Syrian Hamster 101 – Breed Info And Care Sheet

Want to know everything there is to know about the Syrian hamster ? I know I did when I first got my Teddy home. Especially if you’re a first-time hamster owner, you will need to know how your new pet stands out from the rest.

So I’m going to help you with everything I know about Syrian hamsters, including how to care for him and what you can expect from this fluffy, sweet guy.

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About the Syrian hamster – short overview

The Syrian hamster has many names. He’s the most common hamster type (there’s 5 out there) and the one you’ve probably got in your home right now.

You’ll find the Syrian under names such as :

  • Teddy bear hamster – their faces look a bit like a teddy bear face
  • Fancy hamster/fancy bear – especially the longhaired ones
  • Variations on coat pattern names, like Panda hamsters (white and black), Golden hamsters (the traditional pattern), Black hamsters (all black), and so on
  • Syrian hamster
  • Big hamster

Syrian hamsters are the largest of the hamster types, and they are solitary. They can never share their home with another hamster, or else bloody and lethal fights ensue.

Males have a particularly large rear-end, since their testicles are very large for their bodies and form a permanent bulge around their very small tail. Their scent glands are on their hips, so you might notice big black dots there.

Syrian hamsters are the slowest hamsters – still fast though, they’re hamsters – and they’re easier to tame and train than the Dwarf types. As such, they’re great starter pets for people who have never had a hamster before.

They don’t bite as much or as often as Dwarf hamsters, and they’re easier to hold onto, since they’re larger.

My own little Teddy is a Syrian hamster (hence his terribly inspired name), and he’s a Golden one, with orange and white and dustings of grey.

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How the Syrian hamster became a pet

Originally the Syrian hamster was discovered by 1839 in Syria (hence the name). A mother with a litter of babies was brought to Jerusalem for study in 1930, and most (if not all) Syrian hamsters available for sale today are descendants of that mother and her babies. A few of them escaped from the lab in Jerusalem and have settled as wild hamsters there.

For the most part Syrian hamsters were used as lab subjects for observations, and later put on display in London’s famous zoo.

This is discussed in much more detail in the origin story of hamsters, how they came to be pets and where each of them comes from. The Syrian hamster comes from Syria and southern Turkey.

He is used to deserts and sand, but not high temperatures. He only comes out at dusk and dawn in the wild, when the temperature is bearable and his predators don’t see very well. He doesn’t see very well either, and relies mostly on smell and hearing to navigate his surroundings.

Syrian hamster size and body shape

The Syrian hamster is the largest hamster available as a pet. He can grow to be 13-18 cm/5-7 inch long, though some hamsters have grown bigger than that. They’re also the heaviest hamster, ranging between 100-200 gr/3.5 -7 oz, some of them going a bit over that.

As opposed to the Dwarf types, Syrians have a distinct neck and their hind legs don’t have that elongated look. They’re more diggers than runners, you might say.

Their faces aren’t as narrow and pointy as the Dwarf hamster’s, and they look ridiculous with their cheeks stuffed. Given their rounder, fuzzier face, Syrians have also been known as teddy bear hamsters. They do look a bit like that, I guess.

The Syrian’s tail is short, thin, and a fleshy pink. It’s got no fur, and it’s not often noticeable. If you’ve got a dark haired hamster though, you might see it easier.

They’ve got no fur on their paws either, unlike the Dwarf types. This helps them grip and grab easier in the sands and in their tunnels.

Syrian hamster coat pattern

Traditionally you will find Syrian hamster with the golden pattern, like my teddy shown above. Granted, my Teddy’s colors fade into each other, while other Golden variation have a stark difference between each color. Some look more like color splotches.

The Golden variation is the orange on the back, white on the belly, and a few dark grey markings on their back, forehead and neck. Their ears are also grey.

When the hamster is still a baby, he will look mostly orange with some white. The grey appears and becomes definitive only when the hamster becomes an adult, around the 3 month mark.

This color pattern helped the Syrian hamster camouflage himself in the sands and escape his predators. It’s the usual color you’ll find wild hamsters. Any odd variations will stand out against the sand and they become easy prey.

Breeders have focused on changing and enhancing the color patterns of captive hamsters. We now have a wide variety of hamsters colors to choose from. For example when I picked up Teddy he was in a cage with a light brown hammy, a couple of black ones, and a few randomly spotted hamsters.

Imagine the Syrian hamster’s available color patterns like you would a cat’s myriad of colors. Except stripes. Hamsters haven’t developed stripes like the cats, but aside from that the colors come in rings, bands, patches, spots, mottles, full color, dustings, anything you can imagine.

In time, as the hamster becomes a senior, your will see the fur get lighter overall, but no distinct silver hairs as you would in old dogs for example.

Syrian hamster health and lifespan

The Syrian hamster is the second-longest lived hamster, right after the Roborovski Dwarf. The Syrian can live up to 3 years in captivity, and some have been known to live past that.

Genetics, as well as the care and stress levels play a big role in how long and how well your hamster lives. This means that some hamsters, although not suffering from any terrible illness, can wither away by their first year. Or, some can live to be 3.5 years old.

Babies become adults by the time they reach the 12th week of age, and can breed as soon as they’re weaned.

But generally, Syrian hamsters live up to 3 years, and are considered old when they reach their second birthday. My Teddy is currently a year and a half old (born in July 2017), and there are some changes happening to him.

He’s lost a large part of his energy, doesn’t eat as much, and sleeps most of the time. This is normal for hamsters going into old age.

You’ll notice the hamster is definitely old and frail when his fur starts getting sparse, and he develops a sort of bald spot starting from his rear end and back legs. This is the usual pattern, and there is nothing we as owners can do to help or change that.

Aside from that sign, the hamster’s skin will become very loose, wrinkly, and he will have a bony/skinny appearance, although he seems to be eating. Unfortunately this means his end is very near, and you will have to keep a close watch on him.

When it comes to Syrian hamsters, wet-tail is the most notorious and dangerous disease they can contract. This is a form of diarrhea, which if often lethal if left untreated, or discovered too late. You can find out more about wet-tail here, and how to notice it and treat 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.)

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Syrian hamster pregnancy and breeding

Breeding is, like with other hamsters, kind of violent and the female will half mate, half fight with the male during their breeding window. The female comes into heat every few days, for 4 days straight, at night. That is when the male can be introduced to her, and the mating can begin.

Sometimes the female is too violent and just want to pick a fight, so the male needs to be removed. Once the female accepts the male and the mating is successful, she will fall pregnant. The male will need to be kept away from the female, since she will attack him after becoming pregnant.

The usual gestation period for Syrian hamsters is 16-18 days, after which the female will give birth to a litter between 3 and 15 baby hamsters.

She should not be disturbed at all during the birthing process, and 2 weeks afterwards. Only provide her with food and water through the bars. Anything that scares, stresses, or annoys her can lead her to eat her young, especially if it’s her first litter.

Another reason the male should be kept away from the female is because she can fall pregnant immediately after giving birth, which will be difficult both on her and all her babies.

And also because the male will kill the newborns to get her full attention. So make sure you keep the male and female separated at all times, except when trying for a litter.

Once the hamsters are born, they are blind and hairless. They will suckle from their mother until they are 4 weeks old, which is when she will wean them. The babies can now be introduced to solid food.

They also need to be separated into all male and all female groups, to avoid surprise pregnancies. However keeping the hamsters together past week 8-10 of age is not recommended, since that is when they become territorial.

It will not matter if it’s their mother or brother or sister with them, they will start fighting and it often is deadly. Always keep a Syrian hamster alone, in one cage.

Syrian hamster housing and cages

Of all the hamsters, Syrians have the largest minimum needs when it comes to cages and housing them. The minimum cage is 24 x 12 inches, and about 12 inches tall. That’s 61 x 30.5 cm, and about 30.5 cm tall.

Of course, the bigger the cage the better. All hamsters, no matter their breed, will opt for a bigger cage, a bigger running wheel, and more space to run if they can. But, not everyone has the possibility of keeping a big cage for their hamster, mostly due to cost and space in their home.

The best idea would be an Ikea Detolf. That’s a simple standing shelf, with the shelves removed, and put on its side. Construction a wire mesh for it is fairly easy, many tutorials are available online.

Detolfs are expensive and big, so wherever you put them, that’s where they’re going to stay. Cleaning them is a bit different from an ordinary cage as well, but they give your hamster much more space to run around and play.

What about commercial hamster cages ? Are they big enough for Syrians ?

Well, sadly, no. For the most part commercial cages are too small for a Syrian. Not all, but most of them. Looking for a cage big enough is a bit of a hassle, but they can be found.

