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Concerned with hamster care and need some help? We've researched the field in-depth to create this fantastic list of 37 hamster care tips every owner needs to know. Whether you're an experienced hamster owner or a total newbie, we're sure you'll find these tips helpful.
The following 37 tips we have for you in this list cover these areas of hamster care -
- Purchasing a hamster
- Choosing a hamster habitat
- Bringing your hamster home
- Understanding hamster behavior
- Feeding your hamster
- Cleaning your hamster and their cage
- Grooming your hamster
- Handling your hamster
- Pregnant hamsters and hamster pups
- Entertaining your hamster
Hamsters are great pets that require special care, but that can seem overwhelming if you've never owned one before. Keep reading to find out all you should know if you own a hamster!
Tips for before you decide to adopt a hamster
Hamsters are cuddly and cute; it’s hard to resist bringing one home. But it’s important to consider all aspects of pet ownership before buying a hamster.
Tip #1 Prepare A Budget
Don't be fooled by the hamsters being cheap to buy. They're not cheap to care for or maintain.
Depending on where you choose to purchase your hamsters, such as a pet store, private sale, or breeder, the costs range from $15-$35 per critter. However, the start-up, maintenance, and vet visits can be substantial. You should expect expenses between $150 - $100 for the items your hamster will require, such as a cage and toys.
Vet fees will likely be around $100 a year. It’s important to be prepared and be mindful of this before purchasing a hamster. With adequate and reliable care, your hamster can live a healthy, happy life.
Tip #2 Consider Your Allergies
If you have pet allergies, you need to consider if owning a hamster will be manageable. Hamsters, just like cats, have dander which is known to aggravate allergies. These small, furry pets require affection and love being stroked and cuddled, just like our feline and canine friends.
The good news is, hamsters are small so their pet dander will be minimal however if your allergies are severe it may be time to reconsider. Examine whether or not cuddling our favorite furry rodent will cause you, and your pet, distress.
Tip #3 Determine if a hamster suits your lifestyle
If you're considering a hamster, you may be wondering if they're good pets. Hamsters are great pets! Depending on the individual, a hamster may or may not be the right pet for you. If you're looking for an animal you can walk or go swimming with; you may need to reconsider.
Read more: Do Hamsters Make Good Pets?
While hamsters can’t play fetch or purr on your lap, they will bond with you just like other domesticated pets.
Things to consider before purchasing a hamster
If you’ve decided to buy a hamster, congratulations, hamsters are lovely pets. There are lots of options to choose from when it comes to where to buy, what kind of hamster, and aspects to consider.
Tip #4 Get your hamster from a reputable breeder
Depending on where you live and how much you want to spend, you can purchase a hamster from a pet store, private breeder, or an online marketplace.
While the costs will vary, we recommend you do not buy your pet from a pet store, backyard breeder, or a hamster mill. These hamsters tend to be neglected and may have health problems. Buying directly from a reputable, ethical hamster seller helps make sure your new furry friend will be healthy and well-socialized.
Read more: Where Can I Get a Hamster?
Tip #5 Find the right breed for you
There are different hamster breeds, all with varying colors, personalities, and sizes. Before you head out to adopt a hamster, review the different kinds so you decide if you'd prefer one type over another. It's important to note; not all hamsters are available in all locations, some are native to certain countries, as we've indicated below.
Here’s a quick breakdown of hamster breeds and their distinctive characteristics.
Syrian Hamsters are the most common domestic hamster breed. They are also known as golden hamsters due to their golden-brown coloring. They are roughly 5-7 inches long.
Campbell’s Russian Dwarf Hamster
Also known as the Russian Dwarf hamster, their coats range and can be satin or wavy. They are roughly 4-5inches and are common in Asia and North-East China.
Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamster
Known as the Djungarian, these hamsters are brownish or bluish-grey but molt in the winter to a white coat. They’re native to Siberia, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan and are roughly 3-4 inches.
