It’s really healthy to have pets in a household. Not only has recent research shown that children raised with animals have fewer allergies and overall seem to get sick less often but also they have the chance to learn to respect all creatures great and small. To nurture. To be responsible for another life. To have a creature that “listens” and to hold and cuddle or pet when they feel all those feelings that children can have and not express. Animals enrich our lives. There is no mistake about that. They are a vital part of our civilization. On a smaller scale our families.
Many people think of hamsters as throw-away pets. Or just simply children’s pets. Truth is most hamsters don’t awake much at all until after a child’s bedtime. So they make pretty poor children’s pets. They are more fragile. Less interested in being held or played with. Though they are loving in their own unique hamster way one doesn’t seek a hamster as a pet expecting it to be like a dog. My son is rough and tumble. And not to sound contrary but one would think a a pet more suited for him would be a large dog. That may be true. But really there is no such thing as a children’s pet. Be it a big dog they can wrestle. Nor is it a hamster just because a kid can do very little with it for it to survive therefore it’s “easy” for them.
So, despite a hamster being in my opinion – like any other animal – being an adult’s responsibility first and foremost… And a hamster being more like an insomniac adults’ pet at that – I still thought that for a 2-year-old and now 3-year-old – a hamster would still serve a great purpose for my son’s upbringing as well bring me hours and days and hopefully a few years joy. With proper supervision I felt that a hamster would be appropriate for a “family pet”. I was delighted with how gentle my wild son becomes with hamsters. How eager he is to hold them and how delicate he does it. How delighted he is with them. Yes, he’s 3 and he of course has no responsibilities over them. Clearly, they are more my pets. But what is key here is that my son is watching me. More than you would think. And he’s absorbing the respect and care and love I put into the rodents.
As he gets older he’ll probably ask for pets of his own. I’ve planted a seed. Despite his age – while he’s still a child any pet I agree on will be first and foremost MY responsibility while teaching him responsibility as well. I’ll be expecting him to first take care of things while keeping a close eye on the follow through.
I think children who grow up learning to respect and be gentle and love animals are growing up to be good-hearted adults. And be that animal a dog or cat or horse or hamster – they all deserve that respect. They are all God’s living creatures – great or small – a child’s pet is really an adults pet. Or should be. And that means that all pets are to have spacious, clean, stress free environments, healthy foods, veterinarian care and love. It’s not “Just” a hamster anymore than it’s “Just” a dog.
We strive as parents to do the best by our children by the lessons we not just teach them but model for them. These little hamsters and gerbils are a big part of that.