Hamster Care Guide - How to Take Care of a Hamster

Hamster Care Guide

Do you own a hamster? Or did your kids just bring them home from the pet store? Don't know how to take care of adorable hamsters?  
As a novice hamster owner, you will definitely need complete instructions on how to care for a hamster.

Are you considering becoming the proud pet parent of a hamster? Hamsters bring so much joy to your home, but they do require a good deal of responsibility and commitment. Before you decide to bring one home, you should learn to look after a hamster. Find out more about how to give your hamster the correct care.

Hamster Care Guide - How to Take Care of a Hamster

Hamster Species - Choosing the right type of hamster for you

1. Choosing the right type of hamster for you 

The most common type of hamster that people have as a pet is the Syrian hamster, which is also often referred to as the Golden hamster. This little rodent originally comes from the northern regions of Syria, and the south of Turkey. It is considered to be vulnerable as a wild species as its habitat is under threat from destruction by humans. There is no such threat to Syrian hamsters in captivity.  

Another popular type of pet hamster is the dwarf hamster. There are three types of dwarf hamsters that are related, and that you will normally see in pet stores, the Roborovski, and the two types of Russian dwarf hamster, Winter White and Campbell’s. The fourth kind of dwarf hamster is the Chinese; this not related to the other types of dwarf hamster.  

Much like people, different hamsters are suited to different situations and homes. So the first decision you need to make is what type of hamster you want, and which is best suited to you and your circumstances.

Syrian hamsters

The first thing to remember about Syrian hamsters is that they should always be kept by themselves; they're very territorial and will fight with other hamsters.  

Syrian hamsters will be the largest of the captive hamster breeds plus they are usually the most popular as pets. They have a lively personality and can be really fun to view and interact with. If you handle them from an early age Syrian hamsters can be trained well, in case you have just a little patience. They are generally slower paced than dwarf hamsters so they are usually easier to keep up with, especially through the training process.  

The average lifespan for a Syrian hamster is 2 to 2.5 years, although like most animals, there are some individuals who live longer than this.  

As an adult the average size of a Syrian hamster is 5.5 inches. Syrian hamsters are popular with novice hamster owners, and younger children, because they tend to be better to handle and tame.

Dwarf hamsters

Dwarf hamsters are, because the name suggests, smaller than Syrian hamsters. They are usually able to normally be kept in a cage with other dwarf hamsters but you nevertheless still need to check for any signs of upset or aggression, at which point they could have to be separated.  

The Roborovski dwarf hamster is the smallest of the dwarf hamsters, and doesn’t grow much more than 3 inches in length, even while an adult. Roborovski dwarf hamsters are very fast and active; they have often been known to run so far as 100 miles per night on the hamster wheel. These adorable little creatures live for typically 3 to 3.5 years.  

Russian dwarf, Winter White hamsters get their name from their ability to turn white in the wintertime months in their wild Russian habitat. In captivity they normally retain their dark grey colouring because of the presence of artificial heat and lighting. In addition to dark grey you may also see Winter season White dwarf hamsters with other colouring, such as for example marbled, sapphire, pearl and sapphire pearl. These cute little rodents have the average captive lifespan of between 1.5 and 24 months.  

Campbell’s dwarf hamsters will be the dwarf hamsters that are most often within pet stores. In the wild they are found in China, Russia and in the areas of Central Asia. Their dark grey appearance is very similar to that of the wintertime White, and they have an identical lifespan; averaging around 2 years.  

Chinese dwarf hamsters are actually more correctly named simply Chinese hamsters, however they are often mistaken for a dwarf hamster because of their small stature and the dorsal stripe they have in common with Wwithinter White and Campbell’s dwarf hamsters. They will have an average lifespan of just one 1.5 and 2 years.  

It’s also possible to buy hybrid dwarf hamsters which certainly are a cross between Winter White and Campbell’s. This cross breeding is generally done to produce attractive colouring and is controversial, as hybrid dwarf hamsters tend to develop health problems. Because of this it is best in order to avoid buying these tiny creatures.  

Of the dwarf hamster varieties, Winter Whites and Campbell’s generally make the best pets as they are easier to train.  

buying a hamster - Hamster Care Guide - How to Take Care of a Hamster

2. Buying a hamster: top 6 tips!

Once you know which type of hamster you want there are some things that you need to consider when you go to the store to choose your new pet.

1. Try to go later in the day.

Hamsters are livelier in the evening than they are during the day. This is when you are most likely to see the real personality of a hamster. If you go to a pet store too early in the day it’s likely that the hamsters will be sleeping. You aren’t going to be able to tell if the one you are looking at is just acting as normal for a hamster, or is generally a little lazier than most.

