Hamsters are very small pets, but they will still need a few key items. Here we’ve created a list of what you will need for the first few weeks of hamster ownership, but if you would like some tips on providing care over the first few days then we’ve done our research to give you some tips to bring a hamster home.
What Do I Need For A Hamster?
To get you through the first few weeks, you will need:
- A cage large enough for your species of hamster
- A food bowl
- A water bottle
- A suitably-sized exercise wheel
- A sand bath
- A hamster house
- Nail clippers
- An exercise ball (optional)
- Chews or gnaws (optional)
- A carry-cage (optional)
- A wide-toothed comb (optional)
If you want to give your new pet as smooth a transition to their new home as you can, then you will probably want to set up all the equipment before your hamster comes home. All the above things will help you provide your hamster with what it needs to live a fun, healthy life. Although this equipment should be enough to get you through the first few weeks, it’s good to be aware that you may need more items as time goes on. For example, any pet can develop health problems that require medicines or treatment items.
If you suspect your hamster has a problem with its health, then we recommend you have a brief look through Common Hamster Illnesses And Symptoms, and seek veterinary advice.
How To Bring A Hamster Home
For new owners, we’ve assembled some tips to get you started with your new pet. We’ve included more detailed information in later sections, but these quick pointers should provide you with a good start.
Have everything ready before you bring your hamster home
Before you bring your new friend into your house, it’s a good idea to have everything that they will need for the first few days all ready. You will need:
- A big enough cage for the pet
- A wheel for exercise (again, one that is big enough – fifteen centimeters for a small hamster and approximately twenty for a large is ideal)
- A food bowl
- A water bottle
- A hamster house to provide your pet somewhere dark to sleep in the daytime
Within the coming weeks, you may also want to purchase gnaws, different types of bedding to try, bathing sand, and some medical equipment. You may want a carry case for the trip home with your new pet, as many adoption centres and shops provide cardboard boxes for the journey home. Cardboard is a material that your pet will be able to gnaw its way out of quite easily, so you may wish to invest in a carry case that can be reused for vet trips.
Once you’ve purchased all of this equipment, then it’s a good idea to set it up so that your hamster isn’t in temporary accommodation for any longer than necessary. Set up your hamster’s cage, put some hamster food in the bowl, fill the cage with bedding, and fill up your pet’s water bottle. If you need any advice on where to place your hamster’s cage, or what food and bedding to use, then there are sections of this guide to help you.
- Prepare a travel case
You may be provided with a cardboard carry container to bring your pet home in, but if it’s a long journey then you might want to bring something a little more sturdy. Hamsters can chew through cardboard pretty quickly, and you don’t want a hamster escaping on a bus or in your car! Put a bit of bedding, some food and some water in this travel case.
- Plan your route
Car journeys can be really stressful for pets, especially if they’re never end up beingen in one before. It’s full of strange sights and smells, and the noise of the engine will be frightening. Also, if the weather is warm then you’ll desire to minimise car time to prevent your pet from overheating. It is for these reasons it’s best to plan ahead. Which route will mean your hamster is in the car for the shortest amount of time?
- Put your hamster in it’s new home, and then leave it in peace.
Introduce your hand to the cage before touching your pet. Try to only pick up your pet when absolutely necessary for the first week, and do your best to not let people stare through the bars of the cage – instead, you’ll want to make as little noise as possible to give your hamster some peace and quiet for recuperation.
Although you’ll be very excited to make friends with your new pet, your hamster will need some time to recover from the journey and to acclimatize itself to its brand new home. Your pet will have a new home, new food, new smells and new people – give them some time to get used to their surroundings before introducing yourself. Apart from cleaning and feeding, try to limit the amount of contact you possess with your family pet for the first week. After this, once they’ve settled in, you can start to introduce yourself.
- Keep a new pet’s diet the same at first
Hamsters are quite susceptible to stomach upsets, and one of the things you don’t want to do to a new pet is give it a stomach upset to go along with all the stresses of moving to a new home. Many experts recommend making changes to your new pet’s diet gradually rather than in a short space of time. When you get your new pet, it’s a good idea to take some of the food that it’s currently eating with you, to be able to slowly phase out the old meals and introduce its new diet over a couple of weeks.
