15 Essential Steps To Properly Care For Your Hamster

Have you just gotten a hamster ? Or are you planning on getting a hamster and want to know how to care for him ? I’ll tell you everything I know, and I wish I knew some of these when I first got my Teddy (Syrian male hammy) home.

There are 15 essential steps to take and know, so you can be a good hamster owner. Some of these might be obvious, some might be counterintuitive. But they all help your hamster lead a healthy, happy life.

As a sidenote, hamsters are actually cheap to care for, and they make good pets. It’s just that they have some very specific needs sometimes.

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1. Choose a good cage for your hamster

The first and biggest problem when getting a hamster is what kind of cage to get him. Now I’ve covered this in detail in this article on how to choose the best cage, but a short version would be this.

A Syrian hamster (the biggest kind of hamster you can find as a pet) needs a minimum cage of 24 x 12 inches, and about 12 inches tall. That’s 61 x 30.5 cm, and about 30.5 cm tall. This is for one Syrian hamster. They should always be kept alone.

If you’re keeping Dwarf hamsters, then the same cage will fit a pair of Dwarves well enough.

Always remember that while hamsters are so small and fluffy, they need a lot of space. They will always feel better in a large cage, rather than in a small one.

This is because they do a lot of running around and roaming, and they get bored very easily in a small cage. Especially if it’s not almost nothing in it aside from bedding and some food.

An overcrowded cage can also make the hamster irritable and nippy, so it’s best to only keep one hamster in one cage, even if he’s a Dwarf.

As for examples of good cages, here is this one. It’s got a small space between the wires, so no hamster can escape.

It’s also got an adjustable level which you can put wherever you like. I recommend keeping it pretty low though, since hamsters prefer the low ground.

Of the commercial cages you can find available, this is the largest and safest. It provides lots of ventilation and it easy to take apart and clean.

All in all a good choice for hamster owners who are both space and budget conscious.

You can check the listing on Amazon here, and see the reviews as well.

If you want to go for a bigger cage, you’ll need to look for an Ikea Detolf. That’s basically a big standing shelf. You put it on its side, remove the shelves, and make a wire mesh to cover the top if need be.

The only problem with the Detolf is that it’s heavy, and big. So wherever you put it, that’s where it’s going to stay. Cleaning the Detolf is going to require a few more steps, but it’s doable.

What is brings though is almost double the space the cage I mentioned above does. So no hamster would feel cramped in a Detolf.

2. Choose safe and healthy bedding for the hamster

Another big and important step to make is to provide the hamster with bedding (or substrate). That’s what the hamster will live on, eat on, sleep on, pee on, and generally live all his life on.

It needs to be a safe and healthy, and you need to be able to provide lots of it. Hamsters generally dig into their bedding, so giving your hammy at least an inch/2-3 cm of bedding is a minimum.

You can find several hamster bedding options are in this article, you can pick whichever you think works best.

The safest bedding you can provide your hamster is aspen wood shavings. All hamsters react well to aspen, and it’s a type of bedding readily available in most parts of the world.

Another option is paper bedding, however that’s not as easy to find as aspen shavings.

When you go out looking for the wood shavings, please make sure to stay away from cedar and pine shavings. Sometimes they’re sold for pets, but for small animals like hamsters those wood types are too strong.

Their smell will suffocate the hamster, who has a very sensitive nose to begin with anyway.

A good example is this one for aspen shavings. The bag comes in different sizes, so it can last you anywhere from a few months to a couple of years, depending on which size you get.

You will only need to replace the hamster’s bedding once per week, so it also depends on how much bedding you put down into the cage.

It’s a dust-free bag of wood shavings, which is important hen dealing with small animals. Respiratory problems can and do some up when the hamster has contact with dust. A dust-free bedding will keep him safe from that point of view.

You can check the listing on Amazon here, and read the reviews as well.

You also need to know about hamster nesting materials. Now, there’s nesting material you can buy, yes. But that’s almost always textile based. It’s a type of fluff, which does keep the hamster very warm. It’s a lot like the stuffing inside a teddy bear.

But the problem is that kind of material can get tangled around the hamster and suffocate him. Or get tangled in his teeth (hamsters always pouch their nesting material) and end very gruesomely.

So what can you use ?  Toiled paper, unscented. Plain tissues. Plain paper towels. Bits of cardboard. Rip them into strips and shreds, and watch you hamster decorate his home. He’ll build a big and warm nest out of all of those things and sleep like an angel.

3. Choose toys and a hideout to keep the hamster entertained

The toys you choose for your hamster are important. Partly because a hamster can get bored if he’s got nothing to do in his cage. And partly because they need to be safe for the hamster and help file down his teeth.

This means that hamsters will need plenty of wood or cardboard based toys. They can and will chew on absolutely everything in their cage. So for this reason wooden chews are a must, and cardboard too.

Most toys can be either DYIed at home out of cardboard rolls, or bought from a store. This means the hamster can have an egg carton with holes in it an enjoy himself, using it as a hide and seek toy. You can even place a treat at one end of the carton and it’s just turned into a puzzle toy.

You can also place a walnut inside the hamster’s cage. Make sure to remove any dirt off the walnut, and leave it whole in the hamster’s cage, He’ll go crazy over it and try to open it.

He can’t, since he’s no squirrel. But he’ll try, and file down his teeth in the process. Hamster teeth always grow, so this is crucial.

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Teddy, very proud of his nest and his interior decorating skills

The most important thing in the hamster’s cage though, is his hideout. He will build a nest anyway, in the most hidden corner he can find.

But he will feel more secure and safe in a hideout. It provides shelter, warmth, and a feeling of safety for the hamster.

In the wild his nest would be in the ground, quite a few feet deep.

It would be a series of tunnels, well hidden from any predators. In a cage though, he can’t do that.

But a hideout is the next best thing.

That hideout absolutely needs to be made of wood for two reasons:

  1. It will absorb moisture and release it outside. It’s basically breathable, and the hamster won’t have a damp nest, which means he won’t get a cold, or wet fur easily.
  2. Hamsters chew everything, even the hideout/nest. Wood is safe for them, and they even chew in their sleep. So it’s important that the hideout is of a safe material, not plastic or ceramic.

A good example of a wooden hideout is this one. It’s a lot like my Teddy’s hideout actually. It’s big enough for a Syrian hamster, and it will also fit a Dwarf hammy.

The wood is safe to chew on, and it has plenty of ventilation with all 3 holes available. They’ll be blocked with nesting material by the hamster, but he will still get fresh air.

A hideout like this one will keep the hamster his whole life, unless he decides to use this as his one and only chew toy. Even then, it would take him quite some time to get through all that wood.

You can check the listing on Amazon, and read the reviews as well.

4. Know what foods and treats are okay, and how much water he needs

When it comes to food, you’ll be glad to hear hamsters can eat almost anything. But they do have a specific diet. The usually eat lots of grains, with a few vegetables and fruit thrown in for good measure.

Nuts and seeds are okay too, as is a bit of protein in the form of cooked plain chicken, or even a mealworm or two.

Actually most foods that are safe for hamsters are already in your fridge or pantry. The only problem is that they need a very specific diet, which you can always supplement with food from your kitchen.

A good hamster mix will have his ideal diet in mind, and provide lots of vitamins and minerals as well. For example this one will last you quite a few months, because hamsters do not each very much.

