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If you are reading this, you are either thinking about owning a hamster or you have just purchased one. This guide will cover the most common questions asked about hamsters and explain everything you need to know about basic care and housing for your wonderful new pet.
It depends on the breed of hamster that you choose and if they are littermates or not. Do not put different hamster breeds together. The Syrian hamster is territorial. It will not tolerate other hamsters in their cage. Syrian hamsters are not social creatures and might fight to the death when another hamster is introduced. It's best to keep Syrian hamsters in separate cages, because they may fight when they mature at around six weeks old. Dwarf hamsters live in groups as they are very social hamsters. If you do not plan to breed, ensure you buy all female or male dwarf hamsters. It is best to buy more than one as they will probably be littermates and will already know each other. If you purchase at least two, it will make it easier to introduce another hamster later on. You will notice your hamster is much happier and more active in a group.
There is a great variety of cages for hamsters aimed at all budgets. Plastic cage These are the most expensive cages. This style of cage is creative and often colourful or ultra modern and looks good in the home. Advantages are they are light to lift, easy to clean and look stylish. Disadvantages are that they are expensive and a build up of urine on plastic can be hard to clean. You can buy extensions when you feel your hamster needs more space and there are add on accessories such as new tunnels and chambers, which make them ideal for hamsters who love exploring. Rotastack is a popular cage brand. You can buy a creepy castle, add on a magic maze, adventure zone and more! Your pampered hamster will never be bored. For a futuristic look and a similar concept, choose a Habitrail Ovo Suite. Tank This is another cheap option, but disadvantages are that they are heavy for children to lift, can crack and can get too hot in sunlight. Cover the top with small holed wire mesh to ensure fresh air can get in. Advantages are they are easy to clean. Wire Cage Wire cages are traditionally designed so your hamster can climb without slipping through the bars and escaping. They are cheaper than other types of hamster cages and it is easy to attach an exercise wheel, ladders and to add a plastic hamster house. Some cages are two tiers to cater for a hamster's love of climbing and exploring. They can even have their bedroom upstairs on a platform. Most cages come with all the accessories you need. Check that the cage is suitable for Roborovski hamsters - these are cages labelled as suitable for dwarf hamsters. This is the smallest breed of hamster and normal hamster cage bars may be too wide. You don't want a Roborovski hamster to escape as they are also the fastest hamsters on the earth!
Hamsters like their food and bedding in the same place. Spot clean the toilet area daily and replace the bedding weekly. Leave a small, clean, piece of the old bedding so that the hamster's scent is retained, then add the clean bedding into the cage. Clean and refill the water bottle and clean and refill the food bowl. The hamster will immediately carry bedding into his house and make the bed. A full disinfect or wash in soap and water of the cage and plastic parts such as house and tunnels is recommended weekly. A clean cage results in a happy and healthy hamster. There are many different types of bedding for hamsters. For the bottom of the cage, wood shavings, wood pulp or a hemp based flooring material like aubiose are ideal. Aubiose is hemp based, is absorbent and will last longer than wood shavings. Bedding materials like hemp are low in dust, soft and hypoallergenic. Soft snuggle wool or cotton based beddings are also ideal for your hamster.
Hamsters are omnivores. This means they eat fruit, vegetables, and meat. In the wild, they would eat insects. Feed your hamster a good quality hamster seed mix and supplement it with scraps left over from your dinner such as scrambled egg, pasta, fruit and vegetables and scraps of cooked chicken or beef and dandelion leaves and flowers. This will ensure your hamster has a healthy, balanced diet. Your hamster will store much of this food in its cheeks and hide it, so check for mouldy food in the cage on a daily basis. If your hamster lives in a tank or plastic cage, you could feed live foods such as crickets or other live insects. It's not ideal to feed these if your hamster is in a traditional wire cage, because the cricket might escape. Feeding live food is great exercise for your hamster, as he will have to catch his dinner! Do not feed your hamster uncooked potato peelings or chocolate as this is poisonous for them. Not too much lettuce, cabbage, kale or brussels sprouts as this can cause health problems. A small amount is fine.
This is a very common question and you will be surprised at the great variety of yummy treats hamsters can indulge in. Feed fattening foods sparingly, otherwise your hamster might have to join the HFC - Hamster Fit Club! These extra special treats should be fed in moderation; Kale, cabbage, nasturtiums and all kinds of shelled nuts, cooked potato, biscuits, bread, fruitcake, mealworms, raisins, sultanas and toast.
All hamsters love large clear plastic exercise balls as they love to explore. Ensure the lid is nice and tight so they can't escape. It's a safe place to put your hamster while you clean out the cage. Hamsters love exercise wheels, flavoured wood chews, plastic tunnels, willow sticks and wooden balls. Now you have a hamster you'll never throw away a toilet roll tube again. Make sure you have plenty of replacements ready.
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