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.

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Here’s How To Find A Lost Hamster – Find Your Furry Friend
Here’s How To Find A Lost Hamster – Find Your Furry FriendSo your hamster has gone missing. That’s okay, don’t worry, he’s not very far. I’ll tell you how to find your hamster friend, whether you lost your hamster in your home, or outside. This guide is handy even if you’ve never lost your hamster so far. After all prevention is key and it’s better to already know what to do if you ever lose your hamster, than to try and find out everything on the spot. Table of Contents ToggleWhat to keep in mind before you start looking for your hamsterFinding a lost hamster in your homeWhere the hamster might have goneWhat the hamster might have done/why he wandered offSetting the traps for your hamsterBaiting the hamster with foodHome-made trapHumane rodent trapFinding a lost hamster outsideEscape-proofing your hamster’s cageHow to keep your hamster from wanting to escape in the first placeKeep your hamster friend happy and not stressedProvide a large enough cage so your hamster has spacePlay with your hamster to form a bond with itA word from Teddy What to keep in mind before you start looking for your hamster Before you start looking for your hamster, keep in mind that he’s got some reasons for wandering off. That doesn’t necessarily mean he wanted to leave, maybe he found something interesting in a corner. Hamsters are incredibly curious, about everything, and will want to investigate thing right away. You’ve seen him glue himself to the cage bars when you do something around his cage, you know he wants to know. There are a few things to keep in mind before you start looking for your hamster, and here they are: Keep away any and all pets that can move freely (like a cat, bird, or dog), as well as small children that might scare the hamster. Close all doors, so your hamster won’t move about from one room to the other while you’re looking for him. Remember that hamsters are mostly nocturnal, so your friend will probably come out at night, when it’s dark and quiet in the house. Dim all the lights, and make as little noise as possible, so your hamster will think it’s safe to come out. Try to remember where you last saw your hamster, and start from that room. Be thorough in your search, hamsters are amazing at hiding. Look under, behind, over, between any piece of furniture you have, without moving it at first. Make a mental note of any holes or large cracks in the walls or doors that your hammy might have escaped through. Your hammy might be in odd, squishy places like between the sofa cushions, or in your sofa’s tapestry if he found a hole, so be careful where you step and sit. The search might take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, so be patient. Your hamster can survive for up to 3-4 days with no food or water. So don’t worry, your hammy is probably somewhere in the kitchen munching on some peanuts behind a cupboard. Now let’s see how to find your hamster friend first. Finding a lost hamster in your home If you’ve lost your hamster in your home, the search will be easier, in a way. There is less space for him to hide in, and he can only run away so far. So, we’ll start with this scenario since it’s the most common situation hamsters get lost in. Where the hamster might have gone This about where the hammy might go. Think about the room you last saw him in, and try and think in his shoes (or paws). If it’s cold in the house, he might go for the warmest room he can find, so you can start there. If it’s been a few days since he’s missing, and you only just noticed, he is probably looking for food so you can start with the pantry or kitchen. Was there anything interesting in the room you last saw your hamster ? Like a very smelly food, or a bag of treats, or something that made a lot of noise (like a crinkly bag) ? Are there any nook and crannies your hamster would love, close to where you last saw him ? What the hamster might have done/why he wandered off Hamsters are very curious, about everything, so there’s a large chance that he maybe just wanted to investigate something. It’s possible that your hamster was very scared, or stressed out. Like the cat pawing at his cage maybe, or the parrot bursting into song right next to his cage. Maybe the toaster went off in the other room and your hammy got scared. Still, there are quite a few reasons your hamster might have escaped, starting with curiosity and ending with just because. If there were any weak wires in your hamster’s cage, you can be sure he found them. Or, if you’ve got an aquarium for your hamster be warned that he needs a very tall edge in order to not climb over it – taller than your hamster’s total length, plus stretching. So it’s possible that he found a way to climb over the edge of the glass tank. For more info on exactly what you should be looking for when getting you hamster an escape-proof cage, you can check out these top 5 hamster cages. Setting the traps for your hamster When you’re looking for your hamster, you’ll need to set some traps. Humane ones, of course, but still you need to trap him in one particular spot. Or, at least find out the room he’s in. Baiting the hamster with food You can try a few or all of these ideas, depending on your home, how many pets or children you have, and how much time you’ve got. One idea would be to get a large treat, that your hamster likes. Like a dog biscuit, or a whole peanut(with shell, no salt), or a piece or cheese, and tie a bit of yarn around it. The rest of the yarn you can make into a long string that leads to a center piece you’re often next to. So, when your hammy will try to take away the treat you will see where he it pulling from. Place just one big treat in each room. Another extra step would be to tie a small bell onto the string of yarn. This way the treat will make some noise when the hamster picks it up. Another idea would be to place some food in a small bowl made of crinkled up aluminium foil, with large, flowy edges. Think of it looking like a small volcano, with treats where the lava would be. The crinkled aluminium would make sounds when your hamster will be inspecting the food. Or, you can sprinkle a fine, thin layer of flour all around the treats you left on the floor. Or, you can sprinkle it over the floor in front of where you think your hammy is hiding. You can even sprinkle it across the whole floor, although there will be  lots of cleanup to do afterwards. Your hammy will leave tiny foot prints where he’s going through the flour, and you can narrow your search from there. If you can’t sprinkle flour or tie in bells, you can simply put a specific number of treats in every room. Then, check the next day to see which room has less treats, so you know where the hamster is hiding. Home-made trap You can also use an actual trap made from thing you’ve got at home already. Get yourself a bucket, or a large plastic bin. Something the hamster can’t climb out of. Add a layer of bedding so your hamster can get comfortable because he will be sitting there for a few hours. Then, at the very top/edges, place either aluminium foil, or a large sheet of paper, or paper towel. Place on the paper or aluminium a few lightweight treats that your hamster will like, for example 1-2 peanuts or sunflower seeds, or a bit of biscuit. Do not fasten the paper or aluminium onto the edges. The hamster will have to be able to fall into the bucket/bin, once he steps onto the paper. Next, your hamster has to be able to get up to the edge. You can make a sort of stairway with a few books, or