Hamster Care

Hamsters have a variety of needs which have to be met by its owner. All hamster needs will be addressed on this page, however, there are other pages on this site which go into more detail.

I am using the Animal Welfare Act of 2007 structure this section, as I feel it is important that people realise that, by law, they have a 'duty of care' towards the animals that they take into their care.

It identifies the five key needs of every animal:

  1. The need for a proper diet (including water)
  2. The need for somewhere suitable to live
  3. The need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals (as appropriate)
  4. The need to express their normal behaviour
  5. The need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

While many pet owners already provide for these needs, anyone who fails to do so could be liable for a fine or even a prison sentence.

Diet

There are many ready mixed dried food on the market today, which provide a complete and balanced diet for hamsters.  A recent addition to these is the complete mix for dwarf hamsters by Burgess, which provides a mix of smaller palatable pieces, just the right size for dwarf hamsters.

Personally, I mix two bags of different hamster food together to provide variety and ensure a truely balanced diet.

Treats and additional food

Dwarfs

My dwarfs are given three different treats/ add ons in their diet.  I add a good quality kitten biscuit to the box, along with some budgie seed (which my Robos go mad for) and a handful of dried mealworms.

Syrians

My Syrian gets a handful of dried banana added to their box, and 2 handfuls of monkey nuts in shells.  Bearing in mind that this is into 2-3kg of prepackaged food, it is not too much.

Accomodation

Accomodation can vary between hamster species and what is suitable for a Syrian hamster might not be suitable for a dwarf hamster, they may be able to escape though the bars.  Therefore I have split accomodation into Syrian and Dwarf, with Chinese hamsters being included with dwarf hamsters for ease and convenience.

When choosing accomodation for a hamster the following questions need to be asked.

If my hamster drops from the top, will it cause injuries?
Can my hamster escape easily? (either through the bars or by rattling open doors)
Can I fit a wheel and toys in comfortably?
Is there enough space for toys?
Will substrate come out of the cage easily?

I personally will always choose a cage that will give my animals (hamsters or not) the maximum amount of space that I can allow for them.  I know others do have limited space and can't offer their animals so much space.  I have chosen a number of cages that I would hope be able to suit a variety of hamster owners.

More details of living quarters can be found on our Cages and Accomodation page

Companionship

Syrian Hamsters

Syrian hamsters are to be kept by themselves, once puberty has set in (6-10 weeks old). Syrian hamsters will fight to the death and will cause horrific injuries on each other to win the right to the space.

You often see Syrian hamsters together in petshops, this is because they are young.

Dwarf Hamsters

Dwarf hamsters do like the company of other hamsters of their own species.  This must be with other hamsters from their litter, and are best kept in single sex pairs, although it is possible to have groups. 

You must be vigilant when keeping hamsters in group, one hamster or group of hamsters can be dominant over space, food and water.

Normal Behaviour and Enrichment

Hamsters are nocturnal, which means they spend most of the day sleeping and come out at night to search for food and play.  This can be a problem when hamsters are bought for children, as often small children are in bed before hamster gets up.

Hamsters can run upto 8 miles in one evening, therefore a wheel is essential when buying a cage.  Some wheels will squeak when the hamster is on it.  The squeaking can be relieved by a drop of vegetable oils on a cotton bud and rubbed over the working mechanisms.  Some wheels are manufactured to work silently such as the silent spinner and wodent wheel.

Protection
Hamsters must be protected as best as possible whilst in your care. 

Buying your cage 

Your cage needs to be suitable for the type of hamster you are getting and the lifestyle you lead as well as your budget.  I personally prefer barless cages, as I am not fond of being woken up by a bar rattling hamster in the middle of the night.  Same for when they are running in their wheels, the bars rattle.  Barless cages, also mean I can use the cage for any hamster that comes into rescue and I don't have to worry about bar spacing issues.

Dwarf hamsters need bar spacing of less than 1cm apart otherwise it is highly likely that they can escape.

I also like to give my hamsters as much space as I can, and therefore make my own cages from storage boxes.  This allows me to give the hamsters in my care approx 80cm by 60cm of floor space, and have a second level, and will cost a lot less than manufactured cages of this size.

See the cages and accomodation page for recommended cages

Placing of your cage 

A new hamster's cage should initially be in a quiet room.  If you have other pets (cats and dogs) you may need to put your hamsters in another room that the cats and dogs don't have access to.  This will prevent unnecessary stress on the hamster. After 2-3 weeks you can move your hamsters cage to a busier part of the house, so long as it is safe to do so.

The cage should not be near draughts or in direct sunlight.

Escapees

As much as you can protect against escaping hamster, some are just very determine to escape.

To help re capture a escapee hamster try to contain your hamster to one room. Make sure any holes in floor boards and large gaps between doors are covered, before an escape.  Once escaped prevent other pets from roaming the house unsupervised.

Set up bin cages in various rooms.  You will need a deep, straight sided box, or bin and steps leading up for your escapee to climb, you can use books, or a piece of long wood.  Remember if the wood is too steep you hamster will not be able to climb it.  Leave bedding and some yummy, smelly treats in the bottom of the trap, peanut butter or roast chicken works well.  Hopefully within a few days your hamster will be in home.  For dwarf hamster you could also try a humane mouse trap.

 

 
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