2. Ask to take a closer look

If you ask the pet store owner to show you a hamster close up this will do two things. It'll show you how the hamster reacts to being handled, and it will enable you to see if your future dog looks healthy. You must never buy a hamster that has a wet tail, bald spots or lumps (except for the scent glands on their legs). You should also ensure that the hamster you get has clean ears and a thoroughly clean, dry bottom. Obviously there is always the chance that your pet will become ill at some time after you take them home nevertheless, you at least desire to make sure they are healthful if they leave the store.

3. Watch the way the hamster acts

When the store owner handles the hamster you are hoping to get then you will be able to check out its temperament. Ideally you intend to choose a hamster that is lively and inquisitive, and appears to be friendly. You don’t actually want to buy a hamster that's very nervous, and you certainly don’t want a pet that’s aggressive!

4. Have a look at the environment

A great deal of a hamster’s health and condition can depend on the environment in which it really is kept. It’s not usually a good idea to buy a hamster that is held in cramped, dirty or damp conditions.

5. Ask about the age of the hamster

From the age of about 8 weeks female hamsters can be pregnant so you need to try and establish the age and sex of the hamster you are looking to buy. Hamsters are best purchased at the age of 4-6 weeks as they are easier to tame if you handle them from about that age.

6. Never be afraid to ask questions

Most pet store owners will be happy to provide just as much information as they can about a hamster, so don’t be afraid to ask whatever you want to know. If you just stand there and accept the first hamster you can be found then you are unlikely to obtain the pet you want.

What happens when you bring a hamster home?

You’ve chosen a hamster and bought a cthege, and also accessories - such as a wheel - toys and food, but what goes on once you actually arrive home with your brand-new pet? 

Like any animal, and most humans too, a hamster needs time to settle into their new environment. You should put your new hamster in their cage with enough food and water, bedding and a place for them to hide away, and leave them totally alone for 24 hours. This gives your pet time and energy to relax and get used to being within their new home.

hamster cage - Hamster Care Guide - How to Take Care of a Hamster

3. Your hamster’s home

Don’t forget that you can’t purchase a hamster without also buying a suitable home for the new furry friend to call home in.

If you decide that you prefer a Syrian hamster then you are, of course, likely to have to buy a larger cage than you would for a dwarf hamster. But there are other things to consider too; you have to give a great deal of considered to exactly what type of home is most beneficial for the new addition to your loved ones.

The importance of cage size

Hamsters need to have a lot of space to run around; and that doesn’t mean lots of pipes, this means actual floor area.

According to the National Hamster Council, a Syrithen hamster should ideally have a cage which has floor space of at the very least 1000cm2 and a height of 19cm.

A dwarf hamster should have at least 750cm2 of floor space and a cage height of 17cm.

You should always make sure that the floor of the cage includes a covering of at least 4cm depth of suitable bedding as hamsters want to burrow.

It’s important to note that it’s not a good idea to buy cedar or pine shavings for the pet as some hamsters can develop an allergic reaction which in turn causes problems with their breathing. Discover more about hamster bedding.

Which is best, wire or plastic?

Wire and plastic cages are both popular types of housing for hamsters, and they both have their benefits and drawbacks.

This is an example of a wire cage and this can be an example of a moulded plastic habitat.

If you opt for a wire cage then your new pet won’t be short of somewhere to climb; and this is something that hamsters want to do. One thing you need to make sure of will be that the wires are never more than half a centimetre apart as it can be dangerous if they're any wider apart; a hamster can become inquisitive and get stuck, especially a dwarf hamster. You should also never buy a cage which has a wire bottom, as this isn't good for a hamster’s feet.

If you decide on a wire cage, make sure to use layers inside, so that if your hamster is climbing along the top of the cage, they don’t have too much to fall if they lose their grip. This stops your pet from hurting themselves. It’s especially important to have regard to this when your hamster is really a baby as they can get seriously hurt if indeed they drop from a high level.

There are many plastic moulded hamster cages on the market today. These hamster homes are very an easy task to clean, and they offer protectiupon to your little friend, in case you have other pets in your house. Many of these cages have a small arean of wire which can act as a climbing frame for your hamster. If you buy a cage that doesn’t possess somewhere for you personally hamster to climb, you have to ensure that you give a climbing frame in the cage for them so that they are free to climb whenever they desire to.

One very important thing to remember about a hamster cage is that it needs to be escape proof. You would be amazed at how adept these adorable looking creatures could be at making a bid for freedom!

Make sure that there are no gaps your pet can squeeze through, and always check that doors are completely secure. If they are at all loose there exists a good chance that your resourceful little hamster can open them.

