How To Choose Your First Hamster – Health And Temperament

If you’re looking to get a hamster, you’ll want to know how to choose your first hamster. Getting a hammy for the first time is exciting, and a big responsibility, even if he’s so small.

Even if you’re not headed out the door to find your furry friend right now, there’s a few things you should know before you get a 2-3 year commitment. I wish I knew some of these when I first got my Teddy (Syrian male hammy).

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How to choose your first hamster

The best way to choose a hamster is to look both for a healthy one, but also a even-tempered hamster. Hamsters are skittish and jumpy by nature, but they should be relatively easy to tame, and not very afraid of you.

It’s easier to find a healthy hamster than a calmer, cooperative hamster. Most of the health checks are obvious and immediately noticeable, like scabs, missing teeth, bald spots, leaky nose, etc.

The temperament however is a bit trickier, and won’t show completely until the hamster becomes an adult – around 3 months old. Until then, you’ll have to look for some specific signs.

Let’s start with the health checklist, to see if your future hammy is healthy.

The hamster’s health

A healthy hamster  is easy enough to find, although some signs of illness won’t be immediately obvious. Some depend on the sex and breed of hamster you’re looking for as well.

The hamster’s eyes

A hammy’s eyes are supposed to be bright, and clear. Now hamsters usually have black eyes, but they can also be dark red, red, or even pink, and some look like a very deep dark blue.

However the color should be clear, with no milky or whitish spots. They should not be hazy.

Bright, sparkly, bulging eyes are a trait that hammies are known for.

No missing teeth

It should be obvious, but a hamster should have all of its teeth. That means 2 pair of front incisors, that you should be able to see clearly. They are very long, especially the bottom pair.

Hamster teeth are yellow, sometimes even orange. That’s okay. You should only worry if you see white teeth, or whitish teeth, since those are signs of an illness or deficiency.

Broken, cracked, crossed, or even missing teeth are a bad sign. They can come about from poor handling by the caretakers, or it could be a hereditary problem.

Teeth are crucial to a hamster’s health, so they should be something you look at. You can find out more about hamster dental issues here, and what to look out for.

Clean ears

A hammy’s ears are the first thing he will use to make sense of his surroundings. Hamsters don’t see very well, so they rely a lot on smell and hearing.

A pair of clean, thin ears is ideal, with no bite marks or missing bits. Do take note that many hammies have harder ears than the rest of their body. So you’ll need to get a bit of a closer look into the hamster’s ear for an infection or any other issues.

No odd lumps

Hamsters are this small ball of fur. But they should have no lumps, since that usually means an odd growth, or tumor, or a possible impacted cheek or abscess.

None of those are good news. You might see your preferred hammy with a cheek full, or maybe both. That’s usually just food stored in his cheeks, though it’s not a common sight in pet stores.

A note to be mindful of Syrian hammies. I wish I knew this about Teddy, because I was afraid he was sick when I first saw this.

Syrian hamsters have two black mole-like spots on their hips, with barely any fur around them. Those are normal, and they are the scent glands. You will probably only notice them of the hamster is licking that spot.

Bald spots, and how the fur looks

The fur of a hamster should be fluffy, and clean looking. It should not be particularly shiny, unless the hamster was bred for that purpose.

That being said, no bald spots (aside from the scent gland or genital area) should be present on the hamster. Any bald spot could be an indication of a skin disease, some of which could be contagious.

However some bald spots can simply mean that he hamster somehow hurt himself, and managed to rip some fur off of himself. Be sure to check the habitat the hamster is in for other clues.

Are there other hamsters with bald spots ? Are they actually scars from fighting ? Is there a part of the habitat the hamster could have cut himself on ?

Discharge in the eyes or nose or ears

A healthy, happy hamster should be completely dry. No discharge or liquids from the ears, nose, tail area, or mouth.

Discharge can be a sign of infection, and it’s most probably contagious as well. SO it could be that your chosen hamster is sick, or is in the incubation phase.

Any sign of infection however should be immediately treated by the staff at the pet store, since that isn’t a humane way to keep hamsters.

Wet tail, or soiled bottom

Wet tail is noticeable if the tail is, well, wet or soiled. It’s a type or diarrhea and can be extremely dangerous for your hamster’s health.

You can find out more about wet tail here, and the chances your hamster has of getting it and surviving.

If one hamster does have wet tail, or any other disease, it’s very possible that the other hamsters in the habitat have got it too, or they’re in the incubation phase.

You’ll also notice signs of wet tail on the bedding, as it might be soiled and very smelly.

Slender hamster

A baby hamster – between 4 and 12 weeks old – should be neither skinny nor fat. This is actually how you should keep him as an adult, as well.

An obese baby hamster will have a much shorter life span, and have several health issues, including and not stopping at diabetes and joint problems.

An underfed hamster will be noticeable if you hold the hamster and feel its spine and leg bones very clearly.

Since hamsters are so fluffy, it can be difficult to tell if they’re skinny or fat. The fur will cheat you there, but you should be able to tell if you look at the head and eyes, and how plump the skin is there.

You can find out more about how big a hamster can get, depending on his breed. And find out here what you can do if you hamster’s already overweight.

No weird smells

An odd smell coming from your hamster is not a good sign. Hamsters are actually incredibly clean animals, and they clean themselves regularly, several times a day, very thoroughly.

They have no scent that a human can detect, aside from female hamsters in heat.

So if your hamster smells odd, you should check it for any signs of infection as well. It could be that the hamster has an abscess in his mouth (possibly because if a bad tooth) and that could be the source.

Or a possible ear infection that isn’t obvious right away.

The hamster’s personality

Your hammy’s personality is probably something you won’t think of immediately, but you’ll notice it’s more important than anything.

This is what I wish I knew before I got Teddy. You see, I wanted an orange hammy, and that was it. I had no idea about hamster breeds, temperaments, calmness, and so on.

In time I saw that my Teddy is a bit of a despot, if you will. He must know, he must see, he will have his way, and he always has something to object. A bit annoying, but still a lovable ball of fur.

Just not what I had in mind when I decided I want a hamster. I wanted a cuddly, friendly hammy, who will sleep on my shoulder and want to play all the time. Basically the world’s tiniest puppy.

Again, I knew absolutely nothing about hamsters.

