Hamsters are adorable rodents that have the potential to make amazing pets, but they’re often seen as cheap pets that don’t require much space or care – which couldn’t be more wrong.
Getting my hamster was one of the best decisions I’ve made (or my boyfriend made) and I’ve absolutely adored having him these past few months, but there was so much I didn’t know and definitely wish I did before I got him.
Throughout this post, I have included images with helpful information on that you can save as a useful guide should you want to.
- Minimum Cage Size
Hamsters may be little animals but don’t let that fool you – they need A LOT of space.
Your hamsters cage should be a minimum of 80cmx50cm or its equivalent, but females typically need 100cmx50cm as a minimum.
The majority of cages sold by leading pet shops don’t meet those requirements and so when you purchase your hamster, you may think buying a cage alongside your new pet is an excellent idea… but it is definitely best to have a set up ready for your Hamster to get home – especially because most of the cages that are a good size for your furry friend, are actually online exclusives.
- Housing your Hamster
It is recommended that hamsters live alone, they are solitary animals in the wild, and housing them together (with some very rare exceptions) is dangerous and potentially fatal.
Hamsters also need at least 6cm of bedding, but ideally as much bedding material as possible as they naturally like to burrow and nest. – You must avoid wood shavings as this can cause respiratory issues in hamsters (unless it is from a hard wood such as aspen). You must also avoid fluffy cotton wool style bedding, as hamsters have been known to choke and become tangled in this, causing fatalities. It is also recommended that you avoid using cat litter, newspaper and any scented bedding as these are also not safe.
When it comes to bedding, I personally recommend CareFresh, Kaytee Clean and Cosy or Tea Bag bedding – they are great for burrowing and holding tunnels, soft and snuggly whilst still safe for your hamster.
Hamsters are generally pretty clean animals and so its recommended that you spot clean their cages every few days to remove any soiled bedding and rotting/ hoarded food, but to keep full deep cleans of the cage to a minimum.
Hamsters are also very sensitive to smells and so it’s advised that you avoid using air fresheners, wax melts, candles or anything that can change the natural smell of a room.
- Toys and Enrichment
Hamsters can easily be bored and require lots of toys and enrichment – Things to chew and encourage natural behaviours like foraging and digging are great additions to any cage. It’s recommended that Hamsters have a sand bath available to them in their cage to encourage and facilitate their natural bathing behaviours.
Hamsters must have a wheel! In the wild hamsters can run for several miles each night, and the wheel allows them to keep this behavior up when kept as a pet – as with the cage though, there are size requirements and you can often be sold the wrong size, so it’s definitely something to be mindful of. – A Syrian Hamster needs a 28cm Wheel and a Dwarf needs a minimum of a 20cm wheel.
Shops like VioVet and PetPlanet have a fantastic range of natural toys and chews for hamsters to keep them entertained. – I highly recommend that you get some multi-chamber hides and tunnels as they’re fantastic!
Hamster balls are not recommended – they do not allow for proper ventilation, the hamster has no way of stopping their movement and the ball hinders their sight and smell and really disorientate them.
Hamsters are actually omnivores meaning that they will happily eat plants, seeds and also insects.
The ideal diet for your hamster will include a commercial hamster food, very small amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, and occasional treats like plain scrambled egg, chicken or even mealworms. – As hamsters like to store and hoard food, it is best you do not leave any fresh foods unattended with your pet.
Hamsters will also need unrestricted access to clean, fresh water at all times. I have a preference for using a water bottle, but a bowl that is sturdy and can’t be tipped over is also useful.
A hamster’s teeth grow continually. If you give the hamster something hard to chew on like a piece of non-toxic wood from a pet store it will help keep the teeth a normal size and in good condition. My hamster loves Whimzees which are great chew toys that are marketed for dogs, but are great for our small rodent friends too!
If your hamster is having problems eating and closing or cannot close his mouth, a vet can usually trim the teeth.
Hamsters are all very different – you may have heard that one species is easier to tame than another, but this is generally down to the personality of the animal.
It is best to give your hamster a few days to settle in, as moving in can be very stressful for them, and then its best to start small by talking to your hamster, eventually putting your hand in their cage and letting them walk over it. Then try giving your hamster small amounts of yummy foods like pumpkin seeds or fresh vegetables to entice them in, and associate you with food. It can take a while for your hamster to trust you, but don’t be discouraged.
Bathtub bonding can also be very useful if you have access to a bath. – Pick your hamster up in a mug or jar and sit in the bath with them, allowing them to run around, get used to your smells and sounds and adjust. This again can take some time but is a great way to bond with your hamster.
It is very important that you don’t wake your hamster to play – they are crepuscular, and so are usually awake and most active during dawn and dusk hours. This can unfortunately mean that they are not great pets for children.
- Hamsters are not cheap pets!
Due to hamsters being readily available in many pet shops at relatively low prices, it is believed that Hamsters are cheap and easy pets but this is not the case. Their cages are expensive and because they require a lot of toys and enrichment, those costs can also add up.
In the UK, hamsters usually require being seen by a specialist Exotics vet, which is again expensive, as is any vet. Whilst we all hope that our pets never get sick, it is not a guarantee and so it should also be prepared for.
Is there anything else that you wish you knew before you got your hamster? Leave a comment below, I’d love to create some pet friendly posts that encourage great pet care and some lesser known tips and tricks!