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Old 09-15-2019, 10:25 PM   #1
Cotton
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Default Pet Therapy Programs

Dogs and cats are commonly seen in pet therapy programs at hospitals and long term care homes. Sometimes, rabbits and guinea pigs. I have even seen an alpaca.

Has anyone here used a hamster in a pet therapy program? One of the adults I work with asked to meet one of my previous hamsters, but it wouldn't have been safe for the hamsters so I declined. My current hamster has the temperament and personality for it, but I would like to hear the pros and cons first, if anyone here has done this. Thank you.

(I should add that work is exactly ten minutes away so IF I do this, the hamster would stay in a familiar bin cage the entire time with food, water, toys, etc. The entire outing from start to finish would be approximately 45 minutes. I'm leaning more towards NOT doing it because I think of hamsters as pets that should stay inside.)
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Old 09-15-2019, 10:40 PM   #2
AmityvilleHams
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Default Re: Pet Therapy Programs

I really don't think it would be in the hamster's best interest. While dogs and cats and even alpacas(to be fair I only know a llama personally who would be an amazing therapy animal in my opinion) can make great therapy pets, they're probably less likely to get seriously ill quick because of stress.

With hamsters we even tend to agree in the community that travelling with hamsters is best reserved for genuinely needed moments such as moving or in case of an emergency where it would be unsafe to leave any pet behind. Travel is extremely stressful to hamsters no matter how short the trip, so it really should be done as infrequently as possible and only for particular reasons!
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Old 09-15-2019, 11:28 PM   #3
Cotton
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Default Re: Pet Therapy Programs

Thank you, Amityville. I appreciate your response. I'm leaning more towards a "No" for a couple of the reasons you mentioned. Plus, it's useful to hear your additional comments. My main reason is that I think of hamsters as indoor pets and not to be carried around. I'm also told I'm extra-cautious with my care of pets so it was useful to get another opinion. Thank you.
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Old 09-16-2019, 01:03 AM   #4
Ria P
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Default Re: Pet Therapy Programs

My response would also be a NO for the following reasons:

Hamsters sleep during the day so as to use a hamster for pet therapy a hamster would need to get woken up at a time convenient for the humans involved not the hamster which i think isn't fair on the hamster.

I guess therapy means stroking and handling the hamster so the hamster would be exposed to unfamiliar smells, sounds and touch. There would also be the risk of an inexperienced person dropping the hamster or holding him too tight etc.

A hamster may well bite when feeling afraid or threatened.

In pet centres, animal farms and the like people and children can pet rabbits and guinea pigs but i've never seen a hamster.

A fish tank on site could be very therapeutic and relaxing to watch.
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Old 09-16-2019, 01:22 AM   #5
LunaTheHamster1
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Default Re: Pet Therapy Programs

My answer would be a no too. You would be putting the people you are trying to help needs above your hamster and that is not fair on your hamster. Let your hamster be happy and content at home where it feels safe and sound. I am also guessing it would be at a time of day when your hamster is used to sleeping, so again totally not fair on your hamster. This makes me think of hamsters that live in schools and that would also a huge no from me. In my opinion there are plenty of other animals that can be used for therapy that you already listed.
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Old 09-16-2019, 03:57 AM   #6
sushi_78
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Default Re: Pet Therapy Programs

My mum works in a special school for severely disabled children and once a year a company comes in with various animals to show the children. This year they had a Syrian hamster. The purpose of this is to stimulate the children and to expose them to a variety of different sensations (e.g snake scales, claws on skin, fur etc.) which really helps their condition. Most of children haven't got enough motor control to be "grabby" or to hurt the animals.

A lot of pet therapy programs focus more on the calming effect on having an animal on the lap and stroking it, a hamster wouldn't really be suitable for this.
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Old 09-16-2019, 09:31 PM   #7
mikatelyn
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Default Re: Pet Therapy Programs

My thoughts on this would also be "no".
1. As stated above, pet therapy typically includes holding/stroking the pet. A hamster tends to want to run around. If the person holding the hamster isn't used to it, they can easily drop the hamster, possibly injuring the hamster.
2. If said hamster is dropped or otherwise escapes, now you have a loose rodent in the hospital/care facility. As rodents can carry certain human illnesses, this is probably a liability for the hospital, and they probably wouldn't appreciate it. For the hamster, this has become life threatening if they cannot find a way back to you.
3. i understand that hamsters can get sick from certain human diseases. Perhaps not the best thing to expose them to a facility that carries a lot of disease.
4. Hamsters get scared from new smells and situations. They are creatures of habit. Exposing them to a bunch of new people in a new environment could very well get the patient you are trying to help bitten. If said patient is also immunocompromised (such as a chemotherapy patient or a poorly controlled diabetic), a small bite could turn into a big infection, which has now just exposed you to a lot of liability.
Now, granted, you appear to live in Canada and not the US, so maybe your risks with the medicolegal system are less dramatic, so take this last point with a grain of salt.

Pros:
1. Your patient might really enjoy the hamster
2. The hamster may enjoy a new experience if it is bored with its current environment, but I'm thinking this would be pretty iffy.

All in all, the cons outweigh the pros in my mind.

This might be different if the person meeting the hamster is coming to your home, and at reasonable hamster waking hours. Then you'd have to decide if you like/trust this person enough to give them that kind of personal information.
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Old 09-17-2019, 03:49 AM   #8
sushi_78
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Default Re: Pet Therapy Programs

Another thing to remember is that companies that do pet therapy usually have many animals that they rotate so that the animals are not overworked and are not out every day. A good company may have several animals of the same species so that if one is not able to work on a given day, they have a backup. Usually animals are taken out more than once or twice a week. If an animal is not coping well with the stress of the work, they can obtain new animals. Doing pet therapy as an individual with just one animal would put your hamster under a lot of pressure.

Also these companies are, I imagine, always prepared for the possibility that when you letting other people handle your animals, something may happen and the animals could get hurt or die. While I'm sure a good company cares about their animals, they do have to be pragmatic and prepare and budget for this possibility. When it is your personal pet you may find you have trouble with accepting this danger and allowing strangers to handle your hamster. It's almost like you need a certain level of detachment from the animal if that makes sense.
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Old 09-17-2019, 05:49 PM   #9
Cotton
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Default Re: Pet Therapy Programs

Thank you, everyone, for your responses. I appreciate the time and thought you put into writing them. I decided to decline for the safety of the hamster AND the adult. I'm often told I am over-protective with pets and overthink everything, but I think in this case my first reaction to decline was appropriate. Your posts indicated similar thoughts on the matter and a few that I hadn't considered. Thank you.

Ria, in response to your comment, regarding a fish tank: There is a large fish tank there and four therapy pets living onsite along with therapy pets brought in by volunteers. They have enough therapy pets.
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