Thinking of bringing home cute, little hamsters as pets for children? There are a few things about them that you need to take into consideration.
Getting home a sweet, little animal, like a hamster―or a gerbil for that matter―can be a nice option for those who don't want to keep big pets. There are different species of hamsters; the Chinese dwarf hamster (Cricetus griseus) being just one of them. Despite the use of word 'dwarf' in their name, these hamsters are 'technically' not dwarfs.
Chinese Dwarf Hamster Facts
Also known as striped hamsters or Chinese striped hamsters, they measure roughly about 2.5 - 3 inches in length, and thus, are often mistaken for mice. They have a hairless tail, which is about 1-inch long. Their coat appears banded with light and dark colors.
The prominent black line along their spine looks nice on their dark-brown back. Similarly, ivory-colored soft bellies make them look very attractive.
Hamsters are expert diggers. In the wild, they are always busy constructing burrows, planning entrances, and designing galleries. They also have to design and dig tunnels for temporary hibernation. They have fragile bones and thus, they are most likely to get injured if handled roughly.
If you are getting them for your children, you need to make sure that your children handle them with utmost care.
How Do They Fare as Pets?
As they are very active, it is your duty―as a pet owner―to provide them sufficient space to help prevent boredom. They require a lot of room to roam. Buying a pair or having them in small groups is actually recommended. They have a lifespan of 2.5 to 3 years.
Though they are nocturnal in the wild, they will be active throughout the day in captivity. If they escape from their cage, they are more likely to get hurt because they are very small and have poor eyesight. They are mostly nearsighted and colorblind.
However, they do have an amazing sense of smell and hearing. They can easily find out scraps of food and are sensitive to movement around them, especially to high-pitched noises. Studies show that hamsters can communicate ultrasonically.
They cannot survive sudden temperature changes. Aged hamsters usually become aggressive and start fighting with their roommates, especially females! You may have to make separate arrangements for them.
Avoid wire cages and cedar or pine wood shavings, as these can prove harmful for your pet hamsters. Proper ventilation is necessary to prevent strong smell of ammonia from their urine.
What to Feed Them?
You can buy good quality hamster food, combine it with fresh foods, and feed them. As they are omnivores, they will eat most of the things offered to them. Sharp incisors in their jaws help them cut and gnaw.
Hamsters can stack a lot of food within their expandable cheek pouches, which is why they can survive for days without food. They continuously chew the stored food. Their diet may consist of fresh fruits, vegetables (both, fresh and dried), grains, and seeds in small amount.
At the same time, they are also known to feast on mealworms, meat, dog biscuits, boiled eggs, yeast tablets, low sugar cereals, and mixed bird seeds.
Excessive consumption of food may result in severe health problems. Sugary treats should be strictly avoided, as these hamsters are prone to diabetes. They eat their own feces. This actually helps them improve digestion and, more importantly, they get to make the most of the nutrients available in their food.
Depending on where you stay, you might need a permit in order to own a hamster. So, before ordering a hamster, you should check the state laws. Chinese dwarf hamsters make good pets and your children surely will enjoy their company.