For example this one, a wire cage with a plastic bottom, with an adjustable extra level. It’s got enough floor space for the hamster to use, and the extra level will give him a bit more.

Hamsters don’t use all the levels in their cage, so just one level is enough. They prefer the ground level anyway, and might build the nest under that level.

That being said, this cage provides both airflow, and containment. The spacing between the wires is less than half an inch, so the Syrian hamster won’t be able to squeeze himself through those wires.

You can check the listing on Amazon here.

As for the bedding, your hammy will need either wood shavings, or paper bedding. If you get wood shavings, make sure you get aspen, and stay away from cedar or pine as they can suffocate a hamster.

Syrian hamster diet and food

Syrian hamsters eat mostly grains, with a few vegetable and fruits added in. Nuts and seeds are welcome too, as is a bit of protein. Things like cooked, plain chicken and boiled egg white are good sources of protein, as well as mealworms and small insects.

However commercial food mixes are more than enough, with a well studied composition and covering their dietary needs. So, giving your hamster a good food mix will go a long way.

You can always supplement the hamster’s diet with foods you already have in your pantry or fridge. A safe foods list is here, and most of them are easily available across the world.

The Syrian hamster will need 2 teaspoons of dry food mix per day, and he will hide most of it in his nest. Overfeeding him won’t make him stop hiding the food, since this is a natural instinct of his. It will only result in more hidden food, and a fat hamster, which can lead to diabetes and joint problems.

Syrian hamster toys and cage objects

The first thing about a hamster, any hamster, is that he loves to run. all night, every night. He will get lazier as he ages, but until then he will run as far as his little feet will take him

A Syrian hamster is no different, so he will need an exercise wheel. The thing is, he will need a larger wheel than the other hamsters, since he is so large.

The hamster’s back should not be arched when he runs, since this can create back problems. This is why the wheel itself must be very wide, to keep his back straight.

For example a wheel like this one is large enough for any kind of hamster, but especially a Syrian. Syrians are the largest, and if yours happens to grow past 18 cm/7 inches long, then a wheel as big as this one will still fit him.

It’s got a heavy bottom, so you’re sure it won’t move about the cage. And it’s got a tail and foot guard, so he doesn’t catch onto something.

Best of all, it’s silent and won’t keep you up at night with squeaks and grinding metal.

You can find the listing on Amazon here, and check it out for yourself.

Aside from the exercise wheel, the Syrian will need some objects in his cage (aside from the food bowl and the water bottle). Like a wooden hideout for him to build a nest in, a chew toy, a few cardboard tunnels made from paper towel rolls.

Climbing toys are welcome to, and so are hide and seek toys. Most of these can be either bought from a store or online, or even made at home from wood or cardboard. You can find out more about that here.

A word from Teddy

I hope you found what you were looking for in this article. I know us hammies can seem very confusing with all our cousins, but you’ll learn about each of us in time. Us Syrians are the biggest, and the friendliest by far.

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.

