How to Care for a Hamster

Hamsters are small so they won’t take up a lot of space in your home or maintenance. However, like all living things, they need care and attention. So before getting one from the pet shop ask yourself if you’re ready to give the (small) time, effort, money and commitment required for raising this pet.

Types of Hamsters
Hamsters are rodents, the family where the rats and mice also belong. There are 25 known hamster species, five of which are commonly sold as pets.

1. Syrian hamsters have golden fur and grow up to 7” long. Don’t place more than one Syrian in a cage.
2. Winter whites can grow up to 4 inches long and can have white, grayish brown or whitish gray fur.
3. Campbell Russian hamsters grow up to 4 inches long and have grayish brown fur on their back.
4. Chinese dwarf hamsters have elongated bodies with a gray top and light-colored bottom.
5. Roborovskis have a brownish-yellow color and can live for up to 3 and a half years.

Cage and Bedding
If you plan to get more than one hamster, you should have separate cages for each of them because they like being alone. The minimum cage area for dwarf types should be 30x20x20 inches; for bigger types, it should be 40x20x20 inches. Divide their space into at least two chambers where they can hide and collect stuff.

Do not place their home under direct heat or sunlight or near a draft or in a cold room. Keep the cage away from other pets and children too.

The bedding will give them an area to dig around because that’s what they normally do in nature. The nesting material should be made of Aspen wood shavings, shredded paper or cardboard, meadow hay, or a product called Carefresh. Do not use pine or cedar shavings, sawdust, cat litter, newspapers, fabric, or corn cobs.

Food and Water
Provide the hamster with a bowl of water and feed it twice a day. You can feed them fruits like banana, seedless apples, cantaloupe, grapes, mango, lychee, melon, strawberries, bean sprouts, broccoli, carrots, celery, chestnuts, corn on the cob, cucumber, peas, squash, sweet potatoes, and turnip. Provide them with protein from grasshoppers, crickets, whole grain bread in low fat milk, boiled or scrambled egg, plain tofu, cooked brown rice, and low fat cottage cheese.

Hamsters love the hamster wheel so it’s a must-have. Make sure that the wheel is large enough so that the hamster can run with a straight back. Don’t buy wheels made of metal wires and have an open running surface and back. The wheel diameter should be greater than 9 inches for the dwarf types and more than 12 inches for big hamsters.

Hamsters don’t bath so provide a small area where they can roll in the sand instead. Clean the cage three or four times a week to avoid accumulation of waste. Clean the bottom of the cage first then replace the shavings. If the hamster stinks, it’s probably due to an illness.

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