Acquired: Pet store
Posted Apr 24, 2015
Buying my hamster was actually a sort of impulse buy. I had no idea how to care for one, other than from what I learned about them from friends who had them. I was a teenager and so from the perspective I have now, I would say a hamster is an age-appropriate pet for 10+.
Hamsters are pretty easy to care for. They need to have a cage with a lid, some cedar chips for their substrate, a water bottle, food dish, chew sticks, and a wheel. Something pretty cool to know about hamsters is that their teeth are constantly growing. They are pretty gnarly. As a result of their ever-growing teeth, hamsters must have something to chew on to keep their teeth filed down, if you will.
In the same vein, hamsters need to have a wheel or something else to keep them busy. They love to run for a long time on their wheel which I think is the cutest thing ever. That and when they stuff all of their food in their cheeks to save it for later. If you plan on getting a hamster, you are in for a lot of laughs. And you are in for a lot of late nights if you keep your hamster in your room. This is because as nocturnal animals, they are VERY active at night.
We had Scout in the house with other animals which included one dog and one cat. She was never out of her cage except in her little hamster ball which was always locked in place and supervised. Also, her cage was kept up in a higher position than the dog would ever venture to and the cat was unable to access without a major hassle. That being said, we were lucky and did not have any issues with Scout's safety concerning the other pets. I have heard other not-so-happy endings from friends and this is a big reason why I am not considering a hamster at this point in time.
Scout was very nice and only nipped at my fingers a couple of times. Even though she nipped, it was superficial and did not break any skin. However, she did empty her bladder while I was holding her once which was super gross but not otherwise painful. In my experience, hamsters are not very aggressive creatures. As long as they have food and a water bottle they are pretty content.
The worst part of owning hamsters is their cages need to be cleaned at least once per week, with full bedding changes occuring at least bi-weekly. They get really stinky otherwise. And when I say stinky I mean their cage AND the hamster. Also, they are really little and if you don't handle them carefully they can get fatally injured. This is why I said I would recommend them only for 10+ and this of course is on a child by child basis. Perhaps the greatest downside to having a hamster for a pet is their short life span. Scout lived to be three, which is pretty old for a hamster. Her breathing became labored one sad day and we took her to our vet for treatment. The vet informed us the best option for Scout was euthanasia. Even though she was just a hamster, she was a part of the family and brought lots of love and laughter.
SUPER FUN EXTRAS: If you are serious about your hamster you can purchase these crazy tubes that resemble a hamster labyrinth. They also like their chew sticks and are sort of necessary but this can be achieved with food chews as well. Check with your pet store and good luck:)