Related blog post
Buyer’s Guide – Choosing The Best Hamster Exercise Wheel
Buyer’s Guide – Choosing The Best Hamster Exercise WheelWhen your first get your hamster home, you probably have the small wheel that comes with the cage. Then you find out that wheel’s not good enough, and you need to find a bigger, better one. But how big ? How do you know which is best ? This is something I went through as well when I got Teddy, and I’ll tell you how I found a great wheel for him. Table of Contents ToggleSo how do you choose a good exercise wheel for your hamster ?How to introduce a hamster to his running wheelHow to care for a hamster running wheelHow to clean a hamster running wheelWhat to do if your hamster does not use his running wheelDo hamsters even need exercise wheels ?A good hamster exercise wheel recommendationDangers of not exercising your hamsterPrecautions when using a hamster exercise wheelHow to tell when your hamster is comfortable in his exercise wheelA word from Teddy So how do you choose a good exercise wheel for your hamster ? There are a few factors involved, and we’ll go through all of them. 1. The size of the wheel is very important. That depends on the size of your hamster. A large hamster, like a Syrian hamster, will need a minimum of 8 inches (20 cm) wheel. Smaller breeds like dwarf and Campbell hamsters need a minimum of 5.5 inches (14 cm). But make sure you go above the minimum requirement. The width of the running band is a minimum of 2.5 inch (6 cm) to fit the hamster properly, for all species. 2. The type of the wheel. Full, weighted, plastic wheels are better for your hamster. The metal ones are the next best thing, as long as the hamster has no way of hurting himself. 3. Mounted vs grounded wheels. Both are good options, but it depends on the type of cage you have. If you have no way to mount the wheel, then you’ll need to go for a grounded one. 4. Noise level. It’s important to get a silent hamster wheel, so be sure to check that when you get the wheel. Or to find some ways to make sure the wheel can be silent. 5. The hamster’s back should always be straight. If your hammy has his back arched back when he uses his wheel, then it is too small for him. Syrian hamsters have a big problem with this, since most commercial wheels are too small for them. These are the basics. Teddy and I will walk your through how to properly use a hamster wheel, how to care for it, and precautions. How to introduce a hamster to his running wheel A hamster is a very curious creature, and he will inspect anything in his cage that is new. So when you place your hamster’s new wheel in his c age, put a treat in it. The treat will draw the hamster towards the wheel, and he’ll notice that the wheel moves. It might take him a few tries to figure it out, but he will. Once your hamster learns that the wheel moves, and is for running, he will start using it. This was the case with my Teddy, a full grown Syrian hamster. When he was a few weeks old, he had a small, plastic wheel that was mounted on the side of the cage. It was too small for him, even as a small hamster. So I went and got him a bigger one, a 7 inch/18 cm wheel, which he used until he grew too big for that one too. Then I got him a larger, 8.5 inch/21.5 cm one. But Teddy took to his wheel like a fish to water. So I’m pretty sure your hammy will jump right into his wheel once he finds it. It might take him a few minutes to figure it out, or even a few days. But he will eventually get there. There are however a few hamsters that don’t use their wheel, they just walk through it. But we’ll cover that in a different part of the article. The cage you have plays an important role here. If you have no way to attach the wheel to the side of the cage, you will need a standing wheel. To find out more about the different kinds of cages and what your hamster needs from his cage, check out my article here. How to care for a hamster running wheel Caring for a running wheel for your hamster is not going to be difficult, but some things need to be kept in mind. For example the metal wheels will start screeching after a while, and will need regular oiling in order to be silent. That means taking the wheel apart, wiping off the old oil, and putting on a very small amount of fresh oil. You can use almost any kind of oil, but remember to use just a small amount. Stay away from very fragrant oils, like olive oil, since your hamster might be tempted to lick it off the wheel. First hand experience here, had to take the wheel out. Plastic, full wheels with guards on need you to take them apart, and some may require a screwdriver. Whenever you clean one of those, best to leave them to dry very well before putting them back. Plastic wheels don’t need any regular upkeep. If you’ve got a grounded wheel, make sure to not get it all the way down to the bottom of the cage. Leave a layer of bedding just under it, to make as little noise as possible. This is also make sure the wheel doesn’t move around the cage much, and won’t bang into anything it shouldn’t. The hamster will bite into and chew everything, including his exercise wheel. So do not mind the bite marks on the wheel. If you’ve got a metal one, the paint on it is safe for hamsters as well. Teddy’s been chewing on his since forever and he is fine. How to clean a hamster running wheel The solution to use when cleaning the wheel itself is very hot water, with just a bit of soap. A very small amount of soap is needed, and must be very well rinsed. As I said above, you’ll need to take the wheel apart, and clean each surface thoroughly. Make sure that when you finish cleaning the hamster’s exercise wheel, you allow it to dry completely. If you need to, you can use a blow dryer on a low setting. As for how often to clean the hamster’s exercise wheel, twice a year is enough. The hamster himself is a very clean creature, so he won’t be soiling the wheel by himself too often. What to do if your hamster does not use his running wheel Let’s say your hammy knows he has a wheel, he knows it moves, but he just doesn’t use it. Maybe he never did use it. Maybe he just recently stopped using it. Let’s see what you can try. Start by placing a treat inside the wheel, to draw your hamster in. Continue doing this for a few time throughout the day, for a couple of days. Your hammy might need to re-learn or rediscover his wheel. Now, after your hammy is back in his wheel, what if he just sits in it ? Try moving the wheel very gently. Do not move the wheel suddenly, but be slow and deliberate about it. Your hamster will most likely follow along, and start walking in the exercise wheel. Keep doing this for a few seconds, and then let him move the wheel by himself. If he doesn’t, give him more time. Repeat this method for a couple of days, and if your hammy still won’t use the wheel, it’s best to stop insisting. Some hamsters just aren’t runners. However, you should be very careful about something. When you see your hamster not walking properly, or limping a bit when he’s in his wheel, contact your vet. Your hamster could be avoiding the wheel because one of his paws hurt. Especially if he stopped just recently. And finally, some hamsters stop using their wheel when they get older. The older the hamster, the bigger the chances are that he’ll stop running. It could be that they’re more comfy, they feel no threat, or they’ve just become lazy. The point is that they can sometimes stop using it at all. And there’s not much we can do about that. Do hamsters even need exercise wheels ? Yes, hamsters need an exercise wheel. In the wild hamsters are very active, fidgety creatures. They’re used to running around, darting here and hiding there. They can’t and won’t sit still for long. How I wish I knew this before I got Teddy. I knew nothing of hamsters, I only knew they were cute and fluffy. But I never imagined he’d be a dynamo. Turns out not all hamsters are cuddly and like to be held, some are more energetic and want to be everywhere. Still, Teddy is the cutest thing, and I’m glad I got an excited and energetic hamster. He makes for a funny pet, and pulls the wildest stunts. Now, imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t get Teddy an exercise wheel. He’d be all over the place, and I’d be worrying about what to do. But since Teddy does have a wheel, he expends a lot of his energy on that wheel. Hamsters need to have someplace to be active, like a running wheel or an exercise ball, or toys around their cage. The exercise/running wheel allows your hammy to do what he’d normally do in the wild. Usually a hamster can cover up to 5.5 miles/ 9 km in one night ! This is looking for food, running from predators, finding new territory, and being curious in general.  Imagine your hammy with all that energy and no wheel to burn it all on. A good hamster exercise wheel recommendation A good hamster wheel is for life. It’s best to get your hammy his wheel since he is a baby, and let him grow into it. If you’ve got a Syrian hamster like me, then you’ll know they can grow pretty big. The absolute minimum for a Syrian hamster is a 8 inch/20 cm wheel, but it’s important to go past that minimum since your hammy needs a bit more space than that, and he might grow very large. This applies to dwarf hamsters as well, since they need a fair amount of space themselves. So this is my recommendation, and a very good wheel as far as I can tell. This is not the wheel I have for my Teddy, since these are not available in my are, and do not ship here either. However they are just above the wheel I have for Teddy. As far as I’ve seen, it’s a silent wheel, and it stays put quite well. It has a weighted bottom, so it will stay where you put it. This means it will be heavier than your standard wheel, but that’s just the bottom part, the wheel itself is easy to move by the hamster. A hamster exercise wheel is going to last him his entire life, so don’t skimp out on it. It’s just as vital as the size of the cage he lives in, and what food you feed your hamster. You can check the listing on Amazon for the exercise wheel here. Dangers of not exercising your hamster There are a few problems that come us when you’re not exercising your hamster, let’s talk about that. If your hamster has so much energy to spend, but nowhere to go, that’s a problem. First, hamster can get anxiety and depression out of being cooped up for long periods of time with no activity. Hamsters bore easily, and need a lot of stimulation. Exercise gives them exactly that, so make sure you get your hamster a lot of exercise. Second, in lack of anything else to do, your hamster will scale the cage walls, and try to escape. Partly out of boredom, and partly out of curiosity. Third, he might develop a cage biting habit. If your hamster feel closed off, and wants to escape or find something to do, he might end up chewing on his cage bars. While that may sound like an innocent thing to do, it’s not. It hurts his teeth, since the metal is too hard for them and is not an okay material to chew on. Aside from that, it’s incredibly loud and it woke me up more than once. So make sure you keep your hamster well exercised, whether it is with a hamster wheel, or exercise ball. Giving your hamster lots of toys to play with will also keep him active, even if he’s not running. (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.) Precautions when using a hamster exercise wheel When I first put Teddy in his wheel, I didn’t know about all of these. I learned in time, and I’m giving you these pointers to make sure you have all the info you need. The wheel needs to have enough space to spin properly. That means that it needs to have just a bit of space between itself and the bedding. Otherwise the wheel won’t spin, and the bedding will go flying everywhere. Best to prevent that by keeping some space. Sometimes, if you’re using a simple metal wheel, the metal bars will become misaligned. This can hurt