Are hamsters easy to take care of?
Hamsters do require some work, like any pet. While they are not as difficult as some other pets, you are going to need to pick the right kind of cage along with good toys and bedding. Cleaning the cage regurlarly will be a must, and of course seeing to feeding and watering them daily.
Knowing is most of the battle however and preparing yourself with the knowledge contained in this guide should set you and your hamster up for a good happy partnership togather.
How to pick the right kind of hamster.
Their are currently five different breeds of domestic hamster easily available as pets. While all of them share many of the same qualities as hamsters they do each have their own unique personality and care quirks that it is good to be aware of before you pick which one will fit you best.
Syrian or golden hamsters
These are the biggest and most popular type of domestic hamster. The first breed of hamster to be domesticated they were originally advertised in the 1940s and 1950s as little toy bears. While they are certainly living animals not toys still these terms stuck and so they are sometimes refered to as the teddy bear hamster.
They are lively and very fun to interact with, as well as slower then their tinier dwarf cousins. This means they are little easier to handle and train, as they are less likely to escape and run away. The dwarf breeds can be shockingly fast! If your looking for a hamster thats very cuddly and that you can handle more often than the syrian hamster may be what your looking for.
One important caveat however is that they must be kept in a cage alone as they are very territorial and aggressive towards other hamsters. Two syrians in the same cage are very likely to fight each other, possibly to the death.
Dwarf hamster breeds
Roborovski: These little guys as compared to the large syrians are actually the smalled breed of domesticated hamster. Usually coming in at less than three inches long. They are fast and very long lived. 3 to 4 years is there average lifespan giving them the greatest average longevity amonst hamster kind. Due to their small size and agile speed handling them is much more difficult than the syrian. Best for people who would prefer to watch their hamster play in their cage as opposed to frequent handling.
Robos can sometimes be kept in the same cage with their fellows but you must keep a sharp eye on them and seperate as soon as any fighting or agression becomes visible.
Other breeds of dwarf hamsters
Some other breeds are the russian/winter dwarf hamsters, campbells dwarf hamsters and the chinese dwarf hamster.
Buying your hamster
After you have figured out what kind of breed of hamster you want then its time to go to the pet store to take a look.
- Go in the evening: Hamsters tend to be more active in the evening around dusk, so this time will give you a much better look at the healthy and energy level of the hamsters available. If you go in the morning they are much more likely to be sleeping and wont show you their best side.
- Ask if you can take a closer look: See how much the pet store will let you interact with your prospective little buddy more closely so that you can see if you two are a good fit.
- What to look for: Look for a hamster that is fairly active, friendly and inquisitive. You dont want one that is agressive and prone to heavy biting. Also look out for wet tail or poor cage conditions as this makes it more likely they you might get a hamster that is already very sick. Unfortunately pet stores are not always the best place for hamsters.
- Ask the hamsters age and sex: Generally the best age to get a hamster is between 4 and 8 weeks old. This is the best time to get them used to handling and train them to be tamer.
Some other things to get when you get your hamster
- Get a cage: Get either a plastic or wire cage with a solid bottom. It needs to be at least 800 square inches for a Syrian hamster and 450 square inches for a dwarf.
- Get bedding: Avoid any pine or cedar shavings as these are toxic for hamsters. Stick to a non-toxic commercial bedding that is soft and easy to burrow into. In a pinch you can use plain paper that doesn’t have any ink on it
- Get a hamster wheel: Get a solid hamster wheel without any rungs as these can injure a hamster. It needs to be big enough that your hamster can run on it without having to arch their back. Hamsters love to run and its important for them to get plenty of exercises so don’t skimp on their wheel.
- Chew toys: Chewing for a hamster is not a luxury but a necessity. Their teeth are constantly growing and chewing helps to keep them in check as well as alleviating boredom. Get several flavor of non-toxic chews toys so your little guy can have some variety
- Hamster food: Buy either a dry pellet hamster food or a loose seed mix made for hamsters. They can also eat a variety of fruits and vegetable but these should be used carefully and sparingly as they can cause diabetes in hamsters.
Building trust with your new hamster
Your new hamster will be unsure of you at first, its important if you want him to see you as a friend to patiently cultivate trust with him over a period of time.
When you first bring him home and introduce him to his new cage, leave him alone to hang out for about a 24 period. Moving to new places can very very stressful for hamster so you dont want to overwhelm him by handling him a bunch or even friendly harrassment. Make sure to fill his food bowl and refresh their water every day though.
The best way to build trust with your new hamster is to bring them treats in the evening when there awake and more active. Hold the toys or little bit of food in the palm of your hand and carefully place your hand in a part of the cage that is away from their burrowing area. Be patient and allow them to approach your hand and take the treat from you. Try to avoid any sudden movements that might startle or scare. Do this on a regular basis and you and your hamster are sure to be friends in no time.
Keeping your hamsters cage clean
Your hamster if they are healthy should by and large handle their own self cleaning for you but the cage is soley your responsibility.
Every day: Give your hamster some fresh food and water, remove any left over food that looks like it might be rotting. Shake the bedding a little bit and remove any droppings. Make sure for the good of yourself and your hamster to thouroghly wash your hands with soap and water after doing these things.
Once every two to four weeks: Clean their cage. Gently put your hamster in a pet carrier and remove their bedding and scrub their cage clean. Don’t remove more than half of their bedding at a time, as it has their scent which makes them feel safe and happy. Provide the cage with new fresh bedding and then put your little buddy back in.
Illnesses to watch out for
The main disease to watch out for with hamsters is known as wet tail. Its caused by a very contagious stomache bacteria that causes them to have diarhea. The diarhea shows up as a wet tail. Some other symptoms to watch for are lethergy, irratibility and hunched back which can be cause by stomache pains.
If you think your hamster might have wet tail the best thing you can do for them is to take them to the vet as soon as possible. The vet will most likely prescribe some antibiotics and perhaps a saline soluting to help fight dehydrations. Act quickly wet tail is a very fatal disease for hamsters but the sooner treatment begins the better the chances for survival.