a piece of cardboard bent into the shape you want, or anything the hamster can climb. Finally, sprinkle a few seeds or treats for your hammy to follow as a trail up to the top of the trap. You hamster will smell the treat, come out of his hiding place, follow the trail of treats, and in the end go for the treat on top of the trap. He will end up falling into the bucket/bin, and you will find him munching on the treats. Humane rodent trap You can find these in many stores, and they’re safe for your hamster. The point of these traps is that the hamster will only be caught in the closed off space, and not killed. They will not harm you hammy, but I do recommend checking up on these about once an hour. Air holes do exist on these kind of traps, but they can only do so much. There’s also condensation forming on the inside, so you don’t want your hammy getting wet – more on that here, and what you can do about it. Place some bait your hammy loves, like maybe peanut butter, or a whole peanut, or a small bit of cooked chicken. Once your hammy walks over the trap door, the trap will spring shut and will keep him there. Your hammy might get scared at first, that’s normal. But you’ll find him soon enough, so he won’t be staying in the trap too long. You can find this kind of traps in lots of places, but you can check this one on Amazon to get an idea of it. Finding a lost hamster outside If your hammy is lost outside, this will be a bigger problem. He could’ve gone very far, but there’s still a chance he’s close by, just hiding somewhere. Placing treats and baiting your hamster like in your home won’t work. Outside there’s cats, birds, and other creatures that will take the bait. And depending on the type of terrain around your home, if it’s fenced in, if there’s a forest starting in your backyard, your search will be harder. Best to just go for the humane mouse trap I linked earlier, since that’s pretty much the only way you’re sure something larger than your hamster will not steal the bait.  In this case the bucket/bin trap won’t work either, since you might find yourself with a bird or squirrel in that trap. In a worst case scenario, if it’s been more than a week and your hammy hasn’t showed, he’s probably wandered off into the wild, or had a nasty run-in with another animal. This is also something to consider if you ever think about releasing your hamster into the wild. He might or might not make it. Life in the forest or plains or general wilderness in your are is probably too harsh for the little furball. Escape-proofing your hamster’s cage Prevention is the best way to be sure your hammy doesn’t escape. So let’s see what you can do about his cage. First, you will find here a whole list of tips and pointers on how to choose the right cage for your hamster – both in terms of size, but safety as well. In general, glass tanks/aquariums are much harder to escape than regular wire or plastic ones. Make sure it’s got tall enough sides. Giving the hamster 3-5 cm/1-2 inches of bedding will mean that you need some 25 cm/10 inch above the bedding. Hamsters can and do jump, sometimes out of their cages, so be warned. You can find out more about that here, so you know what to watch out for. Also a wire mesh cover would be a good idea for the glass tank, just to be safe. Another idea would be to get your hammy a wire cage that has 1 cm/0.4 inches or less spacing between the bars. Hamsters are actually very small, under all that fur. Like cats, if their head fits somewhere, their body will squeeze through as well. So it is entirely possible for your hamster will squeeze through the bars of his cage and away he goes. Especially if you’ve got Dwarf types, which are so incredibly tiny. You can find out more about hamster sizes and how much they grow as adults – right here. Make sure the latches on the cage doors are closed well enough. And finally, you can use some binder clips – the big, black, ones you use for lots of sheets of paper. You can use those to fasten the corners of a wire cage to make sure it stays put. (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 keep your hamster from wanting to escape in the first place Hamsters that escaped because they were stressed or unhappy are a sad story. But, you can make sure your hamster doesn’t get in that position in the first place. You can also check here for 15 essential steps in caring for your hamster friend. Keep your hamster friend happy and not stressed This means keeping and pets or small children away from the hamster, or very supervised. A curious cat or a playful puppy will want to move the hammy around, try to paw it, bark at it maybe. And since hamsters not only scare very easily, they are also not patient at all, this won’t go well. Always make sure that the hamster is able to run away and hide if he feels threatened or uncomfortable. This is the major reason I do not recommend hamsters as pets for small children (under 13). Children are sometimes unaware, sometimes overly curious, and sometimes just don’t know their strength. This can make handling a hamster very difficult, especially if it’s a very small hamster, and doesn’t sit still too long. Hammies will also bite and scratch their way out of a situation if they have to, so this is another reason to keep small children away from them. Conversely, the cage and room you hamster lives in must be a calm, quiet one. Pets and kids zooming around your hammy during the day (when he sleeps) won’t make him feel safe at all. If this is what your home usually sounds like, consider getting a guinea pig. Those are much more calm, and they kind of don’t care about anything. So a barking dog won’t be much of a bother, or a child picking them up while they eat. Provide a large enough cage so your hamster has space The size of the cage matters. I’ve been repeating this in most articles, and I will keep repeating it. Mostly because for a few weeks I had the wrong sized cage for my Teddy (adult Syrian male) and I only realized this too late. Here you can find a good roundup of hamster cages according to what hamster you have. So, a cage that is too small can get your hamster nervous, anxious, he will start biting the cage bars. All kinds of unwanted, unhealthy habits. Hamsters are very territorial, even if they’re so gosh darn small. They need lots of floor space to run around in, and they feel suffocated in a small cage. The minimum cage for a Syrian hamster is of 24 x 12 inches, and about 12 inches tall. That’s 61 x 30.5 cm, and about 30.5 cm tall. This I’d say should be the minimum for a Dwarf hammy as well, since hamsters will go for larger cages if given the chance. If you’ve got more than one hamster – like a pair of Dwarf hammies – you need to read this. Play with your hamster to form a bond with it Finally, playing with and handling your hamster daily will form a close bond between the two of you. This means that your hammy will have less of a reason to escape, since he will want to stick around for you. So, here’s a nifty little article on how to actually tame your hamster, and one on how to show him affection and play with him. Some hamsters can be tamed but will never like being touched too much, so you’ll find ideas for those hamsters as well. A word from Teddy I hope you found out how to find your missing hammy. I know it might seem like a hassle, but we usually don’t wander off too far. We might go missing for a couple of days, only to turn up safe and sound in your cupboard when you least expect us. If you want to know more about us hammies, you can check out the related articles below. [...] Read more...
Hamster vs Gerbil – Which Is A Better Pet For You ?
