When you were a child, did you own a hamster? Did you say to yourself, “this pet is okay, but I wish it didn’t poop, bite, or sleep, and that it could skateboard and surf?” Well, envy the children of today.
One of the predicted “hot” toys for this holiday season are Zhu Zhu Pets, adorable little robotic hamsters. Are they right for you and your family? As one of The Consumerist’s leading hamster experts, I’ve assembled a handy chart to help you determine whether a robot or traditional hamster is right for you.
Arguably, the toy model is best for younger children who might lose interest in caring for and feeding a live hamster. For children who are true animal lovers, there is no comparison. These toys are recommended for children ages 4-10, and I’m not sure I’d recommend responsibility for an animal for most children that age.
|Feature||Regular hamster||Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster||Advantage|
|Power Source||Seed mix, yogurt treats, vegetables, water||AAA batteries||Zhu Zhu Pets, due to existence of rechargeable batteries|
|Output||Urine, feces||Used batteries||Zhu Zhu Pets, though regular hamster’s output is biodegradeable|
|Special Tricks||Escaping cage, biting, running in wheel, stuffing food in pouches, running around in plastic ball||Running in plastic wheel, running in wheel, driving car, riding skateboard||Hamster. Pouches are funny.|
|Locomotion||Gets around using four legs with paws at end. Can sit on rear end and use paws as "hands"||Moves around on wheels. Cannot sit up.||Hamster. Wheels? Yawn.|
|Operation||No push-button operation. Runs whenever hamster feels like it, generally during evening hours. If hamster does not want to play, biting can result.||Operates when button on hamster’s back is pushed. If hamster does not want to play, insert fresh batteries.||For easily distracted children: Zhu Zhu Pets.|
|Accessories||Colorful modular habitats, plastic wheels and play balls, wooden chew toys||Colorful modular habitats, plastic wheels and play balls||Wider variety available for hamsters|
|Bad habits||Dying with little to no warning, inopportune pregnancies, biting, chewing electrical wires, escaping cages, sleeping all day||None||Zhu Zhu Pets|
|Price||$5-20 depending on species, or free after inopportune pregnancy||$8-10 list price; more on eBay||Zhu Zhu Pets due to longer lifespan|
It looks like the overall advantage goes to the robot hamsters. However, while discount and toy stores are already running out of Zhu Zhu Pets and their playsets, the analog version is rarely in short supply, and many different models can be found at your local animal shelter, via Craigslist, or in pet stores.
Zhu Zhu Pets [Official Site]
Will a $10 Hamster Have Them Fighting in the Aisles? [CNBC]