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Baby hamsters are hard to read

When selecting your hamster, keep in mind that babies don’t have their personalities completely formed. You can’t look at a baby Syrian and know it’ll be friendly straight away, as you would a Lab puppy for example.

Still, you can look at a few things when selecting your new hamster:

  • Is he afraid or just cautious ? He should want to come closer if you reach for him, but not too confidently.
  • Does the hamster run away as soon as it sees anyone ? Hamsters are shy, yes, but an extra shy hamster who bolts into his hideout all the time is very hard to tame.
  • Does he look mostly calm and curious ? Hamsters are notoriously hyper, and older hammies are calmer than babies. Syrians are calmer than Dwarf types. Depends on what kind of hammy you want.
  • Does the hammy look like it’s angry or snappy ? Might be best to stay away from that one, he will be harder to tame.
  • Is the hamster trying to attack you ? It might sound silly, but if your hamster of choice starts making himself look bigger and tries to intimidate you, you’ve got a difficult one. Best to leave him be and find a different one.

Keep in mind that previously owned hamsters might be a better choice, since they’ve been handled before and are most probably already tamed. They can be traumatised, however, so be gentle with them.

If you’re selecting a baby hamster, make sure it is curious, and can hold its attention for several seconds. Hamsters are always on the move and are curious about a million things at a time, but still, if you put your hand on the cage, he should notice it and try to come closer.

Your petshop should be able to let you handle the hammy before you walk out with him. Make sure you handle him beforehand, otherwise you’ll end up with not exactly what you were looking for.

I didn’t ask to handle Teddy when I got him, and I’m not sure that pet store lets you do that. But handling him would’ve shown us that he wasn’t the calmest hamster in the cage.

Male or female hamster

This is up to you, and your preference. Males are generally a bit calmer, and easier to handle than females.

That being said, if you’re getting a Dwarf type hammy, both genders are hyper and won’t sit still.

Females come into heat every few days, about once a week. They become very irritable and a bit smelly in that period.

You can recognize male hammies by the genital openings. In males the genital and anal opening are far apart, and do have fur between the two spots. Some hamster types may have a scent gland on the abdomen, so it will look like a third opening.

Female hamsters have the obligatory and noticeable rows on nipples, and the genital and anal openings very close together. It will look like a bit of a bald spot with two pink dots.

When picking a pair of hamsters, you’ll want to get them in same-sex pairs. This means no surprise, unplanned litters.

Also, if you select a female hamster keep in mind that they can become pregnant as soon as they’re weaned – aprox . 4 weeks old.

This means that if the caretakers didn’t separate the hamsters into same sex groups early enough, you might just bring home a pregnant female hamster without knowing.

If your hammy is a pregnant female and you only just found out, congratulations on your new litter ! And here’s how to make sure they survive.

Which hamster breed to get

When it comes to the hamster breed, this is again up to you and your preference.

There are two main types of hamsters available – Syrian and Dwarf hamsters. The Syrian is the most common one, it’s the largest, and easiest to tame.

The Dwarf types (4 of them) are much smaller, and faster and agile and, can be a bit harder to tame since they just won’t sit still. No hamster ever sits in one place for more than a few seconds, but Dwarves are terrible at it.

I have a Syrian male, and I sometimes have trouble keeping up with him. You can imagine how well I’d do with a Dwarf.

Actually, Dwarf types are harder to handle, and as such are best left as observational pets. A bit like fish, but cuddly and much faster.

Here’s how to identify each hamster type, and pick out the one you think you’d like the most.

(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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Bringing your new hamster friend home

Alright, you’ve picked out your new friend, he’s in his nice cardboard box and ready to go home.

I’ll urge you to bring your pet as fast as you can to his new home, so he can accommodate. Hamsters don’t like change too much, so they won’t like being taken away.

Make sure you get home and have his cage set up beforehand. You can read here about the recommended cage sizes for each hamster type, and how to pick one out for your hamster.

An in-depth look at the best hamster cages available will be helpful before you actually go and buy your hammy’s cage.

The bedding and hideout should be picked out beforehand too, so they’re already laid out in the cage and ready for your hamster friend.

You can find here a good roundup of safe hamster bedding/substrate options, and pick your favorite.

Toys and food bowl, should be available and already in place when your hammy comes home for the first time.

As well as a running wheel for your hamster, and browsing a nice selection according to hamster breed will be useful to pick out a good exercise wheel.

And finally, a bit of food and a treat in his cage will help your hamster settle in easier.

This means that the hamster himself will be the last thing you buy when you decide to get this cuddly pet.

This is because the moment you bring your hammy home and settle him in his new home, you won’t disturb him at all for at least a couple of days, if not 3-4.

The transition from being with his siblings, and then being put in a box, and then put in another box is very disorienting and stressful, and hamsters are very very bad at handling stress.

So when you get home, place the cardboard box in the hamster’s cage, with the hamster still in the box. Open a side of the box, and from then on leave the hammy alone.

Talk to him when you walk past his cage, and dedicate some minutes every day to just let him smell you.

Do not touch or try to handle him at all for a couple of days. Once he’s settled in, you can begin taming him, and you’ll become friends fairly quickly.

Is a hamster really the pet for you ?

This is a question you should ask yourself very seriously. I’ve seen a lot of people get a hamster without knowing what they’re getting themselves into. Me included.

A hamster is not a puppy, and won’t always be there as you want him to be. In this respect, a hamster is more like a cat, if you will. He has a lot of personality, for being so incredibly small.

And he can be aloof and hard to read sometimes. Hamsters don’t wag their tails, or purr to show affection or happiness.

They do have their own special charm, but they’re a different pet than the norm. And they are definitely not suited for small children, no matter what else you hear.

Hamsters don’t take well to being handled wrong, or too much, or loud noises, or sudden movements. These are all things a 6 year old can and will do, since they’re children.

A guinea pig would be more suited for a small child, since they’re incredibly calm and serene (compared to a hamster).

If you want to get a more in-depth view on what owning a hamster is like, and some pros and cons, you need to check this article. You’ll get much more info, and see if a hammy is really the one for you.

And if you’d like to know more about how to properly care for your hamster, you can check out these essential steps.

A word from Teddy

I hope you found what you were looking for here, and know how to pick out the best hammy. I know us hamsters can be the cutest things ever, but we have our own personalities.

So, make sure you check out the health and personality of your new friend before bringing him home.

