My hamster.Hamsters are clever and adventurous animals. A happy and healthy hamster can live between 1-3 years. They must live indoors in a wire cage with a bedded solid-bottom floor that is escape proof. Hamsters can gnaw through wood, plastic and soft metals. Hamsters need playthings and frequent handling can make them tame. Play with them in the evening or at night, as they are nocturnal animals that like to sleep during the day.
Hamsters are omnivorous (this means they also need some meat in their diet), hoard food and need chewing material. The best feeding time is in the evening when they start to wake up. Avoid food with sharp edges to prevent damage to their delicate cheek pouches. Hamsters can be handled when awake. Never handle a hamster when sleeping or not fully alert, and remember it’s a small animal so pick them up slowly and not directly from above (remember hamsters are a prey animal and birds are a serious predator which you hamster will not have forgotten). Depending on the breed, some dwarf hamsters will be fine with a companion, whereas Syrian (gold) hamsters need to live by themselves.
History: Hamsters belong to the rodent family. The name “hamster” is derived from the German word “hamstern” which means “to hoard”. Wild hamsters live in hot areas of Central Asia. To avoid the heat of the day hamsters live in burrows and are nocturnal. In the cool of the evening and during the night hamsters will search for food - and can travel up to 8 miles in one night. They collect food in their cheek pouches and return to their burrows and empty the cheek pouches into their food store. They are able to carry up to half their body weight in their pouches. Hamsters have the latin name Mesocricetus auratus which means “golden hair”.
Breeds: There are over 20 different breeds of hamsters, each with their own individual markings and colours. The dwarf hamsters (Russian, Chinese and Roborovski) are smaller in stature. Some of them are very sociable, and will enjoy being kept in pairs or in groups (remember to keep them in single sex pairs or groups if you don’t want to breed from them). Russian hamsters are mainly white, grey and brown in colour, and the Roborovski hamster is always brown. The Chinese hamster has a greyish brown coat, with a dark stripe down its back.
Looking After Your Hamster
Hamsters can be housed in a wire cage with a firm plastic base, a plastic hamster home or an adapted aquarium (vivarium) with a well-ventilated cover. Wooden cages should not be used as hamsters can chew their way out! The most important thing to remember is that a hamster home can never be too big – they love to explore and exercise. Multi-level cages are a good idea as they add interest to the hamster’s environment – but be careful with plastic tubes as the larger Syrian hamsters may get stuck. The hamster home must always have a place for your hamster to rest and hide, and another area for play, exercise and feeding. Keeping your hamster warm and cosy is very important. You need bedding that is absorbent which makes cleaning easier for you. Do not use bedding that is synthetic as this could harm your hamster if he ate it and might block his cheek pouches, food pipe or gut. See the Supreme range of bedding and cleaning products in store at Scampers.
Hamsters must always be kept indoors and careful thought should be given to where your hamster’s home is situated. The temperature in the room should be constant, away from direct sunlight and draughts, and away from constant noise (eg: a freezer). Because they have sensitive hearing they should never be placed near a television, CD player, Hi-Fi, etc.
Feeding Your Hamster
In their natural habitat, hamsters eat a range of grasses, wind-blown seeds,grain and insects!. Hamsters are too often mistaken as herbivores, but they are omnivores and need meat protein in their diet to keep them healthy. Their slow eating would make them easy targets in the wild, so they would normally bring their food back to their burrow to eat it in the safety of their own home. This also allows them to hoard spare food, in case it becomes difficult to find food at a later date. Hamsters need feeding every day. As they are nocturnal, an evening feed is better for them. They will normally wake in the evening at feeding time, and will be happy to play with you once they have been fed. A good quality wide-based metal bowl (not plastic which they might chew) is essential to keep their food clean and dry.. These should be cleaned after every use.
You should try to ensure that your hamster eats all its food from a very young age by calculating the correct daily requirement. However, if you notice that your hamster tends to leave some of the ingredients in coarse mixes, reduce the amount you give it until it is eating it all. Then slowly increase the amount again to the recommended daily allowance. Always check the recommended daily allowances (on the front of the pack) are supplied by any food you buy. Always ensure there is fresh drinking water available. Scampers recommends Supreme Science Selective super premium hamster food.
Treating Your Hamster
Your hamster will love a treat, and as long as they are good for them, there is no reason why you shouldn't feed one or two occasionally. Try hiding some in the hutch to encourage them to forage, for example Harry Yippee treats with carrot, apple and maize which they love, and which are good for their constantly growing teeth.Scampers also recommend that you try to give your hamster insects like mealworms or even crickets! But do remember that just like all our pets it is up to us not to let them get fat! Scampers have an excellent range of Supreme Hamster Treats.
