Small animals for 8 & 11 year olds?

beacheDecember 7, 2006

My 2 girls are always looking at the small animals when we go to the pet store. But this last time they saw dwarf hamsters and just fell in love. We have a dog, 2 cats, 2 Betta fish and 3 chickens so they are used to pets and the work that goes with them.

My question to you is what small animals (2 in one cage) would you recommend? I know regular hamsters need to be solitary. Dwarf hamsters are more social and we would get 2 females to lessen the chance of (male) fighting. But they are nocturnal and will sleep all day. Would gerbils be better? I want something that will be friendly and like being held (after a while).

Any suggestions?

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My daughter (now 11)has had several hamsters. Her first was a teddy bear which was little and cute, but grew to be pretty good size and not real friendly. They need to be solitary as they get older or they will fight - male or female doesn't matter. She put hers with a friend's for a visit thinking they were both females and about 16 days later, 11 babies appeared!

Her last hamster was a dwarf and we read those could be paired with another dwarf. This little guy was SO friendly! He did sleep during the day, but we could wake him up and he'd play - loved to run all over us and in his ball on the floor. Unfortunately, he was small enough that he tried to squeeze thru the bars of his cage (billed as a hamster cage) and he hung himself. :(

For now we have no rodents in cages... but if she gets another one, we'd get another dwarf hamster, and a plastic sided cage, no bars. The more you handle them, the friendlier they will be.

You definitely don't want to keep the cage in their bedroom due to the nighttime activity. We kept ours in the family room and that way he got lots of attention and his cage was kept clean.

No experience with gerbils, but we did have a guinea pig a while ago and some mice. I prefer the dwarf hamster over any of them.

Have fun picking out some new pets!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2006 at 3:08PM
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We have a hamster a we just stop the wheel at night so that the noise doesn't bother the kids. Gerbels are noctunal as well so you will be facing the same problem. The hamster will wake during the day and my kids can play with her when they want. We also have a hamster wheel which is great for exercise, but watch the cats and dogs. We have to keep ours away when Cookie is on the move.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2006 at 3:09PM
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I had four pet rats (at seperate times) when I was a kid. They were my first pets to take care of myself. Rats make great pets and they are very smart and very social. The more you handle them when they are babies, the more social they become. They do need lots of attention IMO and exercise.

My first rat, Ben, liked to ride around on my shoulder. He would also sit in my lap for hours. He loved to be handeled (as did the others). The first night I had him he got out of his cage and I woke up with him sleeping next to me on my pillow. He also liked to chase the dog and cat around. I remember dressing him up in little shirts and I used to put my Barbies' hats on thing. :)

I am actually considering getting another rat in the near future. One thing you need to keep in mind is to get a good quality rat and not a feeder. Feeders are very inbred because they are well, food for snakes and are not bred for quality. The three good quality rats I had lived for an average of 3 years. The one feeder I had lasted barely a year before I had her put to sleep because of health issues.

Here is a link that might be useful: rats as pets

    Bookmark   December 7, 2006 at 10:15PM
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I second rats. They tend to be very calm, curious and friendly. Not a big fan of hamsters of any type. While I have known sweet friendly ones I've been bitten by too many of them. Guinnea Pigs are another nice critter.


    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 7:10AM
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The male rats are more calm and gentle than the females AND they can be neutered. If you try them, like oddity said, get one bred for pet quality and find a baby (you might have to check the small pet stores). I kept my first one on my shoulder from the beginning and he learned to stay up there for hours at a time...very comfortably.