Hamster vs Gerbil – Which Is A Better Pet For You ?Wondering what to choose between a hamster and a gerbil ? After all, they’re both so very cute and cuddly, but you can’t keep them both. But which should you choose ? Let’s see some details about each pet, so you can make a wise decision. If you want to know how a hamster would do if he were living with a gerbil, then you should read this article here. Table of Contents ToggleIs a rodent a good pet for you ?About the hamsterAbout the gerbilThe hamster lives alone, the gerbil loves a groupCage, toys, and bedding for the hamster and the gerbilFood and treats for the hamster and the gerbilHealth problems the two can getA word from Teddy Is a rodent a good pet for you ? Before we go any further, you need to ask yourself this question. Is a rodent a good pet for you ? Both the hamster and the gerbil are rodents, they’re both very small and agile, and not easy to catch once they’ve escaped. As rodents, they need plenty of wood to chew on – their teeth never stop growing and need to be filed down constantly. They will love to hide and spend lots of time digging, burrowing, and generally not being noticeable. After all, these poor souls have always been food for other, larger animals. It’s their instinct to hide and taming them can take a while. Very important: if you have children, especially if they’re very young and they’re begging you to get them a hammy or a gerbil, watch out. Both of these pets are too fragile and high-maintenance for a child. The cleaning, taming, and often even the playing will be passed onto you. Not every child is like this, I know, but a hamster is not a puppy. A hamster or a gerbil can’t be handled like a puppy or a grown cat, and can’t match the child’s energy, nor the appetite for play. They’re very sensitive creatures. Still, if this kind of pet sounds alright for you (it did for me), whether you have kids or not, then by all means go and get yourself either a hamster or a gerbil. They’ll bring countless moments of ”awwww” and ”ooooh” to your life, starting with how cute they look when they sleep, and ending with the odd sounds they can make sometimes. Now let’s see about each pet, so you know which would be the best for you. About the hamster Hamsters are very small, fluffy creatures. There are 5 types of hamsters you can choose from, and none of them ever grow very large. They all would fit in the palm of your hand, even as adults. Those 5 types are: Syrian hamsters – the biggest of the bunch, and the most common as a pet. Dwarf types – Roborovski, Campbell, Djungarian hammies. Half the size of a Syrian. Chinese hamsters, sometimes called Chinese Dwarf hammies. The easiest to confuse with a gerbil, since they have a bit of a tail. Hamsters come from the general, wide area of south Turkey, Syria, Mongolia, northern China, Russia, Siberia. That’s an area with not much vegetation going on, and most of it is a sort of desert, either a hot sandy one (Syria and Turkey) or a cold, tundra type. Hamsters have adapted to eat mostly grains and a few veggies, maybe an insect or two. They don’t need much water, and they usually live alone. The Dwarf types can tolerate another of their own species, if it’s a sibling and they still might fight sometimes. They’re mostly nocturnal, as pets. So getting a hamster would mean you might miss him if you go to bed around 10 PM and wake up early to go to work or school. In terms of shape, hamsters are short, stocky little creatures. The Dwarf types look like they have no neck at all, while the Syrians have a distinct teddybear-like face. About the gerbil Gerbils are, for the most part, hard to tell apart from a hamster. Especially if you’ve never had to tell the difference between them very often. The main difference is that gerbils have a long tail, longer than the Chinese hamster’s tail. And their hind legs are longer and thinner, since they do a lot of standing and jumping. Gerbils come from roughly the same area as hamsters. Mostly Mongolia and northern China. As such they might resemble the Dwarf hamsters, who come from there as well. As a difference though, gerbils live in colonies and they don’t do well on their own. They need company to enjoy themselves, and they don’t like being alone. Another difference is that gerbils aren’t exactly nocturnal, rather they sleep in patches and seem to be always awake. Gerbils do a lot of digging, more than hamsters actually. So their cage would need to be filled up with more bedding, so they can tunnel away as much as they like. Food for gerbils is very similar to the food for hamsters: mostly grains, a bit of fruit and veg, and a bit of protein if they can catch it. In terms of what their bodies do and what they need for a happy life, hamsters and gerbils do not need very different things. Except for 2 things, which if you get wrong, it can be very bad. (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 hamster lives alone, the gerbil loves a group One of the things you need to know about, and the most dangerous to get wrong, is the social aspect of these pets. You see hamsters and gerbils are fundamentally opposites in terms of being social. Hamsters like to be on their own, they will not share anything. Even the Dwarf types, which you can sometimes manage to raise successfully in a same-sex pair, will argue often. To a degree that’s normal, but even so it puts much stress on the hamster. A gerbil on the other hand will not like being alone. Much like guinea pigs, gerbils need to be kept in pairs, at the very least. A lone gerbil will become depressed and lose his appetite. A human, while entertaining, will never be able to supplement the attention of another gerbil. After all, we don’t speak gerbil very well, do we ? So, please remember. A hamster should always be alone, a gerbil should always have a buddy. A buddy means either 3 females, or 2 males. Or anything over that number, since it will benefit them to be in a larger number. That will mean a larger cage though, so take care how many gerbils you get. Cage, toys, and bedding for the hamster and the gerbil Now when it comes to housing a hamster, that can be fairly easy. A cage big enough for a hamster will be a minimum of 24 x 12 inches, and about 12 inches tall. That’s 61 x 30.5 cm, and about 30.5 cm tall. That’s a cage big enough for a Syrian, although I recommend it for Dwarf type as well. Hamsters, like gerbils, will always pick a bigger cage if they can. Close quarters can make them stressed and nippy. A pair of gerbils would need a 12 x 20 inch cage, which is 30 x 51 cm. Not that very different from a Syrian cage. Still if you can afford to go for a bigger cage, do so. This is the second thing that needs to be done a certain way, otherwise your gerbils won’t be happy. While they do enjoy each other’s company, they also enjoy some space to run around in and have fun. Now, a good cage that would fit either a single hamster, or two gerbils is this one. It will provide air and lots of ventilation, being a wire cage. It’s also got a second level, which the gerbils or hamster can use as they wish, and it adds extra floor space. The wires in the cage are close together so that neither a gerbil nor a Dwarf hamster would be able to escape. And it’s got enough of a bottom to fill with bedding, so your gerbils have something to tunnel through. You can check the listing on Amazon here, and see it for yourself. Aside from the cage, both the gerbils and the hamster will need plenty of toys and objects in their cage. This means silly things like a cardboard tube can be amazing for them, since they both love to tunnel and they will stick their faces everywhere they can fit it. You can make most toys at home, with a bit of cardboard and creativity. For example an egg carton, with a few holes cut into it is going to be the best hide and seek toy ever. It just won’t last very long, since both the hamster and the gerbils will chew at them often. Some toys, like the exercise wheel, will need to be bought. This is mostly because the wheel needs to be silent, and run smooth, without a hitch. A tail and foot guard is welcome, and gerbil tails are not meant to get caught in anything. So an exercise wheel with just rungs, or wire mesh is not alright for gerbils. A solid-floored one, with not gaps for the little guys to catch their feet or tails on is great. One such example is this one, a 9 inch/23 cm wide wheel which is both silent and solid. No tails or feet caught in this one, and it’s easy to spin both by a small Dwarf, and by a Syrian. Gerbils are alright in it too, and their tails will stay safe as well. You can check the listing on Amazon here, and see it for yourself. Aside from the wheel and the toys the cage will need bedding and a hideout. I recommend you get a wooden hideout, since these two pets will chew at everything, including their nest. As for the bedding, it can be wood shavings or paper bedding. Stay away from wood pellets, since they’re too hard for hamsters and gerbils. If you get wood shavings, make sure you keep away from cedar and pine since their strong aroma can choke the rodents. Food and treats for the hamster and the gerbil In terms of food, these two eat mostly the same things. Both are alright with grains, in fact it’s what they eat most of the time. Fruits are welcome, although some should be avoided – like citrus for example, or apple cores and peels. Vegetables are good for them as well, just keep them away from onion, garlic, leek, and other such veggies. Best to ask before you feed your hamster or gerbils anything new. Nuts and peanuts are a favorite among these guys, so they will enjoy the treat. Just stay away from sweets, saucy foods, spicy foods, or any kind of condiments at all. Their tiny bodies can’t process those things, and they often end up with digestive problems. For the most part hamsters and gerbils have the same foods and treats. Often they’re put on the same packaging to make things very clear. Health problems the two can get Their health problems are mostly the same. Both rodents need their teeth constantly filed down, otherwise they just grow too large. So dental problems can be a big deal, whether it’s overgrown teeth or infected broken teeth, or another problem. Ear and hearing problems can arise as well, and so can eye problems. Tumors and lumps are a topic that is common for hamsters and gerbils, actually for rodents in general. Most of the problems can be easily solved by a vet, but you will need a specific one. You’ll need to look for an ”exotics” vet, who has experience with rodents, reptiles, and birds. If you just look to a small pet vet, he might only be able to help with pets as small as cats. Normally hamsters have a 2-4 year lifespan, depending on their type. The Robo Dwarf lives the longest (2 years) while the Chinese lives a shorter life, about 2 years. Gerbils on the other hand have been known to live up to 5 years in captivity. So whichever one you choose as a pet, make sure you have the time and willingness to take care of them properly. A word from Teddy I hope you found what you were looking for in this article. I know us hamsters are easy to confuse with gerbils, but we’re actually sort of cousins, twice removed. 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 Cheese ? Are The Cartoons Right ?
