What should you consider before getting a hamster as a pet? By Donabelle Zuzart

I met a little girl Orkide a few weekends ago, and she was completely smitten knowing we had such a big number of animals – yes, we have grown now to three rescued Cambodian cats, one Persian cat, three dogs, of which two are rescues and one re-homed, and my two smart two-legged ganders Noodle and Doodle.

I have to keep reminding myself that this is the limit and no more personal pets, but sometimes the head and the heart are in contradiction when I see a pet in need.

So Orkide wants to keep a hamster and said she would wait until she was bigger. I’ve never owned a hamster and thought it would be something good to research and write about.

It can be tempting to acquire a hamster on impulse. After all, these little guys are the picture of cuteness: small, round, furry and inquisitive. A great starter pet, right? Not at all. Here are some important questions to consider before you dive headlong into a relationship.

Many of us may have fond memories of owning a pet hamster at some stage of our lives, and hamsters are often a popular choice of first pet for children. They are relatively easy to care for, and with regular careful handling can become very tame.

But hamsters are delicate little creatures, which do not stand up well to rough handling and play, and so are not suitable for young children. Hamsters belong to the cricetidae family and there are 24 different species. They are most commonly kept as pets, including popular breeds such as the Syrian hamster and dwarf varieties, including the Russian, Chinese and Roborovski hamsters.

Depending on the breed, hamsters live on average for two to three years. They are generally sociable creatures, and benefit from being kept in pairs or small groups, although female Chinese hamsters can be aggressive towards other females and may be better off housed alone.

If you’re planning on keeping more than one hamster, you should buy the pair or group together, as hamsters rarely accept new additions to the cage once they have become established. Although they generally live happily side by side, occasional spats and fall outs will take place, so you should ensure that the cage or tank is suitably sized to contain a group comfortably, with different areas which individuals can escape to as needed.

Hamsters are nocturnal, which means they will be most active at night. So if you’re a night owl, a hamster could be the perfect companion when you’re burning the midnight oil.

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