In general, though, it’s best to keep your pet fairly low to the ground when you can. It’s both easy and fun. Once your hamster has gotten to know you, then there is an easy way to get them to sit in your hands. Just follow the steps below, and be sure to supervcan bee any young children that are attempting to do this.
Before you begin, it’s good to know that if you scare your hamster, then you risk getting bitten. Their only real defense is to bite, and it’s their main method of telling you to stop doing something. If your hamster bites you, don’t punish it, instead, make an effort to figure out why it’s biting. To find out more, check out our ‘Hamster Biting’ page.
If you have only just got your new hamster then it won’t be used to you, and the following method for picking up your hamster won’t work just yet. You’ll need to tame your hamster before you try this method. We offer advice on taming on How to tame my hamster.
Once your hamster is tamed (and awake!) follow these steps to safely pick up your pet:
Give your hands a thorough wthesh with soap and water. Hamsters have a great sense of smell, and so a good option is an unscented soap which won’t make you smell like a treat. It will also get rid of any smells that might scare or unnerve them, like the smell of cats, dogs, or other hamsters. Washing the hands will also stop hamsters from licking anything off of your hands – they’ll try and eat anything, even if it’s not good for them! Washing your hands before handling your pet removes the rwill bek of them ingesting something that doesn’t agree with them.
Once you bring your hamster into your house, the best course of action will be to put your hamster into it’s new home straight away, and then to leave it alone for a while. Having a big, scary hand in your home will give your pet a bit of a fright, so don’t grab your little companion. Predators grab hamsters, and you don’t want your pet to see you as any kind of threat or it will run away from you, feel uncomfortable near you, and maybe even bite you! Place your hand, palm facing down, on the floor of the cage for about four or five seconds before moving it towards your pet.
Turn your palm up and wait for your hamster to crawl onto your hands.
Repeat this process three times a day for several days, until your hamster actively seeks out your hands when you open the enclosure. Instead, it’s best to be patient and also to allow the pet to come to you (after you’ve repeated the whole pick-up process a few times and your hamster knows that it has nothing to fear from you, then this step is likely to take far less time). If your hamster does not crawl into your hands, then slowly and carefully scoop your hamster up by scooping up a few of the bedding it’s sitting on. Use both hands so that your hamster will not fall.
Keep your hands in the cage for the first few times you pick up your pet. Your pet may try to jump out of your hands, and you don’t want it doing this and falling an extended distance. Once you’re more used to handling your hamster, you can gently place one hand on top of the animal to stop it jumping out, and then you can move it around very slowly.
How To Hold A Hamster Correctly
If you’ve never held a hamster before – don’t fret! Hamsters are exceptionally wriggly little animals, and even the most confident owner is at risk of one squirming out of their hands. Minimise this risk by keeping your pet close to the floor.
When holding your hamster, move slowly and keep it close to your body – this can help your hammy feel more secure. Keeping your movements smooth and slow reduces the risk of your pet panicking. Those who’ve not held hamsters much before might want to sit down whilst they’re cuddling this little animal, so that if it does wriggle free then it’ll fall a short distance onto someone’s lap, rather than further and onto a hard floor.
For the first few times you hold your hamster, it’s a good idea to feed it a treat. This is because you’re trying to train your hamster to enjoy your company. If you give it nice food, it will create a positive association between time with you and having a nice time.
It’s best to only hold your pet for one or two minutes before returning it to its cage. Keeping it brief for the initial few times you hold your hamster will minimise stress – being picked up for the first time by a strange human will be a bit scary, but if it’s only for a few minutes, and it gets given a nice treat, then your hamster will soon look forward to the time it spends with you.
To put your hamster back in its cage, make sure it cannot jump out of your grasp and gently move your hands to a centimeter or two above your hamster’s cage floor. Then, lift away one hand, and allow your hamster to walk away from it. If hamsters fall for more than a couple of centimeters, they can break their little legs. This part may take a while, but if you seize your hamster then it’s likely to bite you. At this stage, it’s fine to start holding your pet for longer periods of time, and you probably don’t need to give them a treat each and every time you hold them.