Can Hamsters Eat Cheese ? Are The Cartoons Right ?When I first got my Teddy I wondered if he can eat cheese like I saw in Tom & Jerry. As it turns out, hamsters can eat many different things. Some of them are actually in your pantry or fridge ! Table of Contents ToggleSo can my hamster eat dairy ?Hamsters can eat cheeseHamsters can eat a tiny bit of yogurtHammies should avoid milkCommercial hamster food has enough mineral contentA word from Teddy So can my hamster eat dairy ? The short answer – yes, hamsters can eat some types of  dairy. But in a small amounts, and only certain kinds. Some dairy products are safe for hamsters, some can cause digestive problems. Lactose content plays a major role in how well mammals respond to dairy, and hamsters fall into the mammal category. Not all milk-based products are okay for hammies. This is due to the small size of hamsters, and their different gut than humans. Hamsters can tolerate some kinds of dairy, and I’ll cover the main kinds in the rest of the article. Hamsters can eat cheese Cheese is safe for hamsters, both regular cheese and white/cottage cheese, including feta. This is mostly because the fermenting process ends in a product that is safe to consume for most creatures. The lactose content in cheese is much smaller than in regular milk. The gut has an easier time processing cheese than any other dairy product, since there’s less lactose in it. You’ve seen Jerry in the cartoons go nuts over a bit of cheese. Well, hamsters love cheese just as much as mice do, since they’re not so distantly related after all. Also, the strong smell makes hammies want to go for it instantly. You can see my Teddy in the first photo of this article, happily munching on a bit of Gouda. The first time he even smelled it, he was all over it. So yes, hamsters can eat cheese, and their stomach is okay with it. Be sure to give your hamsters mild cheese that is not very aged. Overly smelly (pungent) cheese may sit badly with them, such as Parmesan or Pecorino Romano. Soft cheeses like brie, or washed rind cheeses have a mold or bacteria culture that may be unsafe for hamsters, so try and avoid giving them to hamsters. Hamsters can eat a tiny bit of yogurt Yogurt is another story here. The probiotics are a welcome bonus, and it will help with digestive problems. However with hamsters it’s the bacteria culture that  can cause trouble. You see, hammies have a different kind of stool than humans. The only reason hammies ever have a wet stool is if they’re very very ill and this is not something okay for them. So I’m not saying giving your hamster yogurt will give him a runny stool. But I am saying that yogurt may cause bloating and digestive problems for your hamster. Which is why I recommend that you don’t give your hamster yogurt often, or in large amounts. Something like half a teaspoon is enough, and it should not be given more than once per week. Hammies will eat many things that are not okay for them. They can’t really know the difference between the foods unless they try it, so they rely on you to keep them safe. You will find yogurt listed as an ingredient for some treats for hamsters. That’s usually alright, since it’s in a small amount, and mostly there’s powdered milk where it says yogurt. Actual, natural yogurt does not keep and can’t be used in most treats. Hammies should avoid milk When it comes to milk, I recommend you avoid it completely for your hamster. The amount of lactose is the highest in milk, and it’s the one most likely to give your hamster a bad tummy. Hamsters only suckle from their mothers until they’re 3-4 weeks old. After they’re weaned, like most mammals, they can’t process lactose and will have trouble digesting it. Most everyone has a degree of lactose intolerance, some more extreme, some more manageable. Younger mammals, like baby hamsters or humans can process it well enough. Adult humans or hamsters can’t stomach milk and will have trouble with 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.) Commercial hamster food has enough mineral content You can feed your hamster with things you’ve already got around the house. Like meat, and veggies, and some cheese. You can find a list of safe foods for your hamster right here. But it’s both easier and more nutrition-conscious of you to feed your hammy a pre-made food mix, that will give your hamster enough to cover the basics. Commercial food mixes do have a high enough mineral content, which is something you might think you’re helping your hamster get with extra cheese or yogurt. A good food mix like this one is going to help your hamster cover all his bases. You’ve got protein, veggies, vitamins, fibers, and minerals. And the selection in this bag is very wide, so your hamster can choose whatever he like. Be warned though, that hamsters can become very picky with their food, and they might ignore bits of the mix sometimes. That’s okay, you can add a peanut here, a walnut there, and make sure your hammy gets all the nutrition he needs. You’ll find the Amazon listing for this food mix here, and you can check out the reviews as well. You can supplement your hammy’s food with whatever you have on hand as is okay for him to eat. For example I give my Teddy a small bit of cooked chicken, or cooked egg white whenever we’re cooking, er even a bit of carrot. A word from Teddy I hope you found what you were looking for in this article. I know us hammies might want to eat everything, but only some kinds of dairy are okay. For example I love Gouda, and Maasdam cheese, but maybe your hammy likes Cheddar better ? If you want to know more about us hamster you should check out the articles below. You’ll find out things like how large a cage we need, and why we sometimes freeze when you walk by us. [...] Read more...
