Many pet hamsters’ biology and behavior are similar to that of their wild cousins. This means they have very complex needs, and providing good care for them can be difficult. Owning and caring for a pet hamster is a lot of fun and very rewarding, but it comes with a lot of responsibility. If you own or are responsible for a hamster, even if only temporarily, you are required by law to provide proper care for it. We dug deep into the subject to create this fantastic list of Essential Care Tips For Your Pet Hamsters. Whether you’re a mature owner or a total newcomer, definitely you’ll find these suggestions useful.
Whichever species of hamster you choose the diet is almost the same.
Dry hamster mix
Different brands will have different extras added for example: peanuts, raisins, dried banana, dried coconut etc but nearly all have seeds, grains (wheat, oats etc), maize, peas and bits of coloured biscuit (coloured to make it look nice to humans).
Extruded hamster mix
This mix has the same type of ingredients but ground together and extruded into pellet form. This less interesting to eat but it does mean that the hamster will get a balanced diet because it can’t pick out its favourites.
Making meal times more fun
Extra seeds can be added to the mix from time to time – millet, budgie, foreign finch seed etc (especially for dwarfs). Half a millet spray or a small piece of corn on the cob is also a hamster favourite.
To add extra vitamins to the diet supply fresh vegetables and fruit from time to time but always in small amounts. Suitable vegetable include: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, curly kale, brussel sprouts, sweetcorn, carrot, swede, celery, cucumber, cooked potato, runner bean strings, cress, a peapod, bean shoots, broad beans but no onions or leeks. If you feed your hamster beetroot be prepared to see the bedding turn red the next time the hamster has a wee! You may also feed the following fruits in moderation: apple, pear, banana and grape.
If you fancy going foraging yourself, these are the wild greens that you can pick for your hamster: dandelions, clover, watercress, and groundsel but not buttercups as these are poisonous to hamsters.
All fruit and vegetables should be washed becomefore giving to the hamster especially wild greens that may have come into contact with urine and stools from other animals.
Hamsters have very definite likes and dislikes about fresh fruit and vegetables. Some are tasted then ignored, some eaten as there is nothing else on the menu and some consumed on the spot. You will soon find out what fruit and vegetables are your hamster’s favourites.
Once your hamster is accustomed to a varied diet special treats could be given in very small amounts. Would you believe that an animal originating from a hot dry desert could like a scottish breakfast cereal? Well it’s true, hamsters love porridge and it’s more commercial form – readybrek. Made with a bit of milk you will be in your hamsters good books all day. This is an especially good treat for elderly hamsters and the young who are still growing and need the calcium to build strong bones and teeth.
If you wish to handle your hamster at any time you need to follow the following procedure.
A small serving would just cover the bottom of a plastic milk bottle top.
Unlike humans whose permanent teeth do not continue to grow, hamster’s teeth grow throughout their lives, so they need to gnaw to keep the length of their teeth to an acceptable level and to keep them sharp. Their basic diet of nuts, grains, and seed will do this. Too much ‘soft food’ will mean that the hamster’s teeth are not being worn down and so can become overgrown. If your hamsters teeth are overgrown your vet will be able to trim them back. You’ll startle it and it might bite you in fear. Hard biscuits, non treated wood, wooden clothes pegs clipped onto the wire and a small twig from an apple or pear tree (washed, of course) will give your hamster plenty to chew on.
New foods need to be introduced gradually and in very small quantities to prevent your hamster from getting a tummy upset.
READ MORE: Hamster Health And Diseases
Always approach the hamster gently with no sudden moves, so as not to scare it. If it is sinceleep, gently tap the house or nest to wake it up, and let it walk out of its nest. Never just grab the hamster while it is asleep in its nest.
Prevention is better than cure as the old saying goes and you can provide your hamster with lots of things to gnaw on to keep it’s teeth in good condition.
How to pick up your hamster
With your hamster in the bedding tray, gently cup your hands around the hamster but allow your hamster to run off your hands if it wants to. Wait a few seconds before trying again. Repeat this process until it feels secure sitting in your hand. At this stage don’t lift the hamster up. Do this a few times a day for the first few days and your hamster should be much quieter.
