Hamsters are adorable and have been one of the most popular first home pets for children. Despite this, hamsters might not be suitable for young children, as similar to any other home pets, hamsters require a lot of care and commitment. If the child is old enough to handle the hamster gently and carefully, and is able to help cleaning the cage, the pet can be a good, educational, and fun pet for the entire family. Knowing how to take care of a hamster well, therefore, is essential for every family member before deciding to keep one.
Before deciding which hamsters you would like to keep as a pet, it is essential to get to know their characteristics. Different types of hamsters might possess different characteristics and behavior. This helps you decide how many hamsters you are able to keep in a cage, or whether you need several individual cages for each hamster.
Syrian hamsters, for instances, are evidently territorial. Therefore, you do not want to keep more than one Syrians in the same cage or otherwise, they will fight one another to maintain the territory, which may lead to death. On the other hand, dwarf hamsters are another popular hamster type that are despite of being territorial, can be kept in the same cage if they are litter-mates or a mother and child.
Choosing a healthy hamster
In addition to the hamster type and characteristics, it is also important to put the hamster’s health state into account when choosing one as a home pet. A healthy hamster should have clean ears, a clean and dry bottom, a small rounded stomach, clean bright eyes, and healthy teeth that are not overgrown.
Moreover, the hamster should not have bald spots or lumps all over the skin. You should also seek a hamster with dry fur, as wet fur may indicate bacterial disease that can be contagious.
Things to prepare
Once you a hamster to accompany the family, it is the time to prepare things the hamster needs. Some of the most essential and should be definitely present if you are keeping a hamster include:
- A proper cage
When choosing a cage for your hamster, make sure it is escape proof. Hamsters are likely to find any ways around to escape from their cage, so that it is better for you to choose a cage with a door that can be fully secured.
An ordinary hamster cage should measure 15-inch long and 12-inch high, or approximate. This size is important to make your hamster comfortable, while making sure the cage is also space-saving. However, if you want to put some things for the hamster to explore or exercise with, a cage with more room is advised.
There are a couple of main functions beddings provide for your pet hamsters. It provides comfort and proper heat for your hamster’s body temperature. Good bedding also helps absorb your hamster’s urine to minimize wetness and smell.
While bedding from wood shavings is widely used, it is actually not the best type for your hamsters. Instead, this type of bedding absorbs unpleasant urine smell and keeps it for a long period of time, spreading it all over your space. Cat litter, in addition, is also popular to be used in hamster cage, although this one is in fact, needs to be avoided as well.
Cotton bedding should also be avoided, as this is very dangerous. Your hamsters might occasionally swallow the bedding, while cotton bedding is indigestible, and strands of the bedding can wrap around limbs and extremities. This might potentially kill your hamster.
The best bedding to provide for your hamster is the one that is cellulose or plant based, as this absorbs the urine smell well and does not contain any harmful chemicals for your hamsters’ respiratory system.
Toys are really popular among hamster keepers. An exercise wheel is the most popular and in fact, is a must to prevent boredom. There are a lot of other toys you can buy for your hamster. If you would like your hamster to get some exercises outside the cage, an exercise ball can also be provided.
Commercial hamster mix can be easily found and are suitable for hamsters of any types. This mix generally has a blend of fruits, vegetables, seeds, and grains that provide sufficient nutrition and fiber for your hamsters. Feeding your hamster small pieces of vegetables and fruits are even better, and giving your hamster a constant access to fresh water at all time is definitely essential.
Although fresh cuts of vegetables and fruits are beneficial for your hamster’s health, unfortunately, not all of those are good for hamsters. Some of the best ones include broccoli, parsley, apple, pear, carrot, and turnips.
Any kind of human foods should not be given to hamsters, as they might contain ingredients that harm your hamster’s health, such as salt, onions, or sugar.
Place the cage in the right space
After finish setting up your hamster cage, it is the time to decide where you are going to place the cage in the house. A spot that is quiet is recommended for hamster keeping, as it prevents your hamster from strange noises that may induce unnecessary stress. When placing a hamster cage, avoid direct sunlight as your hamster might get overheated easily. Therefore, placing a hamster cage in front of a hot window is strictly unacceptable.
In addition, the place where you are keeping the hamster cage should have plenty or sufficient ventilation and free of any other home pets such as cats and dogs. this will help keeping the hamster healthy and stress-free.
Let the hamster explore the cage
When first bringing your hamster home, it should be allowed to explore the cage. Provide a sufficient amount of foods and water inside the cage, and leave it alone. Cover the cage with a light cloth to give the hamster privacy. This will enable the new pet to get to know its surrounding as well as the general home conditions. Enough food and water also enable you to leave the hamster for a few days without accessing its privacy, which may lead into unnecessary stress.
After a few days of leaving your hamster alone, you can begin to introduce yourself to it. Approach the cage gently and speak softly so that it won’t get startled. Do the daily tasks, such as changing food and water while getting your hamster accustomed to your presence.
Cleaning your hamster’s cage
Cleaning is an important part to ensure your pet’s health. Cleaning the pet and its cage helps minimize potential bacterial infestation and thus, keeps diseases at the bay. To clean your hamster’s habitat, you need to use detergent that is specially intended for rodents or hamsters, as traces of harsh detergent might induce massive discomfort for your furry friend.
If you prefer a more natural cleaning ingredient, use a bottle of apple cider vinegar diluted with water to spray the hamster’s cage. This solution is much less harmless than the chemical-based ones and will not cause any severe irritation to the pet.
Another important part of cleaning the hamster’s cage is letting it dry after sprayed. First, wipe the cage dry with a clean towel and put it under direct sunlight to let all the water evaporate and all cleaning solution removed.
Caring for baby hamsters
It is important to know how to care for baby hamsters to make sure you are ready whenever the hamsters you are keeping breed. The most essential thing to do in caring for baby hamsters is to leave them alone with the mother hamster during the first week.
To help the mother taking care of her baby, cover the cage with a sheet. This will help the mother get used to her new family members and get accustomed to the babies’ smell. Since hamsters can be cannibal, it is always possible for a mother hamster to harm their unfamiliar babies. Giving them a private time helps will lower the risk of the mother harming the them. It is also advised that you take a break from cleaning the cage during this period.
As form the hamster’s health, you will need to provide food sources that are enriched with protein. This compound is essential during nursing period, as it gives beneficial nutrients to the mother that is passed to the babies for their early growth. The perfect protein sources you can feed your hamsters include boiled eggs and chicken.
Less importantly, you will need to separate the mother and their babies to avoid fights and spread diseases. Hamsters should be separated after four to six weeks of age and should be put in different cages.
What if your hamster gets sick?
There are some potential health issues hamsters may suffer from. They range from flea infestation to contagious diseases that can be life-threatening. Similar to humans and other animals, hamsters that are sick should be diagnosed properly. Since they can be easily suffering from pneumonia, you are advised to have less contact with your hamster whenever you are catching a cold.
Antibiotics can be given to your hamster only with vet’s prescription, as it may instead be disadvantageous. Some antibiotics are strictly prohibited to be given to hamsters as they may cause severe gastrointestinal damage that can be fatal. It is best to consult the vet whenever seeing unusual symptoms in your hamsters. Meanwhile, giving nutritious foods, encouraging them to take enough exercises, and placing your hamster’s cage in a safe spot that is not exposed to direct sunlight help improve your hamster’s health.