Also known as the Rat, these hamsters are greyish brown and have a stripe down their spine. Native to Northern China and Mongolia, they’re roughly 4-5inches.
This hamster is known to the Gobi Desert, China, and Mongolia, and is roughly 2 inches. These hamsters have a golden black and white underbelly.
Need more information? Check out the Ultimate Hamster Breeds Guide.
If you’re trying to determine the gender of your hamster, our article on how to sex hamsters can help you figure it out.
Things you should know about hamster habitats
The little critters are sensitive to high-pitched noise and are solitary creatures. It is important to take your family’s lifestyle as well as the animal’s needs into consideration when choosing a hamster as a family pet.
Tip #6 Plan your hamster's home
Your hamster needs a suitable living environment to avoid stress and feel happy. They need more than just a cage but also toys and treats too! Ideally, you'll have your hamster's habitat set up before you bring them to their new home.
Some items your hamster should have in their cage are:
- Food dish (heavy enough not to tip over)
- Water bottle
- Toys and activity ball
- Hamster toilet
Tip #7 Choose the right cage for your hamster
When choosing a hamster cage, it’s important to consider, size, construction materials, and ventilation.
Hamsters need lots of fresh air, which is why many pet owners choose wire cages. Ensure the gaps between the wires aren't too bad. Otherwise, your hamster might escape.
The size of the cage you choose will vary depending, on your hamster's needs and how many hamsters you have. We recommend a hamster habitat be a minimum of 24x12 inches and 288 square inches. But the more space, the better!
If you’re handy, thrifty, or clever, you can also make a DIY hamster cage.
Tip #8 Choose the best place for your hamster cage
Cage placement is crucial. Hamsters are nocturnal and explore at night by nature. Therefore, it's essential to place them in an area that can be quieter during the night and won't be bothersome for you while you're trying to sleep.
When you choose a place for your hamster's cage, you'll want to ask yourself:
Is the area noisy? Excessive noise may startle your hamster and give them unnecessary stress. Will there be a lot of foot traffic through this area that could bother my hamster? Is the area bright or does the room generally have a lot of lights turned on?
You can encourage a hamster's nocturnal habits by limiting stimuli during the day and helping them feel free to play at night.
Read more: Where should I put my hamster's cage?
Tip #9 Create a comfortable climate for your hamster
Not only are limited noise and darkness integral to a hamster's well-being, but the temperature is critical too! Hamsters prefer an environment between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If your hamster is too cold, it could send them into false hibernation, and if too warm they could have a heat stroke.
Always keep a hamster cage away from windows and drafts to avoid temperature fluxations which can make a hamster uncomfortable.
Read more: What's the ideal temperature for a hamster?
Things to know about bringing your hamster home
Tip #10 Hamster-Proof Your Home
You’ll want a smooth transition for your hamster, from the pet store to their new home. Before bringing your hamster home, you should hamster-proof your home. Some easy things you could do are make sure the floor is clean and free of debris, block heating and cooling vents, remove wires, and block access to hidden spaces and doorways.
Tip #11 Teach proper hamster care
It's important to teach your family and friends about how to handle your hamsters properly. Remind small children that, in spite of your hamster being so adorable, they need rest and quiet during the day.
Remember, some pets are natural predators for hamsters. Make sure dogs, cats, and hamsters are kept separate to avoid stress.
Tip #12 Give your hamster time to explore their cage
Allow your hamster to explore their new home. Moving from one place to another is a big adjustment, give your hamster time to investigate their cage and adapt to their new surroundings. You can help make it a smooth transition by covering the cage with a breathable cloth or sheet. Since hamsters are nocturnal, doing this for one or two days can give them time to adjust while enjoying the comfort of a dark environment.
Things to know about hamster behavior
If you’re unfamiliar with hamsters, some aspects of their personality might come off as distressing. Hamsters are loveable little rodents with distinct quirks that you’ll soon recognize as adorable.
