How to care for a hamster?
Hamsters make excellent pets, but as with any companion animal, do your research to ensure that you understand their needs and requirements for a full and happy life. Learn how to meet the unique needs of these adorable creatures, some of which inevitably end up in shelters.
- Hamsters were virtually unknown until a zoologist discovered a family of these rodents in the Syrian desert 70 years ago. Although hamsters were first discovered in Syria, they are now found all over the world. They got their current name from the German word “hamstern,” which means “hoard,” because that’s exactly what they do with leftover food. Their appearance and activities can make anyone smile.
- Siberian, Roborovsky’s, Djungarian, Chinese, and Syrian hamsters are popular pet hamsters. Hamsters come in a variety of colors, including the Syrian, which is one of several hamsters known as “golden” due to the color of their fur, and can be all one color or multi-colored.
- Hamsters are nocturnal creatures that live for two or three years. They are very rambunctious and can easily escape from a cage that is not securely closed. Their eyesight isn’t great, so they occasionally fall off tables when they’re running around. When hamsters are not used to being handled or are mistreated, they will bite.
- An adult should supervise children who care for hamsters. These animals are not toys and should be handled with care.
- Today, hamsters are among America’s most popular small pets due to their friendly nature and adaptability.
Consider the animal’s natural habitat when constructing a hamster’s temporary living quarters. Hamsters live underground in the wild, emerging only at night to hunt for food. Domestic hamsters continue to prefer the “night shift,” so keep them in a quiet, dimly lit room away from drafts, direct sunlight, and noisy pets.
Hamsters should be kept in a wire cage or a wire-mesh-topped 10-gallon aquarium. (Avoid the brightly colored plastic rodent homes sold in pet stores because they are difficult to clean and provide easy escape routes.) The enclosure should be kept out of direct sunlight and drafts. Maintain a temperature of room temperature in your hamster’s living quarters. Avoid areas that are either too cold or too hot.
Line the tank’s bottom with plain white paper and fill it with dry timothy hay or shredded white paper for burrowing and nest-building. Avoid using cedar shavings, which can irritate the lungs. Make sure to change the litter on a regular basis to keep it dry and odor-free.
Allow them their privacy
Although hamsters enjoy human company, they are less friendly to their own species. They are solitary creatures that must be kept apart; in their natural habitats, they only come together to mate and will most likely fight if forced to share space. Even hamsters kept in quiet small-animal rooms require hiding places in their tanks to feel safe in their surroundings.
For hamsters in shelters, disposable cardboard items are probably best; they can be tossed during cleaning and easily replaced. Empty tissue boxes and round oatmeal containers can serve as gnawing toys as well as hiding places. Hamsters are notorious nibblers, and ingesting soft plastics can harm their internal systems, but some hamster owners provide PVC piping or hard plastic items that can withstand chewing.
Fill the pantry
Because hamsters have fast metabolisms, they require constant access to food and water. Attach a water bottle with a metal sipping tube to the side of the aquarium to avoid spills and keep a clean drinking supply. Because some hamsters like to sit in their food dishes, use a heavy ceramic dish to reduce the possibility of food spillage. Make a point of cleaning up any leftover fresh food before it spoils. Respect the hamster’s need for order by keeping the dish away from the bathroom and sleeping areas.
Hamster food is widely available at pet stores. Hamsters eat a varied diet that includes commercial grain and seed mixtures designed specifically for the animal, as well as specific fruits and vegetables. A good commercial hamster mix should contain all of the required nutrients. Add dandelion greens, chickweed, alfalfa pellets, spinach, lettuce, carrots, apples, and other fruits to the diet. A half-ounce of grain mixture, a small handful of greens, and tasty treats like an apple slice and a cauliflower floret should be included in a daily menu plan. Avoid raw beans, apple seeds, sprouting potato buds, parsley, and green tomato parts, as these are all poisonous to hamsters.
Hamsters enjoy transporting food in pouches in their mouths and storing it in the corners of their cage. A hamster with full cheek pouches may appear strange and even frightening to a novice guardian, but this is completely normal for all hamsters. Always check the corners of the cage for stale food when cleaning it.
Maintain their interest
Hamsters must travel long distances to find food in their native habitats, which explains why domestic hamsters require so much exercise. Hamsters enjoy playing, so provide them with an exercise wheel and/or allow them to run around outside of their cage for a supervised period of time each day. Keep them in one room, carefully inspecting for any gaps through which the hamsters could escape, become lost, or suffer harm. Exercise wheels can keep hamsters active, but they should not be the only source of physical activity.
The teeth of hamsters are constantly growing. Add chewables like a dog biscuit or pesticide-free twigs from beech trees, maples, willows, hazelnut bushes, or fruit trees to the hamster’s home gym and entertainment center; these will also help keep the animal’s incisors worn down.
Hamsters enjoy hiding and sleeping in enclosed spaces, so place a small box inside their cage. They enjoy crawling through tubes, which can be made at home or purchased at pet supply stores. Hamsters can burrow in, chew on, and play with cardboard boxes, toilet paper rolls, and paper towel rolls. Wooden ladders and branches securely fastened to the inside of the tank can help hamsters demonstrate their climbing ability.
Practice good housekeeping
Hamsters can become irritable if they are disturbed during their sleeping hours, so clean, feed, and handle them in the late afternoon or evening. Make it a habit to clean out the hamster’s bathroom every day. Hamsters enjoy amassing treasure chests of tidbits, so look for perishable food stockpiles. Also, clean the water bottle and sipper tube on a daily basis to prevent the accumulation of food, algae, and bacteria; also, make sure it works properly.
Change the bedding twice a week, disinfecting and drying the tank before laying down new bedding and replacing the hamster’s chewing, nesting, and climbing toys. If you need to remove a hamster to clean her tank, place a small box near her and she will most likely run right in. Always hold a hamster over a surface, such as a tabletop, in case she manages to wiggle her way out of your grasp.
Can hamsters live together?
Hamsters can be hostile to one another. If you decide to keep more than one hamster in the same living space, we recommend buying hamsters of the same sex at the same time. Avoid introducing a new hamster to other hamsters who have grown accustomed to their environment. This will result in fighting and possibly injury.
Many shelters and rescue organizations have adoptable hamsters. Before purchasing, make sure to check for any adoptions in your area.
Are hamsters good pets for kids?
According to the American Animal Hospital Association, contrary to popular belief, hamsters may not be the best pets for children (AAHA).
When startled or handled roughly, hamsters can bite. Furthermore, because they are small and delicate, they must be handled with care. When holding a hamster, even older children should be supervised.
Furthermore, hamsters are nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day and play at night. Placing a hamster in a child’s bedroom may disrupt the child’s sleep. The nightly activities of the hamster may wake the child and make sleep difficult.
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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