the hamster, since he can get hit by those bars. Best to check them every day, to see if they get a bit wonky. This happened with my Teddy, and I had to move the bars a bit. They may be metal, but they’re still malleable, so if your hamster’s hitting the bars, you should be able to twist them just a bit. The best way to check this is by looking at the bars themselves. The ones Teddy kept hitting had a bit of the natural oil that builds up on Teddy’s fur, and dirt on the side. This was where it kept brushing up against the hamster, and that’s how I figured that I had to twist the bars a bit. The plastic wheels don’t have this problem, but they have their own. For example flying saucer wheels require much more space inside the hamster’s cage than a simple vertical wheel, so keep that in mind as well. Also the hamster can suddenly ‘fly’ off that wheel if he stops so it can be a bit dangerous for him And finally, be sure that whatever kind of wheel you get, the hamster can’t catch his feet in it. For example some metal and plastic wheels have a very poorly though out spacing between the bars, and the hamster can easily stick a whole foot inside. If your have 2 hamsters, get them 2 wheels. This way your will avoid any possible injuries from one hamster getting in the wheel while another is running. Or out of the wheel. You’ve probably seen videos of hamsters flying out of a running wheel because their cage mate was still running. Avoid that. How to tell when your hamster is comfortable in his exercise wheel The hammy should feel a natural call to run in his wheel. Hamsters are meant to run, and they enjoy every kind of activity that lets them do that. But there are a few ways to tell if your hamster is in pain or has a problem with his running wheel, and it’s important to know them. This way you can prevent larger problems like fur loss, injury or even worse. The hamster’s back is straight, and not arched back. As with the exercise ball, the wheel is meant to be a running simulator and hamsters run with their back straight, or even a bit hunched. The hamster is able to run in a straight line. This means that the bars on the wheel are properly aligned, and there is no tilting of the wheel. If there is any tilting, the hamster might get injured. He has enough space to run on. By this I mean he has enough ‘lane’ to run in, and his running band is at least 2.5 inches/6 cm wide. Otherwise the hammy will hit his rear end on the sides of the wheel. The hamster can keep up a consistent run. He does not have to stop often to readjust his position. This won’t really happen when he knows you’re there, since you will distract him. Watch your hamster from a distance to get a clear observation. A word from Teddy You know everything there is to know about us hammies now ! Running is a large part of our lives, and you know how much we run, and how big our wheel needs to be. I know it might sound like a lot of space, but it will matter a lot to your hamster friend if he has a lot of space to run in. If your want to know more about us hammies, you can check the articles below. You’ll find great info like what we can and can not eat, and even what kind of cage we need. [...] Read more...
Can Hamsters Eat Meat – Here’s What Your Furry Friend Likes
Can Hamsters Eat Meat – Here’s What Your Furry Friend LikesWhen I first got my Teddy I wondered if he can eat meat, and what I should feed him. As it turns out, hamsters can eat many different things. Some of them are actually in your pantry or fridge ! In this article I’ll be talking about whether hammies can have meat, and if so what kind, any why, and how much, and so on. Table of Contents ToggleSo can hamsters eat meat ?Hamsters can only eat light meatHammies can have:Hamsters can’t have:How hamsters find their protein in the wildCommercial food gives hamsters vegetable proteinYou can supplement your hamster’s diet, yes.A word from Teddy So can hamsters eat meat ? Yes, hamsters can definitely eat meat ! Not much though, since in the wild their diet consists of grains, seeds, veggies, and meat. So, they’re not particularly carnivores, like cats, or dogs. It might seem a bit strange, since hamsters are this cute ball of fluff and they have the cutest beady eyes, but hammies do eat meat. And hamsters can in fact live out their entire life without ever eating meat of any kind, and be fine. However they will not turn it down if you offer them some. However even in the wild hammies do find some sources of animal protein, so they definitely can eat meat. Just, they need it in small amounts, in order to process it properly. And they can’t have just any kind of meat. Hamsters can only eat light meat While hamsters can in fact eat meat, they can’t eat just every kind there is. For example very exotic meats like snake or aligator meat, aren’t good for hamsters. But even your day to day options might seem a bit much for your hamster friend. Let’s go through a short list of what kind of meat your hamster can eat: Hammies can have: Chicken, fish, shrimp. This is light meat, and it’s okay for hamsters. Always make sure that the meat you give your hamster is completely bland. So that means unsalted, unspiced meat. It needs to be either boiled, or baked. No added oils, or fried meat, or even lunchmeat or coldcuts, even if they’re made of the meats I just mentioned. Hammies can have chicken, any meaty part of it. The fish should be a very light fish, that was only baked, and they don’t need garlic or lemon to go with it. Be very careful to remove any small bones your hammy might choke on ! As for the shrimp, hammies can have a bit of shrimp as well, since it’s not a very smelly kind of seafood (hamsters have very sensitive noses). Other kinds of seafood like surimi, crab meat, octopus, and calamari rings are probably not a good idea. This is mainly because no one has tried it before, so there’s no info that can be trusted, only assumptions. Still, best to just stick with what you know is completely safe for your hamster friend, and just give him a small bit of chicken or fish or shrimp. By small I mean no larger than the nail of your thumb, think about your hamster’s minuscule size. Hamsters can’t have: Any kind of red meat, or venison, or large bird kind of  meat. So that means that beef, pork, turkey, goose, deer, duck, pretty much anything aside from what I mentioned earlier, is not good for your hamster. This is because a hammy’s stomach can’t process this kind of meat very well. From this point of view, the hamster’s digestive tract is different than ours. Your hammy might want to nibble on that kind of meat if he smells you cooking with it. But make sure you give him none of that, since it’s much better for his health. How hamsters find their protein in the wild Hammies do eat protein in the wild. They don’t hunt down wild chicken or go fishing, though. But they do catch the occasional cricket, or grasshopper. Sometimes, if they’re feeling sneaky hamsters might pounce on a mealworm too. Now, this doesn’t happen often. Not because hamsters feel guilty, but because protein sources tend to move around and hide from their predators. So pouncing a mealworm or catching a cricket is much more work than foraging for some seeds/grains. If given the chance, hamsters will snatch up the insect or worm, just like any other small rodent – for example a field mouse. (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.) Commercial food gives hamsters vegetable protein Your hamster does get his protein from his usual food mix too. The commercial food mixes are made up of protein, veggies, fibers, and minerals as well. However the protein sources those food mixes usually use are vegetable based. So your hamster is getting soy, or beans, as a protein source. Which is fine, as long as he does get his protein. Whey or beef-based protein mixes don’t keep as long as vegetable ones, and are more expensive. However they’re more efficient at getting protein into your hamster’s diet than soy or beans. This pre-made food mix covers all the basics your hammy will need. And it’s in a large enough bag that you can keep your hamster well fed for a couple of months, depending on how much you give him daily. More on that here. I give my Teddy pre-made food mixes as well, and give him some extra veggies or chicken when we’re cooking. You can check out the listing on Amazon for this food mix, so you know what to expect, and read the reviews. You can supplement your hamster’s diet, yes. You can give your hammy some chicken, fish, or shrimp to eat along with his usual mix. You can even add in a bit of boiled egg white, or a small piece of tofu. Just make sure that when you do give your hamster protein separately, you give him a small amount. This is because he needs to be able to eat all of it in one sitting. Otherwise the leftovers will go bad, and start to smell, which will cause a hose of problems. For more info on what you can feed your hammy, you should check out this list of safe and unsafe foods. You’ll find there a lot of foods you’ve already got in your pantry, and see which you can give your hammy. A word from Teddy I hope you know now what kind of meat us hammies can have. I for one am in love with chicken bits, and will drop anything I have in my paws if I find some chicken. Your hammy will probably enjoy some chicken or boiled egg white too, try it out ! If your want to know more about us hammies, you can check out the articles below. You’ll find out things like why we get scared of you sometimes, and how much water we need on a daily basis. [...] Read more...
Do Hamsters Need Affection ? How To Keep Your Furball Happy
Do Hamsters Need Affection ? How To Keep Your Furball HappyWhen I first got my Teddy I didn’t know how much attention he’d need from me. Or if he’d need any at all. I only knew hamsters can be left by themselves in their cages and be fine, but do hammies really need your attention ? Table of Contents ToggleSo do hamsters need attention from their owners ?It depends on your hamster’s personalityHamsters are always very curious and activeHow to keep your hamster friend happyPlay with the hamsterGive the hammy plenty of toys and ways to exerciseGet your hamster the right sized everythingHamsters do not get lonelyA word from Teddy So do hamsters need attention from their owners ? YES, much less than other pets but yes. Hamsters are solitary by nature, but they still enjoy human company, and can grow to be attached to their owners. This means you need to handle and play with the hamster very often, to form this bond. But your hammy will not be lonely if you don’t pay him too much attention. Hamsters are solitary by nature, and do not miss company necessarily. This means that they can live on their own, and not miss the owner too much. However a hamster not handled regularly will need a lot more space and activities, to consume all of his energy. He’s basically an untamed hamster in this case. But let’s get into detail with this, and see how and when to give your hamster attention. It depends on your hamster’s personality Some hamsters are more cuddly, some are more aloof. In general Syrian hamsters are easier to tame, and thus will be a bit more affectionate than other hamster types. But this is only because the Syrians are much larger than the other hammies, and thus can be handled easier. However there are hamsters and hamsters. For example my Teddy – adult Syrian male –  is not the cuddliest of hamsters. He’s not completely aloof, but he is always on the go, doing something, too busy to stay in my hands and relax a little. To be honest he was not what I imagined when I said I wanted a hammy, but he’s got a whole personality of his own. He may not be cuddly, but he makes a lot of funny faces, and would be a really good circus acrobat. Maybe your hammy is like my Teddy, or maybe he’s a very mellow hamster. A family friend of ours had a hammy, his name was Oscar, and he was the