By Kara Schafer
Linnea Jarvits, a member of the California Hamster Association, shares her home with a pet hamster named Pearl. Pearl is a 14-month-old Syrian hamster weighing in at 180 grams. This little hamster has very unique fur for a Syrian breed; she has a white tummy with silver tones. She is Jarvits’ first pet hamster, and owning her has taught Jarvits a lot about these tiny pets.
Owning a pet hamster exceeded Jarvits’ expectations. She was impressed to learn that each little creature had their own unique personalities, which most people do not assume for small animals. When she met Pearl for the first time at the breeder’s, the hamster was standing on her hind legs screaming. But the second Jarvits picked her up, she became a very submissive and cuddly pet.
Pearl is curious and loves to know what Jarvits is doing all of the time. She follows her and enjoys looking at pictures of herself on Jarvits’ laptop. Jarvits says that Pearl wakes up with her in the morning and sits by her mirror and watches her as she gets ready for the day. She adds that Pearl even greets her when she comes home from work in the evening.
“Most people wouldn’t believe that,” she said with a laugh.
“The best part about having a hamster is the fuzzy kisses and snuggles,” she said. “It’s nice to know they trust you.”
Jarvits says hamsters can get intimidated and feel threatened easily because of their small size, so when they warm up to you it means you’ve earned their trust.
Hamsters are more than what people may expect out of little animals. They are not a “starter pet” like some people assume. Jarvits believes that hamsters are probably not a best choice as a first pet for a child. Also, she says that a lot of people forget that hamsters are nocturnal, and that is another unexpected behavior that surprises them.
Jarvits says Pearl is most active in the late night and early mornings. As for expenses, hamsters are not cheaper than any other pet. Jarvits says that most people make the mistake of thinking that.
“They are not cheaper than a cat or a dog,” she said. “Hamster litter and food are expensive.”
Don’t let the small size trick you into thinking they are less maintenance. Jarvits says hamsters love to dig and cleaning and maintenance is another must for hamster owners. Pearl will dig until all the litter in her cage is pushed onto the floor. For being such little animals, they can create big messes just like a cat or dog could do.
Hamsters also face the possibility of health issues in their lifetime.
“They are prone to health problems,” Jarvits said, “and it’s tough because you get attached and have to say goodbye.”
Even with the messy and nocturnal lifestyle that Pearl lives, Jarvits knows it’s worth it.
“One thing Pearl has taught me is patience,” she said. With a pet like this, you have to be. Jarvits says that ever since having pet hamsters in her life, she has had a little extra amount of patience toward humans, too.
Are You Ready For A Hamster?
To own a hamster you need access to good veterinary care, which may be difficult to find for such a small animal. As Jarvits mentioned, they are prone to health problems.
“Cancer tumors can happen overnight because they are so little,” she said. “Don’t wait for that to happen, make sure you have it all figured out before issues occur.”
As with any new pet, researching the species beforehand helps your decision. Don’t commit to anything that may not fit your lifestyle and home in the long run. As far as hamsters go, Jarvits prefers getting a hamster from a breeder. She says a good hamster breeder does it for the health and quality of the hamster, not for the numbers. If you find a good breeder, she says their hamsters tend to be tamer, more socialized and have fewer health issues.
Choosing any pet can be difficult, but Jarvits has some tips.
“Never pick them based on the size or color you want, do it for the personality,” she said. “The right one will come to you.”
Pearl has not faced any health problems yet. Aside from the messes she causes, Jarvits is convinced that Pearl was the best choice for her. The companionship outweighs the messes. She says that hamsters are, overall, “the right pet for the right person.”