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Hamsters make good family pets. They are nocturnal so being more active in the evening allows the busy family time to enjoy them. They are small mammals ideal for families with limited space. Hamsters make a suitable pet for children providing they are taught the responsibilities of their pets daily cleaning, feeding and care.
Syrian or Golden hamsters originally come from Syria. In the wild they live in burrows in the day to keep cool. They are active animals and travel great distances at night. They will carry food in pouches and hoard it.
Syrian hamsters are solitary animals and best kept alone. Syrian hamsters have more than twenty colours and coat types such as smooth coat, satin and long haired.
Syrian hamsters’ average life span is 2 years.
A healthy hamster should be:
- Bright and alert
- Have no signs of discharge from eye, ears, mouth and nose
- Have a clean anal area
- Have a glossy coat with no bald patches and no have sores on the skin
- Should have no signs of breathing problems
- Should move around the cage easily with no stiffness or staggering
- Should feel well covered and not bony
A cage of 60 cm long x 30 cm wide x 30 cm high will give them adequate space to divide their accommodation into an eating, sleeping and toilet area. More space or two adjoining rooms or stories will add to their environmental enrichment. Plastic cages with metal tops are ideal as they are easy to clean and escape proof. Systems cages provide good stimulation for your hamster.
Your hamster will take a lot of exercise; an exercise wheel will assist him with this.
Hamsters are indoor pets so they should be kept in an even temperature ideally between 17˚C and 23˚C. You should avoid putting the cage in draughts, direct sunlight or in damp or humid conditions. A sudden drop in temperature to below 5°C may put your hamster into hibernation.
Soft wood, dust-free woodchips make a good floor covering. Soft shredded paper can be used as bedding and nesting material. Your hamster's cage should be emptied and cleaned with a pet-safe disinfectant at least once a week.
Feeding and Water
Hamsters are omnivores and so will enjoy a varied diet. A good hamster mix or pellet will provide the nutrition they require. This can be supplemented by small amounts of fresh fruit or vegetables but remember hamsters hoard their food and this can rot. Additional vitamin supplements or a mineral block can be added to your hamster’s diet. Feeding bowls should be gnaw proof, easy to clean and hard to knock over.
Soft fruit such as bananas should not be given to hamsters as it can stick in their pouches. Uneaten fresh food should be removed daily. Fresh clean drinking water must always be available.
It can be provided by a pet Water bottle designed to suit your hamster’s cage.
It is important that you handle your hamster regularly to help you build up a relationship with him.
When you first get your hamster home leave him alone for the rest of the day and night to get used to his new surroundings. Introduce your hand so he will get used to your smell.
When he seems happy gently cup one hand under him and one hand over him and pick him up. Always concentrate on holding your hamster as they have loose skins and can slip out of your hands.
Do not try to handle your hamster if he has just woken up as they feel vulnerable at this time and may bite.
Hamsters normally stay healthy throughout their lives. They can suffer from coughs and sneezes and their nose and eyes may run, so keep them warm and away from any draughts. If the signs persist seek veterinary advice. Hamsters can suffer acute diarrhoea known as ‘wet tail’. If this occurs take your pet to the vets immediately.
There is normally no problem with hamsters’ teeth. However if they do not meet properly they will grow too long and eating will be impossible. If this occurs the teeth must be clipped regularly.
Syrian hamsters do not need to hibernate but will do so if there is a sudden drop in temperature below 5°C.
If your hamster escapes from its cage try putting a box or bowl in the corner of the room. He may well be in it the next morning.
If you are concerned about your hamster’s health speak to your pet shop or your vet.
- Cage/housing unit
- Mineral block
- Food dish
- Water bottle and bottle brush
- Gnaw block
- Book on hamster care