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Hamster Care

By: April Metroulas

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When choosing a hamster, always choose one with bright looking eyes and dry fur. If these aspects are not present, you could be buying a sick pet. A healthy hamster will have bright eyes, smooth fur and a robust body structure. Hamsters sleep most of the day, so the evening is a good time to shop for a hamster. Hamsters are very shy; so don't be put off by timid ones. Eventually, hamsters can be tamed.

There are two types of hamsters that you'll find at most pet stores.

  • The most common is the golden or Syrian hamster. Golden hamsters are twice the size of dwarfs. Although originally gold in color, goldens now come in a variety of colors. Golden hamster must be kept alone; if they are paired, they will inevitably fight.

  • The less common type is the dwarf hamster, specifically the Russian dwarf and the Chinese dwarf. Aside from their origin, the Russian and Chinese dwarfs are actually very similar. They are usually brown in color with a black stripe running down the back. They are often described as looking like field mice, except that they have no tail. Dwarfs are the most sociable. They can be kept two to a cage as long as they are the same sex.

    Housing Your Hamster

    It is relatively easy to house a hamster. There are several different cage options to choose from, all fairly inexpensive. The wire cage, the glass aquarium and the plastic expandable tube habitats are all good choices. Any reputable pet store selling hamsters should carry at least one of these cages.

  • The most common cage is made of wire and plastic. The wire top should be able to lift off of the plastic foundation. There should also be a door through which you can fit your hand in order to feed your hamster, and remove him for cleaning. The wire cage is the least expensive option.

  • Another type of cage in which to house your hamster is the glass aquarium. With an aquarium, the family can easily see the hamster. It is also a good choice for temperature control. The glass walls will block any drafts. It is important to get a sturdy wire lid for the aquarium, and it is a good idea to put a heavy object on top to prevent any escapes.

  • The final type of cage is the plastic tube habitat. This is the most expensive choice, and the most difficult to keep clean. The advantage is that they give your hamster the closest environment to his natural habitat.

    There are several items that you will need to equip your hamster cage. An exercise wheel is a great thing to have to give your hamster exercise. A water bottle is vital – just make sure that your hamster can reach it. Bedding is important; pine shavings are the most popular type. Lastly, a sturdy food bowl should complete your hamsters' new environment.

    Regardless of the house that you choose, your hamster's cage should be cleaned out every week. Bedding should be changed, and any urine or feces washed out with mild soap and rinsed very well with water.

    Feeding Your Hamster

    There are many commercial hamster diets available. They contain various seeds, pellets and a number of other items necessary for your hamster's health. Commercially prepared diets ensure proper nutrition for your hamster. It is possible to supplement your hamster's diet with a variety of treats. Your little critter will appreciate apples, carrots, greens, grapes, celery, cilantro and various other fruits and vegetables. It is advisable to give your hamster only small quantities of these items, as too many can cause diarrhea. Diarrhea can be fatal to hamsters.

    Your hamster should be fed fresh food every day. Also, the water bottle should be rinsed and filled daily.

    Exercise and Play

    Hamsters need plenty of exercise. An exercise wheel should be adequate for keeping your hamster entertained. However, some people construct mazes and exercise areas to keep their hamsters from getting bored. If you do this, just make sure these areas are escape proof.

    When you first bring your hamster home, it is important to let him rest and get used to his new environment. Too much stimuli right away can cause stress. Slowly handling your hamster will allow him to assimilate to his surroundings.

    Grooming and Care

    It is not necessary to groom your hamster. Hamsters will usually groom themselves. If your hamster's coat becomes untidy, it may be indicative of health problems. It is a good idea to take your pet to your veterinarian if this occurs. Make sure that, when transporting your hamster, you put him in a chew proof container.

    When handling a hamster, always be sure to go slowly. You should always pick him up gently, with both hands. The more tamed the hamster is, the easier it is to pick up. Eventually, your hamster will jump into your hand.

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