Shropshire Star

Irish hamster charity advises owners to consider ‘ethical care’ approach

Hamster Info Ireland also offers a rescue and rehoming service for hamsters across the island.

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Sophie Laverty co-founder of Hamster Info Ireland with Sabrina a winter white hybrid hamster at her sanctuary in Athy Co Kildare

An Irish charity dedicated to hamsters is encouraging prospective owners to ditch traditional advice on looking after their furry friends.

Hamster Info Ireland advocates an “ethical care” approach for the popular pet.

It was set up by hamster lovers Sophie Laverty, from Athy, Co Kildare, and Stephanie Moran, from Athlone, Co Roscommon, to spread awareness of best practice when it comes to caring for the small rodents.

The charity also operates a hamster rescue and rehoming service that covers the entire island of Ireland.

Ms Laverty, a 28-year-old communications adviser, keeps foster hamsters in a specially kitted-out shed in her garden in Athy, along with her own two pets.

Her passion for hamsters was sparked a couple of years ago when she was given one as a Christmas present.

Sophie Laverty, co-founder of Hamster Info Ireland with Sabrina, a winter white hybrid (Niall Carson/PA)

She met Ms Moran online, when they both contributed to a Facebook page about looking after pet hamsters.

However, when they realised they were spending most of their time offering advice on the page rather than learning from it, they decided to set up their own website.

“We founded Hamster Info Ireland because there is a significant lack of ethical-care awareness, a lot of people think hamsters are OK in small cages, but in fact they need something bigger,” said Ms Laverty.

“The main reason we exist is to promote that care and spread it as wide as possible.”

As well as advocating much larger enclosures, the charity gives advice on topics such as running wheel sizes for specific breeds and what natural materials to use to build thick layers of substrates for hamsters to burrow in.

“Everything we do is trying to give the hamsters the enrichment that they would need in what they would have in their natural environment, to replicate that as much as possible,” Ms Laverty said.

Sophie Laverty of Hamster Info Ireland at her shed sanctuary for hamsters in Athy (Niall Carson/PA)

She insists hamster care advice in Ireland had been outdated for years, while the website’s guidance is based on up-to-date research and standards, much of which is derived from Germany.

Ms Laverty and Ms Moran, along with Christina Lauro Pollock, another trustee of the charity who lives in Northern Ireland, drive to all parts of the island for their rescue and rehoming operation.

While some people approach them directly for help, the service often involves monitoring online ads posted by people who have decided to give up their hamsters.

“We have a surrender form on the website, so the people that do know about us already, they’d contact us that way,” said Ms Laverty.

“But then we’re always filtering through adverts on DoneDeal, Gumtree and those websites, because a lot of people rehome their animals on there.

“And we just kind of give them a push in our direction. Like saying, ‘listen, if you’re interested, obviously we’re a charity, we can’t pay for anything, but if you’re willing to give the hamster up for free, we have this service. We’ll make sure it goes to a good new home.

“And then, more often than not, they will choose us. So, we’re very thankful for that.”

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