Smitten with Small Pets

My heart’s desire in grade school was not a pony or even a dog, but a hamster. And not just any hamster – a teddy bear one. The kind that was extra furry and adorable (in my eyes). Unfortunately, my mother didn’t see them that way. She simply saw a rodent, and in her book that was something you did NOT welcome into your home.

So I’d get my “hammy” fix from my best friend Buffie Burns. She had one of those Habitrails with all of the winding sections for her hamster to roam. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I’d seen the Grand Canyon when we visited my grandfather in Arizona, but this, frankly, was a notch above.

Finally, after much cajoling (aka begging), my mother relented and bought me my own teddy bear hamster. I named him Sherlock and instantly fell in love. That is not an overstatement. To give you a picture of my adoration of this little 100 grams of fluff, I went through a stage where I’d only wear shirts with pockets. Why? Because when I was home, that’s where Sherlock was – nestled in a pocket against my body. I’d pick him up and give him kisses throughout the day and take him to his cage for snacks and potty breaks, but he was pretty much my little furry appendage. My grandmother who visited one summer thought it was seriously deranged and encouraged my mother to get me help – and get rid of Sherlock. Luckily, she ignored her concerns.

Today, I imagine I’d be begging my mom for a sugar glider or a hedgehog – and I’d be equally smitten. In this month’s cover story, “Creepy, Crawly and Oh So Cute!” we take a look at some of the top small pets for kids. Some are pretty exotic, but the thing they all have in common is that they are a little more unusual than the typical cat, dog, bird or even hamster. And as nifty as they are, they are distinct little creatures with particular pros and possible cons. For instance, if your child’s been wanting a snake, you better prepare for the fact that it will likely need live or frozen mice as food. You cool with that? Great! Not so much? Well, keep searching.

Luckily for me, hamsters like Sherlock don’t really have any gross habits or super special requirements, so my mom was able to get over her objections. Still, she never once held him in the three years he lived. Not once.

Hey Mom, just think: It could have been soooo much worse. Check out that tarantula in our exotic pets story.

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