The first thing you should know before you keep a hamster, is that it is not for everyone. It requires a commitment to care for it during its life (which can be two, three years or longer). This commitment is not only about routine feeding and care, but also about providing veterinary treatment if the hamster becomes ill (this can be costly).
Some things you need to ask yourself first are:
- Who will be feeding the pet?
- Who will be cleaning the pet’s enclosure?
- Who will be playing with the pet?
- Where will the pet’s cage go?
Also know that hamsters should be watched with very young children. Many parents think that hamsters are ideal playmates for their children, because of their small size and small living arrangements.
Actually there are better pets for little kids, such as guinea pigs. Hamsters can – and will – bite, and the child can involuntary – or voluntarily – hurt the hamster. Children may drop the hamster, or throw it, squeeze it, or worse.
A hamster looks like a sweet ball of fur, but you need to take the time to work with them. When you get the hamster home, leave it in the cage for at least a day or two. This time alone will allow the hamster to get used to to his new surroundings and to the people outside its cage.
When those first days have passed, try to figure out what the favorite food of your new pet is. This can be sunflowers, yogurt treats, raisins, carrots, .. When you offer the food, open the cage and stick your hand out with the treat in front. Let the hamster smell and grab the treat. Repeat this process a couple of times. After a while, the hamster will know that you are not going to hurt him.
For food, hamsters will need the commercial hamster diet. However, you can provide it with fresh veggies a few times a week (leafy greens, carrots, potatoes, celery). Only give fruits sparingly – they have a high water content, which may give the hamster diarrhea. Treats should not consist of more than ten percent of the hamster’s diet. And surely never feed a hamster chocolate, caffeine or alcohol!
You can house your hamster in a various housings. You can buy a hamster cage in the shop, but you can use others things as well, like for instance an old aquarium. The bedding inside can be made up of wood shavings (no pine or cedar wood, which contain aroma’s and oils that may cause respiratory problems with your hamster). Clean out the cage or tank at least once a week. You take everything out and put in new bedding. If you have trained the hamster to go potty, you only need to change the bedding every two weeks.
Syrian hamsters (also known as teddy bear hamsters) are not social with other hamsters, so you better not house them together. Dwarf Siberian hamsters are more social and can live in little groups.