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Hamster Care Basics

April 1, 2024

The 12th of April is World Hamster Day! Hamsters are popular pets for children, and with good reason. They meet all of the criteria for a child’s animal buddy: they’re adorable, easy to care for, gentle, and don’t require much space. A Middletown, DE veterinarian puts Hammy in the spotlight below.

Introducing Hammie

Hamsters are very cute little rodents who live in fields and grassy areas in the wild. They can survive for roughly 2 to 4 years on average.

There are roughly 20 different types of hamsters. The European Hamster is the biggest one. They can grow to be 8 to 11 inches in length and weigh up to one pound! The smallest is the Roborovski hamster, frequently referred to as the Desert hamster. These tiny little furballs only grow to be one or two inches long!

The Syrian, Russian Dwarf Campbell, and Roborovski varieties are among the most popular pet ones.

Is A Hamster A Good Pet For Children?

Hammie is a terrific choice for many families. However, there are a few factors to consider.

  1. If your child is still very little, have them sit or kneel to hold their tiny friend. This way, if the hamster falls or jumps, he will not fall far.
  2. Hamsters can get very sick if they get too cold. You’ll need to keep your pet in a room that doesn’t get chilly, even in winter. 
  3. Small children should always be kept under supervision when dealing with Hammie.
  4. You’ll need to teach your kids to always hold Hammie gently and appropriately and to never pull his tail or fur.
  5. Hamsters are nocturnal, so they are most playful at night.  If you place Hammie in a child’s room, he might keep the little one up.
  6. Hamsters, like any other animal, can carry viruses, fungi, bacteria, or parasites. Always wash your hands before and after handling Hammie or his things. (If you’re getting a hamster for a child, you may need to supervise this process.)

Can I Adopt More Than One Hamster?

You can, but you’ll probably require separate cages. Syrian hamsters, the most popular pet hamster, should always be housed alone. They are friendly with humans, but tend to despise roommates. However, some of the other kinds of hamsters can have companions. Before adopting one, conduct thorough research and consult with your Middletown, DE veterinarian.

What Are The Symptoms Of Sickness In Hamsters?

As with any other pet, you’ll need to keep a watchful eye out for signs of illness. Little Hammie is prone to developing a variety of health issues, including respiratory problems, diarrhea, abscesses, proliferative ileitis (wet tail), and skin disorders.

Be sure to pay lots of attention to your miniature pet. The more familiar you are with little Hammie, the easier it will be to spot signs that something is off. Things to watch for include dirty/wet bottom, sneezing, diarrhea, lumps, bumps, lesions, coughing, dull, red, or watery eyes, lethargy, wheezing, lack of appetite,  fur loss, and weight loss.

If you observe any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian right away.

What Do You Feed A Hamster?

Hammie’s menu should largely consist of commercial food, with safe vegetables and modest amounts of fruit as supplements.  You should consult your veterinarian for detailed recommendations, but a good rule of thumb is to aim for a mix of 80% pellets, 10% vegetables, and 5% each fruits and treats. You will also need to bring a water bottle, which should be cleaned and refilled daily.

Spinach, broccoli spears, Romaine lettuce, dandelion greens and artichokes, carrot tops, cauliflower (in limited quantities), sweet potato, squash, and yellow peas are all safe vegetables. For fruits, you can serve apples, bananas, strawberries, and pears to your little friend.

Hammie will enjoy the occasional snack. This is where the fruits come in. You can also offer small bits of egg or cheese, cooked chicken or turkey, or even dog biscuits.

It’s also critical to understand what not to provide your small companion. This list contains the following:

  • Citrus fruit
  • Rhubarb
  • Surgery foods
  • Salty foods
  • Junk food
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Garlic
  • Raw beans or potatoes
  • Chocolate

There are also some foods that are safe on occasion, but shouldn’t be fed too often. You should also exercise caution when handling seeds. For example, hamsters enjoy pumpkin seeds. Several other types of seeds, however, are hazardous.

To avoid spoilage, always remove uneaten food.

Remember that Hammie is a highly skilled beggar. He is quite skilled at persuading his owners to give him tasty treats,  then stash them for later and resume his antics. (Fun fact: Hammie’s name comes from the German word “hamstern,” which means “hoard”.) Pay attention to portion quantities, and don’t be fooled by that cute face!

Be sure to ask your vet for specific advice.

What Kind Of Cage Do I Get For A Hamster?

Getting a good cage is half the battle when it comes to hamster care. Choose something with a mesh or screen top to ensure your pet has adequate ventilation. However, it should have a solid floor:  wire floors are unsafe and will not hold substrate. You’ll need to include a little hiding place, as well as toys and accessories.

How Do You Pamper A Hamster?

Making Hammie happy does not need a large investment of time or money. Even simple touches can have a big impact!

Here are our suggestions:

Exercise Wheels

These are extremely popular among smaller animals. It’s also adorable to see Hammie happily running on his wheel! Make sure to pick a solid one, though; wire ones might injure those tiny paws and tails.

Create a Labyrinth for Your Pet

Hamsters adore mazes and labyrinths. These are readily available in stores, but they can also be made from cardboard or PVC pipe.

Provide Lots of Toys

Toys—particularly chew toys—are essential to your pet’s dental health. If Hammie doesn’t wear his teeth down, he may develop major dental problems. Many of your pet’s chew toys can be made with simple home objects like plain paper and cardboard. There are plenty of great ideas online.  Always avoid items with sharp or small bits. Consult your Middletown, DE veterinarian for advice.

Offer A Runabout

Hammie is a curious little creature that enjoys exploring nooks and crannies. Obviously, you don’t want such a small pet roaming around. You can allow your pet to explore with a runabout. Just make sure safety comes first! Make sure to buy a runabout that is the appropriate size. Don’t allow your pet to play near stairs, pools, fireplaces, or other pets. Also, do not keep your hamster in it for too long. Ten or 15 minutes is plenty. 

How Do I Bond With My Hamster?

You will need to allow your tiny companion some time to feel safe. Don’t try to handle him right away; instead, give him some time to adjust. After a few days, you can gently pet him. Wait until he appears to be at ease with you to pick him up, though. Never Hammie up from behind or while he is sleeping, and definitely don’t hold him by the tail. This may (understandably) scare the tiny fellow!

Contact Your Middletown, DE Animal Hospital

Have you got any questions concerning hamster care? Contact your local  Middletown, DE pet hospital at any time. We are always willing to help.

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