tamest thing ever. He let anyone touch him, and would come up to the cage bars if he heard you, asking for a bit of attention. There’s hamsters and hamsters, and you won’t really know what kind of hamster you’re getting when he is a baby. But it’s important to realize that your pet is his own creature, and won’t always be what you imagined. You can, however, do your best to try and tame your hamster. Just don’t be surprised by the outcome, and love him anyway. Hamsters are always very curious and active Your hamster need your attention, even if it’s not for reasons as sentimental as a puppy. True, hamsters do need attention, but they do not crave it as much as dogs. Hamsters can’t be emotionally handicapped (since they’re loners by default) like a puppy starving for affection, but still you should give your hamster plenty of love and attention. Still, your hamster will be curious. About everything. Including what you’ve got in that bag you’re rustling next to his cage, or 2 rooms away. So even for something as small as this, hamsters do need your attention so they know what you’re doing, and they can investigate in peace. Just bring the bag close to the cage and let him sniff what you’ve got there. Chances are he won’t be interested. For example my Teddy goes nuts when I’m doing something next to his cage, but the second I let him get a sniff of what I’m doing (often just heating something in the microwave) he loses all interest and walks away. Sometimes I think I have a cat. So, sometimes your hamster’s curiosity might be mistaken for asking for affection. Hamsters aren’t aloof like fish, or spiders or reptiles, but they’re not nearly as cuddly as dogs, cats, or parrots. How to keep your hamster friend happy You can keep your hamster friend happy, and give him a lot of attention and love. There’s a few ways you can do that, and I’ll tell you right here. Play with the hamster The first and most obvious thing to do is to play with your hamster. This will create and deepen the bond between the two of you. Also, you’re giving your hamster plenty of attention by constantly handling him, and letting him get your scent. For example my Teddy’s fave playtime is a toilet paper square, dangled in front of him and he tries to climb onto it half the time. He just loves chasing that bit of paper around his cage every time he notices it. Even if you don’t want to take the hamster out of his cage, you can still talk to him and touch him in the cage. This helps him get closer to you, because hamsters need plenty of stimulation. Give the hammy plenty of toys and ways to exercise This is the next best thing after playing with your hamster. Sometimes, like when you’re sleeping and your hamster is awake, your hammy needs things to do. So giving the hamster chew toys and a running wheel is going to give him something to do. As said before in this article hamsters sometimes are just very curious, and sometimes that can be mistaken for asking for attention. If your hammy has not much to do in his cage, then he’ll grow bored and want to explore the outside. And if the outside means you, making coffee next to him, then he will absolutely need to know what’s in that cup. So a good option is getting your hamster some toys – here’s a link for some DYI and store bought toy ideas for your hamster, so he never gets bored. And here is an article on running wheels for hamsters, so you know what to look for when you get one for your hamster. Or, if the one you’ve already got is good enough. There’s wheel size requirements, depending on your hamster’s breed. Get your hamster the right sized everything From food bowl to water bottle to hideout and cage, everything needs to be the right size for your hammy. A very small cage will make your hamster nervous and anxious, and he will be all over the cage bars. It will look like he’s asking for your attention, but once you do handle him he will not be friendly or sit still. He will be happy he is out, and can explore, but you’re not letting him. So for this reason (and many others) getting your hamster a large enough cage is one of the most important things to do to keep him comfortable and happy. Hamsters are very small, but they need quite a bit of space. You can read more about hamster cages – size, types, and how to clean them – right here, so you can take care of your hamster friend as best you can. Remember, if you’ve got Dwarf hammies and they’re at least two, you’re going to need a bigger cage. As for the hideout your hamster will spend most of his time in, it’s important that you get your hammy a wooden one. He will chew on everything in his cage, even the hideout, so it’s best to get him one that’s safe for his teeth. You can see more about hamster hideouts and the bedding hamsters usually need right here. (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.) Hamsters do not get lonely You might think that hamsters can get lonely, all by themselves in those cages. Well, hamsters are okay to be left alone, after all they’re loners by nature. In the wild hamsters live alone, and only meet other hamsters to mate. Or, the occasional trespasser in their territory who they will fight. There are some hamster breeds that can live together. But even those hamsters need to be introduced as babies, and be of the same litter, in order to get a long. Even so, sometimes it just doesn’t work. So if you’ve got an adult Syrian hammy, and you’re feeling bad because you feel like you’re not paying him enough attention, do not get him a friend. He will fight anyone new that you put into his cage, even a baby hamster. Syrians and Chinese hamsters are especially territorial, and will get into an actual, legit deathmatch with another hamster in their cage. Hamsters are not puppies, and won’t do well in a group. Some Dwarf types are okay being raised with a sibling of theirs, but even there they can get on each other’s nerves and develop stress-related illnesses. A word from Teddy I hope you know more about us hammies now, and know that we do in fact need your attention. Maybe not as much as other pets, and we won’t jump on you to lick your face to show affection. But we love you in our own way, and we do like your company ! So if you want to know more about us hamsters, feel free to check out the articles below. You’l find more info on what kind of food we need, how much water we can drink, and even why we play with our poop. [...] Read more...
Best Hamster Travel Cages, And How To Transport Your Hamster Safely
Best Hamster Travel Cages, And How To Transport Your Hamster SafelyTaking your hamster somewhere is never easy. This is why having the best travel cage ever for your hamster is going to make things much easier, both for you and your hamster. This is what I’ll be helping you out with, and my Teddy will give you a few important things to remember along the way. Travelling with your hamster need to be done with care. Table of Contents ToggleFinding the best travel cages for your hamsterThe best transport cages for hamsters I’ve foundHabitrail OVO plastic transport cage for hamstersKaytee wire transport cage for hamstersLiving World Hagen Pet Carrier (hard plastic)How to safely transport your hamsterFood and water for transporting your hamsterWaterFoodKeeping your hamster comfortable during travelTry to keep him from scaring too muchKeep the hamster in the darkAvoid transporting the hamster in extreme temperaturesKeep the hamster’s cage secureFamiliar bedding for your hamster’s comfortGive the hamster time to adjustBest toys to keep your hamster occupied during travelToys.The hamster house or nestA word from Teddy Finding the best travel cages for your hamster Let’s talk about the transport cage itself. This is the most important part of transporting your hamster, since you can’t bring the cage your hamster lives in. The main debate about transport cages in whether you should get a very secure one – like those made of plastic – or a very breathable one, with wire. It’s entirely up to you, is what I say. You don’t need a transport cage often, but when you do you’ll be very specific about it. Of course you can later use it as a place to keep the hamster while you clean and change his big cage. Now, whatever type of cage you get, it’s important that it is very well secured. It should not spring open suddenly, and you hamster can’t gnaw on the clasps to open it easily. Just as important, how breathable is the cage ? Wire cages are very breathable but are not the most secure. However the plastic cages offer more safety but only have holes in them to allow air to pass through it. The size of the cage does not really matter, in that it can be smaller than the one your hamster lives in. But make sure that he will fit easily into the transporting unit, and you can take him out just as easy. The best transport cages for hamsters I’ve found I’ll go through the best transport cages I’ve found, both for plastic and for wire cages. You pick whichever you think sounds better for you and your hamster. Habitrail OVO plastic transport cage for hamsters This is the kind of cage that will stay securely closed, and your hammy can get inside easily. The two tube endings can be attached to the main cage through, well, tubes so your hamster can use it as an extra home when not traveling. The two endings can be closed off with lids that comes with the cage. There are enough air holes on the top of the cage, to let the hamster get enough air. It also prevents drafts since the holes will not catch a lot of sideways air. You can fit a lot of bedding in the lower part of the cage, since it will reach high enough. But don’t add any sand for a sand bath, since it can escape from tiny nooks. I’ve both checked the reviews on Amazon, and looked at one in our local petshop. This kind of cage looks and feels sturdy, and the handle will definitely keep when you travel. A couple of downsides are that if you order it or buy it in a sealed package, you might have to assemble it yourself. But as far as I’ve seen the instructions are very clear and most people managed to assemble it okay. The other small downside would be that longer journeys would be a bit more difficult, since there is not much space in this cage. The air holes do provide some air, but not for 24 hours. You can find it on Amazon here, and check its price as well. Kaytee wire transport cage for hamsters Wire cages are probably your best option for ventilation. But the problem is sometimes they are easy to open by the hamster, or they don’t close properly. It’s also harder to wrap a cloth around the cage to prevent drafts since the hamster will try to chew the cloth. But, in this case this cage has more space than the plastic one I talked about earlier. There’s an added level that can give your hamster a bit more space, but I recommend taking it out so he can’t fall. Your hamster will have a lot of breathing space, which is essential if you’re going on a long trip or he needs to be in that cage more than a couple of hours. The spacing between these bars is about 1.25 cm/0.5 inches so your hammy has no chance of fitting his head through the bars. Both Syrians and smaller breeds (like Siberians or Campbells) are alright in this kind of cage for transport. I can see only a couple of downsides to this cage, one being that the bedding can get all over the car in some cases, like if your hamster kicks it around or there is a sharp turn. And second, it is very hard to protect from drafts. You can check out this exact cage on Amazon, and see its price as well. Living World Hagen Pet Carrier (hard plastic) If you’re looking for more options then maybe this pet carrier will sound better for you and your pet. People have successfully transported small birds like cockatiels and sun conures to the vet in this transport cage, and it seems to be large enough for an adult hamster. It’s large enough for an adult Syrian, and definitely large enough for an adult Dwarf