How to Care for a Hamster
4 June, 2014

Hamsters are cute furry little creatures that are also great pets.  However, even though hamsters are generally known as being the best ‘starter’ pet for children, they do require the proper care.  And similar to cats, they are nocturnal creatures that might not fit well into a young child’s schedule.  Hamsters are generally not recommend for children less than five years old as they might drop them.  However, if you give your hamster all that he needs to flourish, a hamster can be a great pet.

Hamster Supplies

Below are the essential supplies that you need to have for your hamster:

1.         10-gallon aquarium (minimum) with wire cover, wire cage, hay, aspen shavings or pelleted bedding

2.         Small boxes or flower pots

3.         Exercise wheel (solid, no rungs)

4.         Cardboard tubes (recycle from paper towel and toilet paper rolls)

5.         Hamster food mix

6.         Attachable water bottle with drinking tube

7.         Unpainted, untreated piece of wood or safe chew toy

The cost of owning a hamster

When you first get your hamster, you’ll need to spend $35 – $45 for a cage.  The typical hamster food runs about $50 a year, plus $20- $30 annually for toys and treats, and approximately $200 each year for litter and bedding material.

Hamster cage

When selecting a cage, the enclosure should be placed away from direct sunlight and drafts, and lined with an absorbent bedding such as timothy hay, aspen shavings, shredded paper or pelleted bedding. Do not use pine or cedar chips, as the fumes from these products can be harmful to your pets.

Make sure to include a hamster wheel

Hamsters are big on exercise, so please make sure yours has a wheel for running. Hamsters also like to hide and sleep inside enclosed spaces, so you’ll need a small box with an entrance hole or a small flower pot for this purpose. And they love crawling through tubes, which can be homemade (empty cardboard tubes from paper towels and toilet paper) or from a pet supply store.

A hamster’s diet

Your hamster should stay healthy when eating a hamster mix, which contains seeds, grains, cracked corn and pellets, and is available at almost all pet supply stores.

You should supplement your hamster’s diet with fresh foods every two or three days. Try fresh grains, sunflower seeds, alfalfa pellets, and fresh fruits and vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, carrots and apples.

As with any pet, fresh, clean water should be available at all times. It is best to use an inverted bottle with a drinking tube, which should be changed daily.

Clean your hamster cage daily

Don’t forget to clean your hamster’s cage on a daily basis. Remove droppings, uneaten food and soiled bedding every day. Every week, remove and replace all the bedding, and scrub the bottom of the cage with hot, soapy water.

Hamsters like to be handled

It’s important to learn how to handle your hamster as they love the affection.  Try to start by feeding your hamster treats.   Once your hamster is comfortable eating treats from your hand, you can gently and securely pick him up. Hold him for a short time at first, and then gradually increase your time with him.

Once you’ve hand-tamed your hamster, you should let your hamster pay outside of the cage in a secure, enclosed area, while you supervise. Be sure to remove anything else your curious pet could, but shouldn’t, gnaw on.

Veterinary Care

If you think your hamster is sick, make sure to go to the vet immediately.  Common signs that something isn’t right with your hamster may include dull-looking eyes, matted fur, weight loss, shaking, runny nose and diarrhea. Also note that hamsters can also be susceptible to respiratory problems, especially the common cold, which they can catch from their human pet parents.

Hamsters, like any other pets, need love, attention, the right food and exercise to be happy, healthy and thrive.

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