I also had guinea pigs...lovely creatures, too!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 7:17AM
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My daughter had two hamsters,both males,littermates. They got along fine , and even tho yes they are noctural,they were awake a lot during the day. She kept them in a large cage with habitrail pieces inside,tunnels,etc. As we used up a roll of toilet paper,she would place the empty cardboard roll in the cage. They loved to chew it up for bedding. Alas,their life span is only two to three years. They were very friendly and tame and allowed her to pick them up. They are a great pet. Just make sure your child is willing to feed them and clean the cage.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 1:01PM
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Another vote for guinea pigs if you want a friendly pet that tolerates being held. They do very well 2 in a cage. Just make sure the cage is large enough and they are the same gender! Both hamsters and gerbils are nocturnal whereas guinea pigs are not. They are awfully cute and have their individual personalities.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2007 at 4:34PM
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I had gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters and a rabbit when i was a child. The gerbils are fun, but VERY active. They are difficult to hold. Hamsters are better for that. Guinea pigs are much smarter and like to be pet more. Ours used to make all sorts of "FEED ME" noises when it heard a plastic bag or the refridgerator open. It loved lettuce and thought the bag sounded like lettuce. We had our Rabbit for 12 years and he was litter box trained, however he lived outside in a huge hutch. In the winter he lived in our attached indoor patio. He was full sized and I am sure he would have caused the house to smell. Guinea pigs also smell a little more than hamsters and gerbils.
I am not sure how old your daughters are, however they may feel they have time for an another pet now but won't when they get a little older. One of my co-workers had to adopt out her daughters guinea pig because she got to a more "social" tween age and just didn't spend much time with it anymore and her mother felt bad about that. Luckily they were able to find a good family for it.
Which reminds me..don't forgot to look in your local shelters. Ours are full of small animals!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2007 at 4:53PM
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I had guinea as a kid & they did great.

As a teenager I had rats, loved them to pieces!

I recommend both! Don't forget to check out petfinder!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2007 at 5:13PM
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Hamsters are ok,but I think they tend to bite more then gerbils...although I have never had a dwarf hamster.
We just lost our gerbil,but he lived for 3 years and never once bit a soul.They are very spry and quick though.
Also,please please,if you get a gerbil,get two.Gerbils are very social creatures and dont do that well alone. I always felt so bad our gerbil was alone...but if you dont get one from the same liter/cage at the petstore they will kill each other,so by the time I learned this it was too late.
Our gerbil wasnt really nocternal either.he was most active in the evening but at night he was asleep.
They are terrific pets for children your age!

I think hamsters are nice too,but we also had a pregnant one too! She was biting alot and we thought she was just mean,turns out she just didnt want to be touched cuz she had a bun in her oven!
Once her babies were born though and of a certain age,she started attacking them,and we had to seperate and find them homes.Hamsters are definitely solitary creatures.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2007 at 12:16AM
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My vote is Guinea Pig or Rat - mostly because kids like to hold, pet and interact with animals and personally I don't think Hamsters or Gerbils get that much out of being loved on. They'd really rather do their own thing.
There are Rat Rescues and Guinea Pig rescues - check out
They will know which ones they have that like attention vs. a pet store

    Bookmark   January 7, 2007 at 9:15AM
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We've had lots of small pets over the years. Guinea pigs are very friendly and sweet, but be aware that they need lots of space. The cages sold in stores for them are much too small. Check out for ideas to make a cage if you choose a piggie. They also enjoy company if kept together from the beginning. They can even be spayed or neutered if keeping a mixed pair. There are lots of rescues and shelters with piggies to place. They do need their cages cleaned often or they smell.

We had lots of dwarf hamsters, too. Some were very sweet, but many are biters even when handled young. They are social and best kept in a large aquarium with a secure lid where they are more fun to watch than to hold.

Rats are friendly, but my son had two females and they would mark territory by dragging their rears and leaving drops of urine when we brought them out. One was worse than the other about it. I don't know whether males do this, but we had to pet ours in their aquarium.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2007 at 9:40AM
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i think you should get a chinchilla (baby) because they are like a rabbit but smaller and you can easily hold them by the tail,play with them and feed them treats i dont have one but alot of my friends do im still convincing my parents to get me on XD

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 9:29PM
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