Hamster care FAQs
Hamsters are the best-known and popular small rodents kept as pets. Here are some things to think about before you decide to get a hamster.
The Syrian hamster, also referred to as the “golden hamster,” is the most prevalent and largest species of hamster. A different species of hamster that people also enjoy keeping as pets is the dwarf hamster.
Can kids have hamsters at home?
As with any pet, hamster handling should be supervised by an adult who will also be in charge of ensuring that the hamster is properly cared for.
How long do hamsters live?
Hamsters typically live between 18 and 36 months, with the Syrian hamster breed having a higher likelihood of living longer than dwarf varieties. Elderly hamsters are those that are one and a half years old.
Do hamsters need company?
Dwarf hamsters are perfectly capable of surviving on their own. Although it depends on the specific hamsters and the environment they are kept in, they can enjoy company. Make sure they are of the same sex if you decide to purchase a pair of dwarf hamsters. Moreover, never mix species.
It is best to keep Syrian hamsters alone as they are naturally solitary and will fight if kept in pairs or groups.
Important: Do not mix different species or sexes of hamsters. Also keep in mind that hamsters can reach sexual maturity (can breed, make and have babies) at just one month old.
If my hamsters fight, what to do?
You must put your dwarf hamsters in separate cages if they start fighting. Since hamsters never engage in combat, conflicts are typically very serious.
If hamsters have fought, it can be extremely difficult to reintroduce them. So it is better to prevent. By giving them the appropriate space and stimulating environment, you can aid in preventing fights.
Do hamsters bite?
If they are used to being handled gently and correctly from a young age, hamsters rarely bite.
When do hamsters sleep?
Since hamsters are most active at night, keeping them in a bedroom can be problematic.
Due to their nocturnal nature, hamsters may bite if they are startled during the day and become alarmed. Because of this, it’s best to wait until your hamster has fully awakened before attempting to handle them.
Do hamsters hibernate?
If it gets too cold, which can happen if the temperature falls below 10°C, Syrian hamsters will attempt to hibernate. This is frequently detrimental to their health because they won’t have enough fat reserves to go an extended period of time without food.
As a result, it’s important to keep your hamster’s home free from draughts, direct sunlight, and extreme heat.
Consult your veterinarian for advice if you are concerned that your hamster may have entered hibernation.
Where to get hamsters?
Please think about adopting a hamster from a center as thousands of unwanted animals are given up to animal charities every year.
The other choice is to purchase one from a reputable breeder or pet store.
Here are some considerations to keep in mind if you’re going to a pet store:
- Make sure that males and females have been correctly sexed and separated because hamsters reach sexual maturity as early as four weeks of age.
- The staff at the breeder or pet store ought to be able to demonstrate the differences between the sexes. It’s best to leave if they lack confidence because you can’t be sure your hamster isn’t pregnant.
- Before they are six weeks old, hamsters shouldn’t be moved.
- They ought to have access to food, clean water, and a comfortable, spacious place to stay.
How much are hamsters?
Typically, between £10 and £20.
What do I need to buy for my hamster?
- A suitable cage for the type of hamster you have
- Suitable food
- Nest box
- Earthenware or stainless steel bowls for food
- Water bottle or water bowl
- A playpen
- Cardboard tubes
- Toys to keep them entertained
- A carry case for trips to the vet
As well as the above, your hamster will need a constant supply of water.
Each species has different traits and needs that you’ll need to be aware of.
- Syrian hamster cages
A large wire cage with a plastic base that measures 80 cm by 50 cm on the floor and 50 cm tall is the best place for a Syrian hamster to live. A cage that is even taller is preferable because hamsters enjoy scaling different levels, but be careful not to make it too high lest they trip and get hurt.
Syrian hamsters can live comfortably in rat cages because they offer a lot of height and space. To give your hamster more areas to explore, more levels can be added.
Note: Avoid elaborate tube systems with all hamsters. Dwarf hamsters in particular are not very agile and struggle to climb.
- Dwarf hamster cages
Dwarf hamsters can fit through small spaces, so it’s best to keep them in a tank or aquarium that measures 80 cm by 50 cm on the floor and is 50 cm tall (unless your cage has bars that are no more than 6 mm apart).
To allow ventilation and prevent them from escaping, the tank needs a tightly fitting wire lid. However, there shouldn’t be more than 6mm of space between the bars.
To ensure there is enough room for the addition of more toys and enrichment to keep them living harmoniously, the housing will need to be larger if you are keeping a pair of dwarf hamsters.
Important: Although some cages come with wheels, these aren’t always appropriate. The spine of a hamster shouldn’t curve while using an exercise wheel as this can lead to back issues. We prefer flying saucer-style wheels for dwarf hamsters.
Where can I find appropriate hamster cages?
The Ferplast Cage, which is nice and big for hamsters and comes with the right size wheel and accessories, is a good option if you have a good budget.
