Did you know that chain pet stores sell species of different hamsters?
These include Campbell’s Dwarf, Chinese Dwarfs, Djungarian, Roborovski, and Syrian Hamsters.
Hamsters live Solitary lives after 5-6 weeks of age, or they can fight for territory. Please note that we do not condone cohabiting of any hamster species. Do not house with any other animals.
Lifespan: 2-3 years, but chain store hamsters live for 1-2 years typically.
Hamsters are not nocturnal but they are crepuscular, which means they are most active during twilight hours (dawn and dusk).
To be ready for a Hamster you will need:
- Large Enclosure (minimum 600 square inches, Ex: 40 Gallon Breeder Tank, Modified Bin, Critter Nation, Ikea Detolf Hack)
- Large flat surface wheel (example: Carolina Storm Wheel, Exotic Nutrition Silent Runner Wheel 12” etc)
- Hamster food (We like Higgins Sunburst Seed Mix for Hamsters & Gerbils. We also provide Mazuri Rat & Mouse Blocks)
- Food Dish
- Water Bottle (maybe a guard to hold it depending on your enclosure).
- Sand Bath, with a container to put the sand in. (do not use dust)
- Hides, Toys, and Tunnels
- Multiple Chew Toys (whimzees, etc)
- Bedding (We recommend Kaytee Clean & Cozy Paper Bedding. NEVER use pine or cedar shavings!)
- Travel carrier made for small pets
*Please understand that some items will need to be replenished monthly.
For a Hamster, we will require an enclosure that meets a minimum of 600 square inches or more. To measure your enclosure to see if it meets the size requirement you will measure in inches the unbroken horizontal floor space from Width x Length = total square inches.
Feeding – In your hamster’s cage they should have access to lab blocks such as Mazuri Rat & Mouse Blocks, and hamsters should be fed a high-quality seed mix. You will feed your hamster several times a week by scattering its food throughout the cage. Scatter feeding is preferred to a bowl for these foods because it stimulates your hamster’s natural foraging instinct for great enrichment. Higgins Sunburst Gourmet food mix for hamsters & gerbils is the best seed mix easily available in the US. A list of safe appropriate amounts of fresh foods can be found here.
Bedding – We recommend Kaytee Clean & Cozy paper bedding. Your hamster will need at least part of an enclosure with bedding at least 6 inches deep to allow for normal burrowing behaviors. This also allows them to keep warm. Hamsters prefer temperatures between 65-75 degrees F. Do not use cotton or fibrous bedding.
Wheel – Your hamster requires 24/7 access to a wheel, unless elderly or injured. The minimum wheel size for an adult Syrian hamster is 10-12 inches in diameter with a solid walking surface (no mesh or wire). Dwarf hamsters will require an 8.5-10″ wheel. A saucer can be an addition but not a replacement for a regular wheel. Barred, mesh, or wired wheels are very dangerous and can result in lacerations, foot infections, and broken legs.
Sand – Do not bathe your hamster as hamsters are prone to becoming chilled! Hamsters are very clean animals. When provided with a sand bath they will use the sand to clean their fur and skin. You can buy aquarium sand, and reptile sand without the added calcium and vitamins, or you can purchase a large bag of children’s play sand. The children’s play sand will need to be put on a sheet and baked at 400 degrees for 1.5 hours to kill off any microbes within the sand. Once cooled it is safe to use. You can use many different containers as a sand bath, it just needs to allow your hamster to turn all the way around in it, but don’t fill it too high or they could kick it out. They also might use the sand to use the toilet in, so be sure to scoop any wet sand out.
Chews – your hamster should have access to multiple chews in the cage at all times to assist in keeping the teeth properly worn.
Cleaning the Enclosure
You should spot-clean the potty spots or soiled bedding each week. By doing this you can extend the life of your bedding. You will then do full litter changes monthly and wipe the inside of the cage. I would leave a small amount of bedding with the hamster to return to the cage with clean bedding to reduce potential stress.
A common disease known as Wet Tail tends to occur in younger Syrians. Wet Tail is typically a stress-induced illness. Symptoms of Wet Tail include dehydration, loose poops, dirty bottom, lethargy, etc. Vet attention is required for Wet Tail. Another common disease in hamsters and rodents is Upper Respiratory Infection (URI). Symptoms of URI are nasal or eye discharge labored breathing, wheezing/coughing, or sneezing. Vet attention is required for a URI.
Your hamster will need a small carrier for trips to the veterinarian and when they come home with you. Moves can be stressful so include some bedding, and a hide with a familiar scent in the carrier to help reduce stress. If traveling further a larger carrier may be needed so that your hamster has access to food and water.
Socializing & Taming
Socializing your hamster with yourself and taming it for handling should be gentle, You should never introduce your hamster to any other animal. When you first bring your hamster home you should put your hands inside the enclosure and allow the hamster to come to you in its own time. You may try to encourage your hamster to come closer with some treats. Your hamster may not crawl into your hands immediately., but it may be interested in sniffing you and checking you out. When moving things in your hamster’s enclosure it is recommended you speak to them while doing so to not frighten them. Once you and your hamster feel comfortable interacting within the enclosure you can begin picking them up.
How to pick up your hamster
To pick up your hamster, it is recommended to put your hands underneath its body and scoop them up (imagine like an ice cream scoop) and carefully lift under them and cup them in your hands. If you try to pick your hamster up directly overhead it may frighten them because they will not see you coming. I recommend talking to them the whole time so they know you are there. I do not recommend waking up a sleeping hamster.
Holding your hamster
Holding your hamster with two hands is the safest, especially for children or beginners. You have two choices: 1) cup around from the sides or 2) get your two hands around them to hold them like a scoop. Once you have picked them up, hold them close to your chest because they can try and jump to get away.
Out of Cage Time
We recommend approximately 30 minutes each day outside of the enclosure for your pet. Ideas can include: free roam in a hamster-safe area (watch for electrical cords and anything in your hamster’s reach), playing in a dry bathtub, or a hamster playpen. Ensure other pets are put away to ensure your hamster’s safety.
We DO NOT recommend the following:
- Small Enclosures such as the Kaytee CritterTrail, or Tiny Tales as do not meet the 600 sq inch minimum cage size
- Hamster exercise balls
- Barred, Mesh, Metal, or wire wheels
- Poor Quality Food such as Kaytee or Oxbow Hamster food
- Cedar, Pine, or Softwood
- Cotton or fibrous bedding
- Snak Shaks or Logs
- Harness and Leashes
- Interaction with other animals