Speak gently as you handle your hamster and stroke it gently but avoid touching its head. Once you are happy that you and your hamster have bonded, you can pick your hamster up. To do this place one hand firmly but gently around its body (as you would a computer mouse, with the hamsters tail being the mouse lead) or cup both hands together and lift your hamster up. Either way is suitable, whichever you find the easiest.
Once it knows that you are not going to hurt it, you will both become more confident and you will find your hamster waiting to come out to be handled. Young children may find handling easier if they spread their fingers out wide, when the hamster walks from hand to hands the hamster’s legs ‘fall’ end up beingtween the fingers and slow it down. The odd small serving of scrambled or boiled egg, boiled rice, mash potato etc will be eaten with relish especially by the elderly or a hamster who is a little under the weather and needs to be tempted to eat. Gently tap on the cage, open the door and call your hamster’s name and wait for it to come to the door. Do not try to pick up your hamster from it’s nest whilst it is asleep or try to get it out of it’s house using a finger as this is a sure way to get bitten. It may take a few days for you to be able to do this but eventually the hamster will come every time. Above everything else enjoy your hamster and become it’s friend and companion.
Finally, always wash your hands again after you have finished handling your hamster.
Housing And Bedding
Hamsters are indoor pets and although you can take them outside on a warm day, they should live indoors in a suitable house like a Qute.
Ideally you would position your hamster house in a busy room in the house so that you can see them a whole lot. You’ll be able to learn all about your hamsters daily routine and natural habits just by watching them and your hamster will learn all about you too.
Hamsters really like to make a nest for themselves. The best type of home will have a draft free bedding area with high sides to stop the bedding being accidentally kicked out of the house by a burrowing hamster. It will have plenty of ventilation too so that your pet always has fresh air.
From your point of view you should make sure that the house is easy to clean. It’s very important that the house is cleaned regularly and so you don’t want a fiddly lot of small spaces that take ages to clean.
When you first arrive home with your new hamster it’s important to settle him or her in the new home. Make sure you have put the bedding, food and water in the hamsters home before you put the hamster in. Let the hamster settle in overnight to get used to its new home. Talking to it quietly will help it get used to your voice. Wash the hands before handling your hamster as any smells left on there from food you have been dealing with will excite the hamster and he may give you just a little nibble.
Your hamster needs a thick layer of bedding material that it can arrange into a home. The most commonly available bedding materials are natural fibre beddings, paper and hay. There are usually now also paper and cardboard bedding materials which arean also really good.
Just one note of caution: some bedding is made from synthetic materials which if a hamster accidently eats it could cause a blockage (as it won’t break down).
More Sociable Hours
During the day, hamsters like sleeping a lot! To encourage your hamster to be more active when you are awake try feeding at a time when you’re around for example when you come home from school or work. You could feed yours, perhaps, once the child comes home from school. Your hamsters home should not be kept in direct sunlight, next to central heating radiators or in draughty areas.
Once your hamster has settled in and is used to coming to your voice you can start adding toys. There are many accessories that you can put in your hamsters home to create extra interest. Wheels, little dens, food dishes, tubes, sea-saws, etc. Your Qute comes with some really neat cut out cardboard toys that you could devote the house. Things like egg boxes are usually good as well as your hamsters will chew these and turn them into bedding.
Time outside their house
You can take your hamsters out of their home and let them explore the world outside. Use the Qute bedding tray to take them with you when you move around the house. For example if friends come over it is possible to all sit roudn the bedding tray and get it in turns to lift the hamster out and play with him. If there are other animals in the house, especially cats, make sure they are in a different room and can’t get in. When your hamster is out by himself, don’t let him out of your sight. Any wires ought to be concealed and holes in the floorboards should be closed up before letting your hamster out to explore.
Looking for more hamster care recommendations? Check out our post about 6 Frequently Asked Questions About Hamsters.