Otherwise, we’ve compiled a list of accommodations for your hamsters that are the appropriate size below:
- Little Friends Langham cage with two floors
While falling short when it comes to width, this cage does have additional depth and some handy levels. The bar spacing also makes it suitable for all breeds of hamster.
- The Plaza tall rat and hamster cage
Due to the height of this cage, it would not be suitable for dwarf hamster breeds. However, it does give plenty of scope for hanging toys. Hammocks can be installed to prevent Syrian hamsters from falling from height. The bar spacing also allows for secure housing.
- Savic Hamster Heaven extra large cage
A cage suitable for all breeds of hamster, although dwarf breeds of hamster may struggle with using the tunnel system provided.
The cage has a deep base allowing for a good level of bedding to be provided for digging and burrowing. The wheel provided is too small so should be replaced.
Can hamsters live outside?
No. If it gets too cold, Syrian hamsters will try to hibernate, which can be bad for their health because they won’t have enough fat reserves to go without food for a long time.
Therefore, it’s crucial to make sure that your hamster’s home is indoors and shielded from draughts, sunlight, and direct heat.
Consult your veterinarian for advice if you are concerned that your hamster may have entered hibernation.
How often do I need to clean my hamster’s cage?
The size of the cage and whether they use a particular area to relieve themselves will determine how frequently you should clean it. The norm is once or twice per month.
To keep the cage clean and your hamster happy, make sure you spot clean every few days by removing soiled bedding and uneaten, rotten food on a regular basis.
How to clean my hamster’s cage?
- Wait until your hamster is awake
- Remove your hamster from their cage and place them in a pet carrier or in their playpen
- Take out any ropes, hammocks or toys, cleaning them as needed
- Scoop out their bedding and any other material using a dustpan and brush
- Using a pet-safe disinfectant, which you can buy in a pet shop, spray the cage
- Then wipe it all down and wash thoroughly with hot water
- Leave to air until completely dry
- Clean their food bowls and their water bottle, using warm water and a bottle brush
It’s important to keep the cage clean, but as hamsters rely on familiar smells to feel safe, make sure you put back some of the unsoiled used bedding when you do a ‘full’ clean (about a third of the bedding is ideal).
Burrowing is a behavior that hamsters naturally engage in, so you should encourage your hamster to exhibit it by providing a lot of deep bedding.
What is the best bedding for my hamster?
All kinds of hamsters benefit from bedding made from dust.
The majority of wood shavings and sawdust should be avoided because they could harm your hamster’s respiratory system and smell awful when it’s urinated on (although Aspen shavings can be used). Additionally, stay away from fluffy bedding, which if eaten by a hamster could cause digestive issues.
Additionally, litter-training hamsters helps to keep their cage clean.
Hamster exercise balls
Hamster exercise balls shouldn’t be used because they can easily get worn out and become immobile.
Instead, if you want to let your hamster out of its cage, we advise providing them with a secure area where they can run around (like a hamster playpen).
The use of hamster wheels with spokes is now generally discouraged by experts due to the risk of injury. Wide, sturdy wheels are more secure.
Frequently, hamster wheels sold with a hamster cage are insufficiently large.
Hamsters have a two-to three-year lifespan. Even so, hamsters will still use the tiny wheels, and over time, this can harm their spine.
Therefore, a suitable replacement for these wheels should be used. Because there is a chance that feet will become entangled, any wheels with spokes should also be replaced.
A Syrian hamster needs a wheel that is no smaller than 8.5 inches (22cm).
The following wheels come recommended:
- Savoy Rolly Rat Wheel – this extra large wheel can be fitted to the side of a cage or kept on the stand provided. It gives ample room for a Syrian hamster to exercise without the risk of damaging their spine
- Trixie Rotating Ferris Wheel – has a guard to stop the hamster from falling out should they pick up high speed when exercising
The same as Syrians, dwarf hamster breeds frequently need a larger wheel than the ones included when you buy a cage due to the possibility of damaging the spine. A dwarf hamster needs a wheel that is no smaller than 6.5 inches (16.5cm).
For dwarf hamsters, we suggest a Kaytee silent spinner wheel.
Important: Never wake up your hamster to put them in their playpen and watch over them at all times.
Although it may be tempting to purchase a playpen from a pet store, these are frequently insufficient because they are made of wire and hamsters can easily escape.
Always make your own using some sturdy cardboard, is our advice. The ideal container is a cardboard box filled with shredded paper. Since hamsters are naturally cautious, your playpen should start out small to prevent stress. After some time has passed and their confidence has grown, you can then increase the size.
They enjoy chewing on and running through cardboard tubes. They also enjoy climbing on wooden ledges, though dwarf hamsters shouldn’t use them because they aren’t as agile as Syrian. Put them in only when they are awake.
Like us, hamsters are omnivores. This implies that they can consume fruits, vegetables, and meat, such as insects and mealworms.
For your pet’s diet, a commercial hamster mix is a good starting point. Small pieces of fruit and vegetables, such as an apple slice or perhaps a cauliflower sprig, are also enjoyed by hamsters.