If you want to know more about us hammies, you should check out the related articles below for more info.

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These Are The Best Ways to Exercise a Hamster
These Are The Best Ways to Exercise a HamsterHamsters are incredibly active animals. Often reminiscent of squirrels, for whom people often say are completely restless, hamsters need a lot of activity to feel comfortable. People may think that hamsters running on wheels is a gimmick, but it’s actually a form of exercise to them. Moreover, it’s a form of exercise that’s crucial – without exercise, hamsters feel dull and stressed out, they need an activity to function well. This is because they’re constantly moving around in the wilderness, and this instinct doesn’t go away just because they’re kept as a pet. If you want your hamster to stay healthy, and just as important as that, if you want it to be calm enough to have a healthy relationship with you – the owner, you’re going to have to provide a way for the hamster to exercise. This can be done in many ways, and we’ll be discussing all of the ways your hamster can exercise today. In this article, we’ll be covering all forms of exercise for hamsters, and what should you allow your hamster to do. There are many things you can do for your hamster to let them exercise and you should always try to keep them as active as possible. Today, we’ll be taking a look at those exercises. Without further ado, let’s get started! Table of Contents Toggle1. Exercise Wheel2. Exercise Ball/Hamster Ball3. A Secure Playing Area4. Tunnels5. Climbing6. Obstacle Courses 1. Exercise Wheel This is without a doubt the most popular form of exercise for hamsters. It’s the wheel you’ve seen in every film or TV-show that showed a hamster. This shouldn’t be considered an optional accessory – this is a must-have for every hamster. These wheels provide entertainment and physical activity for the hamster. This wheel turns about when the hamster steps inside and cause the hamster to run as he continues to turn it around – it’s basically a treadmill for hamsters. This wheel will help your hamster burn off boredom and extra pounds (a form of expression, hamsters don’t weigh that much). There are many cages that come with the exercise wheel attached to them, but if you don’t have a wheel (or it’s broken), you’re going to need to buy a wheel. You need to make sure that the wheel is solid. Hamsters will instinctively chew everything, and some of them will stop biting metal once they realize that there’s no actual use to it – but if your hamster is that stubborn, then it’d be best to buy a metal running wheel, as they’re most likely to chew through a plastic model. Buying mesh or barred wheels is dangerous, as the hamster can get its feet stuck between the slats or bars. Also, different species of hamsters need different kinds of wheels. Syrian hamsters need wheels that are at least 8 inches in diameter, although if you buy a 10-inch wheel, you’re good for the rest of their life. Dwarf hamsters need a wheel that’s at least 6.5 inches in diameter. You don’t want to buy a wheel that’s too small, as that can cause major back problems for the animal. If you buy a wheel that’s too small, the hamster will stop using it after a while and it will get bored. If your hamster is a female and she’s a nursing mother, then take the wheel out. The hamster will lose interest in her young and won’t get off the wheel. There’s also the option of the young running on the wheel together, which creates the potential for injury. 2. Exercise Ball/Hamster Ball This ball is a great way for your pet to both have fun and explore its surroundings, getting better acquainted with your home. Hamster balls are plastic balls your hamster can enter and run around. This is great because your hamster is protected and can’t hurt itself (as long as you establish an area where it can move, if it falls down the stairs in the ball, then it’s definitely hurting itself). All you have to do is let the hamster enter the ball and then close the lid to the ball safely. The only dangers to this toy are drop off points, like the aforementioned stairs. Your hamster will power the ball with its feet, just like with the wheel, but unlike the wheel (which just spins in circles), this ball will actually take your hamster places. Your hamster will be able to explore your home and get more comfortable in the environment. The sizes for the exercise balls follow the same rules as with exercise wheels, so you can take a look at that section if you’re interested in sizes. Make sure to be present when your hamster is using the ball outside the cage – other pets may want to play with the ball and that’s just a barrel of dynamite waiting to be lit. It’s best to let the hamster run around a flat ground (like a single floor of the house) with all the doors closed. One of the greatest advantages of this toy, in comparison to letting your hamster freely roam your home, is the fact that it can’t get stuck under any furniture. However, you have to make sure that the ball you’re choosing has ventilation holes small enough. If they’re too large, your hamster might get their feet stuck in those holes, or even their heads (they tend to push their heads in literally every open hole). Since hamsters have such poor vision, it’s best to buy a ball that’s made from clear plastic. Tinted plastic is also an option, but why only make matters even worse. Another thing that you should keep in mind is the lid/flap of the ball, which you open and close from the outside. It would be smart to put a sliver of scotch tape over it, just to make sure that it doesn’t accidentally open while your hamster’s running all over the place. Children, just like pets, are sort of a hazard to this way of playing, as they may be tempted to kick the ball. You should also keep in mind that a ball that’s too large will cause your hamster to be thrown around it once they reach enough speed, because of inertia. Also, if the ball is properly sized and they still manage to reach enough speed, the same effect may be achieved. You shouldn’t let your hamster run around for longer than 20 minutes – they’ll tire and get dizzy, so it’s time for snacks, dehydration, and rest after 20 minutes. 3. A Secure Playing Area You should make an enclosure outside the cage, where your hamster can roam freely. Take four planks, each three feet long, and make a frame. Set that frame down on the ground and let your hamster play in that area. Make sure that the planks are tall enough, as hamsters are very good at climbing and they might climb out of the frame – if your hamster gets loose you’re going to spend hours chasing it. Your hamster should be able to move freely. Even if you haven’t purchased any toys for your hamster, it will still run around and enjoy the free space. However, you should definitely buy toys. They’re cheap and they keep your hamster entertained. Play is exercise and toys are the tools of play that lead to exercise. There are many toys you can purchase at the pet store, but we’ll list a few of them. You can even use some of these inside the cage. A piece of rope – you can hang this piece of rope from the top of the cage – this is great for climbing. Twigs – you can simply take twigs from any tree and let your hamster play with those. It will bite them and chew on them, which will exercise their jaws, and it will also provide your hamster with the materials they can carry around and build stuff with. You can also make toys out of everyday household items, like toilet paper rolls. Hamsters will roll these rollers around and have fun with them. This is actually very similar to the movement provided by the hamster ball, as they have to push with their forward feet. It will provide fun for a long time, at least until they realize that they can chew that up, as well. You can also use a tin can (once you’re removed and smoothened all the sharp edges), which makes an even heavier exercise tool. The next level to this can be a glass jar, but take the lid off and let the hamster explore the inside. Small pebbles and stones. These will act as weights for your hamster, it will pick them up and carry them around, roll them, and build things with them. You can also cut multiple entrances and exits to cardboard or a wooden box and let your hamster play around with it. This is actually great because it will resemble its natural environment (as hamsters live in complex burrows with many entrances and exits in the wilderness), and the hamster will naturally enjoy it. 4. Tunnels We’ve already explained that hamsters live in tunnels when they’re in the wild, so making a tunnel labyrinth is going to be a great form of exercise for your hamster. You can do this in two ways, collect used toilet paper rolls, or you can buy hamster tubes. Using toilet paper rolls is the cheaper option, as the hamster is definitely going to figure out that it can simply chew through those. Buying hamster tubes is the better option. These tubes are connectable, which allows you to create any shape you want and any sort of maze you want to. They’re also more stable than used toilet paper rolls, so you don’t have to worry about your hamster breaking them or disassembling them from the inside out. This gives the hamster a lot of places to climb and plenty of tubes to run around through. You can actually use this in the cage, but also let your hamster leave the cage to a playing area via these tubes – this is great because your hamster can get to its playing area whenever it wants to. And if you’ve made the walls tall enough, then it won’t be able to escape from the playing area, and the hamster’s exercising will be completely independent. You can also create a tunnel that lets your hamster leave the cage, with the other end of the tunnel returning to the cage, which ensures that it won’t run away. You can create tunnels that are incredibly complex, but still have only one or two entrance and exit points. You also have cages that have tubes installed in them, or you can purchase two cages and connect them, making an interesting habitat. You can also cover the whole wall with tubes and watch your hamster crawl on the wall. There are so many options with this, and since hamsters love tunnels, they will enjoy it too. The only thing you should keep an eye out for is the size of the tubes in diameter. You don’t want to buy a tube system that’s too tight for your hamster – they will get stuck and you’ll have to get them out. 5. Climbing Hamsters are natural climbers, so allowing them to climb is a great way of exercising them. If you have a metal mesh cage, you’re most likely going to notice that your hamster is climbing on the walls. This is completely normal, and if anything, you should encourage it! If you’ve developed a healthy relationship with your hamster, it’s most likely going to try and climb on you. You should allow this as well if you don’t have any problems with it on the hygienic front, and hamsters won’t scratch you or hurt you in any way. Aside from that, you can attach ropes, twigs, etc. in their cage to create a climbing environment. The only downside to this is that having a metal cage is definitely great, especially for ventilation, but there is a problem that you might be overseeing – and that’s their droppings. To resolve this, place a sheet of newspapers on the bottom of the cage and take it out when you gauge that it’s time to change it. If you have a Roborovski hamster, then you should be careful with metal cages and consider buying a mouse cage. These hamsters are great at crawling through small spaces and they will use this to escape. 6. Obstacle Courses You can also create obstacle courses for your hamster – include toys, branches, twigs, rope, and all sorts of things that your hamster has to crawl through, jump over, climb over, etc. This is a great way for them to exercise their muscles and have fun at the same time, just make sure that you’re using an enclosed area for these courses, as they’re likely to escape if you don’t. There are things you should keep in mind when exercising your hamster. Safety should always come first, that’s why you shouldn’t let other pets near the area where your hamster’s playing. Cats and dogs are 100% guaranteed to chase, and most likely catch your hamster, so it’s best to isolate them while your hamster’s playing. Another thing that you should always keep in mind are other hazardous things, like electricity – hamsters will maybe try to chew through electric cords, touch sockets, etc. If contact is ever achieved, it will most definitely kill the hamster, so make sure that your hamster can’t reach any of this. Another hazard that’s very dangerous for hamsters is sudden drops. This means: staircases, shelves, couches, tables, etc. – hamsters can’t see well, and when they’re on the couch or on a table, they will run around and possibly fall off, or even jump off the table or couch because they can’t see that it’s ending. And even if they see that the table is actually ending, they can’t gauge how tall it is and how high of a fall that is, so it’s best to enclose an environment for them when they’re playing like this. It’s also important to keep your water supply ready and full. Hamsters can get very tired and very dehydrated when they’re exercising, so it’s important that they can go back to their cage and rehydrate whenever they need to. It’s also important to have treats ready for them once they’re done. You shouldn’t let your hamster exercise for longer than 20 minutes at a time, and make sure that they rehydrate whenever they’re done. [...] Read more...
Hamster Reproduction – From Birth To First Litter
Hamster Reproduction – From Birth To First LitterIf you’ve got a pair of hamsters you’d like to let reproduce, then this guide will help you with knowing how the babies develop, how the mating happens, and how to make sure the babies survive. We’re going to follow the life of the hamster from the moment he’s born, to the moment the first litter is delivered. Table of Contents ToggleWhen the hamster is bornWeaning and separating the baby hamstersComing of age – when the hamster is an adultWhen it’s best to let the hamsters mateStarting the reproductive process and introducing the pairThe gestation period in hamstersThe birth of the baby hamstersCaring for the young hamsters and their motherA word from Teddy When the hamster is born Hamster babies (also known as pups) are born hairless, blind, and with their ears folded. They rely completely on their mother’s help and milk. They will grow up remarkably fast, being able to consume solid food by about 10 days of age. Hamster pups are born with their front teeth in place, so they will begin chewing fairly young. However for the first 3-4 weeks they will rely on their mother’s milk. In that time their mother will clean them, and they will learn everything there is to know about being a hamster. How to clean themselves, how to eat, how to walk, what is good food and what is not, and so on. Hamsters can have litters of any size, as small as 3 and as large as 15 in some cases. Whichever case, there will always be smaller pups, who haven’t developed very well. The runt of the litter, so to speak. They will need a bit more time with their mother, or extra nutrition after they’ve been separated. Weaning and separating the baby hamsters Once the hamster pups reach 3-4 weeks of age, their mother will begin weaning them. By this time they are able to eat solid food, but the comfort of their mother’s milk will make them try to nurse still. However the mother will start physically pushing them away once she decides they’ve been weaned, and in a few days the pups will be alright. They might still try to nurse, but they will fail. This