Welcome to Dashing Hamsters. I created this website back in 2005, initially to have a place to share my love of hamsters. Throughout the years I have come across a lot of information that just often doesn't match up. Care standards and information are outdated, and these little creatures are misunderstood by many. So I decided to make this website as more than just a hamster lover's website, but a hamster website for modern owners who are looking for up to date advice on how to care for and understand their beloved hamsters. On DH you can learn about hamsters, see some cute pictures and read through a hamster filled blog.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ignorance is Bliss

      Animal cruelty is a sad part of reality, something quite separate from the chilling ruthlessness that nature can sometimes be. Putting a stop to animal cruelty is important, but in order to do that it must be understood. Animal cruelty is the abuse, exploitation or neglect of animals by humans and can be divided into different categories. Generally accepted is that there are three types of animal cruelty. None are worse than the others for in the end it is still an animal suffering at the hand of a human. The first is exploitation in which animals are taken advantage of in order for human entertainment or benefit. Under this category falls animal testing, the use of animals in circuses, the use of animals in war and also animal fighting. The second is the act of intentionally setting out to harm an animal often for personal pleasure, such acts that fall under this include beating, burning, or otherwise physically harming an animal, animal fighting can also fall under this category. The third is neglect; that is the failure to provide proper care for an animal is often best represented in the extreme cases such as leaving a dog chained up in the backyard with no food or water.

      I would like to draw your attention to the third category I mentioned: neglect. Most often when neglect is thought of, it is thought of as an intentional act, one that is acknowledged. And yet I have personally witnessed neglect of animals and for the most part it is not intentional; and the person involved is ignorant to the neglect that they are doling out to the animal in their care. It is such that I propose that there are actually two different kinds of neglect. The first sub-category of neglect is ‘Intentional Neglect’, which can include the dog chained up in the backyard as mentioned as an example above, or all the way to the goldfish that has been left to die because the owner has become bored of it. The second sub-category of neglect I call ‘Ignorance fuelled Neglect’ as it is driven by ignorance of the required care for that animal resulting in neglect.

     I have no actual statistics, however based upon my own experience with animals and with people with pets, I think it is safe to say that ignorance fuelled neglect is the most common form of animal cruelty. Why though? Because they don’t even know that they are doing it. One may also wonder if it can be considered animal cruelty if it’s cause is rooted in ignorance, in simply not knowing better. This is a difficult area to move around in, and yet as animal lovers’ intent on improving the welfare of animals, it is a category of animal cruelty that cannot go on being ignored.

The examples of this sub-category of neglect are endless :

     Betta fish (Siamese fighting fish, the fish often kept in separate cups at the pet store) are often explained to require dirty water and small spaces because they live in muddy puddles in the wild. Numerous tiny bowls and containers are sold for them to live in and being a hardy fish they do often survive, but they do not thrive. In the wild they live in vast rice paddies, the water is murky but not dirty, they are insectivores and live in a tropical climate. In captivity they require clean water that is free from ammonia, they need live or frozen foods alongside their staple diet, they need enough space to swim around and stretch their fins, they need their water heated, etc. Their care is complex in comparison to how their care is often explained by the average pet store employee. So they suffer in small, ammonia-ridden, cold tanks on less than adequate food and their owner thinks they’re doing everything right.

       Hamsters are depicted to be able to live in small and colourful plastic cages on cedar shavings, with no wheel, a basic seed mix, etc. Yet research has shown that hamsters may need a minimum of a square metre of floor space, that cedar shavings cause respiratory issues and that their diet is more complex than once realized. So while they survive, they do not thrive and the owner thinks all is well.

      Dogs need exercise every day, Cesar Millan’s training methods are out-dated (and oh so much worse than I have room to explain), dogs are not omnivores, and Science Diet is not an optimal food for dogs. And yet those that blindly believe these things have no idea that their dog is not thriving. The examples could go on and on.

What Can Be Done?
>>>Start with yourself! Do research about all of the pets you have or want to have in your life! Even the ones commonly not seen to require extra effort such as fish or small animals.

>>>Talk with pet owners in your life, many of them do not put the proper research into the pets that they do have or want to have in their life.

>>>Seek out sources of up-to-date and correct information and promote it! Many books are outdated and the new ones seem to base their information on older books; many pet store employees are sadly not educated in the ‘products’ they are selling or are misinformed with outdated information and the only way to figure out if an employee actually knows what they are talking about is for you yourself to know what you’re talking about; not every website is up-to-date either. So be careful, but when you do find a good website, books, or other resource of good information then pass it on!

>>>Actively seek ways to promote education. Talk to local animal shelters, local pet stores, local clubs or if all else fails hit the web! Reaching out to help promote education or to help others learn is a great step toward putting this behind us.

     In order to fight this form of animal cruelty, we must push for the education of pet owners so that they may realize that time must be taken to learn about their chosen pet. How can this be done?
·         Education of pet care seems to be a more popular concept than it ever used to be, likely thanks to the internet for the easy access to information and for the easy access to animal lovers all over the world so that information and experience can be shared. Do your part to end this animal cruelty.

“Let us tear down the flag of ignorance, and burn it with the flames of education. In its stead let us raise the flag of knowledge.”

Ignorance may be described as bliss, but in this case it is only bliss for the human.


  1. Good post! I would add one more point, though: Don't depend too much on current practices but switch on your brain. Eg. if you don't consider hamster care from the point of "it's always been done like this" then it becomes pretty obvious that it simply CAN'T be right to squeeze an active mammal into a cage barely 3times it's body length. Esp. since it's a nocturnal mammal that is mostly awake when you sleep and will therefore spend it's most active phase in the cage. Sure, don't forego knowledge that is already there - but don't switch off your brain and adopt practices just because book/person/site/forum so-and-so said X is right/good/ok. Many practices are more tradition than based on current scientific knowledge so DO question them.

    btw(nitpicky mode on ;-): the Bern studies recommend a MINIMUM(!) cage size of 1 square meter for syrians, not cages up to 1 square meter. Which shows just how off our current keeping traditions really are from the animals's actual needs.