For a Syrian hamster two teaspoons per day are enough, and for Dwarf types just one teaspoon is enough. Hamsters will hide their food in their nest, so don’t panic if you see the food bowl is empty after a few minutes.

This mix lasts long and is among the best for hamsters.

You can check the listing on Amazon here, and read the reviews as well.

Aside from the hamster commercial mix, you can give your hamster treats like bits of carrots, a plain peanut, a leaf of spinach and so on. He will enjoy the treat.

But if your hamster is a diabetic hamster, keep fruits away from him. Carrots, corn, and sweet potatoes are off limits as well.

5. Clean the cage and keep things sanitary

Cleaning the hamster’s cage is the first way to make sure the cage does not get smelly, and the hamster stays healthy. Cleaning should be done once per week, and only clean the pee corner every few days.

The thing about hamsters is that they’re very clean animals. They groom themselves constantly, almost as much as a cat does. So the hamster himself does not smell.

However what does smell is the corner in which the hamster usually pees. This is always the corner farthest away from the hideout, and it’s usually wet or at least damp.

That corner can be scooped up every few days, and you can place new bedding in that corner. But once a week, a full cleaning is needed. That means taking the cage apart, putting the hamster in a safe place (like his travel cage), and cleaning everything.

You can find a whole tutorial on cleaning the hamster’s cage here. Including how to proceed in the case of a sick hamster, and what you should be aware of before you start cleaning any hamster’s cage, sick or not.

6. Get the hamster plenty of exercise

Hamsters are runners, for the most part. Some will love to climb or dig more than running. But most hamsters will enjoy running, and that’s what they will need to do to expend all that energy.

Keep in mind that a hamster can run as much as 9 km/5.5 miles in a single night. That’s a whole lot of running for a creature so small. So make sure you get your hamster an outlet for all that energy.

This means providing him with a big enough hamster exercise wheel, and you can choose which is best for your hammy.

A wheel will allow him to run as far and as much as his little feet can take him. It’s important that the wheel is a large enough one, because a small wheel can give the hamster back problems.

You see, hamsters don’t have a straight-ish spine. They look like they’re hunched over all the time, because they actually are.

Their spines need to remain mostly hunched even when running. A straight spine can be odd for them, and a backward bent spine is actually painful.

So this means you need to get he biggest sized wheel your hamster can comfortable run on.

For example this one is a 9 inch/23 cm wide wheel, and it will fit pretty much any hamster. It’s also got not middle fixture, so the hamster has nothing to hurt his back on.

It stays where you put it, and it’s a very silent kind of wheel. It won’t wake you up in the night (like Teddy did with us when he was younger).

It’s got a tail and foot guard, which means your hamster friend won’t catch important appendages in the wheel when he’s running. This is especially important for the Chinese hamster.

You can check the listing on Amazon here, and read the reviews as well.

7. Tame the hamster and interact with him often

Taming the hamster is going to be either a breeze or a story to pass down onto your grandchildren. Some hamsters get used to their owners and warm up to them in just a few days, and some hamsters will never be okay with being picked up.

It varies from hamster to hamster, and it also depends on how much patience you’ve got. Taming a hamster takes time, and consistency. It’s not hard, but it can be very slow.

It’s also a bit hard to read the hamster’s reactions. If he’s not biting or running away, it’s a good sign. But noticing whether he actually likes something or not ? Your guess is as good as mine.

Hamsters are easy to bribe with food though, so that’s always going to help.

You’ll need to interact with the hamster constantly to gain and keep his trust. He might not always sit still so you can pet him, and he might not always like it when you pick him up. But in time he will learn to associate you and your hands with food and good things.

Even if you’re not doing much, at least talk to the hammy. He’ll come up to the side of the cage to hear you out. He won’t understand a word, but at lest you’ve got his attention.

8. Find a good veterinarian, in case something happens

Hamsters don’t need regular trips to the vet, and they don’t get sick often. For the most part hamsters will only stay in their cages, unless take out. This means the only moment they can get sick is if someone sick interacts with them.

Or, if they become much too stressed or the cage is very dirty, and they develop wet-tail. But aside from that, hamsters aren’t sickly animals.

That being said, when a hamster does get sick, it can get very serious, very fast. And you’re going to need a good vet for that.

You’ll need to look for an ”exotics” vet. That’s a vet who has experience with rodents, reptiles, and birds as well. Such a vet will be able to help more than a regular cat and dog veterinarian.

You can find out more about choosing a good vet for your hamster here.

9. Be aware of his health problems and how to spot them

When it comes to the hamster’s usual health problems, there aren’t as many as us humans can have, but they are serious. You can find a list of the main health problems here, and how to treat them.

Of all the threats to a hamster’s well-being, wet-tail is the most notorious. This is a type or diarrhea, and it can become deadly in a matter of days.

Hamsters usually contract it either from an already infected hamster, from an overly dirty cage, or through high stress levels which can disrupt their normal digestive system.

Tumors and lumps are not uncommon, infections are about as common as they are in humans. Infections can be treated with antibiotics, but tumors can sometimes be impossible to remove without putting the hamster at too much risk.

Hammies can lose their eyesight and become blind, and this is usually a sign of old age. Blindness can come earlier than that in some cases though. While hamsters don’t really use their eyes, they are still vulnerable and can become injured or infected.

There are treatments for almost all of the hamster’s health problems, and most of them are meant to be administered by a vet.

(If you like this article so far, you can pin it to your Pinterest board by clicking the image below. The article continues after the image.)

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10. Know the hamster’s reproduction and gestation period

Hamsters reproduce in large litters. They can fall pregnant very often – every 4 days actually – and their gestation period is short. Only 16-22 days, depending on which hamster type you’ve got.

So if you brought home a pair of Dwarf hammies, and one of them seems to be too fluffy, you’ll find out in 2-3 weeks if you’ve got a pregnant female on your hands.

This can happen because pet shops sometimes separate the hamsters into gender specific groups either too late, or misgender a male and put him with females.

To find out more about finding your hamster’s gender, you should read here. The gender becomes important from week 4 of life, when the hamster babies are weaned by their mother. That’s when they can also start breeding, and sometimes unwanted accidents can happen.

Once the hamster has reached 10 weeks, he or she may be introduced to the opposite sex, if you’re looking to breed them for a new liter. Pregnancies started past week 14 are not safe though, so keep an eye on the hamster’s age.

For more info on the mating ritual and the reproduction itself, you will need to read here. And read here to make sure the babies survive until they are adults. New momma hamsters can be unpredictable.

11. Figure out which breed of hamster you have

There are 5 main types of hamsters, 3 of which are Dwarf types. The 3 Dwarf types are hard to tell apart, but the Syrian is the largest and the Chinese is the only one with a noticeable tail.

There are essential differences between the Syrian hamster and every other hamster out there. Including where they all came from, actually. Hamsters have only been pets for the past century or so, and they have some pretty rugged ancestors.

Why does the breed matter ? In a way, it doesn’t. There aren’t severe temperament differences between hamster breeds like there are between dog breeds.

Still, not all hamsters can live together. Only the Dwarf types can come to tolerate a sibling or two, as long as they were never separated since they were babies. Obviously, they need to be of the same gender, otherwise you’ll become a grandparent, not the way you’d like.

