Hamsters definitely belong on the list of the most popular pets in the world. Everyone wanted one as a kid, and many people still keep them as adults. They’re easy to take care of, and if you have two they’ll socialize between themselves, so they won’t be lonely when you’re away. However, not all is as it seems on the surface.
As it is with every topic, keeping hamsters as pets have both its pros and cons. And today – we will be focusing on the cons. There are many things that may attract you to hamsters. They’re small, cute, their fur is shiny, and they basically look like small fluff toys, only they’re alive. However, there are many things about hamsters that you should know before you decide to adopt one.
In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at that side of these fluffy creatures – reasons why you shouldn’t get a hamster. Without any further ado, let’s get started!
Hamsters actually tend to bite more than other pet rodents. This is mostly fueled by their poor eyesight – they rely on smell and taste to tell what’s in front of them, and if you stick your finger or your hand into their cage – they’re likely to bite it in order to find out if it’s food. These bites hurt and they will bleed, as their teeth are very sharp, despite not being that large.
Their general lack of good eyesight most definitely has an effect on their behavior, as it makes them generally nervous – hamsters can be frightened quite easily, and when they’re frightened – they bite. It’s important to understand that they will bite you for only two reasons: fear (you would probably be willing to bite too if you were handled by a creature twenty or thirty times your size), and curiosity (if they mistake your hands for food or something else that’s interesting). For this reason, make sure to always wash your hands before handling hamsters – they’re more likely to bite you if your hands smell like food.
Hamsters can also hurt themselves – as they’re a very frightened species, they’re ready to jump out of your hands when you’re carrying them. Let’s just say that jumping from such a height isn’t the smartest idea if you’re a hamster.
Hamsters’ bites shouldn’t be underestimated, as they can be quite painful and draw a lot of blood. As an adult, you can probably handle this, but children can often be put off from this and not only lose interest in the hamster but start to dislike it altogether. There have been numerous occasions where a child has grown fearful of their hamster, and who can blame them? Probably anyone would if they had a pet who kept biting them.
Gerbils, for example, are much better pets for children. They can be held and petted at will, and they rarely bite or scratch.
2. Nocturnal Behavior and Early Rising
These animals actually spend the majority of the day curled up and sleeping. They don’t like to be disturbed when they’re resting (just like us), and they’ll defend themselves if you disturb them. However, once everything at your home goes silent, hamsters wake up.
At that point, hamsters get crazily active, which can actually wake up the whole house – especially if the hamster decides to start running on the wheel.
They also get up very early, as they’re most active at dusk and dawn.
3. Hereditary Diseases
Unfortunately, hamsters are prone to inheriting hereditary diseases. Because of overbreeding, they’re prone to congestive heart failure at an early age (as early as 6 months old). There’s no cure for this condition, and the treatment can be very expensive. They’re also prone to an incurable kidney disease called amyloidosis, which means that you’re going to have to be looking out on multiple fronts for the sake of their health.
They are susceptible to many dangerous bacteria, ultimately leading to diarrhea and dehydration. Some of these bacteria, predominantly ringworm, can also infect humans. It’s very important to focus on two specific bacteria that can easily infect children. We’re talking about salmonella bacteria and lymphocytic choriomeningitis and hantavirus. These can be transmitted from animals to humans, and salmonella can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, and fever.
4. Training and Taming
Hamsters are very difficult to tame, much more difficult than other animals, and the main reason for this is the fact that they’re so scared of everything. They’re not trusting as dogs, they’re not even trusting as cats. Cats are actually more likely to approach you than hamsters. Their evolution has given them the ability to run and hide from any threat, and that’s what they will do if they see you coming.
On top of that, hamsters have a lot of energy, meaning that they’re jumpy, active, and want to play – all the time. A pet that’s energetic but runs from anyone that pays it any attention is very difficult to train.
5. Hamsters Aren’t Very Affectionate
Hamsters don’t enjoy being picked up and held, cuddled, and kissed like many dogs would. They will certainly put up with it for a while, but after a while, they’ll get tired of it and jump away.
Keep this in mind if you’re looking for a pet with which you’ll be able to strike a real connection – they’re not the cuddliest, and will not stay long in your hand anyway. They will somewhat bond with their owner and come closer when they hear their owner’s voice, but that’s about it.
Hamsters are not as loving and as playful as dogs.
6. Hamsters Are Very Sensitive
Hamsters are sensitive to many things. Firstly, their diet isn’t exactly something you should take lightly, as not correcting it when you need to can cause many dietary issues like diarrhea, dehydration, fur loss, etc.
Secondly, they’re so easily frightened and they are so weak that they can literally die from too much stress. Hamsters are known to die from a dog barking at them or something else scaring them. You, personally, can scare your hamster in many ways – the hamster may not trust you yet and even feeding it will scare it (nothing you can do about that aside from trying to be as gentle as possible), if you do something very sudden it will scare it and that can be difficult for you as an owner to adjust to, your hamster may be in permanent shock (from moving to a new cage, for example) and during this period it will be easily agitated, and some hamsters are also naturally shy and difficult to handle.
Also, hamsters’ immunity is terrible. They can easily contract any disease and unless you recognize it and take them to the vet immediately, they have almost no chances of survival. On top of this, they’re also very sensitive to temperatures. They can die from hypothermia very easily, and they can overheat easily.
