Getting a pet for your child: The how NOT to guide

When the big kids were three and four we bought a goldfish as a little pet. He didn’t last long. He swam around a few thousand times and that was about all.

I had rabbits and hamsters mainly when I was little and I loved them. So after the fish was no more, I had this great idea that we should get a hamster.

The children didn’t need selling on the idea and were super excited.

On our arrival at the pet shop we studied the different options, the various breeds of hamster and the range of cages on offer. They found the hamsters they liked and they were on offer…buy one get one free…

So, this was good right? It meant no fighting as they could have one each! They liked that idea and it seemed like a good plan, as the member of staff we were dealing with said they lived happily in pairs. Result – everyone was happy.

We were excited and pleased with our new purchases and the hamsters were named ‘Austin’ and ‘Rosie’, despite the fact they were both female! We had to pretend Austin was a boy as there was a specific request from one little man that he didn’t want “a stinky girl hamster” .

The children were keen and attentive in the early weeks but then tragedy struck when we found Rosie stiff and upside down one morning. Oh dear. We then had to deal with the death and burial of Rosie and it was quite upsetting. Our big girl said initially that she didn’t want another hamster, but then changed her mind, so off we went back to the pet shop.


Now, call me naive, stupid even, but I thought we could just go in and get another female hamster to move in with Austin…apparently not! They can only live together if they are from the same litter we were told…ah…not quite so simple after all.

She found the hamster she wanted, a tiny little thing, clearly a different breed from Rosie and Austin. We asked if we could take one but we were told they could only live in pairs or small groups….small groups!!!! We had only gone in for one!

So, after thinking we were going in for a single hamster, we left the pet shop with:

  • Two hamsters
  • One new cage
  • One new water bottle
  • A new food bowl
  • A new wheel
  • New hamster toys

As if this wasn’t enough, the grief of losing Rosie was too much for Austin to take and a week later we found him stiff and upside down too! I could have quite happily hit my head against the wall at that moment.

My suggestion that the big kids shared the two little female hamsters did not go down well. I had temporarily forgotten about the “stinky girl hamster”  business and these were named Mia and Amber. So, yes, you’ve guessed it…back we went to the pet shop.

I should have known what was coming next…we had TWO girl hamsters so now we needed TWO boy hamsters. At least we already had the cage this time.

After some careful selection we left with two males called Harry Potter and Ron Weasley.

All was going well and we were in hamster paradise for several months, until Ron Weasley began biting Harry Potter’s bottom. It was not the best situation,  and Harry Potter was becoming more bald by the day.

I Googled a bit to see what I could find “these hamsters fight until the death…separate them immediately” was what I read….arhhhhhh, back to the pet shop!

This time, I left with a new cage and we promptly re-housed Harry Potter, much to his relief. Poor Harry!

So, after setting out to get a little hamster and a cage…we then had four hamsters in three different cages, not quite what I had intended.

This happy little hamster arrangement continued for about 18 months and then they began dying off one after the other which was rather traumatic. Ron was the first to go, followed a few weeks later by Harry. Mia followed a few months later and then we were just left with Amber for a while, but sadly she died as well.

Getting a pet seemed like such a good idea at the time. There are some great benefits to having pets and the children do really love them but next time I will more carefully consider the fact that: they WILL die and we WILL have to start all over again!

Do your children have pets? What animals do you think make good pets for small children?

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  1. Gerbils are great pets for children. They like living in groups, awake during the day and fairly entertaining. They’re not that much work either as they need cleaning out less than hamsters. Except for our two. Who spray! I spend part of every day moping their cage down and hoovering up whatever they’ve tossed out of their cage. It’s character building …

    1. Ha ha – character building! Thanks for your comment. Useful to know in general they need cleaning less but also that they are awake in the day which also makes them a better bet than hamsters.

  2. Oh my word, what a time you had! We have a cat (…it came with the marriage) but I have to be honest; I could happily never live with a domestic pet ever again and I won’t be encouraging our children to have any.

    When growing up we had at various times time: a goat, three dogs, ferrets, a rabbit and a guinee pig. In fact, for quite a while we had almost all that lot in one go. It was far, far too much and put me off pets for life! #BrilliantBlogPosts

    1. Oh this is so refreshing to hear! Thanks for your comment 🙂 I used to bring the school guinea pigs home in the holidays when I was little. My memory is the 4 babies climbing all over my Grandpa!

  3. This is freaking hilarious. I mean obviously the deaths of the hamsters are very sad. But it’s still hilarious! I only ever had cats and a rabbit i borrowed from school – which ran away. Hamsters dont seem to last very long 🙁 Though I do love that Austin couldnt live without Rosie. Like those elderly people who pass away within hours of each other because theyve been married for ever.
    Oh god this is getting morbid now.
    Errr….I hope your new hamsters live long and happy lives.
    Do you think you’ll ever graduate to a dog?!

  4. My four year old has just stared asking for a pet. I think all his school friends have one and he wants to join in. I’m trying to talk him out of it but it’s not working.

    Any suggestions for a small, low maintainance pet that lives a long time? (he doesn’t like it when flowers die so I hate to think what he’ll be like with an animal).

  5. Pets for kids always seems like such a great idea at the time doesn’t it, and it all starts off well, but it is so rare that it lasts more than a few weeks before novelty wears off.