Why a modular system may not be a good idea

You’ve probably seen the brightly coloured hamster cages that consist of a collection of tubes joined together. It isn't usually a good idea to house a hamster in one of these cages. There are many reasons for this. A hamster will need plenty of room to run around, and these cages don’t have that; operatening up and down tubes isn't the same thing. It’s very important to your pet to possess a lot of floor space available.

It’s also easy for a hthemster to obtain stuck in the tubes; especially if you've got a Syrian hamster. Lastly, if your hamster is a little timid it could decide to hide out within the tubes and you’ll spend a lot of time needing to dwill bemantle the tubecomes, to be able to reach your pet. That is no appealing prospect.

The importance of toys

One very important thing that you need to remember, when you’re setting up a house for your hamster, is toys. Hamsters love to have something to keep them occupied; a wheel alone isn’t enough.

As well as the usual hamster wheel you need to provide a selection of other toys, such because wooden chew toys. These toys are an excellent choice because they provide a fun activity for the hamster whilst, at the same time, stopping their teeth from becoming overgrown.

You need to make sure that you only give your pet wood that's safe, and not treated with pesticides. Cardboard is also a favourite with hamsters. You may get pet friendly cardboard rolls from retailers in case you are concerned about the glue and ink which might be within common household cardboard items.

One very important item in a hamster’s cage is somewhere for them to hide away; just like a specially made hamster house. Your pet will want a place to escape to, especifically for daytime sleeping, and that means you need to provide this for them. A word of warning, with any plastic items in your hamster’s cage you have to monitor your pet’s interaction with that. If your hamster starts to chew and swallow the plastic material, that is bad for them.

Having a ball!

One of the main toys that a lot of people buy when they first get yourself a hamster, is a hthemster ball. Most people have probably seen the brightly coloured plastic orbs careering around someone’s floor, run only on hamster power.

Most hamsters will happily work with a hamster ball, although you should never force your dog to do so if they seem reluctant. We’ll look at utilizing a hamster golf ball in more detail when we consider the exercise your brand-new hamster will certainly need. Suffice to say that most of these cuddly rodents will love tearing around your home in a ball, therefore it’s probably a good idea to include one on your own shopping list.

Remember the essentials

There isn’t much point in having a cage, and a lot of toys in the event that you haven’t got any food and water containers! Remember to buy a small food bowl for the hamster, in addition to a drinking bottle.

What about the journey home?

You may not actually pay much thought to it prior to buying your dog, but you really do need to know how you are going to transport them home. Lots of pet stores put small animals like hamsters in a cardboard box for the journey. The issue with this is that hamsters want to chew, so you may just find you have an unwanted guest on the automobile dashboard in the event that you performn’t keep an eye on the box completely home!

If you want to guard against any incidents it may be worth investing in a small pet carrier, as they are a lot more secure. Needless to say you may also use the carrier for any future visits to the vet aswell, and for temporary housing for your hamster when you do the weekly cage clean.

hamster food list - Hamster Care Guide - How to Take Care of a Hamster

4. What sort of food should you give your hamster?

If your hamster was living in its natural environment it would be eating seeds and grasses, and also a few insects. Hamsters are naturally omnivorous, just as humans are usually. The natural hamster food you could buy at the pet store is made to mimic the seeds and grains that a hamster would eat in the wild. You should choose this natural food, rather than the highly coloured varieties which may look interesting, but which often contain a large amount of additives.

Once a week it is possible to consider giving your hamster an edible treat by giving some meal worms, or a small amount of boiled egg. They are favourites with most hamsters, plus they are also abundant with protein so they make a fantastic addition to your pet’s diet.

Always remember that you should never give your dog anything sticky to eat. If you do it may get stuck within their cheek pouches and cause a personal injury.

What about fruit and vegetables?

Your hamster will love to consume fruit and vegetables, but you ought to be careful not to give them too much. A small cube of fruit or vegetable, several times a week, is plenty of.

Be very careful when giving your hamster carrots to eat. Your furry friend will absolutely love them, but it’s important to remember that carrots are filled with natural sugars and should be provided as a delicacy, not as part of a hamster’s regular diet.

Other fruits and vegetables that your hamster will like include cauliflower, broccoli, pear, peach and banana. Always remember to eliminate any uneaten food from your own hamster’s cage in order that it doesn’t rot.

How much food does a hamster eat?

One of the main problems is that a hamster will often beg for food even when they're not hungry. They primarytain the habits that they have in the wild, and store food within their cheek pouches to eat later. In the wild it is because hamsters seek out food at night, that they then take back to their underground home.

