Caring for a hamster can be a satisfying experience and result in countless hours of enjoyment. Hamsters are fun creatures that can be the best first pet for children and adults. However, having pets entails a sense of responsibility to ensure their overall health and wellbeing.
If you want to bring home a hamster but don’t know where to begin, this guide will help you find the right hamster breed and small pet supplies, including the cage, bedding, and food for your new pet.
Choosing the right hamster
There are different hamster breeds to choose from. Beyond their appearance, you must select one you can manage, considering that different breeds have varying tendencies and dispositions.
Here are the two main types of hamsters recommended for beginners:
Dwarf-sized hamsters have different breeds, with sizes ranging from 9 to 10 centimeters long with a weight of 25 to 50 grams. For a beginner, consider choosing either the Winter white hamster or the Campbell’s dwarf hamster because these breeds are the easiest to handle. They are also friendly.
The Syrian breed is the largest hamster type, growing up to 18 centimeters and weighing up to 180 grams. They come in different fur coats, colors, and hair lengths. Variations include:
- Teddy bear hamster
- Golden hamster
- Panda bear hamster
- Black bear hamster
With their enormous size, they are best for beginners. They are solitary animals and the easiest to handle. Though you might see them in one cage, they can fight with their cage mates as they grow older, while trying to keep an eye on their personal cage space.
Selecting a cage
When buying a hamster cage, you will have a lot of options – with each having its pros and cons. Generally, the best cage for your hamsters is spacious and large, whether it is made of metal wire, glass or plastic. You can also choose one that you can add onto later so your hamsters remain happy.
The cage you will buy is where your hamsters will spend most of their lives. Here are some of the best cage options today.
A metal wire cage is the traditional, most economical habitat for hamsters. This is made of galvanized steel and comprises a small metal wire door, wire bar top and sides, and a plastic bottom base.
A wire cage offers more benefits than other options. First, it is more affordable than other cage options. Second, additional levels can be installed and secured to the crossbars. Lastly, it provides maximum air circulation; thus, fresh air is always readily available for your pets.
If you want to have a clear view of what your hamsters are doing inside their home, choose a glass tank for your pets. Having solid walls instead of the openness of a wire cage will prevent your pets from escaping and keep the bedding from being thrown out when your hamsters dig about.
Today, there are several innovative plastic cage options to choose from. Ideally, opt for a plastic habitat that is made of strong plastic with pieces that your hamsters can’t gnaw into.
Proper cage location
Your hamsters’ habitat should strategically be positioned in your home to make sure they get enough rest and exhibit natural behavior.
Here are some location tips:
Low light levels
Hamsters spend their life underground. With this in mind, avoid placing the cage under direct sunlight and lots of bright light.
The inside of your hamster cage must have a temperature not lower than 15 degrees Celsius and not higher than 25 degrees Celsius. This means that you must not place it next to drafty windows or heaters.
During the day, hamsters need to rest, so make sure to place them in a quiet and low traffic area. Keep them away from radios, televisions, and other loud appliances. Otherwise, they can become stressed, leading to different health problems.
Cleaning the cage
Hamsters are quite clean pets, but keeping their cage clean is crucial to maintain proper hygiene and prevent any illnesses.
Step 1: Remove your hamsters from the cage (including toys and supplies) and put them in a safe place.
Before anything else, you must take out your hamster from their cage and put them in a safe place so you can have full access to the cage and peace of mind that your hamsters won’t escape.
A portable cage with a mini water bottle is an excellent option as this ensures your pets have easy access to water while you clean their cage. Otherwise, you can place them in a hamster ball or playpen.
After that, you should also remove everything inside the cage, such as toys and other supplies. Sort it into two piles – one to be returned back to the cage and the other to be discarded. All the things that must go back to the cage must not be cleaned to retain a familiar scent so your pet won’t get confused once you return them back to the cage.
Step 2: Discard dirty or soiled bedding and sawdust.
Get rid of dirty bedding and dispose of it properly. Remember to retain some of the clean beddings to preserve a familiar scent.
Step 3: Clean and disinfect the cage and other accessories.
You can use a mixture of soap and water to clean the cage. Wipe down the cage and pay attention to the corners because these areas are more likely to be grimier.
And when your hamsters have been unwell, use only a pet-safe disinfectant to sanitize the cage and other metal or plastic accessories to prevent them from getting sick again.
Step 4: Dry the cage properly.
Use cloth or a paper towel to wipe down water from the cage and accessories. Wait for at least 30 minutes for it to dry properly. Remember that dampness will saturate the bedding, making it ineffective. Moreover, moisture can make your pet sick.
Step 5: Restock bedding and nesting material, food, and water.
Combine the old and new bedding and nesting material, and place them in the cage. It would be a good idea to try different bedding types each time you clean the cage to determine the most comfortable one for your pet. Restock the food and water.
Don’t forget to put back the toys, house, and other accessories.
Step 6: Return your hamsters to their home.
Once the cage is clean and everything is in the right place, it is time to put back your pets inside their home.