is also the time when the pups will be able to start reproducing. A very dangerous period, since female pups can become pregnant at 4 weeks of age. This is not advised, since they will not survive the pregnancy, being so young. So, you must separate the pups. For more exact into on how to do this you can check this article, on finding the hamster’s gender. But in short, here are the difference between male and female hamsters: Male hamsters have their genital and anal opening quite far apart, and there is fur between the two openings. There are also no teats present on their abdomen. The will be a third spot on their abdomen, the one for the scent gland. For Syrians, the scent glands ale located on their hips, not the abdomen Female hamsters have their genital and anal openings very close together, they’ll look like they’re the same opening. The opening will be a bit hairless. You’ll be able to find 2 rows of teas, running down the female hamster’s abdomen. Separating the hamster pups into male and female enclosures will make sure there are no unwanted pregnancies. Sometimes breeders or pet shop employees mistakenly tag a male as female, and put him in the female cage. This can lead to baby hamsters in about 2-3 weeks, so you must be very careful when selecting your first hamster to bring home. More on picking out your first hamster here. Coming of age – when the hamster is an adult Once the hamsters have been weaned and separated into groups, they can now be given up for adoption. They are alright with being away from their mother. Most hamsters are adopted before they become adults, though some exceptions do exist. A hamster is a full adult when he’s 12 weeks of age. This means that once the hamster is 3 months old, he will start to show his personality more, be energetic (even more than a baby), and his fur marking will become very clear. For example my Teddy was about 5 weeks when I go him. He’s a Syrian male, golden pattern. At first he was just creamy/orange, with some white. But as he came close to his 3rd month, he started to show a bit of faint grey markings over his other colors, and the orange became more vibrant. This will happen to all hamsters, regardless of species. Their final coat color will become apparent only when they’ve become adults. Djungarian Dwarfs will change their color in winter though, but only in the wild. Djungarians (also known as Siberian or Winter White) are famous for turning nearly white once winter comes, to better blend in. But, pet Djungarians do not need that camouflage, and also do not sense winter from inside their cozy, warm cage. When it’s best to let the hamsters mate Now you might wonder when it’s okay to let the hamsters mate, if they’re not allowed to mate as young as 4 weeks. The best time to let the hamsters mate is between the ages of 3 months and 15 months. This is when the hamsters will be at their peak, and will be able to withstand both the courting ritual, the mating process, and the ensuing pregnancy. Hamsters bred younger than 12 weeks can still carry a pregnancy, but the survival rates are lower. You’ll notice with females that they come into heat (estrus) every 4 days. They might start to develop a smell, a musky kind of smell, and will be willing to receive a male. You can test this by trying to pet the female, and she will flatten herself on her belly, and expose her rear-end. Any attempt at trying to reproduce the hamsters should be observed, since there can be complications. The female, while willing to mate, will become a bit irritable and aggressive. Starting the reproductive process and introducing the pair Once you’ve noticed the female is in heat, and is responsive to being stroked, you can begin the reproductive process. In a separate, clean cage, place both the male and the female. This should be done at dusk, when the natural light is fading, to mimic the natural habitat in which the two would meet. Once the two have met, the female will decide of the wants to mate with the male, or  simply fight him. Females in heat become very aggressive, especially towards the males. This is why the mating should be observed, so you can intervene and remove the male if the female is just itching for a fight and nothing else. Trying again, with a more aggressive male who can hold his own against her would be an idea. However the two need to be balanced, the male becoming too aggressive with the female isn’t good either. Normal signs of tussling and mate-fighting include scruffing (where the male is biting the female’s beck of the neck, holding her in place), rolling, a bit of squealing, occasional biting. Blood should not be drawn, and the fighting should subside after a while. The female will be fairly aggressive, but mating should indeed happen. If the pair manages to mate, then it can be safe to leave them alone in the cage overnight. You will need to reintroduce them for the next 3 nights (so 4 in total) to make sure that the female has become pregnant. However you should make sure that the male has where to hide, if he needs to. This is because one the female decides she is done, she’ll perceive the male’s advances as a threat, and fight him. Even after they’ve just mated. The gestation period in hamsters Once the female has become pregnant, she will start the gestation period. Usually this lasts between 16 to 22 days. The Dwarf types have a gestation period on the longer side, while the Syrian has the shortest period. During this period the female should be kept separate from all the other hamsters. This means she will need a separate, clean cage, where she will start building her nest. She will eat increasingly more food, and will exercise less. The cage she will live in during the gestation period, as well as the first few weeks after giving birth should be simple, with a hideout, food bowl, water bottle, lots of places to hide, and a generous amount of bedding and nesting material. As she gets closer to her due date, she will become even more irritable and restless. Her abdomen will be larger, and she will look much bigger and fluffier. She will move more slowly, and will spend more time building her nest. Give her much more nesting material – like paper towels, toilet paper squares, toilet paper cardboard (the rolls) and she will use all of that to make a very large and warm nest for her and her babies. (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.) The birth of the baby hamsters Once the birthing starts, the mother will stand up right, and deliver the babies every few minutes. You won’t know she’s done until a few hours later. This is because between each baby she will clean the nest, or take a short nap, and continue to deliver until every baby is born. The mother will clean and tend to the babies on her own, with no help from you. This is crucial, because it means that you should not disturb the mother and her pups in any way for the first 2 weeks after the birth. Once the babies are born, you should keep away from the mother. Don’t try to peek at them or prod the mother. Provide her with lots of food, daily, and make sure her water bottle is full so you don’t have to change it every day. Hamster mothers, especially the young ones or the ones who have their first litter, are very skittish. If they perceive something as a possibly threat (which could be anything, in their position) they will resort to eating their young or abandoning them. Even if the stressed mother doesn’t eat the babies, she might still stuff them in her pouches, as a way of hiding them. Unfortunately sometimes she keeps them there for too much, and the pups end up suffocating. This also means that the cage the mother and her babies are in needs to be in a calm, quiet, warm room, away from the other hamsters. Be careful, because the mother can become pregnant again immediately after finishing birthing her babies. While this pregnancy