as well. Just remember to get the ‘large’ size, the maroon one with a gray and transparent top, as the smaller blue one is much too small. This transport cage is hard, thick plastic, and if you offer some amount of bedding and a hideout for your hammy then he should have no problem being relaxed in this cage. The overall size is 11.8 inch length by 9 inch width by 8.3 inch height, and most hammies won’t even reach the top part of the cage very easily. Air circulation is good enough, as there are holes on the upper part of the sides of the cage, and in the transparent lid as well. The lid is large, and opens completely, meaning you will have very easy access to your hamster when taking him out. And you will also easily keep an eye on him during travel. The fact that he won’t see anything around him may prove better at not scaring him. The only downside I see to this cage is the height of the cage. Hamsters love to gnaw on everything, and if yours gets his chompers on the upper part where there are holes, he might nibble at them and make a larger hole. Still, few hamsters get that far and I doubt it can become a problem if you’re using the cage for a quick trip to the vet. You can check the listing on Amazon here, and read the reviews as well. (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.) How to safely transport your hamster The very idea of moving your hamster is not safe for him, but in general it’s best to keep the cage and the toys inside the hamster cage lightweight. During travel sudden stops or sharp turns might move the cage and the things inside the cage can hurt the hamster. Also, try and keep the duration and distance as short as possible. Avoid public transport, with loud noises and people bumping into you. Go for an air conditioned car that can get you there fast.  There are more things to keep in mind than this, so Teddy and I will get into detail with all of them. But as a reminder: Teddy: Us hamsters are very easy to scare, so try not to rattle, bump, jostle, throw or shake our transport cage, and keep us well ventilated ! Food and water for transporting your hamster When you transport your little hamster, you’ll want to keep him well stocked on food and water. The problem is what kind of food and water. Water A water bottle or bowl is not good for transport. Every time your car or train or bus stops, they can leak and get the hamster wet, and possibly ill later on. What you can do instead is get a few slices of cucumber, and place them every once in a while in your hamster’s cage. Cucumbers have very high water content, and are safe for your hamster to eat. The cucumber will give your hamster enough water to last him the trip and back again, without spilling anything. Best to get several thick slices, and store them in a cool bag. Place one at a time every few hours in your hamster’s cage and he will have enough liquid. To know more about your hamster’s usual water needs, read my article here. Food As for the kind of food the hamster needs, it’s best if it is something dry like grains or a food mix from your favorite pet shop. Place a couple of his favorite treats in the cage as well, to make the trip more comfortable for him. Another type of food you should bring is a hard kind of treat for your hamster to nibble on. This is to give him something better than the cage to gnaw on, and also to relieve some of his anxiety. The best kind of dog treat for hamsters is either the plain kind – with no added flavors – or a milk bone. Milk bones are basically dog treats, but with added vitamins and minerals. They don’t necessarily contain milk, that’s just the name. Given the size of hamsters, and the size of dog treats, one treat will last your little one a long way. So basically a box of dog treats could possibly last the entire life of the hamster. Best to sprinkle the food in your hamster’s bedding, so he will forage for it during the trip and be distracted. For a clear list of what hamsters can and can not eat, read here. You’ll also find out what kind of treats you can give your hamster. Teddy: Hamsters need some simple dry food for transport, and sliced cucumber instead of a water bottle. We love cucumber ! Teddy enjoying his dry food from my hand Keeping your hamster comfortable during travel This is a topic just as important as what food you give the hamster when you transport him. Hamsters are easy to scare, they panic easily, and sometimes looking at your hamster wrong can scare him. I don’t know, all hamsters are different and some of them spook very easily. Try to keep him from scaring too much The weirdest example I have is when I was bent over my Teddy’s cage reaching for something. When I look down there’s Teddy, all shaking, on his hind paws, jaws open, trying to be big. I crouched down next to him, slowly, and spoke softly to him. It took him a minute but he was friendly after that. So unless you want your hamster to do something similar when he sees his vet after the trip, please make sure he is comfortable. That means that the cage should be shaken and moved around as little as possible. If possible, get a taxi or a friend to give you a ride to where you need to get. Do not keep your hamster on the road for more than he needs to be. It will freak him out and he will need some time to recover. Keep the hamster in the dark If possible, make sure that the cage you transport him with is not clear. Hamsters can’t see very well, but they can still see. And sudden movements will still scare them. If you can, cover the cage with something like a blanket to keep it dark. But make sure you do not cover the air holes, so that your hamster can still get enough air. However if your transport cage is an actual cage, not a plastic unit, then you need to make sure the hamster can’t reach the blanket and gnaw at it. My Teddy shoved a couple of centimeters of furry blanket in his cheeks when he first laid his paws on one, so be warned. Avoid transporting the hamster in extreme temperatures Unless you absolutely must, avoid transporting the hamster in very cold or very hot times of the year. Hamsters are very sensitive to temperature, and need a range of 20-22 Celsius/68-72 Fahrenheit to feel comfy. So make sure you can keep your hamster warm/cool, depending on the season. And also make sure that there is no draft where you keep your hamster during transport. Hamsters are very sensitive to this, and a cold for them is not as easy to shrug off as it is for humans. Keep the hamster’s cage secure When you travel by car, make sure that you have a seat belt strapped across the cage. This is to keep both you and the hammy safe. The cage needs to sit in place when traveling, and as long as you keep an eye on it, it should be fine. Try not to keep it on your lap, since it can hurt you in the case of sudden stops or turns. The same goes for keeping the cage in the trunk or at your feet in the car. If you’re travelling by train or bus, keep the cage on the seat next to you, with a hand on it or another way to make sure it stays in place. Familiar bedding for your hamster’s comfort In the end, you will need to place your hamster in a cage that is familiar to him. For this, use new bedding, mixed with bedding from his own cage. Make sure that the used bedding is not soiled or does not have too many droppings. A few droppings are okay, since it will be easier for your hamster to recognize the place as his own. But try to keep it mainly ‘clean’. The bedding you use for his home should have pieces that are from his own home as well. So if your gave your hamster ripped up paper towel to used as nesting material, grab a few pieces from his own home and place them in the transport cage. You can find out more about your hamster’s bedding here. What you can use, and what you should avoid. Give the hamster time to adjust Another thing that will help a lot is placing your hamster in the transport cage about an hour before you leave. This way you give him time to get used to his new cage, and he will not be as stressed. The best way to do this is to put the hamster in his exercise ball, and then put the exercise ball open in the transport cage. Or, place the transport cage directly into his usual cage, and let him explore it like that. For a discussion on what kind of cage is best for your hamster, check out my “best cages” article here. If your hamster is the kind that can be housed with several other hamsters, I’d recommend that you transport them in the same cage as well. Even if they don’t need a trip to the vet necessarily. This is to make the trip easier for the hamster that needs to be taken to the vet or somewhere specific. And also so that there is less hostility when you bring him back. The new smells on the transported hamster can make the ones left home get a bit aggressive. So try to avoid that by bringing them all if possible. This will not happen every time, the hamsters at home will not attack the transported hamster each occasion. But I’ve heard such stories and I think it’s better to be safe than sorry. Teddy: That was a long read, I know ! But us hamsters are easy to scare, so extra steps are needed to make us comfortable. Make sure you don’t rattle or shake the cage too much, and keep us safe and in place in our transport. Best toys to keep your hamster occupied during travel Obviously, the best toys are the ones he already loves and uses in his cage. But if they are very large and chunky toys, like blocks of wood, or hide and seek wooden tubes, these are a problem. They are heavy, and in the case of a sudden stop they can injure your tiny hamster. Toys. So make sure that the toys you bring into your hamster’s transport cage are light. Things like cardboard, for example toilet rolls, or paper towel rolls or paper egg cartons are fine. Cut a few holes in the tubes and carton and you’ve got yourself some great toys for your hamster to enjoy and keep him distracted. This way they won’t hurt the hamster if the cage moves around too much. Another helpful idea can be a walnut, with a tiny hole in it. This will keep the hamster entertained and busy, and he’ll try to chew on it. Even better would be if your can get a few walnut halves, cleaned, and string them on a piece of string. Try securing it along the edge of the cage, if possible, to make sure it stays in place. If you can’t, best to leave out the walnuts completely. The hamster house or nest The same goes for your hamster’s home or hideout. Make sure it is something lightweight that will not hurt him if it rolls over during transport. Paper or cardboard houses can be an option, but your hamster will probably chew on them so they won’t be a house anymore. Best to opt for something made of plastic, very very light weight. Teddy: It’s important to remember that the toys we need during transport are light weight, and very simple. Us hamsters are very fragile and need some extra care, even when it comes to our toys !   A word from Teddy Hi ! I hope this article managed to clear up a lot of your questions, and you can safely transport my brother or sister. I know transport cages seem tiny compared to how much space us hamsters really need, but for a few hours it’s alright. As long as you can keep us safe, healthy, and well fed and watered, we’ll survive the trip. If you want to know more about hamsters, and for example how much we can go without food, or if we need a light on, then check out these other articles ! [...] Read more...
10+ Reasons You Should Not Get a Hamster
