On a family visit to the local pet shelter, your kids see a cute little fuzzy hamster. This hamster has special needs and requires some extra care. Can kids care for a hamster with special needs? My kids have rescued several hamsters who all had extra care needs as compared to many other hamsters. But just because some kids have had success with this does not mean that all kids will. It also depends on each unique situation.
How serious is the animal's condition? Will the hamster need medicine or other frequent vital care? If so, can your child handle that? Is it better for the special needs hamster to go to a different home? If the kids cannot meet the hamster's needs effectively, as the parent you will need to do that. Sadly, Buddy's previous owners did not think of that. Once the kids couldn't care for Buddy, the solution the parents had was to bring Buddy back instead of caring for him themselves. While it might have taught them they couldn't have a pet if they couldn't provide care, it may have inadvertently taught them that pets are not as important as people. Animals have feelings too. If your kids are going to adopt a special needs hamster, be sure your home is the right one. Animals deserve to be part of a loving family just as much as people do.
What does the vet say? Talk to the shelter and/or animal hospital staff about the animal's condition. If possible, have a vet assess the situation beforehand and let you know if your kids are the right pet parents. The vet will be able to tell you everything your family will have to do in order to properly care for the hamster. In Buddy's case, he needed no medicines, as he was born blind. But since he had been abused and neglected, he was a bit feisty. He would bite any and everything that came within a few inches of him. The kids and I had to show him lots and lots of love and tender care for months before he stopped biting. He also was a little overweight because he had been deprived of food before. So he would hoard his food and overeat. In the beginning, he didn't even know how to use his hamster wheel and he would hide in a ball in the corner of the cage. If your kids adopt a hamster with special needs, such as depression, overeating, and aggressiveness, will they have the time and patience to help the hamster overcome it all?
What does your child's doctor think? Sometimes hamsters with special needs may also be sick. While it isn't common for kids to catch anything from their pet hamster,it is possible. Also, if your child has any conditions that weaken the immune system, a sick pet is more likely to infect your child. Talk to your child's doctor about the special needs hamster and any known conditions before adopting. Your child's doctor will be able to tell you what to watch out for and also give you some handy hints to help prevent illnesses spreading from pets to kids and vice versa. The vet should do the same. But your child's pediatrician is the best resource geared toward kids and the vet is the best resource geared toward your hamster.
Is the related care something a child can handle responsibly? While your child may be good hearted and have good intentions, remember that you are still dealing with a kid. Kids don't always stick to their responsibilities. Is your child responsible enough to complete every step in the animal's care plan every single time? Think about any other tasks your child has and whether they get done effectively. Also, consider your child's overall attitude toward animals. If you believe your child can adequately care for a special needs hamster (and you will take over if they don't), then what are you waiting for? Go welcome home your new family member.
* I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network