Do Hamsters Eat Vegetables – What To Feed Your Hammy
Do Hamsters Eat Vegetables – What To Feed Your HammyDo hamsters eat veggies ? Do they even like them ? Did their mothers scold them because they didn’t eat their peas and broccoli ? Jokes aside, hamsters eating vegetables is a big topic, and a very important one when it comes to what you can safely feed your hamster friend. Table of Contents ToggleSo do hamsters eat vegetables ?Hamsters can eat leafy greensSome kinds of roots and berry-types are okay for hamstersWhat veggies to never feed your hamsterCommercial hamster food has plenty of vegetables and vitamin sourcesCan vegetables substitute your hamster’s water source ?How to see if your hamster reacts well to a new veggieA word from Teddy So do hamsters eat vegetables ? Yes, they do. Hamsters do eat vegetables, and they actually like them. In the wild hamsters forage for grains and vegetables, so that’s a large part of their diet. They do catch the occasional cricket or worm, but veggies and grains/seeds are the biggest part of their diet. Not all vegetables are safe for hamsters – you can find a list of safe and unsafe foods for your hammy here. We’ll cover the veggies your hamster can eat in this article, and the ones he should be kept away from as well. Hamsters can eat leafy greens This is what you will find most common for your hammy. Like spinach leaves, watercress, lettuce, kale, iceberg, arugula, even a bit of cabbage. Easy on the cabbage though, since it’s got a large fiber content which can upset your hamster’s stomach. I gave my Teddy (Syrian hammy) a whole cabbage leaf, to see what he would do. He just sat there, munching on it. I took it out after a few minutes, since it was much too large for him. Hamsters can eat lots of leafy greens. Pretty much whatever you put in your salad is fine for him as well. With a few exceptions, which we’ll cover in the rest of this article. Some kinds of roots and berry-types are okay for hamsters Some root types are okay for your hammy, like for example carrots are good. But watch out if you’ve got anything other than a Syrian hammy. The Dwarf types (Robo, Campbell, Siberian, Chinese) are very small and need very very tiny pieces of carrots. They’re prone to developing diabetes, so it’s best to keep them away from sweet-ish veggies. The same goes for sweet potatoes and corn. Those, if you even feed your hammy, should always be boiled/cooked. Cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkin are all okay, although it’s best to cook the pumpkin before your give it to your hamster. All kinds of broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus are alright for your hammy – but at least steamed. They have a high fiber content, even if it’s less than cabbage. Make sure you feed your hammy only the upper parts, like the heads or tips. The stalks are too tough for their stomachs. What veggies to never feed your hamster There are a few veggies you should keep you hammy away from. For example regular potato, especially raw, is not recommended. The same goes for eggplant, rhubarb, and celery. The same goes for most legumes like peas, beans, if they’re not cooked. Even if they are cooked, they should still be given in a very small amount. As in, only one single bean. They have a tendency to create gas and your hamster’s gut can’t handle that very well. Very acidic veggies are a no-go, like onions, scallions, shallots, garlic, and tomatoes are a no-go. This is because the hamster’s stomach and gut does not react well to acidic foods, of any kind. The same goes for spices. Whatever you feed your hammy, make sure it’s never seasoned, not even with salt. It needs to be either boiled in plain water, or baked plain, by itself. No added oils, spices, sauces, or whatever you’d like to add to your own food. Commercial hamster food has plenty of vegetables and vitamin sources You can also feed your hamster a pre-made food mix that already has enough vitamins and fibers. This is what your hamster usually would find in the veggies you give him. Still, you can give your hammy a few vegetables aside from the commercial food mix. For example a food mix like this one has plenty of nutritional value for your hammy. It will keep you for a couple or months, or a bit more, depending on how much you feed him. I’d recommend 2 teaspoons/day for a Syrian hammy, and just 1 teaspoon for a Dwarf type. This mix, along with the occasional veggie from you, and maybe a bit of boiled egg white or piece of cooked chicken will give your hammy a very happy, balanced diet. You can check the listing on Amazon for this food mix, 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.) Can vegetables substitute your hamster’s water source ? There’s times when your hamster will need to get his water from a very stable source. One that will not drip or spill over. For these times, like when you’re transporting your hamster to the vet, or you’re taking him somewhere, a couple of veggies will give your hamster enough water for a few hours. For more info on how to safely transport your hamster, you need to check out this article. You’ll find out how to transport him, as well as what kind of cage you need, and how to make sure he isn’t scared on the road. As for the kind of veggies your hamster can get water from, cucumber is the best option. It’s got a whole lot of water content, and a couple of slices, kept fairly cold, are going to provide your hamster with enough water for a few hours. You can substitute cucumber with some iceberg lettuce, which again has a very high water content. However those have a bit more fiber than cucumber, so do not rely on those entirely. How to see if your hamster reacts well to a new veggie Whenever you give your hammy a new food, of any kind, try it out in small pieces. So if you want to introduce carrot into your hamster’s diet for example. start this way. Give him a very small piece, about the size of your pinky finger’s nail. Make sure that is the only bit of new food he gets for 24 hours. You can still feed him his usual food, but do not give him more that a very small piece of the new food. After 24 hours, if you see he’s still well, has no wet stool, and is not lethargic, then you can introduce the new food in larger amounts. Do remember that the pieces of veggies you give your hammy should never be larger than an inch/2.5 cm. A word from Teddy I hope you know now if us hammies can eat different kinds of veggies. For example I love munching on a bit of carrot from time to time. And maybe your friend likes spinach leaves. If your want to know more about us hammies, you can check out the articles below. You’ll find info on how large a cage we need, how much water we need in a day, and even why we sometimes eat our poop. [...] Read more...
