I ordered a few books online for my kid, about hamster care. They’ve all arrived promptly so I have time to look them over myself- and decided I’d better read this one, the oldest of the lot, before giving it to my almost-ten-year-old. Glad I did, and here’s why.
The book is outdated. It has good basic information, but also some questionable advice. We’ve kept hamsters before (and read other books on their care) so a few things raised my eyebrows. For starters, the book has a lot of information on breeding hamsters. Setups, how to tell when the female is in heat, how to track which hamsters you’ve bred, basics on genetics and how to fix desirable traits, care for the pregnant female and her young when they’re born, how to find buyers, etc. There’s pictures of the naked babies and drawings of hamster undersides so you can sex them- which I am pretty sure my kid will find squicky. And not kidding, the sections on breeding are at least half the book.
The rest is for the most part pretty good, except what I’ll mention. There’s a few pages on the origins and history of hamsters. There’s info about their habits, with some interesting facts about their ability to hibernate, if kept in an area under 40° (why would you keep a hamster cage outdoors? but this book suggests that if you do, provide plenty of warm bedding so they can survive cold temperatures- with the unpleasant note that if they’re in a colony group, non-hibernating hamsters may eat the hibernating ones!) There’s info on how to choose a healthy hamster (including consideration of good qualities for breeding and show), and instructions on how to build different types of housing yourself (but I was surprised that one of the suggested building materials was asbestos shingles!) Next is info on how to keep the habitat clean, and what to feed a hamster. This book says they can be quite happy eating dry dog food or pelleted rabbit feed and fresh greens, with occasional things like banana peels, meat or milk (for nursing mothers). Hm. Never heard of giving a hamster dog food, although dog treats like biscuits might be okay- this I figured with a quick online search. Banana peels okay if they’re organic, but meat? The book doesn’t get more specific, but I would think that means something like mealworms- although a quick online search told me some people feed their hamsters bits of cooked chicken. Moving on- the book explains how to handle your hamster- suggesting picking it up by the scruff or closing your hand over it from the top, never holding it from underneath. This is the exact opposite of all advice I see online or in other books about how to pick up a hamster. It also says that if your hamster decides to bathe in its water dish, you won’t be able to make it stop so just give it a second one for drinking water. What? I thought most people used those water bottles, because otherwise the water gets dirty. Also, never heard of hamster taking a water bath. Next, the book says hamsters have “no known diseases of their own” but can catch colds from humans, and suffer from paralysis or digestive issues. I am pretty sure hamsters suffer more ailments than just headcolds and constipation, but moving on- this is what I really objected to- in the section on what are hamsters useful for it mentions that hamster make nice pets but are also important in things like research or, well-
I don’t want my kid reading that. So this book is getting tucked onto my own shelf, I might pull it out for some additional reference if needed. It’s kind of like the Golden Book of Wild Animal Pets– interesting for what it is, but simply not the way we do things anymore.
On the flip side, this picture might give my kid grand ideas:
No, I don’t want a hamster village in my house. One will be enough!