Even so, I wouldn’t recommend putting any hamster in a cage with another hamster, Dwarf or not. Cohabiting is very rough, and there will be quarrels between the hamsters. To a certain degree they’re normal, as any sibling quarrels are.

But, they can always degenerate into serious fights, sometimes deadly. For this reason I strongly recommend you keep each and every hamster in his own cage.

12. Know what behavior to expect from a hamster

Remember that hamsters are prey animals. This means that they’re used to running away, and hiding. They won’t really stay put so you can pick them up. It’s not their nature.

So expect a certain degree of fear and jumpiness from your hamster. He will freeze up from time to time, for no immediate reason. He’s actually listening for predators, and learning the various sounds that go around in your home, and outside of it.

A hamster will sleep most of the day, and only wake up at dusk. He’ll come put when his instincts tell him no predators are around. And he’ll stay up most of the night, and go back into his nest once dawn comes.

He might make a couple of sounds, but aside from that he’s a very quiet pet. What you might hear though, is the sound of him chewing on something to wear down his teeth. He does this often, and it’s as important to him as brushing our teeth is to us.

If your hammy doesn’t warm up to you very fast, don’t be disappointed. That’s a fairly normal reaction from a small animal used to being chased through the desert by animals much larger than himself. You’re not very different from the big animals chasing his ancestors.

Other than that, hamsters are a loveable bunch, prone to all kinds of weird acrobatics. My Teddy was one hell of a climber when he was young, he was all over the cage.

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absolute greediness and munching on everything is to be expected

13. Have a sitter for him when you leave town

Hamsters can’t really be left to their own devices when you leave town. Much like fish or a pet turtle, your hamster is going to need someone to come over and feed him daily.

Hammies do survive for a few days with no food or water. But I don’t think you’ll want to find out just how much your hamster can last like that.

Best to have someone to take care of him, even if it’s just giving him food and changing the water.

14. Know that hamsters are very sensitive animals

Hamsters are sensitive to everything. The light levels, the noise levels, the temperature, the stress levels, being handled too much, being handled too little, being held wrong, and drafts.

So you’re going to have a to be a very careful person if you’re going to look out for a hamster. Most of their sensitivities stem from the fact that they’re mostly nocturnal animals, so they react to light levels and sounds. The other is that they are very very bad at managing stress factors.

This means that about half of their health problems come from how stressed they are. Given the fact that these creatures are almost always on high alert, they’re also high-strung all the time. So not a very good thing.

It’s also very hard to not scare a hamster. Really, they’re so on edge that even getting up can trigger them. Walking past their cage. Sneezing within a few feet of them is a cataclysmic event.

In truth this is because hamsters have very poor eyesight. So if you sit quietly and fairly still, he won’t even know you’re there. That means when you move he’s going to have a small heart attack. He didn’t even notice you, when did you get there ?

15. Know your hamster’s lifespan and what old age looks like

Another thing to be aware of is how long your hamster will live. this will vary from hamster breed to hamster breed, but in general a hamster’s lifespan will be around 2-3 years.

Hamsters are adults when they reach 3 months age, and they’re considered old when they reach their 2nd birthday. This means an old hamster will happen upon you faster than you’d think at first.

Some hamsters don’t show their age, and some hamsters look very old even before their first birthday. Health problems become more common, walking becomes slow, and they slowly start to wither away.

Old hamsters will need special care from you, and you can read up on this here.

A word from Teddy

I hope you found what you were looking for in this article. I know us hamsters look like cute and cuddle little things, but we do require a certain level of care. Hopefully this article gave you a lot of insight into what owning a hammy looks like.

If you want to know more about us hamsters you should check out the related articles below. You’ll learn how to keep us safe and happy, and what we need for a good life.