This does not mean that they sleep all day long in the wild; they do actually wake up and snack on the delicacies they have collected. In captivity is isn’t necessary for hamsters to build up a large stock of food because they always have access to fresh nourishment in their cage. So, they may continually beg for more to stash away, but only feed your dog just as much as they need to eat.

The PDSA recommends that a Syrithen hamster needs to be fed approximately 10g of dry food twice a day. It may surprise you to learn a dwarf hamster requirements about exactly the same. They might be smaller in stature but they have an increased metabolism than Syrian hamsters.

What time of the day is best for feeding a hamster?

Many people think that hamsters don’t eat at all during the day but as we’ve already mentioned this isn’t true. Hamsters certainly doze throughout the day but they will still wake to eat at times, so there is absolutely no harm in providing just a little food each morning and a little in the evening.

The main thing is to ensure your furry companion has the right amount of food, and that fresh food is supplied at each feeding time. The water in your hamster’s drinking water bottle should also be changed every day, and the bottle ought to be washed thoroughly at least once weekly.

What type of water should a hamster drink?

Many people give their pet hamster water straight from the tap, but water high in chlorine isn't good for your pet. It is often a good idea to give your hamster filtered water to drink if you live within an area where the tap water includes a lot of chlorine, or other chemicals.

5. Getting to know your hamster

If you have bought a hamster from a pet store then you are probably likely to have to spend some time getting to know your new friend so that they become tame and trusting. Following the first 24 hours has elapsed you can begin the process.

It’s important to note that you might require a lot of patience, turning the new arrival into a ball of fur that sits happily on your own hand does not usually happen overnight. Hamsters all have their own individual personality, plus they all take different amounts of time and energy to become tame enough to handle; the procedure may get weeks as well as months.

The best way to start approaching your new pet is really as a bringer of treats. Think about it, it’s natural to trust someone that treats you well, and brings good things to eat. Put a trconsume on the palm of your hand and put your submit the cage, for the hamster to approach. You should do this in the evening when the hamster is most active. Never disturb your furry friend if they are asleep and never place your hand in their personal are usuallya; the space in the cage where they can hide away, or the house you have bought them. If you try to force your hamster, encroach on the territory or disturb their slumber you then are in no way going to earn their trust.

After a few days you can start to pet your hamster once you give the treat; this will help to develop a friendly bond. Following a further couple of days you can try scooping your hamster up with both hands underneath them; don’t attempt picking them up with your hand. If they look uncomfortable, or they try to bite then place them gently back down and give them a treat. It is best to do that close to the floor, or another safe surface, in order that if you do drop your hamster they'll not get hurt.

After you’ve done this a few times your new friend should start to walk on your hands automatically and you may begin to have some real bonding time together with your pet.

Remember that you should never disturb a hthemster while they are sleeping and that you ought to never make loud noises around your brand-new housemate. Hamsters can be very nervous of sudden and loud sounds so that they won’t become very happy with you in case you are being noisy around them.

6. Exercise is key to good hamster care

Once your hamster is accustomed to their new home, and you have begun to bond with them, you will need to make sure that the tiny rodent is getting enough exercise. In case you have bought the proper size cage, so there is plenty of floor space for your hamster to run around, then thwill be will keep your pet thereforemewhat occupied; as will the wheel in the cage which is definitely a favourite.

In addition you should try to ensure that your hamster gets some time outside of the cage in a hamster ball.

Choosing the right hamster wheel

With a wheel, your hamster can run surprisingly long distances without ever having to leave home. Actually, hamsters operatening in wheels have already been known to run more than 5 miles in one night!

All this running is great exercise for your hamster, which means they’re more likely to stay fit and healthy rather than get too fat!

Both metal and plastic hamster wheels are available and each type has its benefits and drawbacks.

Metal wheels are likely to last longer than plastic wheels. However, metal wheels are usually made out of rungs rather than as one solid piece (like a ladder and like the wheel pictured in the cartoon above). Unfortunately, hamster legs are very fragile and can easily get injured if indeed they fall through the gaps between rungs while running.

Plastic wheels are often created from one solid piece of plastic - instead of rungs - which is safer for the hamster, as you can find no gaps for their legs to fall through.

Hamsters generally prefer larger wheels. The larger a wheel is, the less the hamster must arch its back and the more similar it really is to running on flat ground in the open.

Running with an arched back is quite bad for a hthemster’s health. If you ever see your hamster arching their back while running you then should buy a larger wheel for them as quickly as possible.

We recommend a wheel size of 12 inches for Syrian hamsters and 8 inches for dwarf hamsters.

Find out more abaway hamster wheels.

