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Are Hamsters Good as Pets for Kids?

Hamsters originate in Syria, and have only been domesticated since the 1930’s. They are rodents with short, stout bodies and short tails. Despite their popularity as house pets, they really aren’t well-suited to being handled or played with. Children will be better off with another choice in pet.

Safety (4/5)

Hamsters have a tendency to bite when irritated. They are naturally nocturnal, and children who attempt to wake them for handling during the day are very likely to get bitten. Additionally, they are omnivorous, meaning their feces is more likely to carry harmful bacteria than that of the herbivorous guinea pig, which makes a much better pet for children. Hamsters eat their own feces as a natural part of their diet (seriously, they have to do it to stay healthy), meaning that the likelihood of bacterial contamination of their fur is much higher.

Ease of Care (4/5)

Hamsters are fairly low-maintenance animals, though they do require regular changes of their bedding.

Sociability (3/5)

Hamsters are nocturnal, making them very irritable during the day. Do not expect your hamster to be happy if you wake it up for playtime. They are also extremely anti-social, and will not tolerate other hamsters sharing an enclosure with them. Their bones are thin and fragile, so children should not be allowed to handle them unless they can be trusted to do so gingerly, or the hamster may be injured.



Hamsters can be kept in wire cages or aquariums with wire mesh lids. Hamsters love to tunnel, so including tubes for them to crawl through is important. Pieces of plastic and cardboard tubes are good choices. Providing an exercise wheel is also a good idea. Either a ladder-rung style wheel or a mesh wheel is a good choice for hamsters.

Hamsters like to sleep in a nest inside enclosed spaces, so providing your hamster with a commercial nesting box or a small clay flowerpot in which to build its nest is important. Occasionally provide a paper towel or a napkin to your hamster to shred for nesting material.


Pine and cedar bedding should be avoided for your hamster’s health. Good, safe bedding materials include aspen shavings, corncob bedding, and bedding products made from shredded paper or reclaimed wood pulp. Regardless of which option you choose, avoid any bedding that smells musty or moldy.

Hamsters need lots of bedding material in the bottom of their enclosures, as they need to be able to dig to stay happy. Place at least three or four inches of bedding in the bottom of their enclosure. Make sure that the bedding is changed at least or twice a week, or as soon as it starts to get damp or smell like urine.


Commercial hamster feed comes both as a seed mixture and in pellet form. Pelleted food should make up about 1/2 to 2/3 of your hamster’s diet, with seed mix and a little hay for variety. Fresh, leafy greens, a carrot, or an apple should be added about twice a week for variety.