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Why Do Hamsters Scratch Themselves ? About Your Hammy’s Fur
Why Do Hamsters Scratch Themselves ? About Your Hammy’s FurIs your hamster scratching himself ? Or is he just grooming himself and it just looks odd ? Scratching is part of every animal’s life. We humans scratch too, sometimes without a serious medical reason. So let’s see why hamsters scratch themselves, and how you can help if there is a problem. Table of Contents ToggleSo why do hamsters scratch themselves ?A little scratching is normalHamsters can get skin conditions tooDon’t confuse scratching with groomingA word from Teddy So why do hamsters scratch themselves ? For the most part hamsters scratch themselves because something is itching them. Much like us humans, actually. Sometimes it’s a skin condition like a rash, or possibly a parasite like a flea and their bites itch. Other times it’s not something clear, like when your nose itches for no apparent reason. And finally, hamsters scratch themselves as part of their grooming ritual. Sometimes they feel there’s something in their fur, and scratching is the only real way to get it out. Unless the hamster is repeatedly scratching the exact same spot over several days, losing fur in that spot, developing a rash, or even drawing blood by scratching, there is nothing to worry about. A little scratching is normal Hammies do get itchy noses, or paws, or ears from time to time. They’re not always easy to explain, like a flea bit them. Sometimes things just itch, for no good reason. So, they scratch. You’ve probably had an itchy nose or ear or leg for no real reason.  This is true for hamsters as well, actually for all animals. Skin is sensitive across all species, and something as silly as a speck of dust settling on your skin can make it itch. Hamsters can get skin conditions too One reason to worry is if the hamster has developed a skin condition. This means fur coming off in patches in that area, a red patch, a scab, there can be lots of things. Let’s go through them. Ringworm is actually a fungal infection, and it can become itchy. The fur will fall off in a round patch, and that patch of skin will be dry, flaky, with a series of tiny red dots marking the edge of the patch. It’s highly contagious, and can be transmitted from the hamster to you, so use disposable gloves. Ringowm can be treated, it’s just that the hamster needs to be quarantined while he is under treatment. You should check the rest of the house for signs of an infection on the other pets or family members. Given that Ringworm is contagious, and the hamster never leaves his cage, it’s clear that the fungus somehow got to him. It if got to him someone or something already had it. You will need to find the carrier and the infected ones and treat them as well. Another possible problem is skin rashes. Sometimes the fur falls off, sometimes not. But the skin will be noticeably red, it might be dry and flaky. Scratching it might draw some blood. This can be treated, but sometimes it’s not clear what caused the rash so the treatment can be a hit or miss. Often rashes just go away on their own, without ever letting you know what the cause was. Sometimes it could be new bedding your hamster hates, it could be a treatment that the hamster reacts poorly to. Or, another possibility could be mites. Mites are tiny, tiny creatures that come to inhabit your hamster’s skin. They cling to the hamster’s hairs, and burrow inside of them. Some mites burrow inside the skin as well. This leads to some very terrible looking skin, and a very distressed hamster. However mites are definitely contagious, so it’s the same story as with Ringworm. If you hamster was just sitting there, never our of his cage, then something that already had mites somehow found its way to the hamster’s cage. 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Sometimes they might nibble on whatever they find on their nails after they’ve scratched. While it sounds gross, it’s their way of cleaning out their nails too. They pull at their fur, they comb through it with their paws a lot, and that too can look like scratching. If you’ve got a Syrian hamster, you will often see him nibbling at his hips. It’s a weird sight, but that’s actually where his scent glands are (black dots). They need a bit of cleaning too, and he spends extra time there when he is grooming. A word from Teddy I hope you found what you were looking for in this article. Us hammies scratch from time to time too, it’s just not very different from why you humans scratch. If you want to know more about us hamsters you should check out the related articles below. You’ll learn how to keep us safe and happy, and what we need for a good life. [...] Read more...
The Truth About Mineral Chews For Hamsters – And Great Alternatives
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Just be warned that the hamster will store some food in his house as well, and stale spinach or broccoli does not smell great. So, make sure that you give the hamster a small amount, that he will eat soon. For a clear list on what your hamster can eat, and what he should avoid, check out the food list article here. You’ll also find the kind of treats your hamster can eat as well. Mineral chews to stop your hamster from chewing the cage This is something I did at first, to stop Teddy from chewing on the bars. Hamster chewing on bars can be out of annoyance or their teeth growing. A hamster’s teeth will keep growing his entire life, so he must constantly chew on hard surfaces to keep them at a healthy length. If the hardest surface is the cage bars, then that’s what he will use. You can find a few cage ideas here. However you can give your hammy what I gave Teddy – wooden accessories for his cage. For example his home is entirely out of wood, and he sometimes chews on that as well. Another idea is bendy bridges, the kind that’s made out of cut tree branches and you can shape them however you want. They can be used as a toy, or even a home for your hamster. But the most important fact is that they’re made of wood, so your hamster will chew on them instead of the cage when he needs to take care of his teeth. Mineral chews are not a good idea to keep your hamster from chewing the cage or something else, because they are too soft. If your hamster is anything like my Teddy, he will tear through an entire mineral block in 20 minutes. Teddy just goes crazy when he has a mineral block, it’s like he must rip it to pieces or else. The second reason mineral chews are not good for hamsters to chew on is because they are incredibly dusty. They’re usually made up of crushed shells, tapioca, and some calcium powder, and when they break into pieces they leave a whole lot of dust. That dust is never good for your hamster. When Teddy had mineral chews he looked like a construction worker, he was covered in that dust and had to clean himself more often. (If you like this article so far, you can pin it to your Pinterest board by clicking the image below. The article continues after the image.) A few chew toy ideas for your hamster If you’re trying to give your hamster something more bearable to chew on, consider these options. These make much less noise, are better for your hamster’s teeth, and do not contain odd ingredients. Actually they’re mostly wood. Like the bendy bridges I mentioned before, or the wooden home for the hamster. Another idea would be the dense cardboard tubes that are left from aluminium foil wraps. Those are much much denser and stronger than toilet rolls, and they give the hamster more to chew on. Another idea would be whole walnuts or a very large chestnut. The point is that it must be too big for your hamster to try to shove it in his cheeks. If you make a small hole in the nut the hamster will smell it, and attempt to reach it. So he’ll chew and chew and keep his teeth in check. Finally, you can try toilet paper rolls, or paper towel rolls. As long as they are unscented, they’re fine. You can use Paper egg cartons as well, just make sure they are clean and not stained. For a more comprehensive list of toys you hamster can safely chew and play with, here is a list of store bought toys and also how to make them at home. If you’d like more info on how to properly care for your hamster, then you should check out these 15 essential steps. You’ll find out everything from what kind of cage he needs, to how much food he needs, and how to figure out which breed you’ve got. A word from Teddy I hope you understand more about us hamsters and mineral chews. We don’t really need them, since the food you give us is usually good enough and has enough minerals. If you want to keep one of us off the cage bars, you could try something made of wood. We love chewing and wood is a friendly material for us. If you want to know more about us hammies, you can check the articles below. You’ll find great info on why we eat our poop, how much water we need, and much more. [...] Read more...
Do Hamsters Like Being Held ? Hamster Affection And Training
