We cover hamster care extensively here on the site and, in an ideal world, all new hamster owners will have got their new little guy home, read up extensively and will be prepared for any and every eventuality. We are well aware, however, that this is not always how it works. You?re excited, the hamster is excited, and you want to start treating him or her like a king or queen right away.
Furthermore, of all the pets out there that you could bring home, hamsters are the ones that require the least planning. These cheeky chappies are often on show in the pet shop, and you?ll decide on the spur of the moment that now is the perfect time to bring the little guy back with you. In many ways, new hamsters are often impulse buys, and we cannot expect every one of our readers to have fully taken on board the thousands of words in our full hamster care feature.
Don?t worry ? we won?t hold it against you! You don?t need to be the perfect hamster owner right from the very start, but some elements of looking after the new addition to your home are more important than others. That?s why we?ve pulled together ten tips that will serve you well ? almost like a highlight reel of the full hamster care guide. It?ll take you around ten minutes at most to read and absorb these tips, and you can take it from us that you?ll be happy you did!
Get the Bedding Right
When you move into a new home, it is essential to get the bed right, and the chances are that you?ll have the bed delivered on the same day you move in. Your hamster deserves the same kind of treatment. Good bedding can be costly, much as a good mattress will cost you more, and you?ll make it pretty hard to sleep at night yourself if you?re wondering if your hamster is comfortable!
New hamster owners often make a few mistakes here, and the best tip we can give you is to buy at least some proper bedding as soon as you pick up the hamster and cage. It is worth reiterating the importance of this because it is not only hamster owners that will tell you otherwise ? some pet stores suggest that there is no problem at all with using shredded newspaper, wood shavings or even cotton wool for a hamster bed.
Bedding and nesting material come in various forms, but it is vital to get hold of something that was explicitly designed with hamsters in mind. They are nesting animals, after all, and you want them to be comfortable but also flexible.
We?re particularly fond of Kaytee?s Clean and Cozy animal bedding, which is available in several package sizes and does everything you want from this kind of material.
Hamster Diet Matters
If you?re a brand-new hamster owner, you may not have the best idea about what the little guys eat. You?ll have an idea of what they?re fond of, and most fruits and vegetables will be gladly taken off your hands when offered. However, while they may only be small, a balanced diet matters just as much for hamsters as any other creature.
Again, it is always an excellent idea to pick some food up when you buy the hamster, even if it is only a relatively small amount to tide you over. From there, you should decide on what to feed them as quickly as possible ? they don?t take kindly to missing meals, as you?d imagine.
Kaytee comes out ahead in the provision of hamster food, just as it does with bedding. Their Fiesta Hamster Food is balanced, inexpensive and provides all the nutrition that your pet could need. You?ll always want to treat the little guy, and there?s absolutely nothing wrong with that ?make sure you?re getting all the essentials out of the way first, and they?ll happily thank you for it.
Get the Cage Right
The chances are that you brought your hamster home in a small box, or you may have splashed out on a hamster travel cage. Either way, it is evident that neither will be a long-term solution. Hamsters are accustomed to running for miles every night in the wild, and while you cannot expect to replicate that entirely, do not underestimate the space they need just because they?re small!
In case you were wondering, under no circumstances should you let the hamster run free around the home. At best, they will get lost, and at worst, they?ll get hurt. As far as we?re concerned, if you are happy to buy a hamster, you are happy to buy a cage. The good news is that if you can imagine it, someone has probably designed it. You may like a traditional cage with bars and tubes or might prefer the aquarium style ? or anything else.
The most important thing is to get your choice of cage right. Make the correct decision as soon as you get the hamster, and the cage will last you forever.
We go into more detail on the best hamster cages elsewhere on the site, but while a personal touch is welcome and some cages are better than others, your primary consideration should always be space.
Ideally, your hamster cage, regardless of breed, should be 30 inches long and 15 inches wide, along with 15 inches high. Remember, this is just a minimum and the more space you can reasonably give your hamster to run and play in unsupervised, the better.
A Wheel is Essential
We have known hamsters to turn down the wheel as a form of exercise altogether, but if you are a new hamster owner, you won?t know until you try. Wheels do not need to be expensive, and they can often be affixed to cages of any size. Kaytee comes through once more with the Silent Spinner Hamster Wheel if you seek value, while there are plenty of other fantastic options out there like the Silent Runner which represents a substantial upgrade.
We mentioned under our commentary on cages that your hamster is genetically predisposed to run a long way every day, and if you don?t have space for a natural habitat, a hamster wheel is a good alternative that they can use as and when they see fit.
Grab a Decent Ball
A hamster ball is almost as essential as an adequate hamster wheel, and while you do not necessarily need to pick one up on the same day as you buy the hamster, it should be high on your list of priorities.
The ball fulfils two functions. As a new hamster owner, you probably did not introduce the little guy into your home just to ignore him, and you?ll want to get him out to play and interact with regularly. Furthermore, while a wheel scratches the running itch, it does little to satiate the appetite for exploration.