Tip #13 Let your hamster sleep during daytime hours
Hamsters generally sleep six to eight hours at a time, usually during the day, and they prefer not to be disturbed. As we've said, hamsters are nocturnal, and they also prefer to sleep in their habitat. You might be tempted to snuggle up with your hamster and let them nap on you, but they like to sleep in their nest or bed. It’s best to leave them in their cage during bedtime and limit any noise or interruptions.
Read more: How do hamsters sleep?
Tip #14 Give your hamster the space to hide
You’ll notice your hamster hiding beneath their bedding or burrowing into their nest. This is normal, curious hamster behavior! Hamsters also like to protect their food, hiding it in their cheeks and around their cage. Your hamster might hide because of loud noises. If changes have occurred in your hamster's life, there may be a problem that you'll need to investigate.
We recommend reading this article to understand why your hamster might hide. And for choosing a great little hiding nook, check out these adorable hamster houses.
Tip #15 Determine if your hamster wants friends or wants to be alone
It's important to determine what breed of hamster you have and whether or not they should have separate cages. Some species of dwarf hamsters can live in groups in a natural setting. However, not all of them will be happy to share a cage in your home. A lot depends on how well they know and like each other and often, the safest bet is to keep them one per cage.
As for Syrian hamsters, the rule is simple -
Never keep more than one Syrian hamster per cage. If you have two Syrian hamsters, they must be separated at all times.
Tip #16 Let your hamster play in the dark
Hamsters are, by nature, critters of the night. Place your hamster in an area of your home where they won't disturb you while they play in their habitat during the night. They prefer the hours between dusk and dawn.
Don’t worry about turning your hamster bumping into their cage in the night. No need for extra lights, hamsters utilize their sense of smell to find their way in the dark.
Read more: Are Hamsters Nocturnal?
Things to know about feeding your hamster
The average hamster weighs about 3.5 ounces and is around 7 inches long, although the females can be a bit larger than the males. They have large cheek pouches that they can stuff full of food.
Tip #17 Feed your hamster a special diet tailored to their needs
Some foods that are dangerous to hamsters are citrus fruits, almonds, grapes and raisins, and peanuts (among others). Hamsters eat a mixed diet of grains, nuts, grass, and meat. You can purchase hamster pellets at your local pet store. You should feed your hamster 10g of food, not just pellets but any food you give in total, per day.
Tip #18 Don't overfeed your hamster
Hamsters hide food around their cages and in their cheek pouches too. Keep this in mind if you notice your hamster's food dish is empty. If you are considering giving them a second helping, you might want to rethink that. An excess of food could cause them to become overweight. Also, overfeeding can result in food being hidden throughout their nest and could rot in their cage.
Tip #19 Provide plenty of freshwaters
Ensure your hamster has plenty of clean water available at all times. Dehydration in hamsters can be severe but is often easily avoided. Place your hamster's water bottle out of direct sunlight and give your hamster an adequate-size water bottle.
Tip #20 Give your hamster treats
Hamsters love treats, just like us humans! Try giving your hamsters some of these treats, in moderation, of course. You can give your hamster treats by hiding them in toys or throughout their cage; they love to explore!
- Boiled eggs (no seasoning)
- Commercial hamster treats
- Small amounts of nuts and seeds
- Plain tofu (no seasoning)
Read more: What Treats Can I Give My Hamster?
Tip #21 Give your hamster something to gnaw on
Buy something for your hamster to gnaw on. Hamsters enjoy chewing; you may even notice your hamster chomping on their cage! There are a variety of materials at the pet store for your hamsters such as apple tree sticks, untreated wood, or even cardboard to gnaw on. Chew toys are a fantastic way to keep your hamster healthy and happy!
Read more: 9 Best hamster chews
Things to know about cleaning your hamster's cage
#22 Properly, and regularly, clean your hamster's cage
Cleaning your hamster's cage is integral, and it's crucial to do so regularly. Neglecting your hamster’s habitat can result in illness. Make sure you have a safe, alternative place for your hamster to relax while you wash your their cage. If you attempt to hold your hamster while you're cleaning their cage, you won't get much done, and it could be stressful for your pet.