Do Hamsters Like Being Held ? Hamster Affection And TrainingIf you’ve got a hammy you might be wondering if he likes being held. I wondered the same thing about my teddy, and I’m here to help you better understand your hammy’s need for affection and touch. We’ll talk about whether hammies like being held, how to train them to be comfortable with your hands, and a bit about their personalities in general. Table of Contents ToggleSo do hamsters like being held ?About your furry friend’s personality and habitsTraining your hamster to be comfortable with being heldStart small, but be consistent and patient with your hamsterGraduate to lifting the hamster off the ground for a inch or soPick him up with cupped hands when you think he’s okay with itHamsters and affection – do they like it ?A word from Teddy So do hamsters like being held ? This is not a straight answer. The short answer would be yes, but there are many things that must happen before your hamster is okay with you holding him. Hamsters are prey animals, and as such are not comfy with being picked up. They’ll have an instinct of pulling away, or trying to escape.  The key is making your hamster comfortable enough with you that he will allow you to pick him up. Once he is comfy with you, he does indeed like your touch. Hamsters can bond with their owners, though not all hammies do this. There are many personality aspects that need to be taken into account, and we’ll get right to it. Also keep in mind that once you’ve tamed your hamster, you’ll need to constantly handle him. Otherwise the bond can grow cold, and your hamster will need to be tamed again. About your furry friend’s personality and habits Let’s look at what the hamster goes through in the wild, so we can understand the pet hamster. After all, there isn’t much difference between wild hamsters and pet hamsters. They’ve only been with us for about a century so far, and rodents aren’t as easy to domesticate as dogs for example. In the wild a hamster will pretty much run for his life, all his life. He is hunted by almost every other animal that’s larger than him. He must hear and smell very well, and always be on alert. He even evolved to come out when his predators aren’t hunting. That being said, hammies have an instinct of being afraid of everything, and will run away or jump off if they feel threatened. Aside from all that, hamsters are solitary animals. Yes, some types of hamsters can live together, but only under certain conditions. They must be the exact same hamster type, siblings, never separated, and carefully watched. Even then, tensions come up, one is dominant, and sometimes bullying and fighting ensues. Best to keep them separated, even the Dwarf types. Now imagine a slightly grumpy, panicky, small animal, who likes being left alone, being comfy with two hands bigger than his own body picking him up. Even your first reaction would be to panic. Still, it’s possible to get your hamster to be comfortable with your big, human hands. It takes a lot of patience and consistency, but it’s totally doable. Important note, though: Even after you’ve made every effort to make your hammy comfortable, his personality is key here. If he’s a very independent, active hamster, he wont stay put. No matter how hard you try, your hamster can possibly be one of the independent types who would rather you put them down. Respect your hamster’s personality, and don’t force him into anything. My Teddy is like this. I’ve tried and tried again, with every trick and bribery I know, to get him to stay. He won’t stay in my hands for more than a few seconds at a time. There’s always something more interesting he has to see, and he’s just itching to go. He’s barely ever bitten me to let him go, and I doubt he’s stressed when I pick him up. He won’t come up on my hand, but he won’t object to me picking him up either. Bribing him with a bit of food works wonders though. Still, he’s a hamster of his own, and I love him the way he is. I’ve learned that not all hamsters are cuddly, and mine’s great just the way he is. Training your hamster to be comfortable with being held Whether your hamster will actually stay put in your hands or not, you can still train him. Hamsters are skittish, jumpy furballs, so of course they won’t stay for very long. Still, some might stay put in your hands. But in order for them to stay put, they first need to know your hand is a safe place, and they’re okay there. So let’s go through a few quick steps. This is part of the taming process, and you can find more info on taming your hamster here.  Do keep in mind that the hamster can be tamed in a few days or a few weeks. It varies from hamster to hamster, and you need to give him time. Start small, but be consistent and patient with your hamster A hamster is a skittish at first, and he won’t trust you. This is why you need to start slow, and feed him bits of food through the cage bars at first. This is aside from his usual meals. Your hammy will come to know your scent, and your voice, and associate them with food. When the hamster is okay with your smell, you can start putting your hand in the hammy’s cage. Have a treat on your hand, and he will come close. He might not have the courage to touch you and get the food, but he will come close. Keep doing this until the hamster eventually touches your hand to reach the food. Keep things like that for a couple of days. Then you can place both hands inside the hamster’s cage. Place a bit of food on the hand farthest away from the hamster. This will make the hammy have to walk over the first hand to get to the food, and thus get used to being in both hands. Once your hamster is okay with all of these steps, you can move on to the next one. (If you like this article so far, you can pin it to your Pinterest board by clicking the image below. The article continues after the image.) Graduate to lifting the hamster off the ground for a inch or so Once your hammy is okay with you, and your hands, you can place both hands on the floor of the cage and once he’s on them, lift them gently and slowly. Not much, just by an inch/2-3 cm or so. The lifting will possibly scare the hamster, so you might have to practice this for a longer time. Always keep the hamster off the ground only for a short amount of time, like 2-3 seconds. Once he’s okay with being held above the ground, you can practice cupping your hands over him. Again, only life the hammy an inch off the cage floor, and use the second hand to sort of cup/hold the hammy. Then put him back down after a couple of seconds. Your hamster need to get accustomed to being held, with both hands, and off the ground. Pick him up with cupped hands when you think he’s okay with it Once your hamster is okay with being held in cupped hands an inch of the ground, you can pick him up higher. This is probably a few days or weeks into his taming. So do not expect quick results. Once the hammy is okay with being picked up like this, he’s pretty much tamed. He might want to walk around, so you can use your hands as mobile platforms for him to walk on. Only do this very close to his cage, or right above his cage, in case the hamster jumps. Having a bit of food nearby to feed him while he’s in your hand is going to help him relax some more. Hamsters and affection – do they like it ? Alright, now your hamster’s tamed and can stay in your hands. At least for a few seconds. But does he like it ? Does he see it as a form of affection ? Well, yes, he does like affection. He’s not against it, but hamsters don’t show affection like most pets – cats and dogs for example. They’re not overly friendly or cuddly, and won’t seek you out for a hug. That being said hamsters that have bonded with their owners do like it when they’re cuddled. Any other hamster might find it as too touchy-feely. You can find out much more about whether hamsters like human affection here. And you’ll also find out a bit more about a hamster’s way of building relationships, and how he views other creatures, including you. A word from Teddy I hope you found what you were looking for here. Us hamsters do a lot of running around, but we do like being held by the person we trust. Only after a lot of taming though. If you want to know more about us hammies, you can read the related articles below. You’ll find more info on how to keep us happy and safe. [...] Read more...
Safe And Unsafe Herbs For Hamsters – What To Feed Hamsters
Safe And Unsafe Herbs For Hamsters – What To Feed HamstersIf you’re wondering if your hamster can eat parsley, or dill, rosemary, even dandelions, you’re right where you need to be. I asked myself the same thing when my girlfriend was chopping a bunch of parsley the other day, and wondered if Teddy can have some. Well, we tried giving him a little bit, and we googled and asked other hamster owner friends. This is what we found out, and you can use this list to know what kind of herbs you can give your hamster. Table of Contents ToggleSo can hamsters eat herbs like parsley or dill or rosemary ?Herbs safe for hamsters to eatHerbs your hamster should never eatWhat to feed hamsters (in general)A word from Teddy So can hamsters eat herbs like parsley or dill or rosemary ? Yes, hamsters can eat some herbs. Not all herbs, and not in large quantities. But they can still eat them. There are safe and unsafe herbs for hamsters, and we’ll look over both lists. Most of these herbs are possibly already in your cupboard (dried and ground up) or maybe in your garden, fresh and green. For the most part, hamsters rely on grains as their main source of food. So herbs while tasty, should not be given often or in large bunches. A few leaves here and there are enough. Take into account how small the hamster is too. If you’re interested to know what herbs are safe, you may also be interested in knowing the supply list a hamster will need throughout his life. You can find it here, with everything he’ll ever need. Now let’s see which herbs are safe for hamsters to eat. Herbs safe for hamsters to eat There isn’t much info available on herbs for hamsters, but this is what we found out. There will be herbs and a couple of plants in this article, just to see the general profile hamsters go for. So here are the safe hamster herbs and plants: parsley dill basil oregano sage thyme fennel mint grass alfalfa wheat sprouts marigold dandelion chamomile cornflower daisy beetroot (all the plant) ribwort plantain clover chickweed wormwood plant rose petals watercress We’ve given Teddy (male Syrian hamster) a few leaves of parsley and he ate them right up. Didn’t even pouch them, he just ate them on the spot. Our two guinea pigs love parsley too, so I guess the flavor is mild enough for small animals. When it comes to flowers, you’ll see hamsters are okay with the short-petal kind of flowers. Like marigold, dandelion, daisy and so on. They’ve got short flowers, and their pollen carriers (stamems if I remember anything from biology classes) are short, unlike for example lilies. When it comes to how much and how often you can give these herbs and plants to your hamster, there is a caveat. They are indeed safe, but only if given in small amounts, and not often. Too much can upset the hamster’s stomach. And