Skip to Content

Teaching Children to Care for Their Small Animal Pet


This post has been sponsored by Kaytee. 

For years, my daughter Maggie had asked for a pet of her own. Sure, we had a dog, but she wanted a pet she could say was hers and hers alone. So, for Christmas 2017, we decided to surprise her with her very own pet: a Roborovski dwarf hamster, also known as a Robo hamster. 

When Maggie saw the hamster cage under the Christmas tree she was SO excited! I’ve never seen her so excited about a gift. She barely even noticed the other items she’d received that day. She named her new friend Sweet Pea and she absolutely adores her! 

Why Choose a Robo Hamster?

When I went to the pet store to search for Maggie’s hamster, I initially planned on purchasing a European hamster, the ones you’ve probably most often seen and think of when you hear the word, hamster. I spent some time talking to an employee at the pet store (along with some other shoppers who owned hamsters). I was surprised to learn that, in their experience, Robo hamsters were much less likely to bite than other breeds of hamsters. Growing up, I had a hamster and I was bitten all the time. I knew my daughter wouldn’t want that. 

Robo hamsters, because of their small size, are also extremely cute!

After handling a number of different hamsters in a variety of breeds, I settled on the Robo hamster. She’s been a great pet and I would definitely get a Robo hamster again.

Drawbacks to a Robo Hamster

The biggest drawback to a Robo hamster is their speed. They are extremely fast (which means they are hard to catch), especially if they manage to break out of their cage or jump out of your hands while you are holding them. They also don’t typically enjoy being handled. They are best suited to life as merely observational creatures, with limited interaction between them and humans.

That means if your child wants an animal they can cuddle with, a Robo hamster is not going to be the best choice for them. But, if they want a pet they can enjoy watching from inside his or her cage, they are great! Sweet Pea does not love to be held and will squirm to get away, however, if she is in her cage, her comfortable and safe space, she is not shy at all to come close to a hand. She will happily take treats from a hand and let you pet her. 

How to Teach Children to Care for Small Animals

How to Teach Your Child to Care For Their Small Animal Pet

There are two important things you need to remember when it comes to teaching children how to care for their small animal pet. First, you need to educate them on their pet’s needs, likes, dislikes, and health issues. Thanks to the Internet and our local library, teaching Maggie about Robo hamsters was pretty easy. She was so excited about her new friend that she was eager to learn. 

Secondly, you also need to teach them about the importance of taking care of them on a regular basis. 

One of my rules with Maggie and her hamster is that she has to be responsible for her. I have five children, so I’m busy enough as it is! The first thing we did with Maggie was read about the care of Robo hamsters. We researched them online and Maggie checked out some books from the library. 

Maggie and I talked about how important it was for her to care for her new friend and made sure she prioritized the following:

  1. Hamsters need fresh food and water every day. 
  2. Hamsters need activity. Because Robo hamsters don’t like to be held very much, instead of handling her every day, she adds different hamster-safe items to the cage or rearranges it frequently for Sweet Pea. 
  3. The hamster cage should be cleaned once a week.

I made a printable chart for Maggie that she can use to make sure she is doing everything she should be for Sweet Pea on a daily and weekly basis (scroll to the bottom to print it for your own child!). I print a new one each week and we put it on the bulletin board in her room. It’s been a good reminder to keep her on track with taking care of Sweet Pea, especially once the initial newness and excitement wore off. I find that most children want to be obedient, they just need to know the expectations. The printable chart made it so easy to do just that!

Maggie is great with the first two items on this list but sometimes she doesn’t get the cage cleaned every single week. Part of that is my fault because Maggie relies on me to help her spray it clean in the shower (she’s not tall enough to reach the detachable showerhead) and sometimes I’m not available. Other times it is just because we are so busy that it takes us a few extra days to get to the cage. 

That’s why I was so thankful to find Kaytee Extreme Odor Control Pet Bedding. It is guaranteed (*or your money back) to control odor for 14 days – yes, 14 days! Ideally, we try to change the bedding every week, to ensure it’s as fresh as possible for little Sweet Pea, but it’s great to know that when life gets busy, we can delay it without noticing a difference! Since we started using this bedding, I feel like my daughters’ bedroom smells much better (aka, no more rodent smell, even if the cage is due for a cleaning). It’s also 99% dust-free for a clean and healthy habitat. 

One bag of Kaytee Extreme Odor Control Pet Bedding lasts us a long time, too. While the bag might not look extremely big, the bedding itself expands and fills a large area of the cage once removed from the bag. It’s been a great addition to Sweet Pea’s cage. She really seems to love this soft bedding! And we love the 14-day odor-control guarantee. 

The next time you need to purchase bedding for your small animal, make sure you purchase Kaytee Extreme Odor Control Bedding

Having a pet of her own has been a great experience for Maggie. It’s been a great way for her to learn responsibility. I was concerned that after the newness of her pet wore off that she wouldn’t be as interested in her anymore, but that hasn’t been the case at all. She’s had Sweet Pea for well over a year now and she still adores her pet. 

Your child can learn to take care of his or her pet too! Print out one of these weekly charts and you’ll be on your way to teaching them how to care for their pet all by themselves! 

Weekly Small Animal Care Checklist

Weekly Small Animal Care Checklist

Weekly Small Animal Care Checklist


Sunday 7th of February 2021

Bunnies & Cavies need their cages cleaned way more than once a week. I'm hoping this is for a thorough cleaning. They will need a daily scooping if litter box trained, or sweeping up of pellets (poo).

Peggy Nunn

Thursday 10th of October 2019

this is a great idea on teaching responsibility to children. I like the checklist.

Mia E.

Sunday 28th of July 2019

The checklists are very helpful to know what the expectations are for pet care. Good for kids to know that even after the excitement wears off one still has the responsibility for their pets.

Deborah D

Saturday 27th of July 2019

This is a wonderful post. It shows that there is a lot more to taking care of a pet than people realize.

monique s

Saturday 27th of July 2019

Such a great post. It is great to start with a small pet and to outline the responsibilities and in advance so the commitment to care is understood