Friday, April 20, 2007

I had a request to talk about hamsters

As with any pet, keeping a hamster requires a commitment to care for it during its life which could be 2-3 years or longer. The commitment required includes not only routine feeding, care and time spent with the hamster but also the provision of veterinary treatment if the hamster becomes ill which can be costly. Although proper care will go a long way to ensuring that any hamster remains happy and healthy there may still be times when prompt veterinary treatment is needed and once a hamster is ill it can deteriorate quickly.

Picking a Healthy Hamster

Avoid hamsters that are quiet or lethargic; hamsters should should be alert, curious, and active. Being nocturnal, this can be a bit hard to test during the day, but even during the day a hamster should respond (be careful, the first instinct of a hamster might be to nip if woken from a deep sleep). Picking your hamster out in the evening might be a good idea. The coat should be smooth and the eyes and nose free of discharge (wet or crusty). The hamster's breathing should not be labored or noisy, and the coat should be clean, dry, and free of droppings. If you observe a hamster in the cage with diarrhea or respiratory problems, be very cautious since all the hamsters in that cage may have been exposed to an infectious disease.

Feeding your Hamster

Hamsters are omnivorous, which means they eat both vegetables and meat. Their natural foods include grains, seeds, vegetables, and insects, and they will like corn, oats, or wheat mixed with dry dog food. Premixed hamster food from a pet store has complete nutrition, but some hamsters won't eat it.

Their favourite foods are foods native to their dry habitat, like seeds. For protein and variety, they will eat some small insects.

They like vegetables, but be moderate in how much you feed them. The key word for the hamster diet is *variety*. It keeps them healthy.

Don't feed your hamster chocolates and other sweet things.

Either feed the hamster at the same time each day or leave a constant food supply. Hamsters will not overeat but will often store food in their cheek pouches and put it in a hiding place to eat later. Remove food that is no longer fresh each day, and clean out the "hidden" food once a week. Put food in heavy ceramic or plastic food dishes (so they won't tip over) and clean them weekly.

Hamsters need to have fresh water constantly available. The best sort of container is a drip bottle, which can be attached to the side of the cage. A bottle with a wide neck and metal top will be easy to clean every other day. The hamster will quickly learn how to sip from it.

Taming and Handling Your Pet Hamster

Hamsters have a bit of a reputation for biting, but biting is mainly a result of stress or fright. Consistently calm and gentle handling, along with a little bribery (offer them a favorite food while handling) will generally overcome any timidness or nipping tendencies. Also, a hamster that is under stress due to an improper environment, being disturbed too often or during the day, excess noise, etc. may be more prone to nipping. Work on taming and handling only after the hamster has emerged from his or her nest on his own - waking up a hamster is a fairly sure way to make him/her grumpy!


Taming requires time and patience. At first, allow you hamster time to become accustomed to his new environment. Once the hamster seems calm, start spending more time around his/her cage and quietly talk to the hamster to get it used to your voice.

As the hamster becomes comfortable with your presence, start offering some favorite tidbits (perhaps sunflower seeds, or bits of raisin or other dried fruits) by hand, and once the hamster is happy taking treats from your fingers you can try to pick up your hamster. Let the hamster walk on your hand, then start trying to gently scoop the hamster into your hands. The time for this progression varies, especially depending on the age of the hamster. Your hamster may quickly accept being picked up, or it may take a month or more.

How to Pick Up a Hamster
The best way to pick up a hamster is cupped in the palm of your hand with the other hand over its back to prevent it jumping off your hand (and possibly getting injured). Especially at first, it is best to hold your hamster just above your lap or some other soft surface in case it falls or jumps. Let the hamster crawl from hand to hand and it should gradually become more comfortable with handling.

Picking Up a Hamster That Isn't Tame
If you need to pick up an hamster that isn't yet tame place a can or cup on its side in front of the hamster, and gently herd the hamster into the cup , which can be used to carry the hamster. Out of curiosity many hamsters will walk right into the cup. If necessary, gloves can be worn to protect the hands if you must pick up a hamster that bites, but extra care must be taken not to be too rough or your hamster is just likely to be stressed by the experience and resist handling even more.

Hamster Proofing
If you are going to allow your hamster time outside the cage, hamster proof the room. First, make sure there is nothing your hamster can get into that you won't be able to get him out of - such as the underside of the couch, or very narrow space between furniture. The hamster should be confined to a fairly small space with no opportunity to escape, or you may have a very hard time finding and capturing him or her. Make sure all electrical cords are out of reach, and that there is nothing else that could harm the hamster including poisonous plants. At the same time, make sure anything you do not want chewed is also out of reach.

The Great Escape
Occasionally, a hamster will escape. For hints on finding escapees see How to Find an Escaped Pet." Another method is to set a "trap" - get a fairly deep bucket, put lots of bedding in the bottom and then put in some favorite treats or food. Then, make a ramp to the bucket's edge with a piece of wood, which will allow the hamster to climb up and likely fall into the bucket, but the hamster is unable to climb up the smooth sides of the bucket to get back out. The layer of bedding in the bucket has to be generous to allow a soft landing, though. Remember, it is a good idea to make sure the cage is readily accessible and kept stocked with food and water while the hamster is out - the hamster can visit the cage to stay nourished that way (and if he/she does so it will likely be at night, so keep an eye on the cage then).
posted by Summer at 8:58 PM, |


I am not too fond of this furry critter - lol. No rats in my house! Sean can have a dog if he wants! LOL. Plus with any kind of rat, I think my cats would go nuts!
Didn't know that you could tame hamsters! Wish someone had told me that when I was 9! Mine always was biting me! HA!
LOL this is great, summer! If you peruse my blog, especially the archives, you'll probably discover that I'm a big of a hamster nut. I'd love to get a dog someday but for a variety of reasons, I've never been able to care for a pet larger than a hamster. And they're so doggone cute!