It’s time for the hamster ball

If you decided to purchase a hamster ball when you bought your new pet, then now is the time to use it out (well, for the hamster to try it out… you almost certainly won’t fit!)

Always make sure the hamster is on, or near, the ground when you first try and put them in to the ball. If they don’t want to go into the ball then don’t force them, rather than try to put them into the ball if they are not fully awake.

You’ll be able to tell straight away if your dog is enjoying the hamster ball experience because they will take off running and having fun. If they sit very still, or they look agitated or scared, then put them right back into the cage. Even if they are enjoying themselves, you should not leave your hamster in the golf ball for any longer than 20 minutes, and you ought to not really put them in to the ball more than one time per day.

It’s important to remember that you need to only let a hamster run in a ball on a carpeted floor; on a wooden or tile floor the ball will move too fast and your hamster could be injured. You should also make certain you can find no obstacles in the room, and definitely no other pets.

Hamster balls are a perfect exercise toy so long as your hamster is pleased to be inside and you ensure that you watch all of them enough time they are usually in the ball.

Find out more abaway hamster exercise balls.

What else can keep a hamster occupied?

A hamster will be quite occupied by the toys in their cage, such as chewing blocks. It’s a good idea to change around the toys each week so that your hamster doesn’t get bored. This also comes in ideal for you as possible clean the toys that aren’t used that week and then swap them around.

One thing to remember is that you should never cover your hamster’s cage with toys. Remember, they need space to perform around, and a place to chill.

7. A clean and tidy hamster home

Your new friend will groom themselves, but it’s up to you to make sure that you keep your hamster’s cage clean. To create this easier you can train your new hamster to use a damp corner. Put some of their damp wood shavings into a little plastic tray and put it in a single corner of the cage. Your hamster will smell the urine and visit the spot every time they need to pee. This makes your daily life a lot simpler when you are devoid of to constantly change the bedding or shavings in the cage.

We recommend getting a special cage cleaning kit to keep your hamster’s home newly made.

Each day: Make sure that your pet’s food and water are changed. You should also shake the bedding or shavings, and make certain any droppings are taken off the cage.

Once a week: Give your hamster’s cage a complete clean from top to bottom. Though leave a little bit of the old bedding in place so the hamster recognises some familiar smells when it returns to the cage.

While you are cleaning, you need to make sure that your dog is secure and cannot escape. If you purchased a small animal carrier when you initially bought your pet, it is possible to put them in this when you clean the cage.

It’s not a good idethe to put them in a hamster ball unless there's someone else there who can watch them. You can’t focus on cleaning the cage and monitor your hamster’s ball manoeuvring skills simultaneously.

8. What can you do if your hamster is ill?

Once you have a bought a pet then it’s your responsibility to make sure that they’re looked after; especially when they're sick. Obviously you don’t want this to occur, but there is always the likelihood your hamster will become ill at some time.

It can sometimes be difficult to tell if something is wrong with your hamster. In the wild hamsters are prey for larger animals, so that they try not to show if they're hurt or feeling unwell, since it makes them vulnerable.

If you get to know your pet well then you will probably have a feeling if something isn't as it must be. There are some signs which are worth looking out for.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Smaller poop pellets, or none at all
  • Sitting still with no movement at all
  • Eyes not bright and alert when awake
  • Unknown discharge around the nose or eyes
  • Aggression when not normally aggressive
  • Bald patches
  • Change in movements
  • Damp tail area
  • Change in posture such as hunching
  • Change in breathing
  • Limb chewing
  • Change to drinking habits

If you notice any of these changes in your hamster then you should seek advice from a vet.

One final thing with regard to health: If your home is very cold for some reason, as well as your hamster appears to be unconscious, then it’s worth placing the cage somewhere warm to see if the change has any effect. Hamsters can get into hibernation if it’s cold and you'll find that’s what has happened. If this is the case then your hamster should awaken once they're in a warm environment.

Good hamster care for a long and happy life!

Hamsters make marvellous and fun pets, but never be fooled into thinking they're an easy option. You have to be willing to spending some time with your pet, socialising and getting to know them. This results in at least half an hour each day giving your dog your undivided attention. Of course it’s also vital that you know when to back off. You wouldn’t enjoy it if someone was attempting to play with you when you were sleeping, and neither does your hamster!

If you are thinking of bringing a hamster into your home then carefully study all of the advice we have provided here, and think about whether you're able to invest enough time and attention that your brand-new pet will need.

Learn about hamster care, respect your hamster’s space, provide them with enough food, exercise and toys, keep their home clean and make sure their health is looked after, and you should employ a long and happy life together!