A.P. asks from Omaha, NE on July 09, 2008
Wanting to Purchase a Pet
I have an almost 5 yr old and almost 3 yr old. Where we live they won't let us have a cat or dog so I am looking for a smaller animal that the kids are able to hold sometimes and that doesn't stink or get too wild! I was thinking a hamster or gerbil Can you guys give me some advice on this? I have heard so many good things about children learning to care for animals and that it helps also with self esteem that's why I would like one while they are still young and not wait until we can get a dog or cat. Thanks!
J.H. answers from Billings on July 10, 2008
I had pet rats as a kid. THey are not like sewer rats--they are bred to be pets. THey are very smart, and can learn tricks. I had one that would fetch! The thing that weirds some people out are their tails, but that never bothered me. They were very gentle and friendly.
J.N. answers from Salt Lake City on July 10, 2008
I am probably going against the major sentiment here, but I would advise against getting the kids a pet yet. 3 and 5 are still very young, they don't understand or always remember how and why to be gentle, and they can't really help with much. They can maybe feed the pet, but you will be left to clean the cage and all that not-fun stuff. Don't get me wrong, I think pets are great for kids, teaching caring and responsibility, but I think it would be best for everyone to wait a few years. You don't want to traumatize an animal, you don't want the kids to get bitten because they are being typical kids, or to always be after them to be gentle. You probably don't want to be left with the majority of the upkeep of the pet, and you don't want to give the kids any idea that pets are disposable by getting rid of it after a few months if it doesn't work.
A.J. answers from Salt Lake City on July 10, 2008
Pets are wonderful however, I would not buy a gerbil or hamster they bite and are not very cuddly. A better alternative is a guinea pig they are really nice and about as messy as a gerbil. The even better option even though it has a weird stigma is a rat. They train really well. Love to cuddle, and are smart so kids can have a lot of fun playing with them. People just get weirded out by it. As a child I have had all of these different types of pets.
K.N. answers from Denver on July 09, 2008
Initially, most people cringe when I mention it but rats are wonderful pets. They are affectionate, responsive and so much cleaner than the other rodents you mentioned---this means one of the things they do is defecate and urinate in roughly the same area of their cage and don't mess it up as much and in turn the odor is better managed just by the nature of the rat. Many pet stores have them but most people are surprised to know that they are found at the shelters too.
Here's a link to a reputable website regarding choosing a rat as a pet:
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S.N. answers from Colorado Springs on July 10, 2008
Have you considered a dwarf bunny? They are very lovable and I always thought more personable toward people, whereas gerbils and hamsters seem to just run around wherever you put them. A bunny seems to make a better connection. As long as the cage is cleaned regularly, they are great. Also (and a lot of people don't think of these), maybe a chinchilla. They are the softest animal around and so very sweet. My daughter had one, and it was quiet and never smelled. It's lots of fun to watch them bathe in their lava dust bath -- they flip around and shake and have a great time -- your kids would love that! You never have to worry about washing them, because water damages their fur. They also prefer cool air, since they are from the higher altitudes of the Andes Mountains, so if you have a drafty area in the house, he'd probably feel right at home! I recommend reading up on chinchillas -- the more you learn, the more you'll want one. Granted, they're not cheap like hamsters (you'll probably spend between $100 and $150 for a more common breed, plus cage and accessories), but they have a much longer life span (15-20 years) and, again, make a much better pet connection with your children! Go here to learn more: http://members.aol.com/sirchin/chininfo.htm.
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S.M. answers from Fort Collins on July 10, 2008
We have had LOTS of fish I'm a fish person ~ they are great. We also had a hamster, it was small and played more at night and died too soon because of their short life spans and we got it from a friend so it was already old. We had rats, when they are properly handeled when young they are great loved them, but when they are not handeled enough (as with any of these hamster,gerbal,geenie pig) they can bite and they have sharp little teeth and strong jaws. We also did hermit crabs, which are alot of fun and very easy ~ but the info out there for them isn't all correct so do your research. (also let me know if your interested and I will pass on what I know) anyway, they are great. We just baby sat a geenie pig and although I love there temperment and size they are just so lovable, they do stink. Dosnt take long after you clean the cage for them to stink it up.
B.M. answers from Salt Lake City on July 10, 2008
I would not recommend a hamster or gerbil as they are not terribly social and do not like to be handled. They are fine to watch run around in the cage. We actually had rats. I know it sounds awful at first but they were so social and sweet and really cute. We only had the ones with the big brown eyes and cute spotted coloring. The problem is, they are very social and either need a cage mate or a lot of attention, or both. They are also a lot of work as they need their cage cleaned frequently. They also have short life spans. Our oldest made it to 2 1/2. However, they are probably closer to a dog or cat in terms of human interaction.
After our last one died we decided not to continue owning rats because they are a lot of work and we also have 2 dogs and 2 cats. But they were enjoyable while we had them.
D.B. answers from Grand Junction on July 10, 2008
Looking for a small animal hamsters and gerbils are great to watch and you can hold them they are just very quick and have a tendency to get out of the cages a lot. I suggest a guinea pig they are cute they love to talk to you by thier little squilly noise but you can also hold them they don't get out of their cages, you do need to make sure the cage is cleaned probably once a week if there is only one so the smell doesn't get to bad about every three to four days if more than one. We have them and my kids love them and they are just to cute. Good luck in your pet hunting.
A.T. answers from Colorado Springs on July 11, 2008
We had pet rats growing up. They were the best little pets we ever had. They are friendly, smart and clean. We had one that would come when we called. We could let her run around the house and she would come right back to us. They were easy to maintain, the cage needed cleaned about once a week and they needed fed everyday. Ours all loved to snuggle and would sit and watch tv with us for a long time.
We always had females because we were told the males stink.
They are great pets and I will get them for my children if they want small pets.
A.T. answers from Denver on July 10, 2008
I just wanted to add as long as you clean the cage at least once a week, they will not stink (whether you get hamsters, gerbils, rats, or guinea pigs). We have had a few hamsters and as long as your children wash their hands before they handle them (because the hamsters will smell food and other items) they usually will not bite. However, they are quick and if they get dropped it will be hard to find them. We have had guinea pigs in the past and they are great. Very cuddly and loveable, plus the live a little longer then hamsters.
D.K. answers from Denver on July 10, 2008
Short of getting a fish (when can smell if the bowl is dirty) I would say there isn't much you can get. We are babysitting a guinea pig and if you keep their cages clean they are so easy, social, live long lives and are sweet. They don't take up much room and if the children are gentle they love to be cuddled and talked to.
They are much more responsive then a rabbit, hamster or gerbil. They don't eat a whole lot, just need to really know how to care for one.
I say do research on Guinea pigs, they are cute and fun. We have dog and cats already but babysitting this guinea pig has been a good experience.