10 Things To Get For Your Hamster (Essential Supply List)
10 Things To Get For Your Hamster (Essential Supply List)So you’re off to get yourself a hamster ! Great, I wish you two all the luck. Let’s see what the essentials are, when you get your hamster all of his supplies.  When I first got my Teddy (Syrian male hammy) I didn’t know how many things I’d need for him, so I went back the next day and got several other items. Best if you get most of these things at once, at lest the ones that go inside the cage. Table of Contents Toggle1. Cage for your hamster friend2. Bedding and nesting material for the hamster3. Hideout so the hamster has somewhere to sleep4. Food bowl and water bottle for the hamster5. Food mix and treats the hamster will love6. Toys and tubes, so the hamster has plenty of fun7. Exercise/running wheel for the restless hamster8. Exercise ball for time outside the cage9. Travel/transport cage for vet visits10. The hamster himselfKeeping a hamster as a pet – know what you’re getting yourself intoA word from Teddy 1. Cage for your hamster friend A hamster’s cage is basically the most important thing you’ll need to buy. There are minimum sizes, but don’t let the pet shops fool you. The minimum for a Syrian hamster is 24 x 12 inches, and about 12 inches tall. That’s 61 x 30.5 cm, and about 30.5 cm tall. I’d recommend that for a pair of Dwarf hamsters as a minimum too. The cages sold as ‘starter homes’ are much too small. They’re the square, brightly colored cages, barely enough for one Dwarf hamster. They look a lot like budgie cages. Unfortunately, those aren’t okay. I learned that the hard way with my Teddy. When I got him, I got one of those cages. The moment I saw him try to use the much too small wheel I knew I made a mistake. He was a baby Syrian, he’d grow to be 5-7 inches long and fairly fluffy. He needed a new cage ASAP. So I did get him a new cage, the next day, and it’s got several levels. Actually I’ll show you the cage I have for him right here. It’s this one, and Teddy seems to enjoy it. He uses both levels, although the top level isn’t his favorite. The tubes is something I’m very glad the cage has, since Teddy’s in them all night. It’s fairly easy to clean and take apart, and it’s got a nice combo of wire cage and plastic cage advantages (air flow, and containment and safety) You can check the listing on Amazon here. My Teddy loves that cage, although it’s not the only model that would work well for hamsters. There’s also this one, which admittedly you’d need a bit more room for. The thing about this one is that it provides half a level extra, while still being fairly large on its own. The level is adjustable, and can be put  why way you want it. The spacing between the bars is small enough to keep a dwarf hamster inside too. Most toys and wheels would fit inside this cage fairly well. You can check the listing on Amazon here. If you want to know more about picking out the best cage for your hamster, you’ll need this article. The thing is, hamsters are very small, yes, but they don’t stay babies all their life. They grow incredibly fast. Actually a hamster is an adult when he reaches 3 months. Most hamsters get adopted before that age though, so that means your hamster will grow. Best to get him a cage you won’t have to change, and that will fit him as an adult. Hamsters are after all wild animals, and they do a whole lot of running around. They need to explore things and they need a much larger cage that you’d first think. Yes, budget can be an issue but the cage, the exercise wheel, and the hideout are what the hamster will use literally his entire life, until he passes away. No point in skimping on his essentials, since he only needs one of each. 2. Bedding and nesting material for the hamster Bedding is something that will need to be repurchased every few months or so. There are many options you can use for your hamster’s bedding, some safe, some not so safe. Your best bet is aspen shavings, since those are fairly easy to find, and are hamster-safe. Other types of wood like cedar or pine are unsafe, since their scent is not only too strong, but also dangerous for hamsters. The phenols released by those wood types are too much for the hamster. So that leaves you with aspen, you can find an example right here. I use aspen for my Teddy, I have since I first got him and he is a big strong boy now (currently 1 year and a half as I’m typing this). A bag like this one can last you for months on end, since you only need to clean the cage and change the bedding once per week. If you’ve got other small animals you can give them aspen bedding as well. You can check the listing on Amazon here. Another option is paper-based bedding, which controls odor a bit better than aspen.  Just be advised that paper beddings tend to be a bit noisier in comparison to wood shavings. We have paper bedding for our guinea pigs and I can hear them moving about their cage. Then again, I’m especially sensitive to sound so keep that in mind. Maybe for you paper bedding wouldn’t be a problem. Once you’ve got your hamster’s bedding, you’ll need nesting material too. You can find a much more in-depth article about this right here. But in short, do not use anything but paper towels or toilet paper, unscented. Stay away from fabric-based nesting material, some petshops have those too. 3. Hideout so the hamster has somewhere to sleep Another essential is the hamster’s hideout. Hamsters love to hide, it’s what they’re amazing at. In the wild that’s what kept the alive all this time, actually. So in order for him to feel safe, he needs a place (or several) to hide. This means a hideout in which to build his nest. Now, keep in mind that hamsters chew on everything, including their nest and hideout. So you’ve got to get him a wooden hideout, for a few reasons. First, the hamster will chew on it. Even when he’s sleeping, he’s going to wake up for a midnight snack, pee, and chew on his hideout a bit. This is because a hamster’s teeth never stop growing. Ever. So he has to always file them down with something. Second, anything other than wood won’t let the hamster’s nest breathe. This means condensation forming on the walls, which will keep things humid, which will keep the hamster cold. And a cold, wet hamster is never a good idea. And third, plastic hideouts don’t keep the hamster’s scent all that well. They do keep some of it, but wood is better at that. And a hamster will freak out is he doesn’t immediately recognize his home. Smell is the first thing hamsters use to ”see” their habitat. This hideout, for example, is very much like the one I have for my Teddy. It’s going to be stuffed to the brim with paper towels and toiler paper when you hamster’s done building his nest, but you’ll know he’s a happy little guy. Hamsters will love the wood and will chew on it whenever they need to file down their teeth. All in all the best kind of hideout to keep a hamster happy. You can find the listing on Amazon here. Your hamster will hide in everything he can. This means that aside from his hideout, he will use cardboard tubes to crawl into and spend some time thinking about cheese. Or maybe bury himself in the bedding, to look for hidden treasures, hamsters are hamsters, and they love to hide. If you don’t immediately spot him, don’t freak out. He’s in there somewhere. A sparse cage is no fun for a hamster, he’ll feel like he’s exposed. So he will look for places to hide or crawl under. 4. Food bowl and water bottle for the hamster Usually food bowls and water bottles come with the cage you buy. Not always, but sometimes they do. If your cage came with a food bowl, it’s most likely alright. You see, hamsters are foragers, and you can even scatter their food all over the cage to encourage them to look for it. They will appreciate the comfort of finding all their food in one place. Still, the main thing to look for in a food bowl is for the hamster to not easily tip it over. This means that the sides should not be up, like a regular human bowl, but rather pointing down (much like a doggy bowl). If your cage came with a food bowl like that, great. If not, you can look at options like this one for example. It’s got a fairly cute design with a watermelon motif too. It’s ceramic, to your hamster’s gonna have a hard time tipping this one over or moving it around. It’s pretty much going to stay where you put it. Just be advised that ceramic, like glass, can be fragile during shipping. You can check the listing on Amazon here. As for the water bottle, the ones that come with the cage are usually alright too. They’re big enough and are fairly well made. But if you’re unhappy with the one you got, you can look a other options too. For example this one on Amazon can hold 12 ounces of water for your hamster. That’s 325 ml of water ! As for how much water your hamster needs, usually 10 ml/100 gr of hamster is enough, daily. That’s 0.33 fl oz/3.52 oz of hamster, daily. Most water bottles go way bigger than that, so your hamster should be safe for 7-10 days. 5. Food mix and treats the hamster will love Food is something the hamster will need, and you will have to repurchase every few months. For example my Teddy eats 2 teaspoons of dry commercial food mix per day. A dwarf hamster on the other hand will need just one teaspoon per day. Keep in mind that hamsters will hide their food. So if you’ve just fed your hamster, and half an hour later there is no more food in his bowl, don’t worry. That’s okay. Hamsters put all the food in their cheeks, and