Caring for Your Hamster
Hamsters make great pets but, as with any companion animal, do your research so you understand their needs and requirements for a full, happy life.
Are Hamsters Good Pets for Kids?
Contrary to popular belief, hamsters might not be the best pets for kids, according to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Hamsters can bite if startled or handled roughly. In addition, they are small and delicate so they need to be handled gently. Even older kids should be supervised when holding a hamster.
Also, hamsters are nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day and have their fun at night. Placing a hamster in a child’s bedroom may interfere with the child’s rest: The hamster’s nightly activities might wake the child and make sleep difficult.
What Kind of Cage Does My Hamster Need?
AAHA recommends that hamsters be kept in an aquarium rather than a wire cage. “Aquariums are better than cages because cages might have bars that their feet can get caught in and break,” according to the association. “A well-ventilated aquarium with a top that seals so your hamster can’t push up on it and escape is best. Line the aquarium/cage with shredded paper (newspaper or paper towels) or recycled paper bedding (no shavings of any kind), with a mound in a corner – hamsters love to burrow.”
Keep your hamster’s living quarters at room temperature. Avoid areas that are either excessively cold or warm. Clean your hamster’s living quarters regularly.
Do Hamsters Need Exercise and Toys?
Yes: Hamsters need lots of exercise. Provide your hamster with a wheel on which to run. Hamsters also like to hide and crawl through tubes. Put tunnels in your hamster’s cage to keep him entertained as well as to provide exercise.
Also, hamsters’ teeth are always growing. Provide chew toys or a block of untreated, unpainted wood to gnaw on to keep his teeth healthy.
What Do Hamsters Eat?
Your hamster should be provided with a commercial pellet diet. These diets are complete and will provide all your hamster’s nutritional needs. Seed and nut diets will not. You can supplement your hamster’s diet with fresh vegetables. Feed your hamster in the evening, when they are most active.
Hamsters can store a large amount of food in their cheeks. To the novice guardian, a hamster with full cheek pouches may look strange and even cause worry, but this is perfectly normal for all hamsters.
Water is also important for your hamster’s health. Be sure your hamster has clean fresh water at all times.
Can Hamsters Live Together?
Hamsters can be aggressive toward one another. If you elect to house more than one hamster in the same living area, AAHA recommends choosing hamsters of the same sex and purchasing them at the same time. Avoid introducing a new hamster to other hamsters who have already become accustomed to their home. Doing so will result in fighting and possibly in injuries.
Lots of shelters and rescue groups have adoptable hamsters. Be sure to check Petfinder’s adoptable hamster listings to see if there are any for adoption in your area.