It is extremely important that your hamster has the opportunity to exercise every day. If you provide a wheel for your hamster to play in, it MUST be big enough so that the hamster does not have to bend its back when it is inside, and must have a solid floor rather than rungs as these can cause injuries to the feet. Although hamsters sleep during the day, they are really energetic and will exercise for 3-4 hours a night. Place objects like tubes, tunnels and small cardboard boxes in the cage for it to play with. Place twigs of willow, beach or hazel in the cage for it to climb and gnaw on. It only takes a few items to create an exciting environment for them to be in.
A hamster’s natural instinct is to forage and explore. Mealtime is always over too quickly and this could mean that your hamster will get bored. By hiding food and the occasional treat in different areas of the animal’s cage, your hamster will be forced to hunt for his food – this will keep him occupied for many happy hours. Check out the ‘Furry Fun’ accessories range from Supreme available at Scampers.
Handling Your Hamster
Before attempting handling, make sure that your hamster is fully awake and alert. Try not to wake your hamster suddenly if it is asleep. Always approach it slowly and gently. Place a closed fist in front of your pet, and allow it to approach and sniff you. Hamsters rely on olfactory cues (smells) rather than sound and, therefore, smell is important so they can detect what is approaching. If your hamster is confident and appears interested, slowly unclench your fist and offer your palm.
It may well crawl on to your hand or you can gently scoop it up. Cup it in the palms of your two hands to ensure that it is safe and won’t be dropped. Lift it up slowly, as picking it up too quickly would be the equivalent of going up the Empire State Building in 3 seconds! To ensure it is safe at all times you should hold it over your lap or close to your chest. Never scruff a hamster to pick it up, as this can put immense pressure on the head region possibly resulting in a prolapsed eye.
Some dwarf hamsters in the wild live in large colonies with a well-structured hierarchy and are happy in a pair or a group: e.g. the Roborovski and Campbelli dwarf hamsters are less aggressive and more social towards cage mates than the Russian hamster or Chinese hamster, who should both be kept solitary. Syrian or Golden hamsters are solitary and must be kept alone. If you are intending to have more than one hamster, you must have a cage which is large enough. If you are not sure about the breed of dwarf hamster you have, or it is a mixed breed, than it's best to keep it solitary to prevent fighting and deadly accidents. It is best to acquire littermates in order to avoid fighting.
Hamsters do not often become ill but, because of their size, they can deteriorate very quickly if they do become ill.
Diarrhoea – overfeeding with green food is a common cause of diarrhoea. You should stop feeding green food immediately if your hamster has diarrhoea and feed it only a good quality hamster mix. If the diarrhoea persists, your hamster should be taken to the vet.
Constipation – conversely, if there is a lack of droppings in the cage and your hamster has a hunched appearance, it may have constipation. Feeding with a small amount of green vegetables may relieve your hamster, but if there is no improvement it should be taken to the vet.
Wet Tail – is often confused with diarrhoea, but is a bacterial infection that can cause extreme diarrhoea, with a distinctive smell. It is mostly seen in young hamsters (3 – 8 weeks old). The anus and tail area of the hamster appear wet and sticky. The hamster may appear hunched up as if it is in pain. Hamsters with wet tail should be isolated from other hamsters as it is highly infectious. You must wash your hands thoroughly before you handle any other hamster. In any case, clean the cage with a good antibacterial cleaner and seek veterinary treatment immediately.
Overgrown Teeth – as hamsters’ teeth continue to grow throughout their life, hamsters need to be provided with hard material to gnaw. Special wood gnaws can be purchased from Scampers to encourage gnawing, or feed Harry Hamster Yippee Treats. If there is a chipped tooth, or their teeth do not meet properly, this may cause overgrowth and pain, and your hamster will find it difficult to eat.
Overgrown Nails – nails can also become overgrown and should be trimmed by a vet to ensure your hamster is comfortable. Always consult a vet if you have ANY reason for concern.
Supreme Petfoods, Promoting the Well-Being of Small Animals.
For further help and guidance please speak to a Scampers Pet Care Advisor.
Extra Bits about your Hamster:
Latin name: Mesocricetus Auratus
Life span: 1-3 years
Litter size: 4-12 pups
Birth weight: 2-3gms
Eyes open: 12-14 days
Gestation period: 15-18 days
Average weight: Male 85-130gms Female 95-150gms
Sexual maturity: Male 6- 8 weeks Female 4 weeks
Weaning age: 3 weeks
Diet Omnivorous: (about 5-10 grams per day)