Hamsters

Hamsters are one of the most popular pets. Little wonder, really. Once they settle in, they become gentle, friendly pets that enjoy being handled by their owners.

Housing

There are many different types of cages to choose from for your pet hamster. Hamsters are very active creatures and the bigger the cage the happier the hamster. Wire cages come in all shapes and sizes, models with one or more levels are good as the extra room provides climbing and exercise space. The Rotastak / Habitrail units are also very good, they provide plenty of tunnels and chambers for the hamster to explore. It is wrong to start with just one unit as on their own they are too small, it is far better to start with 2-3 units and add extras later. Converted aquariums with secure lid also make a good home, a minimum size being two foot.

Position of cage

Site out of direct sunlight and cold draughts. Hamsters do not usually mind a placid cat or dog peering in at it, but constant attention may distress the hamster. Place the cage in a quiet room especially when you’ve just taken it home.

Feeding

Give a hamster mixture as a staple diet and small cubes of washed fruit/vegetables 2-3 times a week. Make sure all fresh food is removed if not eaten as it may go mouldy in the hamster’s store. Supply fresh water daily in water bottles. Give food daily in the evening. A mineral lick and various treats will be enjoyed by your pet. Remember that treats are also good for taming.

Cleaning

A thick layer of wood shavings on the floor of the cage provides good litter. A jam jar placed in one corner makes a good, easy to clean toilet. Bedding placed in a nest box makes a warm safe place for sleeping. Clean the cage twice a week, use an animal disinfectant to keep the cage smelling sweet and disease free.

Furnishings and toys

Provide plenty of things for your hamster to amuse itself with; a solid exercise wheel ensures a fit hamster. A plastic house or snuggle nest gives a quiet, warm and dark place to sleep. Pine cones, small terracotta pots, toilet rolls, tunnels, branches, wood gnaws, ping pong balls, bran bones, cardboard boxes etc.. all make good toys, but don’t overcrowd the cage - choose your hamster’s favourite toys. Attach branches, nests etc to the bars off the ground to provide climbing and to save on floor space.

Exercise

A hamster will look forward to exploring out of its cage but make sure everything is safe before taking your hamster out. A hamster will also enjoy playing in an exercise ball, but for no more than 15 minutes at a time.

Settling in and handling

A baby hamster is usually very timid and scared after being moved around and split up from its family, so it’s best to leave the hamster in peace with plenty of food and water for a couple of days. When it comes to handling for the first time be sure not to startle the hamster, move your hand slowly. Gently cup your hands around the hamster but do not squeeze as he will jump or bite! For the first couple of handling sessions place the hamster on your arm and let it explore up your arm…once used to its new home and owner, the hamster will enjoy handling and coming out of its cage. Handle the new hamster close to the ground or over a bed so if it jumps it will not be injured.

Company

Syrian hamsters are very anti-social and unless in season will fight to the death. So one hamster per cage after the age of about eight weeks.

Problems

Hamsters thankfully tend to have very few problems. If a hamster is cold or kept in a draught it may go into hibernation, warm the hamster to recover. If you have any other problems, take your pet to the vet. It is advisable to buy a book on hamsters which will give you more in depth information.

Important information

Hamsters generally live for 1.5 to 3 years.

If the hamster becomes ill, veterinary treatment may be needed; Although many hamsters will never need veterinary treatment during their life, you should be prepared for the possibility when taking on the commitment of a pet.

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