can happen, it’s unsafe and is very stressful for the mother to be both gestating and rearing her new babies. This is one of the reasons the male needs to be kept away from the mother immediately after mating has ended. Another one of the fact that the male will try to get the female’s attention, and will hurt or kill the babies to have no competition. Caring for the young hamsters and their mother If the mother has given birth successfully, and the pups survived their first 2 weeks, you will only need to assist here and there. After their first 2 weeks the babies will be able to eat some solid foods, and soon will be weaned (at 1 month old). You’ll be able to see and hear the babies, but handling them is not recommended just yet. Once the babies are weaned and need to be separated into gender-specific groups, you can handle them and from there on can be given for adoption. Any extra caring or steps aren’t necessary, because the mother will take care of all of that. As long as you do not disturb them too much and let the mother rest after she’s done giving birth, everyone should be fine. A word from Teddy I hope you found what you were looking for in this article. Us hammies can make babies  very fast, and very often. It’s important to know how to handle us if you want to let us have babies, and make sure everyone if fine in the end. If you want to know more about us hamsters you can read the related articles below, and see how to care for us and keep us happy. [...] Read more...
Can Hamsters Eat Fruits ? Safe And Unsafe Fruits For Your Hammy
Can Hamsters Eat Fruits ? Safe And Unsafe Fruits For Your HammyIf you’re wondering about whether your hammy can eat fruit or not, you’re not the only one. My Teddy is always curious about what I have in my hands, and we eat a lot of fruit in this house. At first I had no idea which fruit was okay for him, or if any fruit was okay to begin with. But let e tell you what I found out, so you’ll know as well. Table of Contents ToggleSo can hamsters eat fruits ?Some differences between Syrian and Dwarf hamstersFruits your hammy can eat safelyFruits your hamster should be kept away fromYou can use fruits as a treat for your hamsterDo not give your hamster too much fruitA word from Teddy So can hamsters eat fruits ? Yes, hamsters can eat some types of fruits. However hamsters should eat fruits in very small amounts, and not often. The majority of fruits are okay for hamsters to eat, however citrus type fruits are not. They’re too acidic for the hamster’s gut. We’ll cover in the rest of the article which fruits are safe for your hamster, and which should definitely be avoided. And also how much fruit you should give your hamster, and how often. Some differences between Syrian and Dwarf hamsters There’s a big difference between Dwarf hammies (Roborovski, Campbell, Siberian, and Chinese)  and the large Syrian hammy. The Dwarf types are prone to diabetes, and need to stay away from very sugary foods and drinks. So that means that they can, in fact eat some fruits, but in a very small amount. And much less often than a Syrian hamster. This is largely due to the size difference between the two hamster types. A piece of apple, for example, as big as a peanut might be acceptable for your Syrian hamster. But for a Dwarf, the exact same piece holds much more sugars and carbs, which will lead to unwanted weight gain and the early stages of  diabetes. Not only with fruits, but with some vegetables as well – like carrots, corn, and sweet potato as well. You can check the article “Can Hamsters Eat Vegetables” to read more about this. Fruits your hammy can eat safely Alright, with the difference between Dwarf ans Syrian hamsters in mind, let’s see which fruits your hamster can eat safely. The most common fruits like apples, plums, cherries and grapes are alright. However all hamsters, everywhere, do not react well to the seeds of a fruit. In most cases the seeds are poisonous. So it’s best if you never give your hamster a piece of fruit with seeds in it, of any kind. Then, the very sweet fruits like banana, apricot, peach, mango, pineapple, papaya – most of the yellow fruits – should be given in tiny, tiny amounts. For us these fruits are amazing and have the best taste and smell. However for hamsters these are just too sweet and savory. So it’s best if your hammy only gets an incredibly small amount of them. None of these are poisonous so far, they’re just way too sweet for a hamster so you need to be careful. Now, the berry types – like strawberry and raspberry, these are all alright for your hamster. But, again, without any seeds. So for example a strawberry should be lightly scraped to get all the seeds out, and the green top cut off. A Raspberry is okay by itself, since the white core will come off by itself when the fruit is done. Blueberries and cranberries are alright, but in very small amounts as well. As in, one or two berries every week. Figs are alright for your hamster, but n a very small amount. And Dates are alright too, as long as they have no pit. Coconut is safe for hamsters, but it should be given in very small amounts and sparsely. Coconut has a higher fat-count than peanuts and can make your hamster gain weight faster than bananas or mangos. And finally, watermelon is safe for hamsters, if given in a small amount, just the red part, and without seeds. This is partly because of how sweet it can be, and the fact that it has a very high water content. Too much of it can upset your hammy’s stomach. Fruits your hamster should be kept away from Kiwi – although it’s great as a fruit by itself, the kiwi is not very safe for the hamster. It can be very sour sometimes, and the seeds are not alright for hamsters to eat. This applies to Dragon fruit as well, since it has just as many seeds, everywhere in its flesh. Blackberry – while they’re okay for hamsters by their nutritional value, I put them on the unsafe list because of how many seeds it has, and how hard it is to get rid of them. There’s no way you can remove the seeds from a blackberry and have it whole. So for this reason, I advise against them. Citrus – no citrus fruits are alright for the hamster. Actually, hamsters shy away from the smell of oranges and tangerines. You can check for yourself with a citrus fruit. That includes oranges, tangerines, mandarines, kumquat, clementines, grapefruit (all kinds), lemon, and lime. Star fruit – not safe for hamsters, since they contain a neurotoxin that can be fatal to hamsters, or other small animals. It can cause kidney problems in some sensitive humans too. Best to avoid it for your hamster. (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.) You can use fruits as a treat for your hamster Since your hamster can’t have fruits very often, you can use it as a sort of treat. Particularly, you can use it as a very special treat when you’re taming your hamster. That means that your hamster should not get this treat very often. But he cans till get a small piece of apple, or maybe a cube of mango, depending on whatever you’ve got lying around. Simple treats like fruit chips – slices of fruit that have been carefully dried and made sure they’re not moldy – can be great for hammies. I’ve used banana chips for my Teddy, and he loves them. It’s something he gets a kick out of. Probably the crispy, crunchy texture gives him a lot of incentive to nibble and nibble. However these are banana chips, so they’re still sweet. Not as sweet as regular banana slices, the taste is a bit different. But do not go overboard when feeding your hammy these chips, since they are in fact real banana slices. In this respect, the whole bag will last your hamster probably a year. If you get into the bag, that’s another story and completely up to you. You can check the Amazon listing here, and see the reviews as well. Do not give your hamster too much fruit Whether you have a Dwarf or Syrian hamster, they can both develop health issues if given too much sugary foods. While a slice of apple does not compare to a cube of chocolate when it comes to sugar and fats, they are both still sweet. Especially for your sensitive hamster’s taste buds. So it’s best to keep an eye on how much fruit and sweets you give your hammy. A hamster that’s had too much sugar will become overweight, and develop diabetes. Both conditions can be life-threatening. Especially for a creature as small as a hamster. If your hamster’s already overweight, you can read this article to see how to get him to a healthy, safe weight. A word from Teddy I hope you know now which fruits are okay for us hammies. I love banana chips, and I sometimes get bits of apple. But maybe your friend is into mangos more, you could try it out. If you want to know more about us hammies, you can check out the articles below. You’ll find info on things like how big a cage we need, and how much food we need in a day. [...] Read more...
