Parents urged to think before introducing any pet to a family

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STAFF at a pet shop in Newry were appalled recently to discover that seven baby hamsters had been abandoned in “a filthy cage” in its car park last week.

The staff said they discovered the seven Roborovski Dwarf hamsters in terrible conditions and they believe that  the hamsters are from two different litters and all under the age of seven weeks, with the smallest of them weighing less than 10 grams.

The Pet Connection also said they believe that this incident is part of a worrying trend in which pets are being dumped at pet stores.

“We are concerned about this trend of abandoning helpless animals and putting them at unnecessary risk, which is of course illegal under Section 14 of the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011,” owner Roisin Morgan said.

“In previous years it has been litters of tiny, defenceless kittens, who just like these hamsters, were too young to have been taken from their mothers,” she pointed out.

Roisin was also quick to point out that Roborovski Dwarf hamsters are not sold by her store as this particular breed of hamster’s aloof characters and tendency to not enjoy being handled means that they are not ideal pets for most people.

As we’ve pointed out before here at ‘For Pet’s Sake’, small animals like hamsters can make a great first pet for children as they are easier to care for than bigger animals.

However, just like with any pet, they need work and commitment and any family considering getting a hamster needs to be sure they can dedicate time and money to a hamster.

As hamster owners will already know with regular handling, they can be a lovely pet and become very tame. Because they are most active in the evening they are ideal for people at work or children at school.

As for which breed to choose, there are  5 main breeds of hamster kept as pets and they come in a variety of colours and lengths of coat including Russian Campbell Dwarf Hamsters, Chinese Hamsters, Winter White Dwarf Hamsters and Hybrid (Russian Campbell crossed with Winter White)  Syrian (Golden) Hamsters and Roborovski Dwarf Hamsters.

Some types of hamsters are prone to diabetes which can affect their health and diet; and depending on the breed, some are more social than others so it’s best to do your homework and get advice from your local vet or pet shop when choosing the right breed for your family.

It is worth noting that an average pet hamster can live between 1- 3 years or even a bit longer if they are well loved and looked after.

Speaking of looking after them, hamsters are lovely pets who keep themselves busy when they are awake, exercising, burrowing and climbing so you’ll need to provide them with toys such as a wheel, tunnels and a hamster ball to keep them healthy and active.

They are also very clean creatures so it’s really important to keep their cages clean. It is the responsibility of every family member to help achieve this, especially little ones who wanted a hamster as a pet in the first place.

Having a pet like a hamster can be a great way of teaching children about responsibility and care and also about the circle of life.

They will need lots of guidance and help from their parents to make sure that the hamster is properly cared for and becomes a cherished and respected member of the family