10+ Reasons You Should Not Get a HamsterHamsters definitely belong on the list of the most popular pets in the world. Everyone wanted one as a kid, and many people still keep them as adults. They’re easy to take care of, and if you have two they’ll socialize between themselves, so they won’t be lonely when you’re away. However, not all is as it seems on the surface. As it is with every topic, keeping hamsters as pets have both its pros and cons. And today – we will be focusing on the cons. There are many things that may attract you to hamsters. They’re small, cute, their fur is shiny, and they basically look like small fluff toys, only they’re alive. However, there are many things about hamsters that you should know before you decide to adopt one. In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at that side of these fluffy creatures – reasons why you shouldn’t get a hamster. Without any further ado, let’s get started! Table of Contents Toggle1. Biting2. Nocturnal Behavior and Early Rising3. Hereditary Diseases4. Training and Taming5. Hamsters Aren’t Very Affectionate6. Hamsters Are Very Sensitive7. Breeding8. Escaping9. Cages Need Constant Cleaning10. Infection11. Lifespan12. Hamsters Require Adult Supervision13. Hamsters Aren’t Good Pets for Children 1. Biting Hamsters actually tend to bite more than other pet rodents. This is mostly fueled by their poor eyesight – they rely on smell and taste to tell what’s in front of them, and if you stick your finger or your hand into their cage – they’re likely to bite it in order to find out if it’s food. These bites hurt and they will bleed, as their teeth are very sharp, despite not being that large. Their general lack of good eyesight most definitely has an effect on their behavior, as it makes them generally nervous – hamsters can be frightened quite easily, and when they’re frightened – they bite. It’s important to understand that they will bite you for only two reasons: fear (you would probably be willing to bite too if you were handled by a creature twenty or thirty times your size), and curiosity (if they mistake your hands for food or something else that’s interesting). For this reason, make sure to always wash your hands before handling hamsters – they’re more likely to bite you if your hands smell like food. Hamsters can also hurt themselves – as they’re a very frightened species, they’re ready to jump out of your hands when you’re carrying them. Let’s just say that jumping from such a height isn’t the smartest idea if you’re a hamster. Hamsters’ bites shouldn’t be underestimated, as they can be quite painful and draw a lot of blood. As an adult, you can probably handle this, but children can often be put off from this and not only lose interest in the hamster but start to dislike it altogether. There have been numerous occasions where a child has grown fearful of their hamster, and who can blame them? Probably anyone would if they had a pet who kept biting them. Gerbils, for example, are much better pets for children. They can be held and petted at will, and they rarely bite or scratch. 2. Nocturnal Behavior and Early Rising These animals actually spend the majority of the day curled up and sleeping. They don’t like to be disturbed when they’re resting (just like us), and they’ll defend themselves if you disturb them. However, once everything at your home goes silent, hamsters wake up. At that point, hamsters get crazily active, which can actually wake up the whole house – especially if the hamster decides to start running on the wheel. They also get up very early, as they’re most active at dusk and dawn. 3. Hereditary Diseases Unfortunately, hamsters are prone to inheriting hereditary diseases. Because of overbreeding, they’re prone to congestive heart failure at an early age (as early as 6 months old). There’s no cure for this condition, and the treatment can be very expensive. They’re also prone to an incurable kidney disease called amyloidosis, which means that you’re going to have to be looking out on multiple fronts for the sake of their health. They are susceptible to many dangerous bacteria, ultimately leading to diarrhea and dehydration. Some of these bacteria, predominantly ringworm, can also infect humans. It’s very important to focus on two specific bacteria that can easily infect children. We’re talking about salmonella bacteria and lymphocytic choriomeningitis and hantavirus. These can be transmitted from animals to humans, and salmonella can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, and fever. 4. Training and Taming Hamsters are very difficult to tame, much more difficult than other animals, and the main reason for this is the fact that they’re so scared of everything. They’re not trusting as dogs, they’re not even trusting as cats. Cats are actually more likely to approach you than hamsters. Their evolution has given them the ability to run and hide from any threat, and that’s what they will do if they see you coming. On top of that, hamsters have a lot of energy, meaning that they’re jumpy, active, and want to play – all the time. A pet that’s energetic but runs from anyone that pays it any attention is very difficult to train. 5. Hamsters Aren’t Very Affectionate Hamsters don’t enjoy being picked up and held, cuddled, and kissed like many dogs would. They will certainly put up with it for a while, but after a while, they’ll get tired of it and jump away. Keep this in mind if you’re looking for a pet with which you’ll be able to strike a real connection – they’re not the cuddliest, and will not stay long in your hand anyway. They will somewhat bond with their owner and come closer when they hear their owner’s voice, but that’s about it. Hamsters are not as loving and as playful as dogs. 6. Hamsters Are Very Sensitive Hamsters are sensitive to many things. Firstly, their diet isn’t exactly something you should take lightly, as not correcting it when you need to can cause many dietary issues like diarrhea, dehydration, fur loss, etc. Secondly, they’re so easily frightened and they are so weak that they can literally die from too much stress. Hamsters are known to die from a dog barking at them or something else scaring them. You, personally, can scare your hamster in many ways – the hamster may not trust you yet and even feeding it will scare it (nothing you can do about that aside from trying to be as gentle as possible), if you do something very sudden it will scare it and that can be difficult for you as an owner to adjust to, your hamster may be in permanent shock (from moving to a new cage, for example) and during this period it will be easily agitated, and some hamsters are also naturally shy and difficult to handle. Also, hamsters’ immunity is terrible. They can easily contract any disease and unless you recognize it and take them to the vet immediately, they have almost no chances of survival. On top of this, they’re also very sensitive to temperatures. They can die from hypothermia very easily, and they can overheat easily. Your hamster’s cage is also going to have a massive effect on it, as hamsters get agitated easily in smaller cages. They’ll also get stressed easily if they don’t exercise enough, so it’s best to let them have a wheel. Transporting them is also not good, as that causes major stress. Now that we’re taking a look at all this in retrospect, evolution hasn’t really been beneficial to hamsters. 7. Breeding In case you didn’t know that all rodents breed extremely fast. Hamsters can breed three to four weeks after being born, and when they breed, they breed like crazy. You could make the massive mistake of buying a pair of hamsters and having almost twenty of them after a while. This problem is usually solved by pet shops where you purchase your hamsters, as the workers can separate the hamsters and divide them by gender. However, if a mistake is made and a single male hamster is put amongst female hamsters…well, we’re sure that you know what kind of a mess that is. 8. Escaping Hamsters can truly be defined as escape artists. They have the ability to flatten their body and they can fit through very small holes and crevices. An even larger issue is the fact that they love doing this and they’re likely to use every opportunity to escape. It’s their instinct telling them that they should escape and return to the wild. They’re also very good at hiding, so you won’t be finding them easily. This can actually lead to them being injured or killed while on the loose, as they’re very vulnerable. 9. Cages Need Constant Cleaning Hamsters themselves are very clean, similar to cats. They groom themselves all the time and this way they minimize their scent, which keeps them almost undetectable in the wilderness. Their cages, on the other hand, aren’t as nearly as clean. Exactly the opposite, actually. Hamsters are known for their inexplicable inability to keep their quarters clean. If you place a hamster in a perfectly clean cage, it’s going to take it less than three days to cover it in droppings and pee. Their droppings can smell very foul and many people can’t stand it. These dirty cages also tend to attract bugs, and they’re more prone to developing infections and your hamster will get sick more easily in such an environment. Now, you may be thinking “Fine, I’ll just teach it to use a litter box.” – that’s fine, only we’ve already mentioned that training is terribly difficult with hamsters and you’re not teaching them anything easily. There are hamsters that openly and seemingly without reason refuse to use the litter box. Cleaning the enclosure always means that you have to take the hamster out of the enclosure. This means that you have to grab it without it biting you. If it bites you, you have to disinfect the wound and put a bandaid over it. Repeat the process until you manage to take the hamster without it biting you, and now put it somewhere where it can’t escape from. However, your hamster has still escaped while you were scrubbing its cage because they’re great at that, and now you have to find a hamster before putting it back into the cage. See why it’s difficult? 10. Infection Even though it may seem like a good idea to have your child clean the hamster’s cage to teach them responsibility, it’s sort of an unsafe idea – these cages can be salmonella heaven, and children can be especially vulnerable to that. Children don’t exactly understand the dangers of illnesses and they may not wash their hands properly, which could, unfortunately, lead to them contracting salmonella. 11. Lifespan Hamsters don’t really live for too long. Most hamsters live from two to four years, with a two-year-old hamster already being considered old. If you’re looking for a short-term pet, that’s great. But very few people are looking for that sort of a companion, and most people want a pet that’s going to spend time with them for years to come (like dogs, who can spend up to a fifth of a lifetime with their human companions). Changing pets every few years may not be in your interest. Secondly, if you’re thinking about purchasing a hamster for your child, we’re advising you now that you shouldn’t. Children get attached to everything very easily and having to watch the hamster grow up only to die quicker than they can graduate from the elementary can and will break your child’s heart. 12. Hamsters Require Adult Supervision Even though the maintenance they require is low in frequency, if you’re purchasing a hamster for your child, know that the maintenance your child is going to have to keep up with is complicated. They may not have to do it often, but when they do it, you’re going to have to be there. The same goes for training the hamster – since hamsters are so frightened and are easy to agitate and have them bite their trainer, it’d be best if you were there when your child was training the hamster. 13. Hamsters Aren’t Good Pets for Children Despite the general opinion being the exact opposite, hamsters aren’t really good pets for children. At least not the youngest children under the age of eight or nine. They can prove to be aggressive which will only scare the children away, they can also be very difficult to train which won’t encourage your child to keep trying around them. Having to clean their cages and feed them may be a great way to instill some sense of responsibility in your child early on, but it’s quickly going to become a chore to them and they’re going to start avoiding it. Hamsters can also transmit a disease to your child. Ringworm infection, for example, can easily be transmitted to your child or yourself despite you being careful and wearing gloves. Salmonella, what we’ve already mentioned, is also a threat for children and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Because of their sensitivity, and because of children’s general lack thereof, your child could accidentally harm the hamster. And their constant escaping isn’t going to help either, just like the hamster’s short lifespan won’t be helping. Hamsters also stay awake at night and they’re very active, which may keep your child from sleeping well. All in all, if you’re looking for a pet for your child, you should think twice before purchasing a hamster for your child.   Hamsters often seem like an ideal pet for anyone, but that’s far from the truth. There are many things that have to be taken into account when discussing these animals, as they’re not as nearly as perfect as they seem to be. You should keep in mind that no animal is inherently evil or aggressive, only defensive. Hamsters are just like that, and the fact that they’re so scared of everything and everyone makes it fairly difficult to interact with them. Teaching your hamster not to bite you will take weeks, and if you’re interested in potty training or teaching them tricks, that’s going to take even longer. They’re quick to turn against their owner, even if you mean them no harm, because they’re scared, and maybe it would be best to let this one go, and buy a different pet. There are many pets on the market that may be more suited to your needs. If you’re ever looking for any advice, feel free to consult your local veterinarian. [...] Read more...