when it comes to hamster digestive problems, those are very hard to handle since hamster stomachs are fairly different to treat than human stomachs. You’ll find some of these herbs in the hamster’s food mix too, sometimes. Or possibly in some hamster treats. A word on mint, though. While it is safe, it definitely needs to be given sparingly and in very small amounts. Too much mint can cause stomach problems even in humans, let alone small hamsters. Herbs your hamster should never eat There are such herbs, and sometimes they’re not immediately obvious. So let’s see which herbs aren’t safe for hamsters: bay laurel borage caraway/cumin cilantro catnip chervil lavender lemon grass lemon balm lemon verbena marjoram rosemary tarragon aloe vera plant skin (the gel is fine) lily tulip elder most flowers (except the ones I mentioned above) bamboo english ivy or any ivy There are a few herb-like veggies like garlic, onion, and leek. None of these are safe for hamsters, because they’re too acidic. The same goes for the lemon-related plants mentioned above (like lemongrass), since they release a lemon-like scent, taste, and oil. So there’s the whole ”don’t feed your hamster any citrus” thing again. Some of these herbs are used in human cuisine, like for example cilantro and cumin are used in most variants of curry. As for aloe vera, most aloe vera plants (and there are hundreds) are unsafe to eat. Of all the available ones, aloe barbadensis miller is the most common safe one. That being said, the skin of the plant is not good for anyone to eat. The gel, in the other hand, is safe. It’s not tasty, it’s actually bitter-sour but it has great healing properties. Too much aloe vera can upset the stomach and give your hamster a case of diarrhea. So only give it sparingly, and remember that it oxidizes very fast (it won’t keep for more than a few hours). (If you like this article so far, you can pin it to your Pinterest board by clicking the image below. The article continues after the image.) What to feed hamsters (in general) Usually a hamster’s diet consists of grains and grain-based foods (with lots of fiber), a bit of veggies, some fruits, and some protein whenever the hamster can find a bit. Nuts and peanuts are welcome too. That being said, most commercial hamster foods have a healthy mix of all food sources. So supplementing the hamster’s food with a few herbs is fine, but not entirely necessary. You can either leave the food for your hamster in his food bowl, or sprinkle it in his bedding. He’ll forage for it, and it will be a good way to keep his weight under control if he has a problem. You can read more about what hamsters can eat here, and find the general list of safe and unsafe hamster foods. You probably have some of them in your fridge or pantry already. Generally, hamsters can eat many things humans eat. Like for example carrots, cucumbers, a bit of salad (or most leafy greens), broccoli, asparagus, boiled plain chicken, plain peanuts, a slice of apple, and so on. You can find out much more in general hamster care with these 15 essential steps. A word from Teddy I hope you found what you were looking for in this article. I know us hammies are very greedy and will eat anything you give us, but there are some herbs we just can’t stand ! If you want to know more about us hamsters you should check out the related articles below. You’ll learn how to keep us safe and happy, and what we need for a good life. [...] Read more...
The Surprising Reason Your Hamster Is Eating His Own Poop
The Surprising Reason Your Hamster Is Eating His Own PoopPoop eating is never comfortable to imagine, let alone witness. But maybe you’ve seen your ball of fur do that. Maybe you were confused and grossed out like I was. After catching my Teddy do this a few times, talking to other hamster owners, and doing some research, I found out why this happens. Turns out, there is no reason to panic, and there’s actually a very good reason this happens. Table of Contents ToggleSo why is your hamster eating his poop ?Changing your hamster’s diet to stop poop eatingThe nutritional value of night poopThe dry poop you’re used to seeingYour hamster could be pooping in his foodPlace the hamster cage to avoid a messA word from Teddy So why is your hamster eating his poop ? The short answer is that there are 2 types of poop. The regular, dry droppings that you find in his cage, and then softer droppings that occur mostly at night. When your hamster is eating his poop, he is eating the night poop. These are called caecotrophia and they are necessary for your hammy. His night poop contains a lot of vitamin B12 and it’s basically the only way for him to obtain that vitamin. Also, since some nutrients are not absorbed by their bodies properly on the first go, by eating their night poop they get more nutrients. The B12 vitamin is only produced by the hamster’s small intestine, but it can only be absorbed into the body by the stomach. So that means your hammy has to bring the poop back to the stomach by eating it. That’s the short version, and it sounds kind of icky. But that’s what it is, and it is normal for your hamster. Actually a lot of rodents do this, including the guinea pig, mice, and even rabbits. Changing your hamster’s diet to stop poop eating It will not work. This is something that your hamster will do anyway, since that is simply his programming from mother nature. He needs to digest and redigest some foods in order to get all the benefits. Even if you bring more nutritional food for your hamster, he will still need to eat his poop sometimes, because his body is made that way. He needs to digest twice in order to get all the nutrients. I understand that seeing your cute friend eat his poop might look and sound icky, but this is normal for him. So let your hamster eat his night droppings, since it is a normal and healthy thing for him to do. If you want to know what to feed your hamster in general, read my  food list article here. I’ll also cover what to not give your hamster to eat, and what treats he can have. The nutritional value of night poop Your hamster needs his night poop for one very good reason. Once he eats something, it passes through his stomach and gut, and he gets a part of the nutrition he needs. Once that food forms into droppings and comes out, your hamster will eat it, to bring it back to his stomach so he can get more nutrition from it. This is something your hamster does when he is a baby as well. When the baby hamsters are born, their gut does not contain the necessary bacteria to break down their food. Also, they do not immediately know what is food and what is not. So, they will eat their mother’s night poop, to get the bacteria they need for their own gut. And also to learn what can be food. (If you like this article, you can pin it to your Pinterest board by clicking the image below. The articles continues after the image.) The dry poop you’re used to seeing That’s the poop we all know our hamsters have, and the ones you see in their cage when you clean the cage. Those droppings are dry and hard, and sometimes your hamster might leave them in weird places. I’ve seen Teddy poop in his food bowl, hoard poop in his house, and store it in his cheeks sometimes. The oddest part was when we’d just cleaned his cage, and we knew there was no poop inside. After we put him back into the cage, we saw 5 new droppings. He didn’t have time to poop, but he’d kept them in his cheeks along with a bit of food. I’ve seen him sometimes throw the dry poop across his ‘room’, or even spit it out of his cage. It’s never funny to step on a dry poop and only realize it after a few minutes when you feel something weird on your sock. But it happens, and it’s part of owning a hamster. Your hamster will not eat the dry poop, since it has no nutritional value. Your hamster could be pooping in his food It’s strange, but you’ll find the poop everywhere. Everywhere. In your hamster’s food bowl. In his home. In his sand bath. You have to understand that animals, especially rodents, don’t care about their droppings as much as humans do. With rodents, and including your hamster as well as mine, the poop happens everywhere they live. You’ll find a large amount in his nest, since that’s where he spends most of his time. If your hamster’s cage smells, it’s not the poop. For humans the dry poop the hamster makes is nearly odorless. What smells is where the hamster pees, which will usually be in a corner. If you’re not careful, repeatedly using the same corner for his needs will make that corner very hard to clean. So I’d recommend getting some mineral sand for your hamster, and placing a few tablespoons in the corners, for easier cleaning. And to  trap odor as well. Place the hamster cage to avoid a mess This is something I’ve learned the hard way. I’ve always kept Teddy’s cage just on the carpet, and found out soon enough that the dry poop can cling to the carpet. Even if it’s dry, it’s a bit sticky. And depending on the color of your carpet, you might not know it’s there until you squished it into the fibers. So what I’d recommend is what I did, which is keep the cage on a piece of cardboard, or cloth that can easily be cleaned or even just shaken clean. Your hamster will probably spit out some dry poop around his cage, along with some stray bedding. And while poop is easier to get rid of, bedding is like glitter. 4 months later you still have bedding around the house, and you’ll find it in your pants as well. So make sure you place the cage on something that can be removed easily, and is easy to clean. As for the cage itself, check out my article on the best cages for hamsters. You’ll see the pros and cons of each cage type, and which have the most bedding spill-over. For more info on how to properly care for your little hamster friend, you can check out these 15 essential steps. You’ll get everything from what kind of food to what temperature he needs, and how to figure out what kind of hamster you’ve got. A word from Teddy I know this is not a topic you want to think about very much, but this is normal for us. We need the night poop to get all the nutrients we can from our food. This does not mean you’re not feeding us right ! It’s just that we have to do this, because of the way we’re made. I hope you’ll still see us as the cute ball of fluff you’re used to, and let us do our thing in peace. If you want to know more about us hamsters, and what the bet cage would be, or why we need a certain temperature in the room, and even why we’re night creatures, you can check the articles below. You’ll find more quality content on hamster care and facts. [...] Read more...