For a smaller cage, it’s essential to clean it thoroughly every week. Depending on the size of the cage, you may be able to stretch this out. However, you should spot-check your hamster's cage daily.
For step-by-step instructions on how to clean your hamster's cage, read our article, How often should you clean a hamster’s cage?
Things to know about grooming your hamster
Hamsters have thick, silky fur and can be a variety of colors or lengths, depending on the species. Think twice before you find it too tempting to wash your hamster's thick fur.
Tip #23 Never bathe a hamster in water
Hamsters are essentially self-cleaning animals and can get sick if cold and wet. You’ll notice them grooming themselves frequently and they prefer a clean-living space.
Read more: Are Hamsters Dirty?
Do not bathe your hamster, even if they look grubby. More than likely they’re okay and can clean themselves. And what if they need more cleaning? That's when our next tip comes in:
Tip #24 Let your hamster have a sand bath
Despite the word bath, there's no water involved! Give your hamster a small dish with specialized sand (not dust!). They'll roll around in it, which will help loosen debris such as feces caught in their fur.
In our article below, we outline the scenarios you may need to bathe your hamster and the difference between a wet bath and a sand bath.
Tip #25 Watch for overgrown teeth
As we mentioned earlier, hamsters love to chew! Hamster incisors can become overgrown if they do not have suitable chewing toys to grind away their teeth. If you notice your hamster's teeth are overgrown, despite chewing and gnawing on toys, a hamster might need their teeth clipped, but we recommend discussing any teeth issues with a vet.
Tip #26 Trim your hamster's nails
At some point, you may need to trim your hamster's nails because they are overgrown. Some signs your hamster's nails are overgrown is the nails are getting caught in their habitat, or they struggle to hold their food. They may be experiencing discomfort while walking or grooming, so it's essential to handle this right away.
Overgrown nails can be painful or cause infection. If you’re looking for advice on how to clip your hamster's nails, this article about trimming hamster claws will give you the courage and help walk you through it.
Things to know about handling your hamster
Hamsters are hardy but delicate creatures. For the safety of your pet, it’s important to remember these tips when you or a friend are handling your hamster.
Tip #27 Wash your hands before and after handling your hamster
I'm sure you know you should wash your hands after holding your hamster or cleaning their cash but do so before holding them too. By washing your hands, you can help stop the spread of any sickness you might carry and ensure your scent doesn't transfer to them or their habitat.
Tip #28 Don't grab or pull at your hamster
When attempting to take your hamster out of their habitat, take your time. Slowly introduce your hand to them, allowing them to come to you. When removing them from their cage, take your time, use soft voices, and move slowly. Hamsters don’t like sudden movement and are easily startled.
Things to know about pregnant and baby hamsters
While hamsters are sensitive and solitary creatures, they can be aggressive towards other hamsters. So do your best with one animal to a cage.
Tip #29 Don't breed your hamster
We strongly advise against breeding your hamster. Not only is inbreeding very possible, but many pet owners are unprepared for the responsibility of caring for a pregnant hamster and hamster pups. Hamsters may be small pets, but they require just as much work as any other pet.
Tip #30 If you adopt a pregnant hamster, keep her comfortable
If you adopt more than one hamster of different sex, or if you choose a hamster from an unreliable source, you may end up with a pregnant hamster in your home. Hamsters can breed around six weeks of age and give birth to 5-15 babies (or, as they're known, pups). If you find yourself with a pregnant mama hamster on your hands, here are some things you’ll need to know.
If you notice your hamster has a swollen belly, swelling nipples, and nesting and hoarding food more, she may be pregnant. We recommend you seek professional medical advice if you suspect your hamster is pregnant.
If your hamster is pregnant, here are some tips to keep her comfortable over the following 16-18 days.
- Don’t handle your hamster as it can cause stress.
- Avoid interfering in their nest, providing extra materials only, and use gloves.
- As always, check for plenty of food and water.
