SMALL and cute, they’re often chosen as pets for children but, the reality of being woken up by a squeaky wheel in the early hours is just one of the considerations when owning a hamster.
Adopting or buying is relatively cheap but there will be on-going costs, which need to be considered. A suitable habitat, bedding, nesting box, exercise wheel, food bowl, water bottle and food will all need to be purchased in advance.
Hamsters are often bought for children who want to play with them during the day. They are however nocturnal and when awoken suddenly from their daytime sleep, might bite. They are also easily startled by loud noise and sudden movement – as well as needing a gentle touch when handled – so young children should be supervised when playing with their fluffy friend.
Dwarf hamsters are very small and prefer gentle handling so are better suited to older children. They may be able to live together but only in same-sex pairs or groups. Females might be better on their own as they may fight.
If housing them together, choose siblings that have grown up together and buy them at the same time, as new individuals will not be accepted. Make sure there are plenty of hiding places in their cage so they can get away if they need to.
If they start to fight with each other, house them separately to prevent them injuring each other.
Syrian hamsters are more territorial and solitary so need to be housed alone as they are more likely to fight with each other.
If any of your hamsters are housed alone you will need to provide them with companionship and spend time handling them gently every day.
The average lifespan is two to three years depending on the species so if you’re not prepared to have the ‘death talk’ with very small children, you might prefer a longer living animal.