Understanding Dwarf Hamster Behavior – An Owner’s Guide
Understanding Dwarf Hamster Behavior – An Owner’s GuideAll animals communicate with one another with their body language, and that includes humans, even though we tend to focus on speaking, more than showing someone what we mean with our body. Hamsters, however, aren’t that good at articulated speech, so the only way they can communicate with other hamsters and with their owners is through their body. They can say “Hello.”, “Back off!” or “I’m hungry.” in many different ways. You’re always going to want to understand your hamster and what it’s trying to say, as that’s the best way of understanding your hamster’s needs and desires. Today, we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at all these things that hamsters do to tell us or show us something. In this article, we’ll show you all the ways hamsters can use body language to explain that they need or want something, what does it mean, and what are some changes in hamster behavior that should raise concerns. Without further ado, let’s get started! Behavior Meanings in Dwarf Hamsters. There are many behaviors that may intrigue you with your hamster, so we’ll be explaining all of them. Being active at night – many owners actually don’t know this before they purchase their hamster, but most rodents are primarily night dwelling creatures. You shouldn’t be surprised if you hear your hamster running around their cage at night – that’s a sign of a perfectly happy and healthy hamster. The reason behind this is their poor eyesight, as they don’t really rely on their eyes. Hamsters tend to sniff around if they’re looking for anything and want to identify something, so night and day doesn’t really make too much of a difference to them. You can even hear them running on their wheel during the night, as they need a lot of exercises, as well. Chewing – you’re definitely going to notice that your hamster seems to be chewing a lot on a regular basis, even when they don’t have anything to chew on. This is completely normal. What they’re actually doing is filing and grinding their own teeth. Many animals, for example, sharks, have their teeth growing from the day they’re born until the day they die. Hamsters belong to this group of animals, as well. If they don’t file and grind their teeth regularly they’re going to become too long and that’s going to cause issues when they’re eating. Cheek stuffing – probably everyone knows that hamsters stuff their cheeks, it’s part of what makes them so adorable. They actually put food in their cheeks to carry it back to their den in order to hide it. The reason they do this is their natural instinct. In the wilderness, they would have to hide their food to keep it safe from other hamsters and other animals. Although there may be no need for that when they’re living in captivity, hamsters will still instinctively do this. They’ll stuff their cheeks full of food and bring that food back to their den, where they’ll hide it. Don’t let your hamster fool you into thinking that you didn’t give them enough food, as it’s likely that there’s more than enough, it’s just that they’ve hidden it. Hamster mamas actually stuff their babies into their cheeks to carry them to the den. And if they feel that the babies are in danger, they will even put their babies in their cheeks to protect them. Burrowing – hamsters burrow in order to hide from any potential threat, this is completely normal behavior, and you shouldn’t worry. You have to understand that hamsters have no defensive capabilities, they can only bite their attacker, but that’s almost useless as their teeth can’t do much damage. If a hamster bites you, they’ll likely draw some blood, but that’s about it. Unlike dogs who can bite, cats who can scratch (not to mention large cats who can rip other animals apart), and snakes who can kill with their venom – hamsters are completely defenseless. Evolution has placed them at the bottom of the food chain, and their only defense system is to run and hide. They do this instinctively, and you may even find them hiding long after they’ve bonded with you and started seeing you as someone they trust. It should be noted that hamsters are very scared animals – because they’re naturally defenseless, they fear everything – that way there’s always on the lookout for danger. Your hamster is most likely going to take a month or two to adjust to the tone and color of your voice, your scent, and your presence. However, you’ll probably see it hiding from you even after that. You can’t exactly change this – no matter how much your hamster may trust you, it’s always going to fear sudden movement, loud noise, light flashing, etc. Observing you with its ears erect – this is actually funny, but hamsters will watch you just as much as you watch them. When they feel that they’re not in danger, your hamster will try to observe you and see what you’re doing. We’re saying ‘try to observe’, because they have terrible eyesight and won’t be able to see much. When you notice your hamster watching you with its ears in an erect position, know that it’s just curious about what’s going on. Grooming – Grooming is an essential part of your hamster’s life, and it’s completely normal to notice them grooming a lot. They will spend hours upon hours of their awake life grooming themselves – they’re some of the most well-groomed pets, alongside cats (ironically). It’s important for them to groom as their hair, just like their teeth, never stops growing. Well, it slows down once they get old. Something that you should keep an eye on is patches of skin where there’s no fur. If you notice that your hamster has actually itched or groomed its own fur out, that probably means that your hamster’s sick in some way. It may be something simple, like mites, but you’ll still want to take it to the vet. With age, hamsters will become lazy – but that’s all for a good reason. Their fur will grow less with age, and it’s completely normal for them to spend less time on grooming when there’s no need for grooming. Yawning and stretching – all animals yawn, and all animals stretch, not just humans. When you notice that your hamster is yawning and/or stretching, it’s because it feels comfortable and safe in its current environment. This is actually a great sign for you, as it means that it feels comfortable around you. Stretching leaves the hamster vulnerable, and the fact that it’s willing to do that around you is a clear sign that your hamster trusts you. Eating out of your hand – while we’re at the topic, here’s another great behavior sign that your hamster trusts you. If a hamster is willing to eat out of your hand, it’s basically telling you that you’ve earned its trust. When an animal is eating, any animal (including humans), it’s at its most vulnerable. Snakes like to hide when they eat and remain dormant for weeks after digesting, most animals that live in pits like to move back to that pit to enjoy their meal. If a hamster is willing to eat straight out of your hand when it’s at its most vulnerable – it must really trust you. Biting the cage – you may sometimes notice that a hamster is biting its cage. This is textbook attention-seeking, so it means that you should take your hamster out and play with it. Rubbing their heads against the cage – this behavior has nothing to do with the previous example. Hamsters will rub their heads against the cage, especially the metal bars if they find their cage to be too small. This isn’t something you should ignore – small cages will stress your hamster out. You have to understand that hamsters are very sensitive, and if just one thing is out of order, they’ll lose their minds. If they can’t spend their energy if their cage is too small, or if they’re hungry – the result is always the same; the hamster gets stressed out. This is dangerous because smaller animals, hamsters included, are known to die from stress – their hearts can literally give out from stress. It’s also harmful because the hamster will often lose hair on its face when it rubs it on the metal bars. Biting – if your hamster bites you, it’s out of one of two reasons. Firstly, we’ve already explained that their eyesight is terrible. If you put your finger in the cage and the hamster bites it, it might just be trying to find out if your finger is actually food. This is especially often if you haven’t washed your hands, as you bring many scents with you that way (and if you’ve been eating before that, the hamster will definitely smell the food). That’s why it’s always important to wash your hands before interacting with your hamster. The second reason why your hamster may be biting you is to tell you to back off. Hamsters fear everything, and if you were a small animal and all of a sudden a giant finger was approaching you, you’d likely try to run away from it, as well. However, once they have nowhere to run to, they’ll bite back. Even if you’re well acquainted with your hamster and it knows you well, it’s still likely going to bite you in this situation. You need to interact with your hamster slowly, just how you would interact with a dog – let it sniff your hand. And even after that, don’t poke at the hamster. Nibbling – hamsters will usually start to nibble if they’re being handled and they’ve had enough of it. Return the hamster to its cage. Ears forward with cheek pouches puffed up and mouth open – this usually means that the hamster is frightened. There’s something stressing it in its current environment and you should remove that something. Emptying their cheek pouches quickly – hamsters that do this are usually under some kind