Hamster OR Gerbil*?

*by gerbil, I think I mean ‘guinea pig’. So now I’m really confused. Anyways…

Hubby and I are at a crossroads with our Christmas surprise gift for the kids. What we thought we were going to do for the kids has suddenly become not really what they’d want.It seems being foster parents to the bunnies Pepper and Lulu has given each of the kids a really deep desire for other kinds of furry pets.

I thought my compromise of letting the Naturalist get firebelly toads was going to cover the pet issue, but apparently after 2 years, their lack of meaningful interaction has worn thin. Like the grinch, my heart has grown three sizes in the last couple of days and their cries for soft cuddly animals to love has broken through my hard, I’m-taking-care-of-3-kids-already-and-I-don’t-want-to-take-care-of-a-pet-too outer shell.

But we don’t have much time to decide and hubby and I don’t have much knowlege of small rodents (or whatever they are). From what we gather, hamsters are small, mouselike, and like to play in those cute plastic mazes, but don’t necessarily like to interact with kids. (and what happens if they get loose? Will they run away?!)  Gerbils Guinea Pigs are larger and less happy to play in a maze, but happy to have playtime with the kids. Hubby checked them out at the pet store today and noticed that they “poop. A LOT. All over the place. It freaked me out.”  

That’s the extend of our knowlege. Please help fill us in! What’s a good, fun animal for kids…and what would you recommend. Hamster, or gerbil  Guinea Pig? We’re planning on going the day before Christmas to pick them up….so help!!! (Not to put a lot of pressure on you or anything!)