Hamsters? Gerbils? Who knows about these creatures?

Jon_Are

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My wife and I are getting my kids some sort of rodents for Christmas. Anyone familiar with the pros & cons of the various types? Is one species friendlier than another? Easier to care for? Do these guys stink up the house? How long do they live? Will my dog view them as hors d'oeuvres?
If you have any other advice at all, bring it on.
Thanks!
Jon
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Richard Cooper

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Mice smell when given cheese (give 'em chocolate); gerbils are ace, except when they bite
and Hamsters keep singing de de dee de de doo doo etc.

Does that help, or shall I just go back to sleep?
 

Julie K

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The dog will definitely view these little critters as chow.
I'll admit I don't know much about hamsters or gerbils, but you might want to also consider a rat. They make very nice pets, are affectionate, and have a lot of charm. Really.
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DennisHP

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If you get two of anything, make sure they are of the same sex or you will have to have "that talk" with your children sooner than you might like.
 

Todd Hostettler

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The dog will definitely view these little critters as chow.
Which is much, much better than what Richard Gere sees them as.

Anyway, of the three, I've found Hamster to be the most kid-friendly. Just be prepared to assume the unpleasant task of cage cleaning. That, and the semi-occasional escapes. (Shudder.)
 

Andrew W

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I'll second rats. They are the smartest rodent, affecionate and have the least odor when cages are kept clean. My 2nd favorite rodent is the guinnea pig. They make cool noises, but they're dumb as rocks.
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Ryan Wright

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What's the deal with Richard Gere and the hamster? No, don't explain it to me, I've already heard it. What I'm asking is, how do we know it's true? It could be a load of BS. While I'm sure there are people in the world who do sick things with small furry creatures, I can't believe it's a very common thing, nor can I believe someone like Richard Gere would do it...
Anyway, if you get multiple rodents, watch them very carefully. At the slightest sign of a lack of food, they will eat one another. I had two mice when I was a kid and I always made sure they had plenty of food. Well, one night, I forgot to top off their dish before going to bed. The next morning, one mouse was fat, and the other was missing it's head. Oh, the body was there, but the head was nowhere to be found...
Most of these little animals will starve to death within a day if they run out of food. They're not like a dog where you can feed them twice a day at set times; you've got to keep that food dish full constantly. Don't worry about overfeeding. They'll eat what they need when they need it. Just don't let them run out of food or water, not even for a few hours.
As for your other questions: They're all hard to care for in terms of cleaning the cage out. It's a pain, and you have to keep up on it. They all stink, but bi-weekly cage cleanings, lots of fresh bedding and plenty of air circulation helps. They can live for years, depending on the type of rodent. Yes, the dog will probably eat them right up. Depends on the dog, though. If you've got a Chihuahua, I'd worry more about the safety of the dog.

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Bill Catherall

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I'll cast my vote to the rat. I've had hamsters. Even the nicest one bit me. You're holding them, they start smelling your hands, then they get to licking your fingers and the next thing you know they are taking a big bite. Stupid critters! But my wife has had rats and used to work in a pet store. She says that rats don't bite and hamsters always bite.
If you live in a state that doesn't require a license for exotic animals I'd look into getting a hedge hog. If they are handled when they're babies then they can be very tame. We used to breed them before we moved to California (where you need a license to own one). We've never been bitten. Kids love them because they are so different. When my wife was teaching 3rd grade she had them in the classroom where the kids handled them all the time. They don't stick out their quills unless they are scared. And even the biggest dog won't stand a chance against these little guys. They grow about as big as a large hamster. Not quite as big as a guinea pig.
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Jeff Ulmer

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Hy buddy had hamsters and kids. Kids kept leaving the cage open. Hamsters get out. He found them a couple of times, building nests and hoarding cat food. Last time one fell off a balcony and lived. Last weekend they got out again. No more hamsters. Oh yeah, he had to do "the talk" as well.
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andrew markworthy

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I'd endorse the comment about making sure you don't get a breeding pair. When I was at school, the biology class was getting rid of its gerbils (the lab assistant was allergic to them). I got a breeding pair, in spite of the firm assurance that I had two females. Result - more baby gerbils than you could imagine. The local pet shops soon tired of them and they didn't taste all that good either.
 

Carl Johnson

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My ex girlfriend had a couple of Hamsters, they seemed to make her whole apartment smell. They put me in the mood to go shopping for mousetraps but she would hear none of it.
 

Richard Cooper

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Hedgehogs! We've had hedgehogs as 'pets' before. My Mum (and I) used to work in a vet, and we often took home the strays that came in. We had this one hedgehog that couldn't roll into a ball to protect isteslf, so it used to do a little jump instead. Funniest thing I'd seen in years
And yes, they can be quite freindly.
We've had some obscure (and not-so obscure) 'pets' over the years:
6 cats
2 Hamsters
30ish gerbils
3 ducks (and a lot more wild ones on the pond)
10ish Hedgehogs
3 african giant landsnails
200ish locusts
20ish stick insects
20ish chicks
2 mice
5 goldfish (but our pond had about 1000 roach- till it dried up
)
1 vole
We've never had any dogs. Not our thing
 

Kevin Fox

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I'll chime in with another thumbs up for rats—absolutely the best rodents to get. As the others said, friendly, smart, affectionate, and smell fine as long as their cage is kept clean. In fact they're one of the cleanest animals around, always grooming themselves.
Whatever rodent you decide on, if you choose wood shavings to line the cage, go with pine and avoid the cedar. When we used cedar, our rats got respiratory tract infections, but that stopped when we switched to pine. There are other kinds of lining available like recycled paper that are also fine.
Enjoy your rodents.
 

John Garcia

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Rodents in general have that (for lack of a more pleasant term) urine smell. They KEY here is for the OWNER to clean the cage religiously, otherwise the smell will get out of hand. Rodents are relatively clean creatures, but they can't really clean their own cage. I had many rats and hamsters as a child, and they were decent pets. They are quite easy to care for.
The drawbacks I had:
More or less nocturnal! Sleepy during the day, often annoyingly noisy at night.
If they get out of the cage, it's a pain to find them.
The smell, if you don't clean their cage frequently (almost as bad as a cat litter box).
Cats are a problem. Dogs are not too bad, but they definitely will consider rodents as snacks. Just don't let the little things run around unattended. (happened to me). My dog didn't try to EAT it, but managed to injure it by stepping on it while trying to play with it.
Average lifespan was about 1-5yrs, depending. I agree that rats make better pets, as they are a quite a bit more intelligent and also live quite a bit longer than hamsters/gerbils, but they are not quite as "cute".
Mice are the smallest, least social of all. I would advise against them.
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Bill Catherall

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Nocturnal animals can learn to reverse their sleeping habits. Just play with them a lot during the day, everyday, and soon they'll be sleeping at night and awake during the day. Work them into it though. Don't try to break them too quickly or I imagine they might not like it and might get sick. You can also (if they live alone) take their food away at night and give it back during the day. If they don't live alone they might eat each other as mentioned above.
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Bill

 

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