Like other rodents, hamsters have continuously growing front teeth, so they gnaw to maintain their shape. In very small amounts, fruit tree sticks or the small, hard dog biscuits make good treats for hamsters, and gnawing on them helps prevent overgrown teeth.
It is necessary to provide fresh water, either in a water bottle or a small water bowl, and to change the water every day.
Note: If you notice that your hamster is consuming waste, don’t be alarmed; rodents generally do this to maintain a healthy digestive system.
How much should I feed my hamster?
The instructions on the food packet for your hamster should be carefully read. Hamsters can easily gain weight, so you’ll need to be very careful about portion sizes. Avoid fatty, sugary treats.
It is best to talk to your veterinarian if you are worried that your pet is gaining weight or isn’t getting enough to eat.
Don’t give hamsters too many green vegetables because they spoil quickly because they hoard food in their beds. Additionally, hamsters store food in their cheek pouches, which is always amusing to observe.
Even though uneaten, rotten food should be thrown out, it’s crucial to allow hamsters to “hoard” because emptying their larder completely will be stressful for them. If a hoard must be completely removed, replace it with an equivalent amount of food that includes some of the previously unspoiled food.
How to feed my hamster?
Fresh fruit and vegetables are tasty to hamsters, but they like to bury their food. Give them tiny portions to reduce the amount of food left to rot and eliminate uneaten meals every day.
To prevent fights over food when keeping a pair of dwarf hamsters, think about scatter feeding rather than using a bowl. Additionally, scatter feeding dry food is excellent because it encourages animals’ innate desire to forage for food.
You can scatter some of their daily food around the cage and conceal some of it under the bedding for them to snuffle out.
Additionally, hamsters require a nest box where they can rest and get some quiet time.
For instance, it’s helpful to know that hamsters have scent glands, which can appear as small, dark patches, on opposite sides of their flanks (between their ribs and their hips). These are symmetrical, non-itching, and remain the same size. These are typical and pose no threat.
Additionally, male hamsters’ testicles enlarge in the spring, so two sizable swellings at the base of your hamster are typically nothing to be concerned about. However, do speak with your veterinarian if you have any reason to be worried about your hamster’s health.
You must be aware of the specific health concerns that hamsters, like all pets, have.
Despite being adorable, storing food in their cheek pouches can occasionally cause issues.
If your hamster appears to have permanently stuffed cheeks, it may be because they have impacted cheek pouches, which occur when food gets stuck in the cheek pouch and cannot be removed. Additionally, occasionally sharp food pieces may pierce their pouches.
Always consult your veterinarian because your hamster might require antibiotics if one of these has led to an infection.
Diarrhoea (wet tail)
The other common illness requiring veterinary assistance is wet tail, which is diarrhea linked to stress, especially in recently weaned babies. They’ll be motivated to:
- wee more frequently
- have discoloured wee (can be cloudy or darker than usual)
- have blood in their wee
Make an appointment for your hamster with your veterinarian if you notice any of the aforementioned signs.
You can minimize the risk by:
– preparing the cage before you bring your hamster home and leaving them undisturbed, except for feeding, for the first two or three days
– being careful when handling your hamster when you have a cold as you can pass this on to them
– ensuring you abide by good hygiene standards and consider wearing gloves should you need to handle your hamster or clean their accommodation
It’s important to keep in mind that hamsters, especially those with pink eyes, are short-sighted, so if you let yours out of their cage, keep a close eye on them. Keep in mind that they are more likely to sustain injuries from falling off ledges or tables due to their poor depth perception.
Watch your hamster’s skin for any itchy, red patches because they can develop ringworm or mites.
Speak with your veterinarian right away if you suspect your pet has a skin condition.
These are solid mineral lumps that can develop inside the bladder of your hamster.
Check your hamster frequently for any new lumps and bumps, and consult your veterinarian if you notice anything that concerns you.
Should I allow my hamsters to mate?
Young hamsters as young as four weeks old can develop sexual maturity.
Every three to four weeks, a breeding pair will have a litter, with an average of eight to ten young.
It’s also shocking to learn that women can become pregnant just 24 hours after giving birth. It’s strongly advised against breeding hamsters because you’ll quickly have an infestation!
Remember that animal charities are full of unwanted hamsters looking for homes.
How to handle your hamsters?
Try to start this process with them at a young age so they become used.
- Start by placing your hand in their cage so they can sniff and get used to you, then gently stroke them
- Pick them up by forming a cup with both hands either side of their body and scoop them up gently
- Ensure they are always held close to a surface such as a table, your lap or their cage, as hamsters are fragile and they may get injured if they have a way to fall
- You can reward your hamster with a treat when you are holding them to help them understand that it’s a positive thing
If your hamster is anxious, make sure they are fully awake and then place your hand inside the cage without attempting to touch them so that they become accustomed to your scent and presence. Your hamster will become more obedient as it gets to know you.
Tip: Never put your hand into your hamster’s bed as they may be asleep and will be startled.
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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