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Old 08-15-2016, 02:57 PM   #1
pinkneon
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Default Hamsters for children with Autism?

I'm wondering if hamsters can be a good pet for children with Autism?

Obviously I realize that any pet for a child mean adults are responsible for the animal's welfare etc, but am unsure whether an Autistic child can cope with a pet? She does seem to have a connection with animals, and is extremely gentle. She is always supervized. One of her therapists sugested a pet as something to help her with responsibilities, and to help if she needs to self soothe and can't calm down otherwise. However I am unsure if a bigger animal might be better for this? She is 5 ... Thoughts would be appreciated!
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Old 08-15-2016, 03:00 PM   #2
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Default Re: Hamsters for children with Autism?

Certain hamsters may work nicely but as prey animals they're so nervous it might not work out as good as for example certain cat breeds and dog breeds
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Old 08-15-2016, 03:14 PM   #3
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Default Re: Hamsters for children with Autism?

Hi Pinkneon!

This is definitely a tricky situation, please don't take offence at anything I say because I don't mean it in any way to cause hurt or anything like that!

I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but a lot of autism circles around the senses and sensory overload. A hamster could be both beneficial and unhelpful because of this, for example, if the child is feeling overwhelmed by their senses and they touch or hold something that feels nice and soft (eg. a hamster) this could really calm them down. However, an Autistic child who is offered a hamster to hold or touch could possibly reach out and squeeze or grab at it, especially someone who is only five. This is likely to cause hurt to both child and hamster!

As well as this, hamsters are, in general, quite shy animals, who are frightened easily. A child could very easily scare a hamster, which, again, could cause them harm if the hamster were to bite them.

Sorry, I'm rambling a bit!

Basically, its up to whoever is responsible for the child and whoever will be looking after the hamster. But I would absolutely recommend if you were to go for a hamster to go for a Syrian, as these on the most part are the easiest to tame.

Goodluck!
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Old 08-15-2016, 03:29 PM   #4
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Default Re: Hamsters for children with Autism?

Thanks!
I am also Autistic, so understand how it works! We're just wondering whether a pet would help her in anyway ... It's my little girl, though she doesn't live with me, but it was sugested that because she is good with animals a pet might help her. She's fine around Sweep and is only ever supervized. If she had a hamster it wouldn't live in her room, for the exact reasons you said above! I think (hope?!) what the therapist meant about it helping to calm her down, was that it wouldn't be left with her if she was in meltdown mode, but to maybe be a preventative measure. I'm not sure that makes sense, but for example at the moment if she is a little stressed she might listen to music or something to try and prevent a meltdown. If she still feels unable to calm herself down she then tells someone so they can try and help and make sure she is somewhere safe should a meltdown occur. I am hoping that the therapist meant that a pet would be the same as the music, however with a cat or dog she could just walk away from it if she needs a quiet space but with a hamster she can't ... I don't think I explained that too well ... She loves animals, and I know if she was older she'd take good care of a pet, but am unsure how she'd cope with a pet now ... She wanted a dinosaur LOL
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Old 08-15-2016, 03:42 PM   #5
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Default Re: Hamsters for children with Autism?

I think part of the reason children on the autistic spectrum respond well to animals is that they don't make eye contact like humans do, or the child isn't being forced to make eye contact themselves which I know can happen with some adults such as in classroom situations. I know the pets I've read of have generally been cats (particularly certain breeds such as rag dolls) and mostly dogs. I think it is a friend they can talk to freely without having to understand any awkward social cues. I'm not sure whether a hamster would fill that brief. I suppose much like it would depend on the particular animal as much as the species, it would also depend on your daughter's particular needs as the spectrum is a very broad one. I wonder whether a hamster could prove "confusing" for her in the way they want to be your friend one day and then avoid you like the plague for the next two! Perhaps something that is happy to sit for longer periods with your daughter may be more suitable? Are there any forums or support group sites you could look up to see what has worked for others in your situation?
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Old 08-15-2016, 03:53 PM   #6
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Default Re: Hamsters for children with Autism?

I'd been thinking a bigger animal might be better anyway, particularly as hamsters don't live very long!
Not sure about forums, she's only recently been diagnosed so it's still quite new to the people she lives with! I'll have a chat with them about a cat and see what they say ... I know they can't consider a dog as it doesn't fit into their lifestyle, but I need to double check about a cat ... The therapist didn't really say what type of pet LOL
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Old 08-15-2016, 03:56 PM   #7
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Default Re: Hamsters for children with Autism?

Cats are wonderful companions,especially those of certain breeds!In my own experience cats can be incredibly helpful when you're going through all different sorts of struggles,whether it be anxiety or depression or you just need a friend who will never judge you.
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Old 08-15-2016, 04:05 PM   #8
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Default Re: Hamsters for children with Autism?

Only thing is cats can be expensive and unless they have an indoor cat no one can gaurentee it'll be around when she needs a friend! Most cats sleep a lot during the day, or are out and about! ... I dunno, think we need another word with the therapist!
Am wondering if a toy cat would work?! LOL
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Old 08-15-2016, 04:09 PM   #9
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Default Re: Hamsters for children with Autism?

There are definitely a lot of things to think about.At the very least,a toy cat can't hurt to at least try!
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Old 08-16-2016, 12:34 AM   #10
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Default Re: Hamsters for children with Autism?

Hi This is not exactly research, it's a Daily Mail article, but it does quote research, and it sounds like you are on the right lines about your little girl living with a pet. Another article also suggests similar things (below). Maybe a family pet rather than one of her own, so she can interact when it's a good time and other people can care for the pet in between.

It basically sounds like any kind of pet in the family helps the child with social skills and assertiveness. I would think something more long lived and less neurotic than a hamster might be better lol! Guinea pigs were mentioned in the second article as being good, and even tortoises, depending on the type of autism. Dogs and cats being the main ones.

Pets & Autistic Children - A Great Combination | Pets4Homes

Are PETS the key to treating autism? | Daily Mail Online

Dogs do seem to be the most popular idea for pets for autistic children, if you google "pets for autistic children" and there are places that train dogs to be an assistant dog for an autistic child. It's a shame that a dog is not an option, although it does sound quite hard to find a trained one (one place is oversubscribed), but I know the right dog can be very tolerant and understanding with a child (our first dog put up with all sorts when I was 5!). The research in the Mail article does say though, that any pet is helpful. Cats can be less tolerant and dig claws in so I'd be a bit concerned about that maybe.

But yes a pet in the home sounds like it would really help the autism. If the adults are prepared to take on most of the responsibility and care it could be a great thing. I think guinea pigs sound good

Our little boy was 6 when we got Charlie. He isn't autistic, but he does have two homes so has to adapt to different lifestyles and not see his pet all the time. It was good for him initially but he soon lost interest, with not being here all the time and with the hamster being asleep all day! And he never really got the hang of holding him gently. He wanted to be gentle but tended to try and grab anxiously if he thought Charlie would run. Playpen time was always good though and he still enjoys watching Charlie do funny things. Handling never really got going though. He does care about Charlie and I think they can project their own feelings onto the pet as a way of understanding feelings (possibly), but on the other hand he also sometimes gets a bit resentful that Charlie is here all the time and he isn't - just a little bit

Sounds like there are plenty of options from fish, guinea pigs, tortoise and so on, in those articles. I think a real pet rather than a toy one But a "family" pet rather than one of her own. Depending on the type and degree of autism, a trained assistance dog sounds brilliant - maybe for the future?
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