Hamster being examined at Aspenwing

Hamster Care Basics

ORIGIN

Hamsters were introduced into the United States in 1938. In the wild, the Syrian hamster was found from Rumania and Bulgaria through Asia Minor, Israel, and northwestern Iran.

YOUNG

The young are born hairless and blind with closed ears. Teeth are present at birth. Fur begins to grow at 9 days of age. Pups are able to eat hard food at 7-10 days of age and open their eyes at 14-15 days of age. Weaning occurs at 21-25 days of age.

UNUSUAL CHARACTERISTICS

Hamsters may hibernate in response to lowered environmental temperatures (below 40 F). The duration of hibernation is generally short, usually 2-3 days, but may be up to 5-7 days.

Hamsters have large cheek pouches in which they store food long enough to find a good hiding place for it.

Hamsters are nocturnal and can be very aggressive if suddenly disturbed out of a deep sleep. Take care to waken slowly!

They also need exercise and this can be supplied with a rodent wheel or rodent ball. The wheel should be solid. They can get foot and leg injuries in wire wheels. Be sure when using a rodent ball that the animal is supervised closely and all doors and stairways are blocked.

DIET

A high quality commercial pelleted rodent diet containing 15-20% protein should be available. This can be supplemented with small amounts of fresh dark green vegetables, apple, squash and items such as sugarless breakfast cereals. The fresh foods and bread products should be offered only in small amounts and changed daily so they won’t hoard it in their pouches and allow it to spoil.

Fresh water is provided in water bottles with sipper tubes. This should be cleaned daily to ensure the tube has not clogged and clean water is available at all times.

DO NOT CHANGE THE DIET SUDDENLY– this can cause GI upset.

HANDLING

The hamster can be caught by gently cupping both hands around it, taking care not to startle it.

HOUSING

Floor space of at least 19 in square per adult with a height of 6 inches is recommended. The habitrail type cages are not recommended for hamsters due to inadequate ventilation and the height of the upper levels. Hamsters have poor depth perception and can get injured falling from the tubes to the lower levels.

Bedding should be clean, nontoxic, absorbent and relatively dust free. Recommended types include recycled paper products, pelleted litters, or aspen wood shavings. The bedding should be at least 2 inches deep. A hide box should be provided. The cage should have adequate ventilation and be easily cleaned. Cleanliness of the cage is important to the health of your pet.

Hamsters are generally solitary animals and do better housed singly.

SIGNS OF DISEASE:

  • Diarrhea
  • Wetness around the anal area
  • Lack of appetite
  • Bloody urine
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Swelling anywhere
  • Lethargy
  • Hair loss
  • Abnormal teeth

If you see any of these signs or notice anything abnormal about your hamster, you should contact your exotic animal veterinarian.

Hamsters are nocturnal. They can become aggressive if awakened suddenly from a deep sleep. They will normally become active and playful at night.

IMPORTANT POINTS:

  • Provide a clean, well ventilated cage
  •  Provide a high quality pelleted diet
  • Provide adequate, safe exercise
  • Provide adequate burrowing spaces and materials
  • Prevent escape
  • DO NOT USE CEDAR BEDDING