"Aww, mommy, they're so cute! Can I have one?" Hamsters may be small and cute. But they require more responsibility than one may think at first glance. Parents will need to help initially and possibly throughout the life of a pet to ensure proper care. My kids are experts at caring for hamsters and rescue those in need whenever we have room. But it took guidance from me to get them there.
Pets are not toys. This is the number one thing kids need to know when adopting a hamster. Because hamsters are so small, it is easy for kids to forget they are living things. Don't take the joy out of watching the hamster play. But be sure your child realizes this aspect before ever being allowed to hold the hamster. Someone told me a horror story about rolling a hamster in the ball too hard when they were a child. It didn't turn out well for the poor little guy. Only the hamster should be spinning the ball or wheel.
Can kids handle full care for a hamster? Even the most responsible kids should be taught how to properly care for a hamster. It is safest for your child and the pet if you assist. Depending on the age and responsibility of your child, more responsibilities can be given as your child shows signs of proper hamster care. My tween and teen have proven capable of taking full responsibility for the hamsters after practice and teamwork with me. At first, they were allowed to feed the hamster, as well as clean the cage and place new bedding. Next came the ability to hold the hamster with supervision. When they mastered holding, they were allowed to also place the hamster in his ball and watch him run around the room, as well as do other tasks.
What should adults do to help? Hamsters need lots of attention and love. But they like to run, so it is important adults show kids know how to hold them properly. They can easily escape, which is not good for their health and well-being. My tween and teen can hold all of the hamsters, except one who is an escape artist. Thus far, I am the only one who can hold Butterscotch. The younger kids are only allowed to hold our female hamster, Kiki, and must have supervision from me. Besides escaping, another problem is biting or the kids holding hamsters the wrong way. Hamsters sleep a great deal during the day and be most active at night. Parents need to remind the kids of this and not allow them to wake the animals when they need to rest.
What if my child isn't caring for the hamster properly? If your child is not caring for the hamster properly, you will need to take over. While it is important to teach kids about responsible pet care, you cannot let the hamster suffer. Our first hamster came to us with a sad story. The kids were not caring for him properly. The parents did not step up to help and ended up surrendering him back over to the pet store. The best way to teach kids about being responsible for the care of a pet is by doing it, not by abandoning that responsibility.
Extra handy hints on hamster care for kids
- Check with local animal shelters and rescue organizations to see if any hamsters are in need there. This helps an animal in need and helps control pet overpopulation.
- Always have the kids wear gloves when handling their hamster. Hamsters may bite, which can cause the kids to jump and possibly injure the hamster.
- Never put hamsters of different litters and breeds together. They may fight. Some breeds cannot be housed together at all, even from the same litter. All of our hamsters have their own cages and the kids know to keep them separate.
- Never put males and females together unless you are a professional breeder. While baby hammies may be cute, it is not wise to breed hamsters unless you know what you are doing. Also, so many pets die every day because of overpopulation. Teach your kids about proper procedures concerning hamster breeding.
- Major pet supply retailers often hold classes kids can take to learn about the care of their pets. This is a good idea before ever adopting a pet. It is also a good idea if your kids are not taking responsibility.
Note that the author is not a licensed animal specialist, but a long-time animal nurturer. This article is based on her personal experiences and should not take the place of your veterinarian's advice.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
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