of threat and they need to empty their pouches in order to run away quickly. This means that something has startled your hamster. Standing on hind legs with dukes up – this is your hamster telling you to back off. Although this will happen rarely, this is basically your hamster telling you that it’s feeling threatened and it will have to get aggressive if you don’t back off. Acting startled when you’re approaching it – this means that your hamster still hasn’t adjusted to its environment and to you as an owner. This is completely normal during the first few months of your relationship, as it takes a lot of time for hamsters to fully adapt to their owners. Sleeping during the day – completely normal. Hamsters are mostly nocturnal animals, so the fact that they’re sleeping during the day is the equivalent of humans sleeping during the night, nothing wrong with that. Squeaking – squeaking can mean many things in many different animal languages. Hamsters squeak when they’re in distress or feel scared. This is basically a universal sign for feeling agitated. You’re likely going to notice this when you’re taking the hamster to your home for the first time. They’re also likely to squeak if they’re in pain or if they’re fighting. If you have two hamsters in the same cage and hear them squeaking, they might be fighting. Chattering – if you hear your hamster chattering with their teeth, that likely means that they need more space. This doesn’t mean that you need to buy a larger cage, but that you need to back off, give them some breathing room, because you’re irritating them and they might bite you. Hissing – although this sign is mostly connected to snakes, not furry pets like hamsters, they can his too. This usually means that they’re feeling very agitated or afraid, although it can happen when they have been startled too. Ears laid back with narrow eyes – this is actually similar to how humans behave in the same situation, as well. This means that the hamster is suspicious of something going on – they’ve noticed something that drew their attention and they need to investigate it. Lying on its back with incisors showing – this is another sign of a frightened and threatened hamster that doesn’t want to be messed with. Give your hamster some breathing room. Slowly moving around – this means that the hamster is exploring. It’s likely that your hamster will keep exploring for the first few weeks when you bring it home, it’s completely normal and shouldn’t raise any concerns. Creeping slowly along the sides of the cage – this means that the hamster is unsure of their bearings and they’re just trying to figure out where they are. Playing dead – this is one of the techniques hamsters use to evade being eaten or disturbed by other animals and predators. This is actually a method that many animals utilize, and hamsters are no different. If you notice that your hamster appears to be frozen, it’s because it’s playing dead. Unless it’s actually dead, but that’s a whole other barrel of monkeys (check by poking it). Unresponsiveness – if you find your hamster being unresponsive to your presence (which is highly unlikely, hamsters are always going to react to your presence, either positively or negatively, but they’re definitely going to react), they may be ill. Laziness – if you notice that your hamster’s acting lazy or lethargic, it may be another sign of your hamster being ill. Behavior change in Dwarfs hamsters Although it’s not behavioral, we feel that we may need to address that illnesses can be recognized by physical changes in appearance. Especially losing weight and fur. Two hamsters fighting – all males in the animal kingdom fight to assert dominance. If you notice your hamsters fighting, it may be over territory or to assert dominance. Be sure to separate them. Also know that if you have a male and a female hamster, the male hamster is going to try to mate every time the female is in heat (which is literally every four days) – and if the female doesn’t want to mate, it can actually kill the male. So you should keep your male and female hamsters separated if you don’t want this issue, and also if you don’t want literally hundreds of hamsters a year, since hamsters breed like crazy and you’ll be way in over your head very quickly. Repeating a specific behavior all over again – when hamsters do this it’s usually a sign that they’re not doing well mentally. This is most often due to a monotonous lifestyle – we’ve already explained that these animals are crazily active, and you need to keep them interested if you want them to live a healthy and happy life. You should buy some toys and consider purchasing a larger cage. Not eating or drinking – this is always a cause for concern, regardless of the species. When an animal isn’t eating, it usually means that it’s ill in some way. You should definitely take your hamster to the vet. This will often be followed by the animal losing fur and weight. Not chewing – hamsters have to chew to shred their teeth, we’ve already discussed this. When a hamster stops chewing, it usually means that you should be concerned. You will also notice if your hamster’s teeth are too long. You should take your hamster to the vet. Uncharacteristic hiding – we’ve said that hamsters hide when they’re afraid or stressed, but if your hamster keeps hiding all the time for no apparent reason, it should be a sign of concern. There’s something in your hamster’s environment disturbing it and you should try to find out what it is so you could remove it. Female Dwarf hamster behavior Female hamsters go in heat periodically, every four days. That period lasts for 12 hours. When they’re in heat, you’ll notice that they’re crouching and raising their tail. This is an invitation to mate. You’ll also notice a different smell in the air around the cage – these are the pheromones that the female is releasing to attract the male. When a female is pregnant (pregnancy usually lasts between 18 and 30 days, depending on the individual hamster), you will notice that the female is constantly burrowing and digging. This is because it’s building a better nest for her offspring. You’ll notice that these activities are particularly intensifying right before she gives birth. Mothers will be very protective of their young when they’ve given birth, and they won’t allow anyone (not even you) to come near their young. They won’t even allow the father to approach the babies. During this time, you’ll notice the mother becoming very stressed, very active, constantly running around, digging, carrying pellets, etc. When a hamster is behaving similarly to a cat, slinking around its cage, it’s probably trying to tell you that it’s in pain. “Often when in pain, a hamster may hunch his back slightly, and take very small steps,” says Dr. Kerry Kraemer, DVM, of Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago. “He may also be restless, and possibly show difficulties in getting comfortable. If you observe this type of movement, be sure to handle the hamster carefully, as pain may cause the animal to bite.” Waving their hands – if you see your hamster waving its little paws, it’s actually a sign of them exploring their surroundings. Hamsters have really bad eyesight, so they rely on their other senses to explore. When they want to know what’s around them, they’ll often stand on their hind feet and raise their front feet and wave them around, resembling a human. The hamster appears to be begging – if it seems like the hamster is begging, it’s not actually good to approach it. Sometimes, a hamster will stand on its hind legs with its front paws hanging limply, and many people will judge this as the hamster begging. It’s actually being watchful, and that can turn to aggression. Even though yawning is most often just that – yawning, sometimes it can actually indicate displacement behavior or an aggressive display. Yawning is often visible in aggressive, stressed, and pre-sleeping hamsters. If you see your hamster yawning, it’s best to leave it be. The exact opposite of that would be nipping – as hamsters are known to nip their owners when they want attention. If you let your hamster out of its cage and it nips your finger while it’s playing with you on the couch – it’s probably inviting you to interact with it more. Hamsters are very well known as a sensitive species, and they’ll definitely let you know that as soon as you decide to adopt one. As soon as something isn’t going their way, they’ll be sure to let you know. You should always keep an eye on the signs that your hamster is unsatisfied with something, signs saying that there’s a problem you shouldn’t ignore. You may see hamsters as animals that are just behaving animalistic, but their body language is actually quite complex and they’re trying to send messages. It’s important that you interpret these messages properly and that you behave accordingly. If there’s something wrong with your hamster’s surroundings – change them. Don’t be afraid of interacting with your hamster, most signs that are telling you to back off are going to be pretty obvious – hissing, scratching, etc. We’ve covered all signs of hamster behavior that are available for interpretation and that have actually been interpreted. Dwarf hamsters behave like most other hamsters, the only hamsters that actually somewhat different from their cousins in the behavioral department are Syrian and Chinese hamsters, so you can even use this guide if you have some other breed of hamsters. What’s also important to know is that all progress in a relationship with an animal is going to take some time, so you shouldn’t hurry it. Know how to read your hamster’s body language, know what it means, and know-how you should react to it. There’s no reason for you to not be able to communicate with your hamster, even though it can’t use words. Hamsters can grow to become loving animals, but you’re going to need to learn their language to build a trusting relationship that’s not going to be slowed down by the barrier of understanding. Feel free to consult this guide whenever you’re in doubt about what your hamster’s trying to say. [...] Read more...