Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Hamster!
So, did you have a hamster growing up? Or maybe your best friend had a hamster? Most people have had some experience with hamsters, and those experiences often leave lasting impressions! Guess what: I had hamsters growing up, too! They were one of many small animal types I kept. I really liked the typical “Teddy Bear” hamsters. But I also kept Dwarf hamsters and Angora hamsters. I handled them all and bred them all. I loved all the hamsters!
Hamsters are a common first pet for youngsters. They provide an excellent learning experience in teaching responsibility. Children learn to care for and love another being. Especially if gotten while young, hamsters can be handled often and become very friendly and affectionate towards their owners. These rodents are also small, don’t take up much room, are inexpensive, easy to care for, and only live to be around 3 years old. They are clean animals with little odor. They come in a variety of types, colors, and sizes.
Hamsters have been kept as pets since the 1930’s! They were discovered to be easily tameable and affectionate and quickly became popular pets. Their name means “to hoard” and is derived from the German word “hamstern.” And believe me, hamsters know how to hoard! They have large pouches in their cheeks which allow them to store and move around large quantities of food and nesting materials. In fact after you’ve had your hamster for a while you will probably know where is favorite “hoarding” spot is!
Caring for and maintaining a healthy and engaging environment for hamsters is generally very easy. They don’t need a huge enclosure, but large enough that they can run around in. Metal cages and aquariums make good homes for them. Be careful of using wood and plastic enclosures, because hamsters are great at chewing and escaping! There are many metal cages available that also have custom expansion parts you can use to change things up. Hamsters love these! Keep some purchased bedding (such as aspen wood shavings) on the bottom of the cage and clean it out once or twice a week.
Provide fresh water (a water bottle works well) and fresh food every day. Hamster food mixes purchased at a pet store or online are the best bet for providing your pet with optimal nutrition. You can give fresh fruits and vegetables once or twice a week as a treat. Also, provide them with chew sticks for their constantly growing teeth! Hamsters enjoy exercise. They are nocturnal and usually do most of their activities at night. One of the best toys you can give them is an exercise wheel. A hamster ball is also lots of fun if you want to watch them roll around the house!
Hamsters are mostly solitary creatures. So plan on only putting one in a cage unless you plan to breed them. Sometimes they will do alright together if they grow up together, but that is not always the case. And never introduce two adult hamsters into the same enclosure unless you want a fight on your hands! A hamsters best friend in captivity is usually: you! If you begin handling them while young, you can have a loving and fun to handle little critter.
Hamsters are available almost everywhere and are inexpensive. As long as you keep their cage clean, give them fresh food and water, give them play time and social time, they will most likely have very few problems!
Read more on Animal-World’s Hamster page!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Hamsters are among the most popular rodents kept as pets. Their small size makes them ideal for small spaces, and they are reasonably easy to care for. Each one has a unique personality, and they are lots of fun to watch and interact with. These attributes make them good candidates for classroom pets.
The breeding of hamsters is a fairly recent achievement. They weren’t successfully bred and domesticated until 1930. But today there are numerous hamster breeds available, including dwarf hamsters, striped hamsters, long-haired Angora hamsters and golden hamsters. Depending on the breed, adult hamsters may measure anywhere from 2 to 13 inches in length. Most, however, grow to approximately 5 to 7 inches long. The life span is generally 2 to 5 years.
Hamsters are omnivores, and they will eat everything from insects to nuts to fruits and vegetables. Captive hamsters do well on a diet of commercial hamster food, but they may also be given treats. They hoard food, and can often be seen carrying food in the large pouches located in their cheeks. They also do a lot of gnawing to wear down their front teeth, which never stop growing.
Hamsters are nocturnal animals. That means they will spend most of the school day sleeping. However, most do not mind being awoken for play and lessons. This is also good because they rarely cause a disruption during class. However, it is important to make sure that the hamster receives attention during its regular waking hours, and that may mean taking it home with you at night or allowing students to keep it over the weekend.
A class hamster may be kept in a wire or plastic cage or a 10-gallon or larger tank. Solid habitats provide the advantage of keeping substrate inside, making for much less mess. The bottom of the cage should be covered with pine or cedar chips. The hamster will also need a wheel, a water bottle, and a sturdy food dish and some toys to chew on. The cage should be cleaned and disinfected once a week.
Hamsters provide endless learning opportunities for students. Kids especially enjoy rubbing food along paths to create scent trails and watch hamsters follow them. You can find lots of hamster lesson plans online, and it’s also easy to create your own.
The biggest issue with hamsters as class pets is biting. Some hamsters bite frequently, others occasionally, and others rarely. It may be a good idea to keep a hamster at home to see how tolerant it is to handling before bringing it to the classroom, but be prepared to keep it as your own pet if you find that you’re not willing to expose it to your students. It’s also wise to keep only one hamster and purchase it while still young due to the risk of having a litter of baby hamsters to contend with.
Hamsters are educational pets that generally do well with children. Hamster allergies are rare, and they’re lots of fun for kids to play with. If you’re looking for a classroom pet that’s easy to care for and doesn’t take up a lot of space, a hamster is a fine choice.
If you would like to learn more about hamster care in general, check out the Hamster page!