Dwarf hamster care guide
High levels of energy are characteristic of dwarf hamsters, such as Djungarian, Chinese, Russian, and Roborovski hamsters. When properly socialized, they make lovely pets and are tidy, intriguing companion animals.
Appearance and behavior
- Dwarf hamsters have large, muscular outpouchings inside their mouths on both sides of their face called check pouches; they store food, bedding, and other small objects in these pouches, which can become so filled that the cheek pouch swelling stretches from the sides of their face all the way down.
- On their abdomens, male dwarf hamsters have scent glands that are raised, sometimes hairless and often produce a greasy to waxy yellow secretion that may be used for territorial marking; Females also have scent glands, but they are less prominent, and the secretions are usually associated with the estrous cycle.
- Dwarf hamsters are extremely active. Because they may run in wheels at night, they might not be the best pet for light sleepers. Although dwarf hamsters are nocturnal animals that play at night and rest during the day, they can adapt to their pet parents’ routines.
- They love to burrow in bedding and hide, if you want to encourage this activity, give nesting materials or make sure the bedding in the habitat is deep enough. Make sure dwarf hamsters have plenty of wood chew sticks, edible chew toys, or mineral chews to gnaw on.
- Dwarf hamsters are small and easy to handle, although they move swiftly. Always watch over children handling hamsters. Daily gentle treatment will help them form bonds with pet owners and become cuddly companions. In order to prevent harm, never squeeze a hamster’s body while handling it; To prevent injuries should they fall, keep your hamster over a soft surface in case they jump.
- The Chinese and Roborovski dwarf hamsters are two species that are less likely to nip or bite people. Never wake up a sleeping hamster as they might bite you if you do.
Give your hamster the biggest habitat you can so they have room to play, exercise, hide, and burrow. Metal and wire cages have greater ventilation, but the bars need to be small enough to prevent dwarf hamsters from slipping through. The use of glass or plastic habitats is possible, but they are more difficult to maintain aired; bedding in tanks might need to be changed more frequently to avoid ammonia smell from droppings. The top of every habitat should be firmly fastened to prevent escape.
Building your habitat
The usual home temperature should not go above 80°F; severe temperature variations should be avoided. Hamsters adapt well to these conditions. The habitat should never be exposed to direct sunlight or a drafty environment, and it should be out of reach of other animals, such as nosy dogs and cats.
Use 1-2″ of high-quality, commercially available paper-based bedding or torn paper for the bedding. Paper-based bedding is preferable over any type of wood shavings since it is digestible if consumed by hamsters and will be less dusty (and therefore less likely to irritate the hamsters’ respiratory tracts). Wood shavings can block the gastrointestinal (GI) tract if consumed. Hamsters may bury themselves and construct nests using nesting materials, which adds to their enrichment.
In their surroundings, many hamsters like to hide. Commercially accessible wood and hay-based habitats are available for them to hide in and gnaw on; while hard plastic hiding places are simple to clean, they should be taken away if hamsters eat them to prevent ingesting plastic fragments.
For exercise, provide a wheel that is the right size. Make sure the wheel has a smooth rolling surface to prevent hamsters from grabbing and hurting their toes and feet.
Cleaning your habitat
Spot clean the habitat and remove soiled bedding and discarded food daily. At least once a week, thoroughly clean and disinfect the habitat and its contents:
- Replacing all bedding and washing all habitat contents with a small animal habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution.
- Rinse off habitat cleaner or bleach residue thoroughly.
- Allow the habitat and décor to dry completely before returning your hamster to the habitat.
Small animals of various species shouldn’t be kept in the same enclosure.
Although hamsters prefer to live alone, dwarf hamsters can be kept in pairs if they were nurtured together. When housing hamsters together, keep an eye out for fighting and separate the animals if necessary. Otherwise, keep adult hamsters in separate enclosures.
A well-balanced dwarf hamster diet consists of:
- A little amount of high-quality hamster lab blocks or another commercially available, nutritionally balanced pelleted diet for hamsters along with vegetables, fruits, cereals, and Timothy or other grass hay.
- Clean, fresh water in a sipper bottle or a small basin, changed every day. Bowls shouldn’t be too deep because that could cause hamsters to fall in and become trapped there. To make sure the water flow is constant, sipper bottles should be checked frequently.
- Feeding hamsters alcohol, coffee, or chocolate is harmful and can result in disease or death; Avoid foods that are greasy, sugary, and salty.
Things to remember when feeding your dwarf hamster:
- Always have fresh food and water available.
- Hamsters typically usually more active at night, so feed them once a day in the evening.
- You can provide your hamster with tiny amounts of grains, vegetables, fruits, and hay each day, but only up to 10% of its daily caloric intake.
- Fruits and vegetables should be thrown out if they are not consumed within 12 hours.
Hamsters are often clean and don’t require baths, but if necessary, a spot cleaning with a damp washcloth or unscented baby wipes can be done. Provide a small dish of commercially available rodent dust for hamsters to roll about in. Hamsters enjoy a weekly dust bath to help keep their fur clean, dry, and less oily.
If your hamster’s teeth appear to be too long, consult with a veterinarian.
Note: The enamel covering a hamster’s front teeth is normally yellow and does not need to be cleaned off.
Signs of a healthy dwarf hamster:
- Active, alert and sociable
- Eats, drinks and passes droppings regularly
- Healthy fur without patches of hair loss
- Clear eyes and nose
- Breathing is unlabored
- Walks normally
Red flags (if you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian):
- Weight loss
- Abnormal hair loss
- Diarrhea, dirty bottom or lack of stool
- Labored or open-mouth breathing
- Ocular or nasal discharge
- Skin lesions, bumps or scabs
- Itchy skin
- Overgrown teeth
- Decreased appetite
- Coughing, sneezing or wheezing
- Swollen cheek pouches that don’t empty in a few hours
- Bloody droppings
If you want more helpful advice on looking after your hamster, including tips on food, toys, accessories and accommodation, add a comment below to let us know!
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