Do Hamsters Get Periods And Bleed ? A Word On Hamster Mating
Do Hamsters Get Periods And Bleed ? A Word On Hamster MatingIf you own a female hamster, you will need to know about her menstrual cycle, and if she bleeds during her period. Or if she even gets a period at all. Not all creatures are the same. Let’s see how the female hamster’s reproductive cycle works, and how it affects the mating process. Table of Contents ToggleSo do hamsters get periods ?How you can tell your hamster is in heatWhen/what age to let the female hamster mateSigns your female hamster is pregnantPregnancy and birth of the hamster litterDo hamsters bleed during their period ?Genital problems in female hamstersA word from Teddy So do hamsters get periods ? No, not the same way other female mammals do. The female hamster does produce eggs that need to be fertilized by the male, but there is no bloody discharge if the eggs haven’t been fertilized. There can be one single drop of blood, occasionally, but that’s it. Instead there will be a whitish substance that the female will release at the end of her ‘period’. This repeats every 4 days, and the window in which the female is available for breeding is only 12 hours long, at night.  On that night, she gives off a strong smell, to attract the male hamster. This is the hamster version of being ‘in heat’. This starts once the hamster becomes sexually mature (around 8 weeks) and lasts until she either dies, or becomes too old. How you can tell your hamster is in heat Aside from the strong smell the female gives off, there are other signs. For example on the day when the female is available (day 2 of her cycle), she will secrete a whitish substance that also contributes to the general smell around her. By the end of her cycle (day 3 and 4) the substance secreted from the genital opening becomes drier, more waxy. You will notice the hamster is more agitated, and if you stroke her back she will flatten her body and splay her legs. This means she’s ready to receive the male, and if you’re looking to breed hamsters, this is the right time. Then everything starts again, with the thinner secretions on the first day. Female hamsters have regular whitish secretions, much like human females. This is partly a cleaning mechanism, and a part of the mucus that is meant to receive the male’s sperm. This will continue until the hamster becomes pregnant, and them resume after she gives birth. And this will continue until she falls pregnant again, or become too old (a sort of menopause). When/what age to let the female hamster mate There are best and worst moments to let the female hamster breed. This is because pregnancies when the hamster is too young is taxing since she is still growing and it’s not an easy pregnancy. Pregnancies in hamsters older than 15 weeks is not recommended, since it often has many complications. Anything between 10 to 15 weeks is fine. As for how early you can start breeding the hamsters, the male is said to be in peak between week 10 and 14, while the female can start as soon as she 10 weeks. When you do introduce the female to the male to let them mate, you should take a few precautions. Even though the female is willing to mate, she will not always accept the male. This can vary from hamster to hamster, but the mating ritual is a bit violent. There will be tussling and a bit of fighting. She will test the male to see if he’s worth her eggs, and most of the time he is. There are times when the male is either weak, or the female is too violent. This means that male needs to be removed and a different male introduced, possibly one who can stand against her. This needs to be done in the evening, when the female wakes up, and her secretion is whitish and fairly thin. She should be on her second day, right in the middle of the cycle. It only lasts for 12 hours, and the male only has that one night to impregnate her. Signs your female hamster is pregnant If the breeding is successful, you will notice something that’s called a copulatory plug. This is kind of an actual plug, made of the male sperm, and the female excretions. It’s hardened and white, and will remain there for the first 5 days of the pregnancy. This is the most obvious and definitive sign that the male has successfully impregnated the female. Another sign, in case you missed the plug, is the fact that the hamster will still secrete a whitish substance but this will be consistent, creamy, and whitish. There will be no thin secretion, only the thick one for the following 5 days. After that night, the pair needs to be separated. The female will be aggressive towards the male, and it’s best to keep a gestating female hamster undisturbed, on her own. The gestation period varies from hamster breed to breed, but generally is between 16 to 22 days. Dwarf hamsters have the longest pregnancy (20-22) while the Syrian hamsters have the shortest pregnancy. You’ll notice the female is pregnant about 10 days after the mating, her belly will swell and she will be more and more irritable. At this time it’s best to give her more and more food, especially protein like cooked plain chicken or egg white. Also, more nesting material is required, since she will start building this big, warm, sprawling nest for her and the babies. So make sure you’ve for tissues, toilet paper and paper towels at hand, and give her more than you think she needs. She will use all of it. (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.) Pregnancy and birth of the hamster litter The female needs to be kept alone, away from her cage mates, so nothing can disturb her. This is because any stress or annoyance can spook her, and she has a high chance of eating her young once they’re born. This is especially true if it’s her first litter, and has no previous experience with young hamsters. Once her due date approaches she will become restless, she will eat more, and she will stop using her wheel. She might be sleeping or just resting more. You might see a drop of blood or two just before the birth. On the day of birth, you need to make sure she has a good stock of food and water on hand. She will stand up, and deliver one baby hamster. She will clean him, sever the umbilical cord, tidy around the nest or take a short nap, and a few minutes later deliver the second baby, and so on until all babies have been born and cleaned. Once she is done, she will be very tired, and irritable. Be sure to leave her alone completely, and only bring food and give it through the cage bars. Do not try to peek at the babies or poke at her. So not clean her cage, neither spot-clean nor completely clean. This will be the norm for about 2 weeks after she has given birth. The babies are born hairless and blind, and will suckle from her until they reach 4 weeks of age. That is when she will wean them, and you will need to separate them into same-sex groups to avoid surprise litters. Do