Training Your Pet Hamster (Gerry Bucsis and Barbara Somerville, 2006) sounds like it’s going to be a short book and is less than 100 pages long. How much can you train a hamster to do, anyway? But anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Tales of the Riverbank knows that hamsters can be quite accomplished actors. There’s a lot you can train a hamster to do, but you only get the basics of animal training in this book. Anyone looking to train a hamster to perform complicated tricks is in for a bitter disappointment with this book.
“Modern Life with a Big Pet Hamster” would have been a much better title because it would have reflected the bulk of the material covered. Most of the book centers on Syrian hamster care, but sometimes does touch on dwarf hamster care. It does not mention anything about the more exotic hamster species now available in the pet trade such as the Roborovski.
A good bit of the book is devoted to the usual topics of choosing a hamster, hamster-proofing a home, choosing or making safe toys and cage cleaning. The actual things one can train a hamster to do is accept being touched, walk on a lead and use a teeny-tiny potty. Some aspects of “training” (such as training a hamster not to gnaw on the bars of the cage) is just preventative action than what is commonly thought of as animal training. For example, the book claims that bar-biting can be prevented by making sure the hamster is good and tired with plenty of toys and more acceptable things to chew.
Although the book is short, it does cover the basics of hamster selection, diet, housing and care. It is refreshing to see that hamsters here are not portrayed as “disposable pets” and that hamsters are deserving of veterinary care. It’s also refreshing to see a book that advocates play time outside of a cage for larger hamsters. It’s a far cry from the old days when hamsters were expected to spend all of their lives in one cramped plastic Habitrail.
The book was published by Barron’s, which is noted for slick, easy to read and richly illustrated pet books. However, the photos are not all recycled from the Barron’s extensive library. Many of these look to be commissioned jus for this book. Many of the hamster models have been named. It’s a nice touch to know the names of the hamster models.
This book is written for a 12 year old or for an incredibly hassled parent that is debating of giving in to a child’s whining for a pet. The book does not go into any real depth and is overwhelmingly upbeat. There also is a “cute” trick where for each chapter, the word “hamster” is replaced with a name such as Phoebe, Speedy or Barney. After a few pages, this really gets on an adult reader’s nerves.