When cleaning the cage, an important note is not doing it too often because this can be stressful for them. Instead, you must only do a full cage clean-up every other week, provided that you spot clean regularly. For instance, you should clean the litter area daily, their food dish and water bottle weekly, and change their beddings as needed.
Picking the bedding and nesting material
Hamster beddings are not created equal. But deciding on the best type of bedding will depend on several factors, including the breed of hamster you have and the type of cage you choose.
Bedding material options
The bedding materials go down on the floor of the hamster habitat.
When it comes to beddings, wood shavings are the most widespread choice. But not all wood shaving types are healthy for hamsters. The safest option is hardwood, like an aspen. Avoid getting pine or cedar woods because these options contain phenol chemicals that can cause liver and respiratory problems.
Paper and wood pellets
Paper and wood pellets are excellent bedding materials because they are more absorbent than wood and don’t scatter. Moreover, these don’t get entwined into the hair of hamsters.
Shredded paper is the easiest bedding to make. It can come in different colors but consider choosing white paper since this will help show if one of your pets is ill or injured.
Nesting material options
Your hamsters need an enclosed space where they can feel comfortable so they can have good sleep. The nesting material you place in this space must be soft and great for burrowing.
Safe nesting materials
Shredded paper or toilet paper are excellent nesting materials since they are soft and can quickly be burrowed into. But ensure that the paper does not have any ink as this can smudge off onto hamster fur. Another good option is towel stripes.
Materials to avoid
Avoid using nesting material that contains polyester stuffing, coconut fibers, cotton batting, felt stripes, and cotton balls. These materials are difficult to digest, so they can cause digestive problems. Also, they can get stuck in a hamster’s cheek pouches or intestines and tangled around your pet’s feet.
Feeding your hamster
Your hamsters’ diet must consist of plants and protein, including seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. The kind of food you buy will greatly depend on your hamster’s age and health.
Here are some food options for your hamsters:
If you are looking for a variety of options for your pet to eat, a bag of mixed seeds is an excellent choice. These mixes often include seeds, wheat, oats, and dried fruits and veggies.
Fruits and vegetables
Fresh fruits and greens give the water your pets need, along with essential vitamins and minerals. However, too many greens can cause diarrhea. Moreover, some greens are acceptable, while others must be avoided.
Healthy greens include celery, broccoli, melons, peas, cauliflower, plums, carrots, figs, apples, strawberry, clover, pumpkin, sweet potato, soy sprouts, dandelions, rose hips, zucchini, cucumber, beets, bananas, chamomile, mint, and stinging nettle.
On the other hand, greens to avoid are onions, rhubarb, raw potatoes, leeks, cabbage, spinach, pineapple, nectarines, peaches, alfalfa, peaches, corn, apricots, house plants, acorns, oak, raspberries, avocados, and horse chestnuts.
Hamsters are herbivores, so you need to offer them food rich in protein, as well. Some great protein sources include insect larvae, crickets, live mealworms, grasshoppers, cottage cheese, scrambled or hard-boiled eggs, and small bits of fish, beef or chicken.
Give your hamsters a fresh source of clean water that is available 24/7 by providing them with water bottles.
If you feed your hamsters a well-balanced diet, giving them treats may not be necessary. But sometimes, giving them treats can improve their happiness – and eventually their overall well-being. You can attach sticks and chews to their cage. You can also give them hay, which is an excellent gnawing food that will help keep your pet’s teeth healthy.
But take note to give them treats in moderation. Avoid giving them treats that contain lots of sugar and fat. Do not give them food containing alcohol, chocolate, and caffeine because these items can harm your pet’s health.
Checking if your hamsters are healthy and happy
Once you’ve decided to bring home pet hamsters, make sure you take care of them properly. And this means knowing how to tell if they are healthy and happy.
Here are ways to check if your pets are healthy or not:
Check their temperature
You can check your pets’ temperatures by touching their noses. A warm nose indicates a healthy hamster. If it is cold to the touch, there is a possibility that your pet is ill.
Look for discharge in the eyes or tail area
Your hamster should never have any discharge in their eyes or tail. So once you notice any fluid coming out of their eyes or a wet tail, this can indicate an infection.
Observe their activity levels
You must familiarize yourself with your pets’ normal behavior as they adapt to their home. Healthy and happy hamsters will often run and explore their cage. But when your pets always hide, refuse to eat, or are inactive, this can be a sign that your hamsters are sick and unhappy.
Caring for a sick hamster
As soon as you notice that your hamsters are showing signs of an illness or infection, immediate care and treatment are crucial. If their nose is cold to touch, bring them to a warmer place. There might also be some over-the-counter solutions that the vet can recommend to make your pet comfortable and get well.
But if home interventions aren’t helping or other symptoms have developed like diarrhea, change in breathing, and aggression, take your hamsters to the vet immediately for further evaluation and proper treatment.
Care and commitment
Caring for hamsters involves proper research and commitment. You need to know their specific needs so you can better take care of them. Purchase the appropriate care items from the best pet shop in Dubai.
Use this guide to ensure the health and happiness of your new pet.