If your child’s hamster is very sick or seems to be dying, here are clear instructions on what you, the parent, should do and NOT do.
In your mind, the hamster might be nothing more than a mindless rodent.
In your child’s mind, the hamster was a cute, cuddly, furry little thing with a personality.
If your child’s beloved hamster has recently died, this can be just as tormenting as if you lost some prized, inanimate memento or piece of jewelry with sentimental meaning.
So be careful how you react to your child whose hamster just died.
When I was 11 years old, my hamster, “Fang,” died. My mother didn’t respond the way a parent should when a child’s pet dies.
I loved that hamster, and he died before his time, having caught some kind of viral or bacterial infection after being handled by several neighborhood children.
How a parent should respond when a child’s hamster dies begins with when the hamster is in the process of dying.
My hamster didn’t die just like that without warning. Fang was sick for a few days preceding his death – very sick. My mother knew this, but didn’t call any veterinarians.
Because I was a naïve 11-year-old, I didn’t think to open the phone book and look under the listings for veterinarians and start making phone calls.
At age 11, I wasn’t supposed to do things like that. I’m not even sure the idea had even occurred to me, actually.
To complicate things, my hamster got sick on a Saturday, when vet clinics are closed.
However, on Sunday, my older sister made a call or two; I cannot recall to whom, but she definitely was making a few phone calls.
But nothing came of them. I think they were to some vet clinics and they were closed.
She gave up pretty quickly, and I was still with a hamster that was getting sicker — I mean really sick, like remaining huddled inside his sleeping bottle.
He wouldn’t come out; wouldn’t eat; and when he moved, it looked painful.
My mother may have asked every so often how Fang was doing, but that was it. Nothing more.
There was no, “On Tuesday we’ll take him to the veterinarian.” Monday was Memorial Day.
Because I was only 11, I didn’t think there was anything that could be done about my sick and dying hamster.
I was completely dependent upon my parents. My parents didn’t really regard Fang as a true pet.
Maybe that’s because hamsters’ brains aren’t developed enough to “know” their handler, like a dog’s and cat’s brain is.
Hamsters don’t look you in the eye and communicate with facial expressions, as do dogs and cats.
We had never had any pets in the house, either; my parents weren’t pet people.
The only reason I had Fang was because my oldest brother, who was daring, one day brought home Fang; in college he had a hamster from the same litter that Fang had come from.
On Memorial Day, Fang was dead; stiff, lifeless, inside his bottle. I cannot recall how I alerted my mother to this.
My father was even less involved, because this was (in my mind) one of those mother things.
But I do remember my mother nonchalantly taking the bottle, with the dead stiff hamster inside, and tossing it in the rubbish outside. And that was that.
There was no consolation; it were as though the dead hamster was an old pair of socks.
Maybe my mother thought that if she didn’t console me or offer words of comfort, that I’d bounce back quickly or not feel any sorrow.
Maybe my mother didn’t know I was distraught that my hamster had died.
But I was determined to retrieve the bottle, with Fang inside, from the garbage can outside.
I did this behind my mother’s back, because I knew she’d never permit this.
It was raining and I fetched the hamster from the garbage can, still in the bottle.
I dug a hole at the side of the house and buried the bottle with Fang inside.
I was just mortified that the whole situation had been treated so casually and matter-of-factly.
If your child’s hamster is sick or dying, phone a veterinarian. Don’t even THINK about how much it might cost you.
When you have kids, you should realize that raising kids isn’t cheap, and unexpected things come up.
- You can put the vet bill on a credit card.
- You can work overtime if you have an outside job.
- You can borrow money from friends and family.
Just GET the dying hamster to a veterinarian — and your child will look up to you for years.
If the hamster is dying on a weekend, call vet clinics until you get one that’s open.
If one is not open, stand by your child and talk about the dying hamster; maybe the hamster isn’t dying and will recover; maybe the hamster will get better if you do certain things with it.
This is something that you, as a parent, should be prepared for; you can get this information from a veterinarian at the time your child first gets the pet.
Do not assume veterinarians are only for dogs, cats and birds. There’s a such thing as a “small animal clinic.”
This means rodents! Hamsters are extremely common as pets, and parents often get a hamster for a child begging for a pet because hamsters are relatively low maintenance pets.
They don’t bark, don’t need to be housebroken, don’t require a lot of food or space, don’t scratch up furniture, etc.
If your child’s hamster dies, you had better be there as emotional support if you want to win permanent brownie points with your child.
And YES, parents SHOULD care if their child “likes” them!
If your child doesn’t have faith and confidence in you, then don’t expect him or her to come running to you for life advice in the future, and don’t be surprised if your child seeks advice about life from his peers instead of from you.
This is Parenting 101, and the School of Common Sense offers this free class year-round.
A hamster is a real pet to a child, even to adults who have them.
I bet you yourself are attached to some nonliving object that has special meaning to you.
What if it were stolen or lost? Think about that before you brush the death of your child’s hamster off as trite and trivial.
If your child’s hamster is dying, you have plenty of time to prepare a memorial.
Encourage your child to be a big part in the planning, and do not dismiss the idea as petty and ridiculous.
Instead, be glad that your child has compassion for a creature as small and as helpless as a hamster.
If your child’s hamster has already died, you can still create a memorial of sorts.
Sit down with your kid and ask him or her for ideas. Allow a mourning period for the dead hamster, and do not make your child think you feel it’s silly or nonsensical.
Take it from me, a former child who had a hamster that died prematurely; this makes me an expert in the area of how a parent should react when a child’s hamster is dying or has died.