10 Popular Small Pets

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Sometimes called "pocket pets" because of their size, hamsters have pet appeal in triplicate: They're cute, furry and oh-so-friendly. People began keeping hamsters as pets in the 1930s, and this easy-to-care-for pet has grown in popularity ever since. The most common hamster breeds include the Syrian hamster (also known as the golden hamster), which can grow up to 7 inches (17 centimeters) in length. The Roborovski dwarf hamster, on the other hand, is only 2 inches (7 centimeters) in length.

Life Span: Two or three years

Best For: Children 8 and older; hamsters are nocturnal -- unlike young kids

Feeding: Commercial pellets, fresh water; occasional treats of fresh fruits and vegetables, and cheese

Housing and Exercise: Wire hamster cages with a solid bottom; hamster wheels, tubes and other toys. Shredded paper or tissue makes good bedding. Most hamsters don't mind living alone. In fact, they tend to be aggressive in same-sex pairs.

Good to know: If you adopt two hamsters of the opposite sex, you may soon have a bevy of baby hamsters. That's because a hamster pregnancy only takes about two weeks, from start to finish. Why the rush? It's all part of nature's grand design to keep the breed alive.

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