Looking after your Hamster

Housing

Hamsters are extremely active animals so their cage should be as large and interesting as possible. Metal framed cages with firm plastic bases or plastic purpose built hamster homes are the most popular. Adapted aquariums with well ventilated covers can also be used. Never keep your hamster in a wooden cage as they can chew their way out.

A good home will have multiple levels with places for your hamster to hide, play and exercise. Make sure all plastic tubes or cage attachments are big enough for your hamster to fit through comfortably.

Hamsters must always be kept indoors in a warm room at an average temperature away from direct sunlight and draughts. Temperatures below 5°C can cause your hamster to fall unconscious or hibernate. Hamsters are very sensitive to noise and vibrations so should be kept away from freezers, TVs, stereos etc.

Line the cage with wood shavings to absorb urine and allow burrowing. Hamsters will often use the same area as a toilet. Choose a suitable small animal bedding material, do not use synthetic bedding as this can be harmful if eaten.

Regular exercise is essential to a hamster. If you have a wheel it must be big enough for the hamster to use without bending its back and should have a solid floor rather than rungs as these can cause injury.

Hamsters are solitary animals so it is recommended you only have one. Some dwarf breeds can be kept in pairs but compatibility cannot be guaranteed. If you do have more than one hamster make sure the cage is of adequate size.

Toys & Treats

Small animal pens and toys are available for exercise outside the cage but remember that hamsters can squeeze through very small gaps. Always supervise your pet during play times.

Hiding treats in tunnels or around the cage will encourage your hamster to forage. Choose a treat that is specifically formulated to hamsters, but they may contain sugar so don’t give it too many.

Natural wood chews are a great way to keep your hamster’s teeth short and healthy.

Feeding

Hamsters are omnivores and require a mix of fibre and protein to stay healthy and there are many feeds to choose from.

Check the recommended daily allowance on the pack and feed your hamster in the evening when it is most active. As natural foragers they can be selective in what they eat so make sure the first feed has been finished before topping it up.

Hamsters will naturally hoard food by filling their cheek pouches with food and depositing it in a hiding place within its cage. The diet can be supplemented with small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables but uneaten fresh food should be removed daily. Do not feed your hamster soft fruit such as banana as it can stick in its pouches.

Food bowls can be tipped over so choose a wide based metal bowl or heavy ceramic bowl. Plastic bowls are easy to chew and can cause injury if ingested.

Fresh water must be available at all times and changed daily. Use a suitably sized drip feed bottle with a metal spout.

Handling

Regular handling is important to help build a relationship with your hamster. When you first get it home leave it for a day to adjust to its new surroundings.

Hamsters have quite poor eyesight so approach it slowly from the front allowing it to smell you, avoid reaching from above as this may startle it and cause it to defend itself by biting.

Make sure your hamster is fully awake and alert before you pick it up and never wake it suddenly from sleep. Gently scoop it up and cup it with both hands to keep it secure, lift very slowly and hold it firmly against your chest or lap to ensure its safety. A nervous hamster may try to jump out of your hands. Never pick a hamster up by its scruff as this can cause injury.

Health

Providing a clean, hygienic environment with a healthy well balanced diet will keep your hamster in good health and by handling your hamster regularly you will be able to spot any symptoms.

Hamsters do not generally fall ill but can deteriorate quickly, the following are the most common problems. If you have any doubts about the health of your hamster seek advice from your vet.

Dental problems: Hamsters teeth continue to grow throughout their life so provision of gnawing material is essential. Teeth can be trimmed easily by your vet if necessary.

Wet Tail: This is a bacterial infection that can cause extreme diarrhoea. If your hamster has a wet, sticky bottom and appears hunched in pain seek veterinary treatment immediately. Wet Tail is highly infectious so isolate the hamster. Wash your hands thoroughly and clean the cage with a pet safe disinfectant.

Respiratory disorders: Hamsters can catch coughs and colds and suffer from sneezes, sore eyes and noses. Keep them warm and away from draughts but if symptoms persist seek veterinary advice.

Diarrhoea: Over feeding with fresh green food is the most common cause of diarrhoea. Stop feeding greens and use a good quality hamster feed mix. If symptoms persist seek veterinary advice.

Constipation: If there is a lack of droppings in the cage and your hamster has a hunched appearance it may be suffering from constipation. Feed it a small amount of fresh greens but if there is no change seek veterinary advice.

You will need…

  • Metal cage/plastic unit
  • Soft bedding for small animals
  • Wood shavings
  • Water bottle and bottle brush
  • Metal or ceramic food bowl
  • Hamster food
  • Gnaw block
  • Toys and treats
  • Exercise wheel
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Pet safe disinfectant
  • Hamster care book

PETS ARE FOR LIFE!

Owning and caring for a pet is a very rewarding experience. Your pet will offer you friendship, interest and enjoyment, but keeping pets brings with it responsibilities. These responsibilities differ from one species to the next. Please ask a member of the pet department for help in choosing the right pet for you.

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the contents of this web page are correct, Squire’s cannot be held responsible for results of action taken without the advice of a professional veterinarian.