In the early 1930’s the practice of keeping a hamster as a child’s pet became vogue. The small rodents actually bond with the child, enjoy interactions and appear to thrive on being held. Relatively inexpensive, they make the ideal first pet for a child old enough to be gentle with the tiny animal.
The hamster will require an adequate cage to spend its life within. The cage should measure approximately 15 inches long and be 12 inches high. Make sure the cage is made from glass, plastic or metal because a hamster can quickly chew through wood. Many pet stores sell elaborate cages geared specifically towards children and the enjoyment of the hamster. The hamster will benefit from having an exercise wheel to run on. Most hamsters greatly enjoy running on the wheels and children can spend hours watching the fun activity.
Line the hamster cage with an absorbent material such as shredded newspaper, cob litter or wood chips. Purchase a drip water bottle to dispense water to the small animal. Try to find feed bowls that attach to the side of the cage or ones that are heavy ceramic and not easily tipped over. The hamster will also enjoy a small house or box to reside within during the daytime when most hamsters sleep.
A wide array of hamster toys and chews are sold at most pet stores. Many boxed food choices also exist. There are also numerous treats but take care when feeding the hamster marketed treats because it can get an upset stomach if it eats too much.
Children also take great enjoyment in having a hollow hamster ball to place the small rodent within so it can run all over the house or the child’s room without escaping.
Only purchase a hamster for a child that understand how delicate the small animal is. Normally after the age of five a child can understand how to hold the pet and care for it with the help of his or her parents. Remember that a child’s first pet is a learning experience. You cannot expect the child to do everything when it comes to the animals care and upkeep. The child will need help cleaning, feeding and watering the animal. It can be an ideal bonding experience for both the child and the parent if it is undertaken with the understanding that it will be a dual effort.
Remember that any pet that is frightened or cornered can bite. Hamsters do have sharp front teeth and they can draw blood when biting. Most are gentle and rarely bite but a parent should be prepared in case the child does sustain a bite.
The hamster lives a relatively short time, only three years but during its lifespan it can provide a great deal of happiness as a child’s first pet.