Often when people ask me what they decide they would like to get as a small pet and they suggest a Rabbit, they seem to think i am mad to say, “how about a Hamster instead?” I suppose that we are in luck in the UK and Germany at least that the breeding and riasing is taken far more sriously that in ther contries and continents, and that, it does not take a lot to find someone who produces healthy, hand tame long lived animals. Hamsters do not have the horrid reputation that they certainly seem to have in the US (and i know a lot of American hamster owners who can vouch for this opinion) for example. These parent’s when i make the suggestion have two points.
A) They are nocturnal
B) They dont live very long.
C) They dont keep still and you can’t ‘do’ anything with them.
All fair and valid points. In answer to B i can say “Well that makes them the perfect pet for a child who may like football, or art, or making a general pest of its self more in two years time.” I then explain the responsibilies that come with Rabbits that make their heads spin, they need to be in pairs, they need vaccinations, they need a shed to themselves, they need far more regular handling to keep them people friendly, all Bunnies start small but even the ‘dwarf’ breeds end up big. They are strong, they are easily bored, and if you think a Hamster bite hurts wait until a Rabbit gets it’s chompers into you.
In answer to A & C you need to get youself one of these babies:
(Meet Luna-Ash we will come to her in a bit!)
Now. A dwarf Hamster is not an animal I would reccomend waltzing into any old shop and buying, especially for a child – increasingly “Russian dwarf” hamsters (which are sold under a slew of ridiculous names for an inflated price) are becoming hybridised, these are a cross between Campbells Russian and Winter White (Siberian Hamsters) these are the ONLY hamsters that can breed between between eachother so don’t be mislead by someone who claims to have a mix with any other type. This is resulting in more bad tempered animals and Hamsters that suffer from Gloucoma and Diabeties. Unless you are experienced enough to win them over and kind enough to care for them with the unplesant but controllable illnesses always try and buy from a breeder that know the back ground of their animals.
The reason i put forth the diminutaive little dwarf in answer to A & C? These animals have so much character packed into their tiny bullet shaped bodies they could kick your Rabbits butt. In comparison the their larger cousins the Syrian hamsters, the Dwarf Species, Campbells, Winter White, Chinese and Robovoski are largely diurnal. These Hammies are happy to get up and potter about during the day. Campbells and WW’s are more inclined to come over if they see their human and clamour for attention. They also appear to be far more alert and willing to work for some attention and rewards.
You may see hwere im going ith this. Yes it is possible to train your hamster baisic tricks and agility.
Luna was my Winter White i got from the RSPCA in the winter of 08. She was the first Dwarf i had owned however had always had Syrian hamsters, some sweet, some mad, one who used to scream and bite random bystanders. I realised straight away that her brain was wired very differently, whilst a Syrian is more inclined to trundle about, try and eat somthng, trundle some more, attempt to get up the curtains, fall, trundle, wash, fall asleep in a corner. Luna appeared to have a goal in all of her actions, she swiftly learned where food was kept. She learned where her cage was and if she was put the oposite side of the room then, without fault and no matter what obsicle was in her way she would make it back there. She also swiftly learned who deposited the food, whilst i do not believe they learn faces they certainly know voices and learn their names. So i decided to see if she could be taught how to complete simple courses, we’ve all made a ‘hamster maze’ out of books or VHS tapes back in the day as a child but really there was no challenge or learning there, just where they could and couldn’t go. It was through doing this that I joined a fabulous forum and discovered a member there who has a great passion in animal behaviours and training.
With a little advice and some of her videos me and Luna took on the task of learning, i think i did more learning than her as she caught on very quickly and was completeing her courses and jumps before i’d really began to pay attention.
I sadly do not have videos of Luna doing her tricks. I didn’t have a good enough camera at the time, and she is now departed from this world (well actually she’s still here just a bit more boney) so here is a link to the youtube chanel of the forum member i spoke to those few years ago: http://www.youtube.com/user/flybybutterflies#p/c/AD9B676A48ACB0C1
She has also sucesfully trained Guinea-Pigs using ‘targeting’ (how dolphins and whales are trained) and clicker traing, which i am still trying to do, however only one of my boys co-operates and he has learned a basic hand signal that means “Stand up”
So, next time someone who thinks that only thing that makes a pet is a dog, look at you blankly when you say “Get a hamster/ I have a hamster” and asks what you actually ‘do’ with it. Crack out your amazing one hamster show. No pet is boring and un-trainable, you need to work with what you have.