Hamsters are cute and adorable, and they make excellent pets. It may seem easy to take care of this little animal, but you will need a specialized habitat for them.
Like any other pet, hamsters need time to acclimatize to a new environment. Read on to discover how to keep your hamster safe and comfortable:
Choosing a Hamster
If you intend to get a hamster, the first step is choosing a healthy one. Check the pet’s ears, eyes, and nose to rule out any discharge. Healthy hammies have bright and clear eyes that are typically black, although they can be red, pink, or dark blue.
The hamster should have yellow/orange teeth that are well-aligned. They have two pairs of front incisors, and you should check for any cracks or missing teeth. A hamster’s fur is fluffy and smooth and has no bare patches. Feel their body for any swellings which can indicate a tumor or growth.
Check if their tail is wet or soiled to ensure that the hammie is not suffering from diarrhea. Observe the breathing to rule out any wheezing or gurgling.
A hamster’s temperament will reveal the kind of pet that they will make. You want to avoid angry hammies that will be hard to tame. Look out for a hammie that is bright and curious and one who approaches you when you put your hand in the cage.
Some pet stores will not let you handle the hamster before purchase, and it may be hard to judge their personality in such cases.
Housing a Hamster
In the wild, hamsters are accomplished burrowers; they create burrow systems that can extend for 30 feet. This burrowing instinct will make a pet hamster tunnel through their cage bedding.
You should, therefore, provide deep bedding, and you can use hay, wood shavings (not cedar), shredded tissue, and recycled paper pellets.
You can either use plastic, wire mesh, and glass for a hamster cage. Wire setups are quite popular because hamsters get tons of exercise by climbing around them.
The wire spacing should be minimal since hammies love to escape. Do not use a wire mesh base to avoid injuring your pet’s feet. Look out for a cage with a detachable base to make cleaning easier.
Plastic cages are also readily available in pet stores, but they are quite challenging to clean. While glass cages are easier to clean, they do not provide adequate ventilation. Do not house your hamster in a wooden or cardboard box as they will quickly chew through it.
The habitat should be large enough to give your hamster enough room to explore and nest. The cage should be at least 6 inches high, although a higher set up will allow for deeper bedding. Your hamster will need a nesting box to sleep during the day since they are nocturnal.
Hammies are quite active, and you can fashion tunnels using packing tubes and toilet paper tubes—place boxes with holes in the cage for the pets to explore.
Do not put a hamster cage in the direct path of sunlight, or close to any heat source. Hamsters are active at night, and they don’t like lights that keep going on and off. The temperatures in the room should range between 65-80 °F. The cage should not be close to computer screens, television, and vacuum cleaners.
Feeding Your Hamster
Proper nutrition will boost the health of your hamster. When buying commercial food for your hammie, choose pellets that are made specifically for them and not for rats or mice. Hamster food typically consists of pellets or seed mixes.
Hammies often have favorite foods like sunflower seeds, which they can solely feed on if given a chance. You want a seed mix that blends a variety of foods to ensure that your pet is getting a balanced diet.
Supplement this diet with various fresh foods from your kitchen. You can provide veggies like carrots, broccoli, asparagus, pumpkin, and green beans. Treat your hamster to fruits like peaches, apples, pears, and plums.
The fruits should be seedless as pits and seeds can be poisonous to the animal. Some pet owners also give their hammies a hard-boiled once a week. Fresh food will quickly go bad, and you should remove them a few hours after feeding.
There are conflicting reports as to the right time to feed a hamster. In the wild, hamsters search for food at night, although this is a survival instinct from daytime predators. You can decide whether to feed your hammies at night or in the morning.
Hamsters establish a bathroom on one corner of their cage, and you want to place the food bowl far away from this area. Use a ceramic bowl since plastic ones are likely to harbor bacteria.
A tablespoon of pellets will be adequate for your hamster. Your pet will hoard their meals in their check pouches, and you should not feed them again if you find the bowl empty after a short time.
You can also use feeding time as a way of bonding with your pet. Hand-feed the hammie small amounts of treats to build a relationship.
Chew sticks are essential because they slow down the growth rate of a hamster’s front teeth. Over time, you will understand how much food your hammie requires and tweak the dietary schedule to fulfill their requirements. Provide water for your pet as well.
Handling Your Hamster
Hamsters can bite, and they can reject interactions when they are stressed or angry. If you want to handle your hamster, start by identifying an opportune time. As a rule, you should never wake up your hamster when they are asleep. Like any other living being, hamsters use sleep to recharge, and interrupting their cycle will result in stress and illness.
Ensure that your hammie is ready for interactions before holding them. If they seem angry or nervous, postpone training for another time.
Hamsters use their sense of hearing and smell since their eyesight is not good. Speak to them in a soft and soothing tone and use treats to make them more welcoming. Place your hand in their cage, and let the pet come to you.
Do not chase your hammie around the cage or wiggle your fingers. Place a treat in your hand for the hamster to find. The goal is for them to associate interactions with you with something positive. You can then pet them with your other hand to make them comfortable.
Over time, your hamster will become used to your hand. You can then pick them up and create a hand cave with your hands such that the hamster’s head is left sticking out. Bring your hammie close to your chest and pet them gently.
Handling your hamster for five minutes is enough, as you do not want to stress them. As your pet becomes more used to you, you can even lay on the floor and have them climb on top of you. Do not let your hammie fall, especially if they urinate on you, which indicates that they are nervous.
Cleaning Your Hamster’s Cage
The best practice is to clean your hamster’s cage once a week. Some pet owners clean the cages more frequently, mainly because hamster urine can be very pungent. You still need to spot clean the bathroom area every other day and remove any uneaten food.
To start, remove your hammie, and relocate them to a safe spot. Provide toys to keep them busy. Remove the accessories in the cage and set them aside. You can either wash all of them or clean them on rotation. The idea is to have some items that smell like your hamster at all times.
Remove any uneaten food and hamster waste from the bottom of the enclosure. Proceed to scrub the entire cage with a cloth and antibacterial soap. Leave the soap for about 15 minutes and rinse it well. You want to ensure that any stuck bits of beddings or food have been removed.
Scrub the accessories just as thoroughly. Bacteria quickly collects on your hamster’s food bowl and water bottle, and they need to be soaked and washed. Leave everything to dry completely as your hamster will get sick if placed in a humid environment.
Place new bedding in the cage and replace the clean accessories. You can now return your hammie to their clean home.
Keeping Your Hamster Happy and Healthy
A happy hamster is a well-fed one. In addition to pelleted food, treat your pet to fruits and veggies. Hammies also crave fulfilling entertainment as much as we do, and you should provide toys and accessories to climb in and on. Tubing additions and running wheels are some common toys.
An interesting observation about hamsters is that they like their space. Do not handle them when they are resistant and do not wake them from sleep. Breeding hamsters on your own is also discouraged because it can be demanding on the females.
Keeping hamsters is exciting, considering how active they are. If you want a healthy and happy hammie, you will have to create the ideal habitat for them.
Hamsters love deep bedding and many toys and tunnels in their cage. Your pet should be well-fed and hydrated, and you should let them rest when they need to.