Hamsters are one of the easiest pets to care for, they don’t require much space, they are clean animals and are inexpensive to maintain. Each has its own special personality and, if handled correctly and frequently enough they can be very friendly and lovable.
Before rushing out to purchase that brand new special addition to your family, the following items should be ready and prepared for your new family member:
Make sure the cage you are going to keep your hamster(s) in is big enough for them. If you are getting small (dwarf) hamsters and are considering a barred cage, make sure the bars are close enough together that your hamsters can’t escape.
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The wrong kind of bedding can make your hamster sick or worse yet, kill him/her. Avoid at all costs Cedar and Pine bedding. Newspaper is also bad because of the possibility of sickness caused by the inks used. See our article on bedding for smart alternatives.BEWARE: Some hamster or small animal “packages” may include a cage, wheel, bedding, etc. Sometimes these packages may include Cedar or Pine bedding, make sure when you purchase your package that you know what kind of bedding is being included and if the salesperson can’t tell you, then walk away.
You should place the water bottle low enough so that your smallest hamster can get access to it. You should also make sure the bottle is free of any leaking and run a finger over the spout ball to ensure that it is operating properly.
If you have two Dwarf hamsters and you get a small dish, be aware they may (and probably will) climb into the dish to eat. If there are two hamsters present this could lead to squabbling over access to the food. A bigger dish or two separate dishes may alleviate this problem.
A proper mix purchased from a pet store should do the trick. A mix without added sugar is preferable. You should also have some veggies or fruits available to the new addition.BEWARE: Fruit sugar could be bad for dwarf hamsters perhaps leading to diabetes. If you have dwarfs be careful of the amount and type of fruit you feed them, or better yet, go with veggies.
A solid wheel just means there aren’t open rungs on it. A solid wheel is safer and less likely to injure a small animal. Wodent Wheels are perhaps the best alternative, but if you have a solid wheel, that should be good enough.
PICKING A HEALTHY HAMMIE
When choosing your new hamster you should make the following considerations; he/she should be bright, lively, and inquisitive and show no signs of illness. (Check to make sure the bottom is clean and dry and that the eyes and nose aren’t running.) Don’t only examine the hamster you are considering but the others in the same cage as well as the other animals in the store, do they appear healthy? An unhealthy parrot or iguana is just as much a sign of animal neglect as an unhealthy hamster. Avoid purchasing a hamster that is in with other hamsters that look unhealthy. Although the selected one may look all right, if he/she has been enclosed with an ill animal it could already be exposed and become ill after it gets to its new home. There are many places to get your new hamster anyway!
Most pets are purchased at pet shops. If the clerk refuses to handle the hamsters, be alert, they may be biters and probably won’t make good pets. (Biters are normally the result of their environment, improper handling or poor breeding practices.) As the name implies, “Pets” are for sale in pet shops. Most are well bred and do make excellent pets. But, if the ultimate goal is to breed, it is not recommended that animals be purchased at pet shops. The primary reason is that there is no way of knowing his/her heredity.
Many Syrians carry lethal and semi-lethal genes. With the exception of the Roans, it is next to impossible to look at an animal and know what genes it is carrying. Plus, if a pair of Dwarfs is the selection, there is a large chance that those available in one Shop are littermates or closely related. Breeding littermates, or closely related Dwarfs, can result in babies with “bad attitudes” or biters! It is highly recommend that breeding hamsters be purchased from a reputable breeder. If advised that the intention is to breed, most breeders will assist with the selection of animals that are not related and not carrying any “funny” genes.
Finally. Ready to go home. It’s time to introduce the latest member of the family to its new home and family. Young hamsters are generally shy and timid, remember their entire world has just been turned upside down. Handle him/her gently, talking to it all the while. For the next few days don’t attempt to take him/her out of its cage. Instead talk to it when around the cage. Wash your hands thoroughly before putting them in the cage; let him/her get familiar with the smell of its new caretaker. Remember, hamsters don’t see well and depend on their keen sense of hearing and smell much more than their eyesight.
TEN FOR THE PRICE OF ONE
Oops… that sweet little girl looks like she’s getting a little plump! If she was purchased from a cage of mixed sexes, it is highly possible that she is pregnant since hamsters mature at a very early age. Make sure she has a clean cage with lots of nesting material. Put her on a high protein diet and place the cage in an area with very little traffic to insure a stress-free environment for her. With the exception of feeding and watering her, leave her alone and let her prepare for the impending birth. Because she is undoubtedly quite young, the odds are high that she may not keep the litter. But, if she does, don’t save any of the young for use as future breeders, there’s too many unknown factors about their heredity to gamble breeding them. But hey, maybe cousin Louie wants a hamster… or two.