Your hamster’s cage is also going to have a massive effect on it, as hamsters get agitated easily in smaller cages. They’ll also get stressed easily if they don’t exercise enough, so it’s best to let them have a wheel. Transporting them is also not good, as that causes major stress.
Now that we’re taking a look at all this in retrospect, evolution hasn’t really been beneficial to hamsters.
In case you didn’t know that all rodents breed extremely fast. Hamsters can breed three to four weeks after being born, and when they breed, they breed like crazy. You could make the massive mistake of buying a pair of hamsters and having almost twenty of them after a while.
This problem is usually solved by pet shops where you purchase your hamsters, as the workers can separate the hamsters and divide them by gender. However, if a mistake is made and a single male hamster is put amongst female hamsters…well, we’re sure that you know what kind of a mess that is.
Hamsters can truly be defined as escape artists. They have the ability to flatten their body and they can fit through very small holes and crevices. An even larger issue is the fact that they love doing this and they’re likely to use every opportunity to escape. It’s their instinct telling them that they should escape and return to the wild. They’re also very good at hiding, so you won’t be finding them easily.
This can actually lead to them being injured or killed while on the loose, as they’re very vulnerable.
9. Cages Need Constant Cleaning
Hamsters themselves are very clean, similar to cats. They groom themselves all the time and this way they minimize their scent, which keeps them almost undetectable in the wilderness.
Their cages, on the other hand, aren’t as nearly as clean. Exactly the opposite, actually. Hamsters are known for their inexplicable inability to keep their quarters clean. If you place a hamster in a perfectly clean cage, it’s going to take it less than three days to cover it in droppings and pee. Their droppings can smell very foul and many people can’t stand it. These dirty cages also tend to attract bugs, and they’re more prone to developing infections and your hamster will get sick more easily in such an environment.
Now, you may be thinking “Fine, I’ll just teach it to use a litter box.” – that’s fine, only we’ve already mentioned that training is terribly difficult with hamsters and you’re not teaching them anything easily. There are hamsters that openly and seemingly without reason refuse to use the litter box.
Cleaning the enclosure always means that you have to take the hamster out of the enclosure. This means that you have to grab it without it biting you. If it bites you, you have to disinfect the wound and put a bandaid over it. Repeat the process until you manage to take the hamster without it biting you, and now put it somewhere where it can’t escape from. However, your hamster has still escaped while you were scrubbing its cage because they’re great at that, and now you have to find a hamster before putting it back into the cage.
See why it’s difficult?
Even though it may seem like a good idea to have your child clean the hamster’s cage to teach them responsibility, it’s sort of an unsafe idea – these cages can be salmonella heaven, and children can be especially vulnerable to that. Children don’t exactly understand the dangers of illnesses and they may not wash their hands properly, which could, unfortunately, lead to them contracting salmonella.
Hamsters don’t really live for too long. Most hamsters live from two to four years, with a two-year-old hamster already being considered old. If you’re looking for a short-term pet, that’s great. But very few people are looking for that sort of a companion, and most people want a pet that’s going to spend time with them for years to come (like dogs, who can spend up to a fifth of a lifetime with their human companions). Changing pets every few years may not be in your interest.
Secondly, if you’re thinking about purchasing a hamster for your child, we’re advising you now that you shouldn’t. Children get attached to everything very easily and having to watch the hamster grow up only to die quicker than they can graduate from the elementary can and will break your child’s heart.
12. Hamsters Require Adult Supervision
Even though the maintenance they require is low in frequency, if you’re purchasing a hamster for your child, know that the maintenance your child is going to have to keep up with is complicated. They may not have to do it often, but when they do it, you’re going to have to be there.
The same goes for training the hamster – since hamsters are so frightened and are easy to agitate and have them bite their trainer, it’d be best if you were there when your child was training the hamster.
13. Hamsters Aren’t Good Pets for Children
Despite the general opinion being the exact opposite, hamsters aren’t really good pets for children. At least not the youngest children under the age of eight or nine.
They can prove to be aggressive which will only scare the children away, they can also be very difficult to train which won’t encourage your child to keep trying around them. Having to clean their cages and feed them may be a great way to instill some sense of responsibility in your child early on, but it’s quickly going to become a chore to them and they’re going to start avoiding it.
Hamsters can also transmit a disease to your child. Ringworm infection, for example, can easily be transmitted to your child or yourself despite you being careful and wearing gloves. Salmonella, what we’ve already mentioned, is also a threat for children and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Because of their sensitivity, and because of children’s general lack thereof, your child could accidentally harm the hamster. And their constant escaping isn’t going to help either, just like the hamster’s short lifespan won’t be helping. Hamsters also stay awake at night and they’re very active, which may keep your child from sleeping well.
All in all, if you’re looking for a pet for your child, you should think twice before purchasing a hamster for your child.
Hamsters often seem like an ideal pet for anyone, but that’s far from the truth. There are many things that have to be taken into account when discussing these animals, as they’re not as nearly as perfect as they seem to be. You should keep in mind that no animal is inherently evil or aggressive, only defensive. Hamsters are just like that, and the fact that they’re so scared of everything and everyone makes it fairly difficult to interact with them.
Teaching your hamster not to bite you will take weeks, and if you’re interested in potty training or teaching them tricks, that’s going to take even longer. They’re quick to turn against their owner, even if you mean them no harm, because they’re scared, and maybe it would be best to let this one go, and buy a different pet. There are many pets on the market that may be more suited to your needs. If you’re ever looking for any advice, feel free to consult your local veterinarian.