  6. Haha great post, sounds like getting pets was a mistake! I know nothing about hamsters, but sounds like a sales technique making you buy two each time – very clever! We had 2 rabbits as kids but never really looked after them or did anything with them. We now have a sausage dog, so Baby L will grow up with something to torment – she’s already pretty good at pulling his big ears!

  7. Good grief. Sounds rather traumatic. We have a rather soft and stupid dog. The good news is she’s small and harmless. The bad news is I spend the whole day trying to stop her snogging the baby and trying to stop the baby chewing on her feet. She is not clever enough to stop him chewing on her feet herself. Other than that a small, lazy, stupid dog seems to make quite a good pet. Certainly should outlast a hamster.


  8. Eek, poor loves. I will always remember the Christmas Eve when my guinea pig popped her clogs 🙁 I was 10.

    We have a much-loved cat who is luckily super-tolerant with out toddler. We did have goldfish but oops they died when we were on holiday. Turns out the slow-releasing food we put in the tank wasn’t up to their usual standards. #1 was too small to remember (I hope) although he does love visiting the mini aquarium in our local garden centre!

    I am dreading the day when our kids request small rodents as pets. We don’t have any space for them amongst the toy explosion that is our living room for starters!


  9. As kids we started out with two ‘girl’ hamsters who quickly became 8 and then 16 and so on! Not a great success #FridayFrolics

  10. This is a brilliant post! I just read it to my other half and he was laughing away (not at the deaths obviously!). Such a simple thing can lead to so much more! We have two rabbits that we just rehomed from a friend. They are fab and Zach loves them. We brought them into the house on the day that we sadly had to have our cat put to sleep so it’s been quite a welcome to have more furry things! I don’t know if I’ll be saying the same when I’m cleaning them out in winter but it was me who wanted them so I won’t be allowed to complain! #bigfatlinky

  11. Oh we have had so many pets. Fish, rabbits and dogs. The dog has been the best. Simply for length of time. Companionship and teaching them about caring for animals.

  12. Haha we recently had a pet-gate incident. Decided to get some fish, not much research done.. and after 2 weeks from 8 there is only 1 left – DOH! Apparently they all died of water poisoning. FACE PALM! #BigFatLinky

  13. Oh dear….What a time you’ve had.
    I’ve said to my two when my girls learn to keep their rooms tidy we may think about getting a small pet….It’s never going to happen. lol Phew!

  14. The only pet Ted’ll be getting is a tortoise, or something else that doesn’t require me to look after it! Thanks for linking up #bigfatlinky

  15. It sounds awful! I didn’t know that hamsters has such short life spans… Your kids must’ve been quite disappointed 🙁
    I used to have a guinea pig and later a mini rabbit. I can’t remember how long the guinea pig lived, but the rabbit went on for something like 7 years.

  16. Oh dear oh dear!!! Sorry but I did find this very funny, though of course it wasn’t the slightest bit funny for your kids. I mean the back and forth to the pet shop and ending up with zillions of hamsters bit. The silver lining is that it’s a brilliant way to learn about death so it makes it easier when someone you know dies because they’ve seen it in real life. I think seeing a dead body answers a 1000 questions you have no hope of ever explaining satisfactorily. My Dad still sighs and tells people I had 22 pets….I did. I couldn’t stop rescuing animals…lambs, goats, pigeons, stick insects, rats…and so it went on. We have ONE cat now called Trumpet. The kids are begging me for a kitten.

  17. Our first hamster buying session was not successful either (it died too) and it was a bit stressful and traumatic. Thankful the current one seems much hardier!
    I have to say, I had no clue either, other than having hamster sat a friends for a week, it was a steep learning curve. Sometimes pets are harder to care for than children! ? #SuperParentSaturday

  18. Wow! It sounds like you’ve been through Hamster Hell! I think pets are a great way for children to learn about caring for something/someone else, which is a great life skill, but it definitely has its draw backs. Thanks for linking up with #SuperparentSaturday x

  19. I am so sorry, but I did have a little chuckle here. Not at your children’s grief, of course, no one wants that, but at the unfortunate chain of events that led to your own hamster zoo! We don’t hve any pets. I think they are great for children, but the time never feels right, and we never get beyond thinking about the expense, mess and responsibility!

  20. Our first few attempts at looking after hamsters had a similar tale to yours in that they died in a fairly short space of time. We did however then go on to have two hamsters, one after the other that lived for 2 and then 3 years respectively. I’ve never heard of having to have them in pairs from the same litter, we only ever had one at a time. The difference to them living longer was when I took over fully their care and stopped the kids from playing with them and handling them, which i suppose defeated the idea of the kids having a pet

  21. She was 16 years old and we had to put her to sleep January 27. She had gotten so very ill so quickly. We couldn’t let her suffer. We miss her greatly!

  22. Virtual pets have come on leaps and bounds since when we had Tamagotchis in the 90s. Today’s digi-pets are almost as good as the real thing and are a great way to encourage kids to be responsible for feeding and looking after an animal. One key benefit of a robot dog toy over a real dog, is that you won’t have to deal with the poos!Nodytalk

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  29. Pets, with their unwavering companionship, often become an anchor in our lives, providing solace during challenging times. Their nonjudgmental presence offers comfort, easing stress and anxiety. The therapeutic effects of spending time with a pet are well-documented, from lowering blood pressure to alleviating feelings of loneliness. They listen without interrupting, offering silent support in a world bustling with noise, their mere presence a soothing balm for the soul.melvin

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