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If you already have a hamster or you’re planning to adopt one as a pet, we have the right guide here that will teach you on how to take care of a hamster and how to choose the right hamster that is a perfect fit for you and your home.
Hamsters are usually seen as pets for children, because of their cute and docile nature. These little creatures are nocturnal in nature, which means they sleep during the day and are only active at night. Due to the nature of their sleep pattern, they do not fit well into a child’s schedule, as the child will probably be asleep when they are active.
Learning how to care for them is another issue. Based on how you take care of a hamster, they can live for 2 to 3 years on an average. There are different kinds of hamsters, and they all have around the same lifespan. Hamsters, in general, vary in characteristics and look based on their breed. Although they might have the same lifespan and require similar care, you’ll have to pick a hamster that is best for you.
Types of Hamsters
There are different types of hamsters you can choose from the pet store. One of the most common ones in the United States is the Syrian hamster otherwise known as the teddy bear hamster or golden hamster. One of these hamsters was discovered in Syria in the 1800s and was not seen again for nearly a century. It is one of the most vulnerable species as humans continuously destroy its habitat.
Dwarf hamsters are also a type of pet hamsters. There are three types of dwarf hamsters you’ll probably find in a pet store that are related.
These are the Roborovski, and there are two types of Russian dwarf hamster, Winter White, and Campbells Russian Dwarf. The fourth type of hamster you’ll find in a pet store is entirely different from others. It's called the Chinese.
Like humans, hamsters come with different personalities and are suitable for different situations and homes. Some hamsters enjoy solitude while others are more social and enjoy the company of others. If you aim to have a variety of hamsters in one cage, determine their gender first and choose only one gender per cage, except you want them to breed.
The average lifespan of a Syrian or teddy bear hamster is 2 to 3 years. Although it is possible for them to live for as long as five years, it is rare. They are usually weaned by their mothers when they are between 3-to 4-weeks old. When Syrian hamsters are about four months old, they reach adulthood and break out from home. The lifespan of a hamster is based on the quality of care he receives.
Teddy bear hamsters are the largest captive hamster breeds and are often chosen as pets. They are the liveliest pets of all the other breeds and are fun to interact and watch. If you have the time and a bit of patience, you can train a Syrian hamster from an early age. When they grow, they grow big. Syrian hamsters grow to be about 5.5 inches on an average. They are usually given to younger children because they are inexpensive and easy to tame.
How To Take Care Of A Syrian Hamster
Syrian hamsters like their space, but they can be very territorial. Even if your teddy bear hamster seems to enjoy company, once they reach 8-to 10- weeks old they can fight to the death for their territory. They are a curious breed that often requires a lot of mental stimulation to keep them busy. A bored Syrian hamster will seek out an escape route, particularly those that are left alone for too long.
Syrian Hamster Housing and Syrian Hamster Care
Teddy bear hamsters love a colossal cage which provides them space to run and play. The minimum requirement for the cage should be 24 inches by 12 inches and at least 12 inches tall. You can also check out the top rated cages for hamsters. The conventional wire-mesh cage works well, and you can also purchase a regular sized 10-gallon capacity aquarium with a fitted mesh lid. Your pet will also require space for pet toys like exercise wheel, tunnel toys for hiding, a bridge, and wooden chew blocks for dental hygiene and maintenance.
Unlike the teddy bear hamsters, dwarf hamsters are usually smaller. These species are not as territorial as other hamsters and thrive well in pairs or small groups as opposed to solitude.
The Roborovski dwarf hamster is the smallest of the species, and it grows only to about 3 inches in length as an adult. They live for about 3 to 3.5 years and are known to be fast and active. They can run as far as 100 miles per night on their hamster wheel.
Russian dwarf, winter white hamsters, got their names from their ability to turn white in the winter months in their Russian habitat. When held captive they retain a dark grey coloring due to artificial heat and lighting. Winter white dwarf hamsters also come in color variations like marble, sapphire, pearl and sapphire pearl. They have an average lifespan of 1.5 to 2 years.
Campbell's dwarf hamsters are the most famous dwarf hamsters in pet stores. They are found in the wild forests of China, Russia, and other Central Asia countries. Campbell's have a similar dark grey fur like the winter white and a similar lifespan of about two years. The Campbell dwarf hamster can stay awake during the day more than any of the other species. So, if you're searching for a hamster that is awake during the day and sleeps at night, this is your best bet.
Chinese dwarf hamsters are actually not dwarfs but are usually small in stature. The Chinese hamster loves to tunnel especially through its bedding. With the right bedding and appropriate toys, taking care of hamsters should be easy.