Even if you feel like your rooms are relatively small, think how big it must feel to a creature the size of a hamster. There is lots to find and plenty to bang into. As we said already, you do not want to let your hamster roam free around the house as you might never see them again. The ball is the perfect way to enable this exploration safely and productively.
As with the wheel, you certainly don?t need to break the bank to get your hands on a perfectly adequate ball. This one will run you a few bucks and does everything you need to keep the hamster safe while stopping him from getting into gaps and crevices. If you fancy a little light entertainment while he has a run-out, the Kaytee Critter Cruiser does the same job but is about as adorable as it gets.
Avoid Wire-Based Wheels and Balls
When you buy a hamster wheel or exercise ball, make sure you don?t go too cheap. Depending on where you are, there probably aren?t any laws or regulations around how a hamster accessory is built, but some can be completely counterintuitive and put your pet in danger.
Bars are excellent on the cage itself as hamsters love to climb. Crucially, these bars are stationary, and the hamster itself rarely moves at speed. In balls and wheels, it is a different story. While they are excellent climbers, hamsters are not as agile as new hamster owners might think and they can get their leg trapped. In a battle between metal bars and a hamster?s leg, there is only one winner, so stick to the reliable plastic options for comfort and safety.
Be Prepared for Frequent Cleaning
One of the cutest things you can watch a hamster doing is cleaning itself. Unless you really want to, you don?t need to take care of the hamster?s personal hygiene. However, these little animals are not exactly house-proud, and you?ll need to be ready to clean up the cage and surrounding areas regularly.
A lot goes on in a hamster cage, and there is plenty of potential for dirt to accumulate. At the bare minimum, you should clean out the hamster cage once a week. Remove any old food and change the bedding. With the bedding itself, it is a good idea to leave just a little behind after each clean. This enhances your hamster?s comfort as the familiar smell of his old bedding will make him feel right at home.
Don?t neglect the area around the cage either. Unless you have a fully enclosed aquarium cage, you?re bound to notice a build-up of mess in the surrounding area. We?re not going to tell you how to run your home in terms of tidiness and cleanliness, but we would make any new hamster owner aware that the vacuum cleaner will probably come out as part of your weekly schedule!
Monitor your Hamster?s Health and Weight
Much as with any living thing, a hamster that overeats and does not exercise enough will start to put on weight. Along the same lines, an overweight hamster is not a healthy hamster, and if you see it putting on weight, you should do something about it.
You?ll probably have a decent idea of the cause if the little guy starts to get a bit chubby. You might be overfeeding or not getting him out to exercise in his ball often enough. An overweight hamster is an unhealthy hamster, and if you want the best for your pet, it is essential to strike a balance.
Some hamsters require more effort than others. Just like humans, some are predisposed to being lazy. In these cases, it’s on you to get them out and exercising whether they like it or not! Fortunately, the vast majority of hamsters of all breeds would rather be running than stood still.
Be Prepared to Identify and Deal with Diseases
Every living thing is susceptible to disease and illness, and hamsters are no different. Ideally, you?ll have purchased your pet from a reputable shop or owner, and they should be in perfect health as soon as they arrive home.
The most common disease in hamsters is wet tail, and prevention is always better than cure. It is a severe disease and one that should be addressed immediately. While bacteria are the cause, stress is what brings it on in most hamsters. The stress leads to diarrhoea of sorts, and the loose waste leads to infection.
The disease is massively contagious, and if you have opted to keep more than one hamster in one cage, any that do not suffer from the illness should be removed immediately. If you have other hamsters in separate cages, always make sure you wash your hands after handling the ill one and always before handling others.
Fortunately, if you identify wet tail early, you stand an excellent chance of fighting it off. If you can get your hamster to a vet, they will prescribe antibiotics that are prescribed explicitly to hamsters. Failing that, you can purchase wet tail drops from most pet stores.
In line with the preventative plan, it can be worth the pre-emptive addition of some wet tail drops to your hamster?s water bottle when they are understandably under stress. The move from the pet store to your home is often the most stressful experience for any hamster, so adding these drops for a few days after the move will ensure they get off to the perfect start.
Know Your Breeds before You Put Hamsters Together
Some hamsters are happy living together in harmony, while others are not so keen. The specific rules depend on the breed, and you can find out more as a new hamster owner in our breed guides.
Breeds aside, even those that are compatible come with an essential requirement. It sounds obvious, but is often overlooked ? if you don?t want little hamster babies, make sure you keep male and female hamsters separated!
You might feel like you?ve learnt enough as a new hamster owner raising your current pets and one more baby could be quite cute. We wouldn?t disagree in principle, but we?d ask you to consider the fact that a single hamster pregnancy can result in the birth of up to 20 youngsters! Depending on breed and nature, this could make for a massive investment in cages, balls and other accessories, and we?d dare say you might be better off not allowing your hamster to get pregnant in the first place.