then hide it all away in their nest. This isn’t something you can stop, and giving him more food will only result in him hiding more food. That’s just the way hamsters are. That being said, hamsters eat mostly grains, with a few veg and fruit here and there. They love nuts, and if you give them plain cooked chicken they will go crazy over it. However they need those hard dry grains to keep their teeth in check. This means that their main source of food needs to be their food mix. A good one like this one will bring all the nutrients your hamster needs, in a controlled, safe diet. It’s got a fair amount of seeds mixed in with the pellets, and will last your hamster for a couple of months or more, depending on how much you give him. You can find the listing on Amazon here. Aside from the hamster’s food mix, you’ll want to look into a few treats for him as well. Those can be sunflower seeds, a peanut, a slice or carrot for example. You can also find pre-made hamster treats, for example yogurt based drops. These are Teddy’s favorite drops, and he loves cheese as well. They’re fairly colored, but that’s okay since the coloring is safe for humans and hamsters as well. You can find the listing on Amazon here. Remember that hamsters will eat anything you give them, not matter how much you give them. So be responsible and do not overfeed your hamster, else it can lead to obesity and possible joint and diabetes problems. You can always supplement your hamster’s food with some safe foods you have around the house. But only keep those as occasional treats. 6. Toys and tubes, so the hamster has plenty of fun Hamsters love to play and explore things, so they need toys. And tubes. Some toys you can make at home, with cardboard. For example something like an empty egg carton with a few holes cut in it can be a great hide-and-seek toy, and safe for hamsters. Or the cardboard rolls that are left from toilet paper rolls or paper towels, those are great toys too. Fold them shut at both ends, with a bit of food inside the roll, and you’ve got yourself a hamster puzzle toy. For more DYI toy ideas, you can check out this article right here. As for the store-bought toys, the best ones are, yes, made of wood. The hamster will chew on them all day, every day. For example this set of chew toys will not only help your hamster file down his teeth, but also keep him interested in what’s inside them. They’re all wood based, so safe to chew, and fairly durable. You can hide something like a peanut in one of them, or just leave the bell inside to keep your hamster guessing what’s inside. You can check the listing on Amazon here. Another little thing hamsters love is tubes. Getting your hamster a set of tubes for exploring outside his cage is going to mimic his normal nest. Think of tubes/tunnels like the world’s most amazing view-sites… for hamsters. You can find lots of versions online and in pet shops, and most of them will be like this one. You can build any kind of tube maze for your hamster with these items, and your hamster will love spending time outside his cage in these things. You should check if your cage allows for tube entrances though, not all cages to. In the photo there’s just one shape of tube, but you’ll find the rest of the shapes (like tees, corners, towers, etc) in the link. You can find the listing on Amazon here. 7. Exercise/running wheel for the restless hamster One of the most important things hamsters ever do is run. Hamsters run and run and run as much as their little feet will allow them. This means that they can run up to 9 km/5.5 miles in a single night ! Imagine all that energy spent on not running in his cage. He’d be all over the cage, climbing it, chewing on the bars moving his toys around. An exercise wheel is as much for the hamster as it is for your own good. A bored and irritated hamster is not only grumpy but also hard to tame, and will try to escape. So a good exercise wheel like this one will help your hamster burn off all his energy and run as far as his little feet will take him. Wheel are notorious for being loud, so this one is made especially to be silent. It’s got a guard for your hamster’s feet and tail, and will stay in place (heavy bottom). You can check the listing on Amazon here. Your hamster will end up on his wheel most of the night. So this is one of those things that your hamster definitely needs, all his life. You can find out more about hamsters and running wheels here. 8. Exercise ball for time outside the cage An exercise ball is not mandatory, but it’s a welcome toy. It will allow you to take the hamster out of his cage, and let him roam the house as he pleases – as long as he’s safe. Now, even if you don’t let him stray too far, he still needs a secondary place to be when you clean out his cage. He can’t be inside the cage, otherwise he would have a panic attack and try to bite everything. Best to keep him out of your hair while you clean the cage. A good exercise ball should be big enough so that the hamster’s back should not be arched. He will arch it a bit when he pushes into the ball to move forward, but that’s about it. He should fit comfortably. Most balls are clear plastic, and have air holes for your hamster to get some fresh air. Even so, they don’t provide as much air as a wire cage, for example. This means that the amount of time you let the hamster inside the ball should not be more than 30 minutes at a time. You can find a good example of an exercise ball here, since it’s big enough to fit a Syrian hamster inside easily. A dwarf hammy will be able to enjoy himself too in such a ball. It’s got enough air holes so the hamster can breathe easily, and you can pick whichever color you like. You can find the listing on Amazon here. 9. Travel/transport cage for vet visits Another cage for the hamster ? Well, yes, because carrying the hamster’s big cage with you to the vet isn’t very easy or comfortable. So a travel cage will be needed. Luckily the hamster isn’t a very sickly animal, so vet visits aren’t on the agenda often. They do have their own health problems, but for the most part they’re healthy. The travel cage can also be used to keep the hamster safe while you clean his cage (in place of the exercise ball). Some travel cages can be attached to the permanent cage, as a sort of extended home. The travel cage doesn’t need to be large or fancy, but it does need to keep the hamster inside. Since these cages are so small, this means the hamster will become restless after a few hours. So limit his time in the travel cage to under 2 hours to avoid any stress on your hamster. A good example of a travel cage could be this one, and it would fit a Syrian hamster well enough. It’s got a lid that closes shut and a handle for easy carrying. As all travel cages, this one is large enough to keep the hamster comfortable for a couple of hours but do not keep him inside for more than that. You can check the listing on Amazon here. 10. The hamster himself Finally, you’ll need the hamster himself. He is the last on this list because everything else needs to be in place before you get your furry friend. This is because hamsters are bad at handling stress, and as such when you first bring a hamster home you’ll need to leave him alone for the next 2-3 days. Feed him and talk to him, but do not open the cage or poke at him. Hamsters brought home for the first time are in danger of developing wet-tail, so be careful to keep him in a safe and calm room. As for how to pick out your hamster, I recommend you check this article. It’s got every nook and cranny covered, and the story of how i got my Teddy too. He’s a Syrian male hamster, and he’s the funniest, grumpiest little cheese ball I’ve ever met. (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.) Keeping a hamster as a pet – know what you’re getting yourself into Alright, we’ve got one last thing to cover. Well, maybe it should’ve been the first thing we covered. But you need to know what life with a hamster is like. Hamsters aren’t expensive to keep, actually they’re fairly cheap. But keeping a hamster as a pet changes you. You learn that not everything is about you, and sometimes there are some things that won’t go your way. Maybe your hammy won’t like being petted, maybe he’s crazy about peanuts. Still, you need to learn his personality and adjust yourself to it. Your hamster will learn yours too and be accommodating … kinda. Hamsters need a calm, quiet home with not many unforeseen things going on. They react poorly to stress and loud noises, being picked up wrong, being handled too much, and they get scared easily. If you’ve got a rowdy home with a few pets and small children, a hamster is definitely a bad idea. The children will need constant supervision with the hamster and the hamster won’t be very happy. In that respect, a puppy would be better since he can match the energy of a small child. But, if staying up late is your thing, and you like quiet nights with only your hamster’s feet padding on the wheel, while you read a book and sip some tea, hamsters could be okay for you. They’re more observational pets, and they’re funny to watch when they make every face ever. If you need a few more thoughts on whether you should get a hamster or not, you can read this article to settle it once and for all. A word from Teddy I hope you found everything you were looking for in this article. Us hammies have a fairly long supply list, but we’re grateful for anything you can manage to get. 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...
