster or a human being, it is still an animal and still has feelings. A hamster as a pet is no different to a baby in the terms of it relying 100% on you for food, water, comfort and affection. They cannot climb out of their cage and feed themselves, they can't clean out their own toilets and they can't go to the doctor alone when they get sick. Hamsters that have been loved and cared for properly are not like wild animals, hamsters that have little attention or neglected animals. You reap what you sow, as the saying goes.
When will people stop using the "but it's just a..." saying? usually when it's too late.
This hub was not in any way intended to offend or upset anyone, but rather educate from the standpoint of someone whom has previously worked in a small animal adoption centre. Animals from mice to horses are abandoned on a constant basis and people don't even realise it. The assumption that only dogs and cats are handed in is far too common. Whether it's a tiny mouse or a 17hh horse, it is still a living creature. Animals do not choose who they go home with or what their owner will be like, they cannot choose what they are fed or who handles them. They lose their right to choice in the same way a person whom receives one unexpectedly is. Whilst I will acknowledge there are SOME cases where it does work out well for everyone involved, these are the exception, not the rule.
Hamsters have such a short time frame on this planet and do not deserve to be thrown from one home to the next after being snatched from their mother. They are also not immune to the "hand backs" to shelters after being adopted and biting someone or the person's child losing interest or them not having time for it. An animal with only a few years to spend with us deserves a forever home from the very beginning which, more often than not, giving it as a gift will not provide.
There are plenty of other amazing and exciting gifts to give that don't involve playing with another being's life. Nothing should be given so little consideration as many animals do around Christmas time. The saying an animal is for life means the remainder of their life whether it is 2 days or 20 years. So I will repeat: A Hamster is for Life not just for Christmas.
Thank you for reading.