Responsibility involves providing proper housing,
nutrition, grooming and veterinary care.
- Hamsters were first discovered in Syria, but are native to many parts of the world. The name they go by today was taken from the German word “hamstern,” which means “hoard,” because that is exactly what they do with extra food. Their looks and activities can provoke many a smile.
- The types of hamsters commonly kept as pets are the Siberian, Roborovsky’s, Djungarian, Chinese and Syrian. Hamsters come in a variety of colors – the Syrian, for example, is one of a number of hamsters called “golden” because of the color of their fur – and may be all one color or multi-colored.
- Hamsters are nocturnal animals who live about two or three years. They are very frisky, and can easily escape from a cage that isn’t closed securely. Their eyesight isn’t very good, so they sometimes fall off tables when they are running around loose. Hamsters will bite if they are not used to being handled or if they are mistreated.
- Children caring for hamsters should be supervised by an adult. These animals are not toys and should be treated gently.
- Hamsters should be kept in a wire cage or a 10-gallon aquarium that has a wire-mesh top. The enclosure should be placed away from direct sunlight or drafts, and lined with an absorbent bedding or some other form of litter. Timothy hay is a good choice. Be sure to change the litter often enough to keep it dry and odor-free.
- Hamsters like to play, so give them an exercise wheel to use and/or allow them to run explore outside of their cage for a supervised period of time each day. Keep them in one room carefully checked for any openings from which the hamsters can escape, get lost or possibly meet with some harm. Hamsters also like to hide and sleep inside enclosed spaces, so place a small box inside their cage. They love crawling through tubes, which can be homemade or bought in pet supply stores.
- Hamster food is available at many pet stores, but hamsters can be given fresh grains, sunflower seeds, nuts, alfalfa pellets, spinach, lettuce and apples as well. Be sure to clean up any leftover fresh food before it spoils. It is best to use an inverted bottle with a drinking tube to provide water, which should be changed daily.
- Hamsters like to carry food in pouches in their mouths and then store it in the corners of their cage. When cleaning the cage, always be sure to check the corners for any stale food.
- Hamsters’ teeth grow continuously, just like those of all other rodents. So, it is important that they be given a piece of wood that they can gnaw on and wear their teeth down. It’s best to provide an unpainted twig that has not been treated with pesticides or any other chemicals.
- Djungarians and Siberians like to live in pairs, and Chinese hamsters also enjoy company. However, if two or more Syrians are kept together, fighting will probably break out. Since hamsters are multiply rapidly, keeping males and females together is not recommended.
- Hamsters generally live healthy lives, but can catch colds from people. A hamster who is ill should be seen by a veterinarian.
- “ASPCA Pet Care Guides for Kids — Hamster”; Mark Evans; Dorling Kindersley; London, England; 1993.
- In case of accidental poisoning, call the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC) 24 Hour Emergency Hotline Numbers: 1-888-4ANI-HELP (1-888-426-4435) ($30 per case; Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express when you call.) 1-900-680-0000 ($30 flat rate will be charged to phone bill.)
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