hamsters bleed during their period ? No, not usually. There might  be a drop of blood every now and again for some hamsters. But a hamster period does not include a heavy, bloody flow like in human females. This means that if your hamster is a female, and she bleeds during each of her periods, you should have her checked out. Even if it’s just a drop of blood, if it’s consistent and always happens (every 4 days) you need to be sure everything is okay. Genital problems in female hamsters A heavy flow of blood during the hamster’s period can indicate a serious health issue. It could be the a urinary tract infection that went very far. Or it could be an internal injury, especially if the bleeding is fairly constant (over a few hours). Another problem is pyometra. It’s an infection in the uterus, which will produce a yellowish discharge from the hamster’s genital opening. It will be noticeable, and especially smelly since for the most part it will be pus. The hamster’s belly will also be swollen if she has pyometra. This is more common in older hamsters, rather than young ones, so take that into account. It’s treatable, and you’ll need a good vet for that. A word from Teddy I hope you found what you were looking for in this article. I know us hammies can be confusing at times, but we’re quite a bit different from you. 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...
Can Hamsters Eat Peanuts ? Or Any Kind Of Nuts ?
Can Hamsters Eat Peanuts ? Or Any Kind Of Nuts ?If you’ve got a hamster and you’re wondering if you can feed him a peanut, that’s okay. It’s a common question, and one I had too when I first got my Teddy. Turns out hamsters can eat lots of things us humans can eat. However, they can’t eat as much or as many variations as we can. Table of Contents ToggleSo can hamsters eat peanuts ?Hamsters eat lots of nuts and seeds in the wildIs peanut butter safe for hamsters ?Safe nuts and seeds for your hamsterUnsafe nuts and seeds to keep away from your hamsterCommercial food mixes have plenty of safe nuts and seedsA word from Teddy So can hamsters eat peanuts ? Yes, hamsters can eat peanuts. It’s safe for them. But they need to be unsalted peanuts. They can be baked or not, and they can be given with the shell as well. As long as there are no seasonings or extra oils on the peanut, it’s okay. Peanuts do have a high fat content though, so be aware that too many peanuts will make your hamster overweight. That can lead to severe health issues, and is best avoided. But, a peanut every now and hen, like a couple of times a week is alright. Not more often though. Hamsters eat lots of nuts and seeds in the wild Peanuts are okay for the main reason that hamsters eat a lot of seed and nut types in the wild. When foraging for food, hammies end up with lots of grains, seeds, and some roots to munch on. Many times their diet consists entirely of dried grains and seeds, which keep well over cold periods. So, a peanut is safe. And you’ll often find it in his food mix as well. Is peanut butter safe for hamsters ? Yes, plain, unsweetened peanut butter is safe for hamsters to eat. Peanut butter is just crushed and pureed peanuts, and that’s alright for hammies. The difference is that peanut butter sometimes has a little bit of added oil in order to make it creamier. So that means that your hamster should have less peanut butter than regular peanut. For example a dollop of peanut butter the size of a pea is more than enough for your hammy, whether he’s a Dwarf or Syrian. The thing about peanut butter is that it’s sticky, and requires lots of cleanup. This is one of the reasons you need to be careful how much you give your hamster. Your hammy has a high chance of making a mess out of the tiny dollop, so make sure you give him a very small amount. Always make sure you give your hamster unsweetened, unsalted, unflavored peanut butter. Only simple, plain peanut butter will do, since that’s the closes to an actual peanut.   Safe nuts and seeds for your hamster Hammies can eat some types of nuts, and I’m going to help you identify them right here. SO here’s a safe list of nuts for your hamster: peanuts pecans pistachios walnuts pine nuts cashews hazelnuts sunflower seeds pumpkin seeds Now these all need to be unsalted, unsweetened, unseasoned in any way. Get them as plain as possible. It’s fine if they’re raw, and it’s fine if they’re toasted. Just remember that seeds and nuts should not be given daily or very often. More than twice a week is too much. And the serving should be just one nut. For seeds they can be 3-4 at a time. But do not overfeed your hamster on seeds or nuts, since they are very high in fat. Your hamster doesn’t need a high fat diet in order to function. (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.) Unsafe nuts and seeds to keep away from your hamster Some nuts and seeds aren’t alright for hammies, since they can be poisonous. Even for humans they can be a bit hazardous, and should not be eaten often or in large amounts. These are: almonds any kind of fruit seed (apple, grape, peach, plum, etc) This does not mean the fruits are not edible. Hamsters actually love to munch on small apple bits, or a bit of grape flesh. It’s just the seeds that are not alright for them, and should be removed before giving fruits to your hamster. Actually, you can find out more about what kind of fruits are alright for your hamster right here. Commercial food mixes have plenty of safe nuts and seeds When feeding your hamster, you have the option of giving him a store-bought food mix. The thing about these mixes is that they’re thought out to give your hammy a balanced diet. This means your hamster’s getting the optimal amount of grains, nuts, seeds, vitamins supplements, fiber and protein for a healthy diet. This food mix will help your hammy find all the nutrients he needs, right there in his food bowl. He won’t have to forage for his food anymore. Unless you sprinkle it through his cage, which can keep him busy and keep his instincts sharp. Still, the whole bag will last you a couple of months or more, depending on what kind of hamster you have. You can check the listing on Amazon right here, and read the reviews as well. A word from Teddy I hope you found out what you were looking for here. I know us hammies love to munch on everything, but sometimes you need to be careful what you give us. Peanuts are alright, as long as they’re plain, and are in small amounts and not often. If you want to know more about us hammies, you should check out the articles below for more info on how to care for us. [...] Read more...
15 Essential Steps To Properly Care For Your Hamster
15 Essential Steps To Properly Care For Your HamsterHave 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. Table of Contents Toggle1. Choose a good cage for your hamster2. Choose safe and healthy bedding for the hamster3. Choose toys and a hideout to keep the hamster entertained4. Know what foods and treats are okay, and how much water he needs5. Clean the cage and keep things sanitary6. Get the hamster plenty of exercise7. Tame the hamster and interact with him often8. Find a good veterinarian, in case something happens9. Be aware of his health problems and how to spot them10. Know the hamster’s reproduction and gestation period11. Figure out which breed of hamster you have12. Know what behavior to expect from a hamster13. Have a sitter for him when you leave town14. Know that hamsters are very sensitive animals15. Know your hamster’s lifespan and what old age looks likeA word from Teddy 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. 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: 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. 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.) 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. 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. [...] Read more...