Hamsters are mammals and belong to the rodent family.
The name Hamster is German for ‘Hamstern’, which means ‘to hoard’. Hamsters originally inhabited semi desserts so for this reason they are nocturnal which means they are only active at night. This behaviour originated to avoid the heat during the day so they come out when it is cooler at night. They inhabit burrows with many tunnels and chambers where they store food and sleep.
Hamsters have very poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell and excellent hearing.
Handling and Taming
Hamsters are very lovable once tamed and enjoy the company of their human companions and can live for up to 2 years.
It is best to tame them when they are young and it is very important that your hamster gets to know your voice.
To pick up a hamster, gently cup your hands around them. Never pick them up under their front legs, as this is where their very delicate lungs are. Hamsters will soon learn your smell and become familiar with you.
Hamsters only bite when frightened so if they bite let them calm down then try again later. Never rush the taming process as your hamster may lose trust in you. Generally, it can take up to three weeks to tame a hamster.
The largest cage you can afford is the best option for your hamster - the more space to investigate the happier they will be.
They should be provided with
- an exercise wheel
- nesting house
- water bottle and
- feeding bowls.
Other items such as toys (toilet rolls tubes are a favorite) should be added over time to prevent boredom.
There are many different types of hamster bedding available. Wood shavings should be provided at the bottom of the cage and should be plain and unscented. Do not use Cedar wood shavings as these release large amounts of phenol fumes, which could cause liver damage to your hamster.
Nesting material should be paper-based. Newspaper should not be used as this can discolour the hamster’s fur. Cotton wool should not be used as limbs can become entangled and damaged.
Hamsters should be housed away from draughts or damp ideally in a place where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too often.
Housing should be cleaned out at least once per week. If cleaning out more often then spot clean the toilet area and leave the nesting area. Hamsters spend a great deal of time adjusting their bed to suit their needs. They do store food in their beds however so make sure it is cleaned out once per week and fresh bedding provided so they can make their bed again.
Like all rodents, hamsters’ teeth are continually growing so it is important to provide hard food that will help their teeth to wear down. Commercial hamster diets can be brought from most pet stores and your veterinary surgery.
Hamsters also need regular fresh greens and fruit and vegetables on occasions however as with any animal introduce new foods gradually to prevent stomach upsets.
Hamster will hoard food in their expandable cheek pouches as their name suggests so avoid any sharp or sticky food so damage isn’t caused to the pouches.
Fresh food and water should be provided daily.