The essence of a pet for your emotional and physical wellbeing cannot be overstated. It will keep you happy, lower stress levels, keep your fit, improve your immunity, and even teach you responsibility.
While there are many pet alternatives to pick from, remember that not all of them might match your needs.
Hamsters make excellent pets, but only for the right owner. In the same way some people are “cat-people” or “dog-people”, some people make the best hamster owners.
These are not necessarily those who love the cuddly and cute nature of hamsters. They are the ones who understand the specifics that come with owning a hamster.
The following are fifteen considerations to keep in mind to be sure of bliss as a hamster owner.
1. Pet hamsters have a short lifespan
It is natural for you to form an emotional bond with your hamster. However, you should remember that these animals have short lifespans, and you might be devastated when you lose them within a few years.
The natural lifespan of hamsters spans 1.5 to 3.5 years, depending on their species. For example, the Roborovski hamsters live for 3-3.5 years, while the dwarf hamster lives for about two years.
On the other hand, a Chinese hamster has a 1.5-2-year lifespan, whereas you can live with a Syrian hamster for 2-2.5 years.
While these might sound like lifespans that are too short to enjoy with your pet, you can use the knowledge to maximize your benefits from the time you spend with the hamster.
2. Pet hamsters are small and very fragile
Hamsters are small rodents but are distinguishable from the other animals in the species with their tiny ears, stubby legs, and short legs. With over 24 hamster species, they come in different sizes, but they are generally small and quite fragile.
The dwarf hamster grows to 2-4 inches while the Syrian hamster attains adult lengths of six inches. You thus should be careful when handling the hamster to avoid causing any injuries.
Keep in mind that hamsters have poor eyesight. Therefore, they rely on their other senses for survival and can be easily frightened and attack you when mishandled.
3. Pet hamsters are intelligent
Hamsters are very intelligent animals that can even learn their names. This will happen if you use the name frequently when talking to your pet.
Hamsters are known to possess amazing problem-solving skills developed in the wild to cope with different issues. You can include a hamster maze in your pet’s habitat to measure your pet’s IQ.
4. Pet hamsters are very active
Your pet should suit your schedule. When choosing a hamster, remember that they are quite active more so at night. For light sleepers disturbed by even the faintest sounds, hamsters might not be a good fit since they will disrupt their sleep.
Though active at night, hamsters are not nocturnal but rather crepuscular animals. This means they are highly active during twilight.
This is because, according to experts, the bugs that form part of a hamster’s diet in the wild are most active at this time. Moreover, predators cannot see the hamsters at twilight.
5. Pet hamsters can be quite noisy
Owing to their crepuscular nature, you can expect quite a bit of noise from your hamster at night. Even if the animal sleeps through the day, you will hear him/her on the exercise wheel or foraging at night.
Thus, the best option is to place your hamster cage far from your sleeping quarters so that the noise does not affect your sleep.
6. Pet hamsters can stink
You might notice a strong smell from your hamster’s cage because of the animal’s sweat glands. This is perfectly normal, and the glands are used to communicate with other hamsters.
The sweat glands are more prominent in male hamsters than Syrian hamsters. This explains why males are more stinky compared to females. Females primarily use their sweat glands to attract males and let them know they are on heat.
7. Pet hamsters can develop various health issues
Though generally healthy, hamsters, like other pets, can develop different health issues. The common diseases in hamsters affect the skin, respiratory organs, and digestive tract.
In general, a sick hamster will not eat, is inactive, and might experience hair loss. Wheezing, diarrhea, sneezing, an unpleasant smell, huddling in corners, and unkempt coats are also typical signs of illness in hamsters.
A vet well-versed in hamster health should handle the diseases. This is because some antibiotics that are safe for other animals are toxic in hamsters.
8. Pet hamsters need special bedding
Your pet’s abode should resemble its natural environment as much as possible to get a healthy and happy animal. Your bedding should be absorbent, safe, and comfortable to replicate the one a hamster uses in the wild.
In the past, pet owners used wood shaving and sawdust to line hamster beddings. These might, however, affect your animal’s health. Some of the best options include aspen shreds or shavings, corn cob shavings, and shredded paper.
9. Pet hamsters can get overweight
Hamsters are naturally chubby, and knowing if yours is overweight might be a challenge. With plenty of diet and exercise, maintaining a healthy weight in your hamsters will be easy. The ideal weight of your hamster depends on its age and species.
For example, a Syrian hamster weighs an ounce per inch of its length, meaning a grown one should be approximately 6-7 ounces. Dwarf hamsters, on the other hand, are light and small.
If your pet is overweight, consider changing its diet and encouraging it to spend more time on the exercise wheel.
10. You can’t leave the hamster alone for long
Hamsters are, by nature, solitary animals. When you keep them as pets, you slowly condition them to human interaction. Leaving them alone for long periods means undoing their conditioning to social interaction.
The hamsters might thus shun your company when you return. Moreover, they might spill their water or soil their food while you are away and starve. For these reasons, you ideally should not leave your hamster alone for more than 48 hours.
11. You can’t keep males together
Most pet owners look for as many ways as possible to save a buck. Those with several pets of the same species opt to get one large cage and put them together. While this might work for some pets, it does not work for male hamsters.
These are extremely territorial and solitary by nature. Keeping them in the same cage means more fights and discomfort. The best choice for two male hamsters is to have two small separate enclosures for each of them.
12. Pet hamsters are very social
While male hamsters are very territorial, females can stay together. You can keep them in groups of 2-3 with little incidents provided you introduce them into the cages when young.
Ensure the cage you use is large enough to accord the hamsters individual space when they need it. You should also have a separate water bottle, bowl, and exercise wheel for the pets to minimize conflict.
Even as friends, animals might squabble from time to time. You can consider a separate cage to house your hamsters when they start fighting.
13. They need a decent size cage
Hamsters might be small, but they need as much space in their cages for them to thrive. Dwarf hamsters will, for example, need at least 2800 square centimeters in floor space while Syrian hamsters need 4000 square centimetres.
The floor space should be uninterrupted to ensure the animals have enough space to run around freely. Multiple levels, tubes, and tunnels should be included in extra space in the cage since they affect the hamster’s comfort.
14. Pet hamsters produce a lot of waste
Be prepared to regularly clean your hamster’s cage because these animals produce a lot of waste. Without optimal cleaning, the cage will smell, and you place your pet at risk of diseases.
The hamster will also be quite stressed because the animal generally maintains a clean habitat in the wild.
You can aim for spot cleaning of only the dirty areas daily and general cleaning of the whole cage once weekly.
15. Pet hamsters can escape easily
Hamsters are good escape artists. They often chew through the bars of their cages or claw their way out. Ensure you regularly check their cages to see if they are safely enclosed.
You should also be careful to pick cages that do not have widely-spaced bars through which the hamster might squeeze.
Though most animals trace their way back home, some get injured or killed by predators.
With the guidelines above, you are now well-placed to know what to expect when keeping a hamster. Remember that hamsters are too sensitive to make ideal pets for small children.
Though the kids will be fascinated and want to touch the hamster repeatedly, the animal will not be as pleased and might attack them.
If you have young kids, your best choice when they interact with a hamster is to do so while the animal is in the cage.