Safe And Unsafe Wood For Hamster
Safe And Unsafe Wood For HamsterHamsters need a lot of wood in their cage, be it for their bedding, toys, or hideout. So it is quite important to know what type of wood is safe and which one is not safe for your hamster. Hamsters are quite the survivors; they can endure a lot. But there are certain types of wood than can be quite toxic for them, and they also have a very sensitive nose, so a strong smell might bother them. In this article, I will list all wood types that are safe for your hamster but most importantly, I will guide you to know what to choose when you buy bedding, hideout and toys since those are the most common wood elements in a hamster cage. Of course, there are home-made ones so you should know what type of wood you should use if you plan to have a DIY project. Table of Contents ToggleSafe wood for hamstersUnsafe wood for hamstersCan hamsters eat wood?Best wood for hamster beddingShould a hamster hideout be made of wood or plastic?Do hamsters need wood toys or bridges?Conclusion Safe wood for hamsters The safest wood types for your hamster are aspen, elm, ash, bamboo, cottonwood, most fruit trees, oak, maple, and balsa wood. An important thing to have in mind when you make a DIY wheel, hideout, tunnel or toy for your hamster is to use wood from trees that weren’t treated with pesticides or other chemicals that might put your hamster in danger. Unsafe wood for hamsters The most important to know woods that are unsafe for your hamster are pine and cedar since you might find some toys, bedding and hideouts made with those types of wood. They are unsafe for your hamster because they contain some naturally occurring oils that might put your hamster in danger. So you should avoid those two even if they weren’t treated with pesticides or other chemicals. Yew and oleander wood should also be avoided because it can be poisonous for your hamster but those two are not usually used for making hamster toys or anything that goes in the hamster cage. Can you find unsafe wood at the pet shop? Unfortunately, you can find pine and cedar shavings at most supermarkets, and also some toys made with this type of wood. Pine is a cheap wood, very lightweight, and it’s common in many wood items, not just for hamsters.  Another thing you should pay attention to while you are at the pet shop is to choose bedding without added scent. There are aspen shavings with strawberry, peach, or other fruits scent, which can be quite toxic for your hamster. Aspen shavings with no added scent should be your go-to when you buy bedding from the pet shop or online. It is annoying that those things exist in the first place, and they might be eye-catching for a new hamster owner. There is little regulation when it comes to what material a manufacturer has to use, and the regulators don’t know all the details. You might’ve heard that giving your hamster toilet paper or paper towels is safe and recommended for them to make their nest more warm and comfortable, which is true. However, most people buy scented toilet paper or paper towels, and those are not safe for your hamster, make sure you buy odor-free ones, at least for the little one. The cardboard roll from the TP and paper towels  is also fine (as long as it’s not scented). The hamster will use these as a series of tunnels, and a chew toy.  Can hamsters eat wood? I’ve seen my hamster chewing on its wooden hideout quite a lot and I had this question for myself. Yes, hamsters can eat wood as long as it is untreated and it is from the safe wood list. They usually don’t ingest it, but rather they chew on the wood to sharpen their teeth since rodent teeth grow constantly, and not having chewing toys might be dangerous. So they’re not exactly eating the wood.  You can also give your hamster a (clean) walnut to chew on to make sure they sharpen their teeth on something that is safe. Avoid acorns though, here is an entire article about why hamsters should not eat or chew acorns. Best wood for hamster bedding When it comes to hamster bedding, aspen shavings are the safest choice and usually the only one you should find at a pet store. Here is a good one that you can find on Amazon. If you need another option, recycled paper can be a safe option rather than going for other type of wood that might be dusty or unsafe for your hamster. Here is a good pack of recycled paper hamster bedding for your hamster that you can find on Amazon. I wouldn’t go for recycled paper as the first option since it makes digging in it much harder and some hamsters love to dig. If your hamster is not a digger, there are no other cons to this type of bedding. Another wood bedding for hamsters is wood pellets.  Wood pellets can be difficult to find, but they can still be found as bedding for rabbits or larger rodents such as ferrets. However, these may not be the most comfortable bedding for hamsters. Consider layering the pellets over a layer of wood shavings to simulate dirt, if desired. When selecting wood for pellets, choose options that are safe for your hamster to both live and breathe on. Also keep in mind that the pellets are loud, so you might hear your hamster running/walking in its cage. Should a hamster hideout be made of wood or plastic? Hamster hideouts can be made of wood or plastic as long as they are from the safe list. The main problem with store-bought plastic hamster hideouts is that they are usually too small for a full-grown Syrian hamster which is the most common hamster pet, also known as a teddy bear hamster. When it comes to the wood hideouts, make sure they are not made from pine or cedar wood, and also pay attention to what they are fixed with. If they’re glued together, the glue should not be visible. Your hamster should not reach the glue that is used to make the parts stick together, or any sharp nail that goes through the walls or something along this line. Eating the glue is dangerous for hamsters for obvious reasons, and when it comes to sharp nails, they can hurt themselves in those ones. Do hamsters need wood toys or bridges? Most hamster toys are made of wood since any toy doubles as a chewing toy. So yes, a hamster needs something to play with and also to chew on, but you have to make sure they are made from safe woods. When you buy a toy or a wooden bridge for your hamster, make sure you read the label to make sure they are not made of pine, cedar, or any other unsafe wood. When you buy a wooden hamster bridge, check the connections between the sticks to make sure the hamster can’t get hurt in the metal part that connects all the sticks. Also, check the final part, which is used to hang the bridge on the cage or the hideout. Hamsters might hook themselves into those parts if the bridge is not properly connected. Conclusion There are some safe and unsafe woods for your hamster. If you go for aspen shavings as bedding, you should always be safe, and make sure you buy unscented.  When it comes to a hamster, you should buy unscented everything. Even when you clean its cage, make sure you use only a tiny bit of soap and preferably one that doesn’t smell too strong. Unfortunately, you will find toys, bedding and hideouts made from unsafe wood online and at the pet store, so it is your job to know which one you should buy. I hope this article was helpful, and now you know how to keep your little furball safe when it comes to the wood type you use. [...] Read more...