Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pets for children? Start small

One of Lesley-Anne's long time ambitions is to be a vet because she adores animals. So naturally, the subject of pets came up. Both Kenneth and I are animal lovers, but we are also very pragmatic, forward-thinking parents. We've heard too many stories of how kids pester their parents for a dog or a cat, then once the fun wanes, it's the parent who has to bring the dog out for a walk, clean the poo, etc etc.

We resisted for a long time, but we also know that owning a pet instils a sense of responsibility, so we were two-minds about it. I had a mental list of disadvantages in my head: Dog - must walk, must clean poo, can be noisy, can be smelly. Cat - will drop fur, will scratch furniture, maybe will scratch children. Both - expensive. So we were at a stalemate... until a friend of mine offered me two hamsters. The story was that someone had given his kids two hamsters, but he had also just purchased a dog so the kids were now no longer interested in the hamsters. (In pet hierarchy, generally the bigger the pet, the higher the priority).

Well, since he was offering me free pets with free cage and trappings, I thought, why not? Hamsters would be easy pets to start with. We brought them home, the kids named them Hammie and Hyper. These are dwarf Winter White hamsters, very pretty. Lesley-Anne chose Hyper (and named her so) because when we were at my friend's place, that hamster kept running on the wheel at top speed, so she thought she'd like the active one.

Little did we know that Hyper was active because she was trying to escape from Hammie who was quite the queen tyrant! This one was a real spitfire alright - for the first few months, no one dared to take her out of her cage because she would hiss like a cat and bite any hand that wandered into the cage - vicious enough to draw blood. I would curse and swear everything I had to take her out to clean the cage. In fact, she attacked Hyper so badly that we had to separate the two eventually. Kenneth found another friend whose kid's pet hamster had just died and we took over the cage. (Look hard enough, you'll always find abandoned pet homes because pets die or kids lose interest!)

Hammie and Hyper are a great source of amusement to the family. If you think hamsters are not real pets, think again. They have their own personalities like all other pets. If you've watched Ratatouille, then you'll understand when I say that Hammie is exactly like Remy (the chef) and Hyper like Emile (the brother). Hammie (left pic) is super active, picky about food and now that we've tamed her, very affectionate. She's great fun to play with and will even lick my hand and let me rub her belly. Hyper turned out to be the antithesis of her name. She is fat, lazy... and fat. Her sole interest in life is eating. Ever since she's been released from the torture chamber with Hammie, her life consists of eating and sleeping. Sometimes, she even sleeps in the food bowl, probably to save herself the trouble of waddling to her munchies.

It's been over a year, the two hamsters are living the good life, though probably not for long as the life span of hamsters is only up to two years. Lesley-Anne is quite good about looking after the hamsters, which convinced me that her love of animals is not a passing phase. However, we've long delegated the washing of the cages to the maid (any surprise?)

Hamsters are great starter pets because they're very low maintenance. Fill up their food and water, clean the cage once a week and they're happy. If you use recycled paper pellets as bedding, you hardly get any smell. We've even left them unguarded in the house when we went to Hong Kong for 4 days, they were still happy and alive when we got back. In fact, we enjoy the hamsters so much that I suspect when they go on to Hamster Heaven, we might not move on to a cat or a dog, we'll just get more hamsters.


Lilian said...

I'm not surprised Lesley-Anne wants to be a vet. She has a sweet countenance and a good, caring heart, which was evident even when she was very young.

Brian has been asking for a dog for a long time, but I told him it's impossible given our frequent moves. I grew up with dogs as pets, too bad the boys won't have that experience.

Cute hamster names...but er hamsters...not for us...geli-lah...

monlim said...

I love dogs too, pity having a dog is just so impractical when you live in an apartment (and I hate those small yappy types!)

err... what is geli??

Lilian said...

I hate those yappy types too; I love big dogs, the St Bernard type...too impractical though in apartments. There was a tv show back in the 1970s called Boomer, I wanted so much to have a dog like that.

Geli = ticklish + icky

monlim said...

My fave is the yellow labrador. also the golden retriever. aiyoh, those eyes, esp on puppies, can melt your heart!

eunice said...

I totally agree that hamsters are great starter pets for children. Sean had 2 and he was good about washing the cage (weekly), feeding and playing with them.

Unfortunately, 1 died (I suspect of a heart attack as she was fat, but a bit psycho and would run morning, noon and night on the wheel. The other, (she had 9 lives, not kidding) after her cage was not closed properly and she broke out. I have 3 dogs.... so... no she wasn't eaten or anything ( my dogs too old and teeth not too good) but so traumatised she died in my palm.

I ALWAYS tell parents who think dogs are cute or cos child asks for one not to buy a dog. It is at least 15 years of your life. Unlike children who grow independent, a dog ALWAYS has to depend on you not only for food but to know when they are ill etc.

My 3 dogs (Yorkies) came with me from Sin. I hand carried 2 when I came to BKK and paid someone else to bring the last one. 1 just died a few months ago and I now have 2. The last 2 are pretty old (16 and 13 yrs old).

The 16 year old lost 1 eye in a horrific accident a year ago and is blind in the other. He also has major skin problems meaning he smells. Plus, he steps on pee and poo cos he's blind. Plus he has no teeth at all but luckily still eats well.

Sean loves them to bits and I think he has gained from having them around. Like L-A he wants to be a vet. He also wants to take every single stray dog home!

Aiyo, Monica, you have touched on 1 of my fave topics - pets! I could go on and on...but will spare you.

monlim said...

Eunice: yay, a fellow animal lover! But I must say I have this phobia of pets dying, I think it must be very traumatic to have a beloved dog die... I think it's so sweet that Sean wants to bring every stray dog home!

eunice said...

Monica, it's awful when they die. I cried for days when all my pets died esp my dog (she was 14 yrs).

Er... sweet yes, but then we have long discussions as to why we can't have all the dogs on the streets of BKK (and there are many) living with us!

monlim said...

Eunice; I think that must be the subconscious reason why I'm resisting getting a dog! Don't talk about traumatic for my kids, I think a pet death would be equally traumatic for me.

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