How to Care for Your Hamster

Hamsters are small, gentle, easy to take care of and fun to watch. They are also inexpensive, clean and take up little room due to their small sizes. However, please note that they are not good pets for young children as they are nocturnal and must be handled gently. Hamsters are skittish around sudden or jarring movements and loud noises, and they might react by biting. Children under six years of age typically lack the motor skills and self-restraint needed to safely handle a hamster.

Hamster Temperament

Hamsters in general aren’t affectionate and spend most of their time sleeping; they are mostly active at night. They also live relatively short lives; a well-cared-for teddy bear hamster can live up to three years.

The teddy bear hamster is more solitary than its cousin the dwarf hamster. However, dwarf hamsters are harder to tame. Teddy bear hamsters need less veterinary care than other types of pets but when they do get sick, you need to take care of it immediately.

Try to handle and talk to your hamster for about 20 minutes every night once it is awake to give it some attention. Let it play in a secure playpen outside of the cage.

Food and Water

Hamsters require food, a water bottle, a food dish and salt lick. Feed your hamster about one tablespoon of commercial hamster food a day. Offer fresh fruit or vegetable treats every other day, including carrots, broccoli, spinach, green beans, asparagus, turnips, apples, strawberries, pears, blueberries and peaches. They can also snack on pieces of hard-boiled eggs for protein or nuts.

Provide fresh water daily, even if the water bottle is already full. Make sure the hamster can reach the water bottle and that it doesn’t drip onto the bedding.

Hamster 2Cage and Toys

Being small-sized means hamsters require small wire cages or even an old aquarium. However, make sure they have enough room to run around and play with their toys. Their cage should have bars close together so they can’t escape from the cage; the bar spacing should be 3/8 inch or smaller. You should also include plenty of spaces for it to hide, as that is a normal instinct for them when they are nervous or sleepy. Use a wooden hideout or tunnels.

Put the cage somewhere that isn’t too hot or cold and that is away from other pets, like cats or dogs, that might eat it.

Use about one to two inches of dye-free aspen, pine or paper bedding to absorb any urine; don’t use cedarwood shavings as the wood contains oils that can irritate the hamster. You can also add some comfortable nesting material, like old clothing.

Your hamster should have toys that are appropriate for chewing, as gnawing keeps their teeth trim and healthy. Many enjoy playing on an exercise wheel or inside a hamster ball, as they love to exercise.

Cleaning the Cage

Since your hamster will spend the majority of its time inside the cage, keep it clean so it will be happy and healthy. Spot clean the soiled bedding every day. Once a week, change all the bedding and thoroughly clean the cage, toys and tunnels with a pet-safe disinfectant; cleaning chemicals can be dangerous to hamsters. Put the hamster in a separate container while you are cleaning so you don’t stress it out.

Use a cloth or paper towel to wipe down any excess water, as dampness can saturate the bedding, which can cause the hamster to become sick. Make sure the tunnels don’t have any rough edges that could damage it or help it escape.

Hamsters will groom themselves but check and make sure that no feces or food is stuck to its fur. If absolutely necessary, give it a dust bath to get rid of greasiness and help keep them clean.

Hamster 3Handling Your Hamster

When you first get a hamster, it will be nervous about moving to a new home. Give it a few days to adjust. Approach it slowly and let it smell your hands for a few minutes before you start touching it. Hamsters rely on smell since their eyesight is poor. Don’t force it to interact with you if it doesn’t want to; it will approach you when it is ready.

To pick up the hamster, scoop it up from underneath; never try to grab it from the top, as they don’t like having pressure on their backs. If it squirms a lot or bites, put it back in the cage. Try to expose your hamster outside its cage so it can become accustomed to its surroundings. A hamster ball is an effective way to accomplish this.

Avoid disturbing the hamster when it is sleeping. Startled or scared hamsters are more likely to bite. Only play and interact with it when it is active. If your hamster does bite you, don’t yell or shake it; the hamster will feel threatened by you and will probably bite you again in the future. Put it back in its cage and treat the bite with antibacterial soap and warm water.

Hamster Health

If possible, give it a multivitamin for hamsters to make sure it receives the nutrition it needs. Your hamster should always be warm, never cold. If you touch its nose and it is cold, it is probably sick. Try to find a warmer place. A wet tail or discharge around the eyes can be a sign of infection. Also, keep a note of your hamster’s energy level; if it hides all the time and refuses to eat, it might be ill.

Hamster 4

Allan's Pet Center

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