- Remove exercise wheels or any toys your hamster can use. A pregnant hamster could become overactive and injure herself.
- If your hamster shares a cage, move the other hamsters to separate cages.
- Give your hamster privacy and quiet
Read more: Pregnancy and Birth in Syrian Hamsters
Tip #31 Leave hamster mom and pups alone
Baby hamsters or pups as they’re affectionately known should be with their mother for roughly four weeks. During this period, do not handle the pups or bother the mother as this can cause stress. Around four weeks of age, you will need to be separate the pups from their mother.
You may find rehoming 5-15 hamster pups a daunting task; it’s essential to reach out for help if you need it. A veterinarian can give great advice on the next steps.
Read more: How to Take Care of Baby Hamsters
And just for fun, check out these adorable baby hamster pictures
Things that will keep your hamster entertained
Hamsters are curious and energetic - even if you often see them sleeping during the day. They need an environment that's filled with interesting things to do, to keep them mentally and physically active.
Tip #32 Always provide a hamster with a running wheel
An exercise wheel is essential to your hamster's well-being. In nature, hamsters can run for miles a night as they forage for food. The running wheel helps them get the amount of exercise they need. Invest in a quality silent exercise wheel, as your hamster is most likely to be using it during the night.
Tip #33 Play with your hamster
Hamsters require physical activity, not only for weight management but for their minds as well. Playing with your hamster doesn’t take much. You can lay down on the floor and let your hamster crawl on you or place them in a playpen with their toys.
You can let your hamster out of its cage to play with them; we have advice in this article to do so safely. We advise against allowing your hamster to go outside. They are domestic creatures and if your hamster inadvertently escaped they would not be able to survive in the wild.
Read more: How should you play with your hamster?
Tip #34 Give your hamster toys
We recommend giving your hamster toy options to choose from; variety is the spice of life. If your hamster doesn’t have any toys or anything to play with they may become unhappy. Make sure you have two kinds of toys available for your hammy -
- Exploration toys such as tunnels, slides, and ramps (but make sure none are too high above the ground).
- Chewing toys made of non-toxic natural materials (you'll have to replace these as they wear out).
DIY hamster toys
Hamster toys don't have to break the bank. You can make toys for your hamster out of cardboard materials, such as a tissue box or toilet paper roll. Just be sure the cardboard is free of glue or toxic substances as it's likely the hamster will (safely) chew on it.
Read more: What Toys Should I Get My Hamster?
Tip #35 be wary of the hamster exercise ball
If you plan on using a hamster ball, limit their time, ensure the play area is safe, and make sure you buy the right size ball for your pet.
While your hamster is safer inside a ball, it can also be a tiring way for him or her to spend the time. What's more, the ball prevents the hamster from doing what it wants to do most, sniff around and explore without any barriers. Since the jury is still out on exercise balls, if you buy one - use it with caution. Limit playtime and watch your hamster for signs of stress.
Read more: How Long Can You Keep a Hamster in a Ball?
Here are a couple of our favorite hamster exercise balls:
Things to know about hamster health
The cute little animals have poor eyesight and are nearsighted and colorblind. It's no wonder why hamsters look so fragile and should be handled with care.
Tip #36 Remember, hamsters have a short lifespan
With proper care and love and affection, a hamster will live around two to three years. While hamsters don’t have a particularly long lifespan, especially when compared to cats and dogs, it’s not only the number of years but the quality of the time you’ll have together.
Read more: How long do hamsters live?
Tip #37 Watch for signs of illness
Unfortunately, your furry little friend might get sick and require medical care. Keep an eye out for these telltale signs that something might be wrong. If your hamster displays any of these symptoms or you believe your hamster is sick, call a veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Abscess on the face or anywhere on the body
- Weight loss
- Wheezing, sneezing, coughing
- Appetite loss
- Blood in urine
- Foul odor
- Lack of energy
- Hunched back
We hope you found these tips helpful and assisted you in making your decision to bring a hamster home. What kind of hamster will you adopt? Let us know below!