How To Take Care Of A Dwarf Hamster
Dwarf hamsters are prone to diabetes especially Campbell’s hamsters and Chinese hamsters. However, this can be prevented by providing your pet with a wheel for exercising and a diet that is low on sugar. Purchase high-quality chewable materials to avoid overgrown and decayed teeth in your hamster.
Dwarf Hamster Housing & Dwarf Hamster Care
Provide about 1- to 2- inches of layered high-quality shredded paper or hardwood shavings. Cedar-based products should not be used for your hamster's bedding.
They are toxic to small animals. Their habitat should be large enough for playing and exercising. The cage can be made of escape-proof glass, plastic or metal with a tight lid cover.
Provide chewing toys for your dwarf hamster to maintain its incisor teeth, which grows continuously. Avoid scorching temperatures, drafty areas, and direct sunlight
How To Take Care Of A Hamster For Beginners
How do you take care of a hamster? This section discusses the foods you can give your hamster and those to avoid, as well as other necessary grooming details.
How To Take Care Of A Baby Hamster
If you bought a pregnant hamster or your hamster breeds, then you’ll need to learn how to care for the babies. Caring for baby hamsters is easy; all you have to do is let them be with their mother, feed and provide clean water for them.
Baby Hamster Pet Care
Baby hamsters are born naked, blind and vulnerable, and they weigh less than 2 grams. They will need to be nursed by their mothers immediately. By the 10th day, they will begin to crawl around blindly, and by the 2nd week, they can see fully. In the 3rd month, the mothers lose interest in feeding their babies and thereafter, takes the big step.
By the 4th month, mother hamsters abandon their young, which is often the best time to separate them from their mothers. In 40 days, the baby hamster is usually a young adult and can be given regular meals.
Separate dwarf hamsters when they are around 4 to 5 weeks old and Syrian hamsters around six weeks to avoid in-fighting between the animals.
Feeding Your Pet Hamster
Although we have an in-depth article on "What can hamsters eat?", here are the basic facts.
Hamsters are omnivores which means that they feed on plants and insects. To feed your hamster, you will have to imitate what they will eat in the wild. This includes a diet packed with fresh veggies and protein-packed treats like mealworms.
You also must keep in mind that hamsters hoard their food. Hence, you will have to feed your hamster small portions of food per day to avoid hoarding.
Do not feed your pet hamster muesli-style food mix because hamsters will pick out the grains high in sugar and leave out the high fiber bits.
An Ideal hamster diet should include;
- High-quality pellets avoid the muesli-style mix.
- Fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs
- Timothy hay, this is full of fiber and ideal for small pets like hamsters.
- Treats like nuts, boiled eggs or mealworms
- A constant supply of fresh water. You can use a water bottle with a metal spout.
Fruits and Vegetable
The following are a list of fruits and veggies suitable for your pet hamster. Before giving them, ensure you wash the fruits and veggies appropriately. Only offer a small portion per day to the animals.
- Sweet peppers
- Apples without seeds
Avoid feeding your pet hamster fruits like oranges, lemons or grapefruits. Make sure the liquid you provide for your pet is filtered, chlorine-free water daily. Also, avoid meals high in fat and calories. These includes meals like;
- Junk food
- Chocolate or other candies
- Meats high in fat
- Beans and potatoes
- Citrus fruits: are too acidic for hamsters
Hamster Care Guide - Final Thoughts
Hamsters love cardio, so provide an exercise wheel or ball for your hamster. Make it a habit to clean out the cage as often as possible. Hamsters self-groom, so you won’t need to clean them. You can use a dust bath to clean your hamster, let him roll around in the dust bath to get rid of greasiness.
Hamsters rarely show that they are vulnerable, hurt or sick because in the wild they are often preyed on by larger animals.
However, if you have a feeling that your pet might be feeling unwell, look out for the following signs;
- Bald patches
- Wet Tail
- Deemed eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Suffered breathing
- Loose stools
- Overgrown front teeth
- Runny nose
- Sores on feet
- Low Activity Levels
If you notice any of the symptoms above, you can schedule a meeting with the vet immediately for advice and check-up. If your pet hamster is cold, it can go into hibernation and will wake once it’s warm. You can also check your hamster’s temperature by touching its nose. If its nose is cold, it might be sick or you might need to find a warmer place for it to be comfortable.
To avoid any illness in your hamster, you can administer multivitamins made for them. This ensures they get the best nutrition they need, and also strengthen their immune system. Taking care of a hamster is easy and fun. However, you’ll need to socialize with them at least 2 hours a day to keep your hamster happy.
Carol is a head content developer for ultimatepethub.com and mother of 2 adorable chocolate labs(and one child). Growing up on a farm, she has handled all kinds of animals and pets. When Carol isn’t taking her two labs to the park, you can find her researching products and topics to keep you updated with the latest info for your pets!