Do Hamsters Change Color ? (And Other Fur Facts)
Do Hamsters Change Color ? (And Other Fur Facts)Hamsters come in so many furs and colors and patterns it’s hard to remember which is which sometimes. And other times, they turn around and surprise you and change their fur ! Nothing as dramatic as going from blonde to redhead, but sometimes some hamsters might change their color. Table of Contents ToggleDo hamsters change color ?Very young hamsters will change their fur as they become adultsSome hamsters change their fur in winterVery old hamsters lose fur and go a bit grayOther hamster fur factsThere are versions of Syrian hamsters with long furLong fur can get very mattedHamster fur can grow back in most casesHamster fur should never get wet, don’t bathe your hamster ! Do hamsters change color ? Some hamsters can change color, either because they are very young and coming into their adult fur, or because they are getting very old and turning a bit gray, or because they’re a type of hamster that turns white when the cold season hits. Aside from the Winter White hamsters, no color change is dramatic but it’s a fun thing to observe in your hamster.  Hamsters come in so many fur colors, to begin with, it’s interesting to see how their fur can change as they age or the seasons change. Let’s start with the most common reason their fur can change.  Very young hamsters will change their fur as they become adults When hamsters are born, they are hairless. Then they get their initial fur growth, and it’s usually something very light, very fluffy, and very close to what their adult color will be. But as they reach maturity (about 3 months) their fur color will develop more. Some colors will be brighter, and some extra hairs will grow in, especially agouti hairs (with black at the end of each hair). For example when I first got my Teddy, he was maybe a little over a month old. So tiny ! He was a golden Syrian hamster, so he already had a light orange/gold on his back, with grey ears, and white markings on his face and feet. But as he grew a little more, I noticed he had a bit of a spot on his forehead, like a gray smudge. At first, I thought he got dirty somewhere, somehow.  But nope, turns out he actually had some agouti hairs growing all over him, and a very pale grey mark on his forehead. So as an adult my teddy was orange, with agouti hairs, mostly on his back, and a grey mark on his forehead. He was might lighter looking as a tiny little 1 month old boy.  Some hamsters change their fur in winter Some hamsters can change their fur when winter comes. This change is triggered by a shift in temperatures, but especially by a shift in daylight. The only hamsters to do this are the Winter White dwarf hamster, otherwise known as Siberian dwarf, or Djungarian dwarf.  In the wild this happens all the time. But when we’re talking about pet Winer Whites, this rarely happens, because of artificial lighting, and the even temperature inside our homes. You can induce this change, but it means only subjecting your hamster to natural daylight and nothing more. I imagine this is easier to do in the countryside due to much less light pollution.   Very old hamsters lose fur and go a bit gray Another reason for hamsters to change their fur is when they get very, very old. Like humans, old hamsters get slower, and turn gray, and start to lose their fur. Well not exactly the same, but they get silver spots. The most common places for silver or white fur in an old hamster are around the ears and neck, as far as I’ve seen. These changes seem to be more noticeable in Syrian hamsters than dwarfs. Most hamsters have a short lifespan, around 2-3 years. The hamsters I’ve had, 2 died of old age and one is still around but also growing old. When Teddy died, he was almost 2 years old. His fur was thinning on his neck and back, and his ears were drooping a little, and he suddenly had these white tufts around his ears. He started looking alike a grumpy old man, balding but with a lot of hair around his ears.  When Eggwhite died, he was also almost 2 years old, but he was a creamy white so I couldn’t notice a change in color. But I did notice his fur getting thinner, his eyelids drooping a little, and he also developed some tufts around his ears like Teddy did before he passed away.  Both Teddy and Eggwhite were Syrian hamsters. My third hamster is a Winter White, called Rocket, but she’s never changed her fur in the 2 years we’ve had her. She can (theoretically) live up to 4 years, and so far we haven’t seen any signs of old age on her, such as white hairs, droopy ears or eyes, or even getting slower. The fur on her paws is a little thinner, but that’s the only thing.  Other hamster fur facts Here are some other interesting hamster fur facts, since these little guys are far more fun than they appear. Their fur comes in many colors and patterns, but that’s not where it stops.  There are versions of Syrian hamsters with long fur When scientists captured Syrian hamsters for their labs, they also bred them to be more docile and this also led to them expressing different fur patterns. In time the hamsters wound up with breeders, who tried to see if there could be long haired hamsters. And eventually they succeeded, long-haired Syrian hamsters are here and they look absolutely funny. The long hair can sometimes be long and flowy, other times it can be a mix of long and short with just a few tufts sticking out, and in some cases it’s long fur all over the hamster.  These long-haired hamsters sound fun, and they may seem a bit more cuddly than the others, but their temperament is the same. They don’t really enjoy being picked up, but you can try. Their fur requires a lot of extra care though, since it can easily get matted. Hamsters are very clean creatures, and they clean themselves several times a day. But they weren’t ‘programmed’ for long fur, so they can’t clean it as well as short fur. Sometimes they need help, which brings us to the next point.  Long fur can get very matted This is mostly the case for long-haired Syrian hamsters, but in theory it could happen to any hamster. When the fur becomes too long, the hamster has trouble keeping it clean and detangled. In these cases you can either help the hamster by brushing out the mats, or cutting the knots out. Both are quite difficult, and your hamster’s temperament will dictate how to handle this.  So let’s start with the first one, trying to brush out the matted fur. If you’ve ever had knots in your own hair you know how difficult they can be, and how painful it is to comb them out. You have to start at the ends, and very slowly work your way up. Your hamster will obviously not want to sit still for half an hour until you get all the knots.  This will be slow, and you will have to let the furball sit as he wants to keep him calm. Try to grab his attention with a small treat, and attempt to comb out some knots at his backside, starting from the edges. He might flinch, or he might not care; not all hamsters are the same. This won’t last long, and you may only have a couple of minutes to work on his fur.  That’s okay, let him be and try again in an hour or two. Don’t try to do this all in one day. It’s really not easy.  The second option, perhaps easier, is to simply cut off the knots you can’t brush out. Your hamster will get some uneven fur but this takes less time. Again, do this on the hammy’s own terms. If he wants to go away let him go away. If he squirms, put him down and try again later. Always use something to distract him.  You need a pair of very sharp hair cutting scissors. Hopefully the knots are towards the end of the fur. If there are any knots close to the body or directly against the skin leave them alone. The risk of hurting your hamster by accident is too high.  Like combing out knots, this can take a while too. Maybe your hamster doesn’t mind the sound of scissors, maybe he gets frightened. There is no safe way to keep him in place, without injury or extreme distress for both of you. Best to just go very slow, and use a good pair of scissors. Hamster fur can grow back in most cases Sometimes a hamster will lose some of its fur, and sometimes that fur can grow back. Not always, such as very old hamsters who lose their fur due to old age. Or hamsters with a genetic condition that prevents them from growing fur in the first place. The fur on these hamsters sadly won’t ever grow.  But if your hammy lost a patch of fur because of a skin condition, an irritation, ringworm, or just because he scratched himself too much, there is good news ! The fur can grow back, as soon as the skin condition is treated and healed ! In case of excessing scratching, it’s usually due to an irritant, like a rash, or the hammy got bit by something and it’s now itching. Once that is gone and the hamster doesn’t have a reason to keep scratching, the fur will grow back.  Hamster fur should never get wet, don’t bathe your hamster ! Hamsters have very delicate fur, especially the fluff right next to the skin. It’s meant to insulate the hamster and keep it both warm and cool, depending on the weather. Hammies are exceptionally good at keeping themselves clean, they lick and nibble at their fur constantly so it is always clean. Kind of like a cat cleans itself, except this one isn’t meowing.  There is no real reason to give a hamster a bath to clean it, unless it somehow got something on it that the hamster can’t or shouldn’t clean by itself, like car grease or ketchup.  If you do get your hamster’s fur wet, know that washing it with any sort of soap will disturb the natural oils on its skin. Not only that but these animals are so frail, they need to be dried immediately after getting wet since they can’t easily handle it. Where hamsters come from water (rain) is rare, so they haven’t adapted their fur to be water-proof.  So, it’s best to never put your hamster in a situation where it could get its fur wet. And never handle your hamster with dirty hands. The hammy will clean itself after you play with it even if you’ve just washed your hands, imagine how icky it’d feel if you picked it up with Cheetos dust on your fingers.  [...] Read more...