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Should Children Under 5 Have Hamsters as Pets?

Just about everyone has heard a hamster horror story, from the critter that fled its cage and burrowed into the furnace, to the pet who leaped from his owner's lap and found his fate in a collapsing La-Z-Boy. But now, experts are attributing another reason for why children under 5 should not keep the rodents (as well as others like hedgehogs, baby chicks, lizards and turtles) as pets — the kid's health.

One report said:

About 11 percent of salmonella illnesses in children are thought to stem from contact with lizards, turtles and other reptiles, Pickering said. Hamsters also can carry this germ, which can cause severe diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps.

What's your opinion?

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bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 8 years
I think if you take them out and let them roam around frequently you could get by with a smaller cage...I say go for it! :)
katedavis katedavis 8 years
We were at a fair and my brother-in-law convinced my husband we should put our 10 month old on a turtle to take a picture. I put my foot down and they made fun of me non-stop about "turtle germs." I told my brother-in-law's mother-in-law and she set them straight. :)
kikidawn kikidawn 8 years
thanks for the info bluesarah! I really want one, but I've been reading online and I don't think we have room for a big enough cage. We could fit one of the ones that the pet shop we use says would be adequate, but everything I've found online says they need more room than that. And that avatar is way too cute! They are absolutely adorable.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 8 years
Kiki-guinea pigs make good pets :) They're very friendly and should be handled frequently. When I had guinea pigs they learned to recognize the sound of the vegetable drawer in the fridge being opened. So they'd make that "Wheet wheet" noise. It was really cute! And funny you mentioned guinea pigs, since I changed my avatar today :)
Pallas-Athena Pallas-Athena 8 years
They're fine. My cousins have four turtles and they haven't gotten any diseases. They know that they have to wash their hands and can't touch their mouth or anything. They are very young and understand this. It really just depends on how often the parent lets the child touch the animals and makes sure that they wash their hands and other things.
kikidawn kikidawn 8 years
I've thought about getting a guinea pig ... for me :) lol Our apartment won't let us have cat or dog type animals so my SO suggested a guinea pig. Apparently they are cuddly and affectionate and get attached to their primary caregivers. Anyone have any advice??
Greggie Greggie 8 years
I don't know, 11% isn't much and of that, it's not all hamsters. We've had them and the kids hold them under strict supervision, always washing their hands before and after. That way they're not passing their germs to the hamster and vice versa. Since we often have them as classroom pets for my husband, they end up at home as well.
Akitkat118 Akitkat118 8 years
Hamsters are tempermental and tend to bite anyway. If a child wants a small caged pet, go with a gerbil. They are incredibly personable, friendly and safe. They will not bite unless angered and do not carry diseases. Easy to care for, they don't smell and only need their cage cleaned once a month. Refill the food bowl and water bottle 2 times a week and you are golden. We love them, and can go away for a week without them needing a sitter if they are left with enough food.
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