Common Mistakes with Hamster Care

There are some common mistakes that are consistently made when it comes to hamster care. This is down to a few factors, inexperience, ignorance, and taking advice from pet shops are among the top reasons.

Everyone who has a hamster was at one point or another a first time hamster owner. Mistakes are always made with inexperience, this is normal. What matters is that these mistakes are put right.

Ignorance is often said to be bliss but in the case of your hamster it is not the case. There seems to be a view on hamster care that is often carried from generation to generation, and no one questions if this is still the correct way. The view is often ‘I had a hamster when I was a child and it was fine, therefore the hamster I have bought for my child will be taken care of the same way’. However this is often a terrible mistake, there are many things that have been learned about hamsters in captivity in the past few decades and this has impacted the way in which they should be taken care of.

Pet shops are often an issue, their advice and the products that they stock designed from hamster are not necessarily the best thing for your pet. Pet shops are there to make money and most do not have the correct training or ethics required to make a happy hamster. When the sales person recommends a cage for your hamster that you have just picked out you need to ask yourself, is this cage actually whats best for my hamster or does the pet shop want to sell me a cage for the sake of the sale?

 

Hopefully the information below will help you create the perfect home for your hamster. If you have any questions then please feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you.

 

Cotton Bedding

cotton bedding

This has to be one of the most important topics when it comes to hamster care. Cotton bedding is really dangerous to your hamsters, and should not be on sale. This type of bedding can get caught around your hamsters legs, causing broken bones and amputated limbs. If they ingest it then it can cause problems in the digestive system. It can also get stuck in your hamsters cheek pouches causing infection. It is definitely not a product that I use with my hamsters and I would highly recommend that if this is something that you are using that you switch to something else that is far safer for your pet.

Alternatives are often very cheap, they include toilet paper, kitchen towels, shredded paper. You can even buy shredded small animal bedding in most pet shops. I would always say that if bedding is advertised as fluffy, cotton, soft bedding or anything similar then don’t use it. A much safer alternative is to shred some toilet paper into strips and let your hamster use this for bedding material, and if you are using toilet paper then it is very cheap, you will already have this in your house.

 

Do I like Company?

Photo credit: KiSS_Ze_CHeF / Foter / CC BY
Photo credit: KiSS_Ze_CHeF / Foter / CC BY

 

 

The answer to this question depends on the species of hamster you have. A full answer can be found here. But for a short answer then it is a definite no for Syrian hamsters, but dwarf hamsters and sometimes Chinese hamsters can often be kept in same sex pairs. Just be prepared to separate if fighting starts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wheel Size

There are so many options when it comes to choosing a wheel for your hamster. I personally use the following wheels for my hamsters.

My Syrian hamster is currently using an 8.5 Inch Comfort wheel, however she is a small Syrian, if you have a larger Syrian hamster then I would recommend going for something a bit bigger, maybe an 11 or 12 Inch wheel.

My Chinese hamster is currently using a 6.5 Inch Silent spinner, she is able to run on this wheel easily, but you could also go for something a little bit bigger such as an 8 Inch wheel.

For my Robos, I currently use a 6.5 Inch flying saucer along with a 4.5 Inch Silent spinner. I was originally using a 6.5 Inch silent spinner, but they couldn’t control it, they were constantly flipping out and the risk of injury was too much. They are able to run happily on the smaller wheel with no back arching.

The Campbells in the past have used a 6.5 Inch wheel however they have also been happy using a larger 8 Inch wheel.

The main thing to bare in mind is that the wheel needs to be large enough to allow free running movement and also avoid grated or barred wheels, these can cause broken legs and can also trap longer hair causing injury.

 

Cage Size

Photo credit: KiSS_Ze_CHeF / Foter / CC BY
Photo credit: KiSS_Ze_CHeF / Foter / CC BY

The minimum cage size for hamsters is 80cm x 50cm, this is equivalent to 589 square inches, this is the minimum size in almost every European country except Germany. In the US and Canada the minimum cage is is 61cm x 38cm or 360 square inches. And in Germany their minimum cage size is 100cm x 50cm and even sometime 100cm x 100cm, this is equivalent to 741 square inches or 1521 square inches for the larger size.

These are just minimum cage sizes, if you are able to go for something larger then your hamster will love it.

 

 

 

 

Keeping teeth short

hamster chews

Hamsters teeth are constantly growing throughout their lives. In order to keep teeth healthy your hamster needs something hard to chew on. This can be wooden chews and blocks and even wooden toys/logs. Another great way to keep teeth short are dog biscuits. The milk biscuits are a great source of calcium too, and the dog Whimzee chew treats are a favourite of hamsters.

 

 

 

Sugary Treats

hamster treats

Sugary treats such as yogurt drops and honey sticks are ok to be given as a treat every now and then, but they should be avoided as a day to day treat. The large amounts of sugar can cause obesity and diabetes. There are much more healthy options that your hamster will love, fresh fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, squash, apples, banana, grapes etc, just avoid giving citrus fruits. Cooked brown rice or boiled/scrambled egg make excellent treats, just remember that they are just treats and that your hamsters main source of food is a well balanced pellet or mix.

 

 

 

How do I bath my Hamster?

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Hamsters are relatively clean animals, they don’t like to feel dirty. But you can’t bath them as you would a dog. In the wild hamsters would bath in sand and dust. They roll in the sand and this helps remove dirt and parasites from their fur. This can be achieved at home using a bowl and some chinchilla sand, if you can’t have this in your hamsters cage permanently then offer it to them at least once a week.

 

 

Not enough toys

Photo credit: KiSS_Ze_CHeF / Foter / CC BY
Photo credit: KiSS_Ze_CHeF / Foter / CC BY

Hamsters are very inquisitive animals, they love to play. It is important to make sure you provide them with enough toys to keep them busy. A wheel is essential as hamsters love to run, but they also love to dig and burrow, climb and chew.  Always make sure your hamster has something wooden to chew on, and make sure there are a selection of other toys in their cage, such as things to run through, things to climb on and things to hide in. There are a huge selection of items for sale purposely made for hamsters, pet shops and online sites such as Amazon and eBay are amazing for finding toys at low prices. Also be creative, there are so many things that can be used from around the house, toilet roll tubes make excellent tunnels, empty glass jars make good hides, egg cartons make good chew toys. Keeping your hamster busy will limit destructive behavior that can be annoying to say the least, such as chewing the bars on the cage.

 

Feature Photo credit: Haundreis / Foter / CC BY

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