Caring for Your Hamster
- Aquariums are better than cages because cages might have bars that their feet can get caught in and break. A well-ventilated aquarium with a top that seals so your hamster can’t push up on it and escape is best.
- Line the aquarium/cage with shredded paper (newspaper or paper towels) or recycled paper bedding (no shavings of any kind), with a mound in a corner – hamsters love to burrow!
- Hamster pellets
- A wheel that is smooth-sided to prevent its feet from getting caught and broken
- A water bottle that attaches to the aquarium
- A tip-proof (weighted) bowl for food
- A safe wooden chew toy made specifically for hamsters
- Exercise ball
- High-sodium food
- High-sugar food
- High-carbohydrate food
- House plants
- Leaves or grass from your yard
- Food off your plate
- Do not add vitamins to their water
- Avoid too much dried fruit (it can lead to intestinal issues)
- Yogurt drops and other advertised hamster “treats” actually aren’t safe
- Feed your hamster a pellet diet as directed by the label. Note: a seed and nut diet is not a complete diet; only a pellet diet is complete.
- Because hamsters are nocturnal, it might be best to feed them in the evening so that they eat when their food is fresh
Supplement the diet with fresh vegetables such as leafy greens, lettuce, spinach or carrots (avoid high sugar fruit)
- Clean up leftovers before they spoil
- Be sure their water bottle is filled with fresh water
- Scoop up soiled bedding each day
- IMPORTANT NOTE: Hamsters have high metabolisms and can become hypoglycemic if they do not eat every day. If your hamster appears tired or isn’t eating well, go to your veterinarian immediately.
- Completely clean the aquarium once a week with hot, soapy water.
- Take your hamster to your veterinarian at least once a year, though twice a year is preferable because their life spans aren’t very long. Your veterinarian can also cut their nails at that time for you if you aren’t comfortable doing it.
Tip: Let your child know that hamsters may only live for a few years so that they aren’t overly shocked when their pet dies.
Often new hamster owners become alarmed by their bulging cheeks, suspecting their pet might have a growth or a tumor. However, hamsters can store a large quantity of food in their check pouches. Even if you haven’t seen them eating recently, don’t worry!
The Right Temperature
Hamsters thrive at room temperature, normally whatever is comfortable to humans. In a home without air conditioning, at least have fans blowing to circulate the air. If it’s extremely hot, surround the aquarium with ice packs (or purchase a temperature-controlled one).
How to Hold Your Hamster
Hamsters can bite, so be careful to not surprise them – approach slowly and let them hear you coming. Cup them in the palm of your hand. The more you hold them, the more comfortable they will be with being held.
*Hamsters aren’t appropriate for small children because they can carry diseases like ringworm and because they will bite if handled roughly. Be sure to wash your hands after handling.
More Than One Hamster?
Hamsters are fairly solitary and may become territorial if they have to share their exercise wheel. Since it can be dangerous to spay or neuter them because of their small size, select same sex hamsters and purchase them at the same time – introducing a new hamster to one who has already become accustomed to their home will create problems. Females tend to be less aggressive than males, and dwarf hamsters. Note: the more animals that share an aquarium, the more frequently it will need to be cleaned.
Don’t Let a Loose Hamster Out of Your Sight
Hamsters are fast and small – you don’t want to lose them in your house! Be sure if you remove them from their aquarium, that it is in a secure room or an exercise ball, and never leave him/her alone.
Finding the Right Veterinarian
- A veterinarian that treats “exotic pets” will be more comfortable with hamsters
- When you get your pet, have your parent or guardian take it to a veterinarian for a check-up
- Your pet should see a veterinarian at least once a year and when you think it might be sick
Information on caring for your pet hamster provided by Laurie Hess, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian), owner of Veterinary Center for Birds and Exotics in Bedford Hills, N.Y.
Note: All content provided on HealthyPet.com, is meant for educational purposes only on health care and medical issues that may affect pets and should never be used to replace professional veterinary care from a licensed veterinarian. This site and its services do not constitute the practice of any veterinary medical health care advice, diagnosis or treatment.