Adopting a pet hamster is a great responsibility, even though these creatures are considered low-maintenance and usually easy to handle. Apart from buying a generous cage, fun toys, and an exercise wheel, these rodents also require high-quality food and some good hamster treats once in a while.
Showcased below you’ll find everything you need to know about these creatures and how to look after them so they can live a long and healthy life alongside you and your family.
Hamsters are part of the rodent family and are referred to as “pocket pets” in the industry. Depending on the breed, they usually live between one and four years, sometimes even more in captivity.
There are various types of hamsters but the most popular one is the Syrian. It is also the biggest and the second most popular pet rodent throughout the world. The Syrian hamster can grow up to 7-8 inches while dwarf breeds rarely exceed 4 inches in length.
These adorable creatures are nocturnal, meaning they will mainly be active during the night. They are herbivores so they should only be fed special hamster pellets, dry food, fresh fruits, and veggies.
Hamsters are curious by nature, so you need to find new ways to stimulate their minds. They also like to chew, gnash, and gnaw, so make sure their cages are filled with edible and fun toys.
One unique characteristic of rodents is that most, including hamsters, have large cheek pouches used primarily to store food so they can live longer even in the most unwelcoming environments. On the other hand, they can easily eat too much and become overweight or obese, so physical exercise is mandatory for these creatures.
How to handle hamsters
Assuming you already welcomed your pet into its new house, filled with fun things to do and a comfortable hut to nest and sleep in, you also need to know that most of these animals are social creatures. This means they prefer having a companion, except for the Syrian hamster that is more territorial.
If you can’t afford to look after a pair of rodents at the same time, you might have to spend more time with your pets yourself to prevent boredom, anxiety, and even depression.
The good thing is that these animals enjoy being petted and groomed and usually develop a strong bond with their owners. Therefore, one good way to earn their trust is to groom them about two-three times a week.
Use a soft and special brush to stroke your hammy’s fur with calm and gentle moves so that it relaxes and feels safe around you. Keep in mind that it may take several weeks until it is comfortable around you, so don’t expect your pet to jump into your arms after just one day.
How to look after your hamster?
Unlike other animals that require long baths and expensive grooming products to keep them clean and healthy, hamsters are low-maintenance. They engage in an elaborate and adorable self-grooming ritual that might take more than half an hour sometimes. However, in the end, hamsters prefer cleaning themselves and won’t require your help or any additional products.
Thus, you shouldn’t bathe or use chemical cleaning agents on your pet as they are quite sensitive. If, however, they get dirty and you wish to clean their coat and keep it luscious and shiny, you can use a damp and soft cloth to remove dirt, dust or debris.
Do hamsters need to be taken to the vet?
Hamsters are known for being resilient creatures, unlike chinchillas that are highly sensitive and require special care.
We suggest taking your pet for a routine vet check a few days after you brought it home to make sure it is healthy and doesn’t pose a threat to you or any member of your family. As a general rule, you should take your pet to see a vet once a year in normal conditions.
However, if it displays any signs of wheezing, dizziness, running nose, loose stools, bald patches, irregular eating or drinking or blood in the urine, you should immediately call your vet and ask for an appointment. Hamsters can also show signs of illness if they lose their appetite, lose weight, have an abnormal walk or aren’t interested in anything and anyone.
How to prevent diseases and health problems
If you want to keep your hamster healthy and help it live a long life, you need to make sure you provide the best conditions for it to thrive. This means access to clean water, high-quality food, a sanitary cage, and clean bedding every other week.
Although hamsters prefer cleaning themselves, you should keep their cages free of odors, feces, urine, spoiled food, and any other items that might pose a threat to their health.
You can also prevent your pet from escaping its cage if you don’t want to deal with any injuries, broken bones or other health problems. Keep in mind that these creatures are fast, smart, and mischievous so they will always try to find a way out from their cage.
They might even try to escape while you hold them or pet them, so you should do that only on large surfaces that can be easily controlled if something happens.
Do hamsters need shots?
All animals are potential carriers of viral, fungal, bacterial or parasitic diseases, contagious to other animals and humans. Thus, personal hygiene for both you and your pet is mandatory.
If you want to stay away from bacteria and germs that might cause infections in your body, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after handling your pet or getting in contact with its cage, bedding or toys.
These rules are even more important when it comes to children as often enough they can put their hands inside their mouths, without thinking of the consequences.
Being cautious whenever handling, grooming or petting your hamster is also a must. Although they are mainly docile and have warm personalities, hamsters can still nip, bite or scratch if they feel threatened or want to escape.
As for vaccines, there are currently no shots required or recommended for hamsters, so there isn’t too much you should worry about. A regular vet check-up once a year is everything your pet needs to stay healthy and strong.
If there is something you should worry about when it comes to your precious rodent, is it’s dental hygiene. All rodents have incisor teeth that will grow continuously throughout their lives so they will be in constant need of chewing toys and hard food to wear down their teeth naturally.
Overgrown teeth can become a serious threat to your hamster’s health and usually lead to appetite loss, drooling, and weight loss. If your pet doesn’t trim its teeth naturally through food or chewing toys, it would be best to ask your veterinarian to have a look. The lack of proper oral hygiene can also cause cavities and teeth pain which may require antibiotic treatment.
Hamsters are great animals to keep around the house and are good with children and humans alike. They are mainly nocturnal so you should expect them to be noisier during the night. However, they are friendly and love petting and, with a proper diet and hygiene, can live well into their fourth birthday.
There are few medical conditions usually associated with hamsters and the great news is that you won’t have to spend money on expensive shots, vaccines, and vet consultations. Just make sure your pet benefits from a healthy and nutritious diet, enough physical exercising, and good oral hygiene to prevent cavities.