Hamsters aren’t just cute and cuddly; they also need the proper care that many new hamster owners fail to give. If you are buying a hamster without doing your research, you will most likely impulse buy before you are ready. Maybe received a pet hamster as a gift? This leads you not to know the primary key do’s and don’ts of hamster care.
If you’re planning to give a hamster as a present to a friend or family, it is essential to make sure that they have done enough research or the person is ready for this kind of commitment.
Making mistakes is okay, after all, we’re all humans, and we learn as we go. We made a list of the common mistakes new hamster owners make, so keep reading.
ALSO READ: Hamster care sheet (printable available)
COMMON MISTAKES NEW HAMSTERS OWNER MAKE
Many of these mistakes have severe consequences and can make your hamster unhappy. Therefore, researching before you head to a pet store or rescue a hamster is essential.
This article compiles a list of common hamster owner mistakes when taking care of their furry baby. This will help you because we know many first-time hamster parents don’t know the kind of commitment they have to make. Check out these tips for new hamster owners.
Buying Unsuitable Cage Size
You can place some pets in a small cage. Unfortunately, not hamsters. These rodents need physical exercise; hence, they need more space than you might think. Hamsters naturally run seven to twenty-one miles every night, a more spacious cage is better.
The right hamster cage size is 100x50x50 cm (4000 cm2) or 39x20x20 in (450 square inches). The floor should be even (not wired like in the photo below). The hamster cage doesn’t need multiple levels. The width and depth are much more critical.
TIP: Here is a list of our recommended suitable and safe hamster cages
Housing More Than One Hamster in One Cage
Hamsters can live happily alone, unlike other pets who get bored quickly without a companion. Your hamsters most likely want to be left alone and can get depressed and territorial if you put another hamster in their living space.
Another concern about housing hamsters together is the chance of unexpected pregnancy. The truth is hamsters mate and get pregnant very fast (as early age as 8 weeks old), and you’ll end up with lots of baby hamsters in a short time.
And get this, you should know by now that hamsters can give birth continuously to as many as 20 pups at a time. Separate your hamsters as soon as they hit 6 weeks-old marks.
We do not recommend housing more than one hamster in a single cage. Regardless if they are the same sex or came from the same litter. If you want multiple hamsters, you need to house them separately – multiple cages, toys, and everything else.
Read this article on why hamsters fight and what you can do about it.
Choosing the Wrong Bedding
Bedding gives your hamster the means to burrow and nest like they do in the wild. They also need bedding to dig and bury things and also to hoard food. The right beddings also keep your hamster warm on some cold nights.
To help first time hamster owner with the hassle of choosing different bedding types and knowing what will work, we have already researched it for you.
Cat litter and corn cobs are the wrong choices regarding hamster bedding. Do not go with scented bedding too, unless you want your hamster to start sneezing one morning or shredded pine wood that can cause respiratory problems.
Some particular materials that are great for hamster bedding are soft toilet paper, Kaytee’s or CareFresh’s bedding. Both of these materials are soft and make for a comfortable place for your rodent after a tiring run. Read our list of recommended hamster bedding.
Not Educating Themselves
If you have other pets in your home, do you know that having a hamster is relatively easier to maintain than other pets? However, like any other animal, they still need a lot of caring and can be delicate if you don’t know what you’re doing.
As a hamster owner, you must know the common mistakes new hamster owner make. Because they are so tiny and frail, any other early signs of distress should be taken seriously. If your hamster gets sick, the sooner you treat it, the better.
Some of their common diseases show the following symptoms include diarrhea, aggressive behavior, drinking more than usual, mood swings, and appetite loss.
One example, the hamster exercise ball, has always been a debate, and so far, there hasn’t been a scientific study to prove it it’s either bad or suitable for a hamster. So, as a hamster parent, you need to do your own research and observe your hamster and make a judgment call. You can read more about the pros and cons and how to tell if your hamster should use a hamster ball or not.
Another way to educate yourself is to read or watch some educational books or videos of hamsters in the wild. While domesticated hamsters are very different from wild hamsters, there are still many instincts that domestication didn’t erase. In this way, you will understand why hamsters behave the way they do.
ALSO READ: Hamster facts for new owners
Not Taming their Hamster
Not many people are aware that you must tame a hamster. The main goal of the taming process is to introduce your scent to your hamster and gain its trust. It’s also important that you know how to hold a hamster properly for the first time.
Hamsters are born with trust issues with everything and everyone around them because they are prey items in the wild. This results in many first-time hamster owners abandoning their pets because they couldn’t stop them from biting.
It’s essential to put effort into taming your hamster, but it is also vital to know that not all hamsters are tamable.
There is a time to stop trying and just let your hamster be themselves. This might mean you can’t play or cuddle with them, but that’s okay. Leaving them alone in their fun and the safety cage is much better than abandoning them altogether.
Taming takes time you just have to be patient and things will get better as your pet slowly gets more comfortable with you.
You can read more about why hamsters bite and what you can do to stop this.
Using A Too Small Exercise Wheel
Are hamster wheels bad? No. Hamsters actually need to exercise regularly, and a wheel allows for that to happen. However, using an inappropriate one can injure your hamster. Furthermore, a wheel too small can end up doing more harm than good. A small wheel forces your hamster’s spine to curve when running on it. This bad posture can be incredibly bad for health.
Make sure to choose the proper one and the right size. For Syrian hamsters, the suitable wheel size is 12″ (28 cm) and up, while for a dwarf, don’t get anything lower than 8″ (20 cm). The wheel should also have a solid base, not those with mesh/wire ones. Those are harmful to the hamster and can cause injury to their feet if their toes get stuck in the holes.
ALSO READ: Here’s how to choose the right hamster wheel
Adding Unsafe Hamster Toys and Features
Your hamsters, just like any other pets, get excited with new toys too. Hamsters need the right level of environmental stimulation to keep their small bodies and minds healthy and active. Avoid giving your furry friend unsafe hamster products.
A running wheel, tunnel system, bridge, and chew toys can keep your hamster healthy and entertained throughout its waking hours. However, to tend to your furry critters, it is best to choose the toys they prefer. Moreover, because hamsters are a nocturnal species, it is best to buy toys quiet enough not to disturb you or other people in the house at night.
Choose engaging toys to keep them stimulated, but most importantly, make sure the toys are safe for them to play with to prevent significant injuries and infections. Make sure you’re also installing cage enhancements as safely as possible. Wired stairs or uneven cage flooring can cause bumblefoot.
Not Cleaning the Cage Enough
Cleaning the cage regularly keeps your hamsters healthy and happy. Like a human home, a clean environment prevents disease and bacteria build-ups. Make sure to thoroughly clean your hamster cage at least once in 4-5 weeks or do spot cleaning once a week. Read this guide on how to clean a hamster cage.
A tidy home makes your hamster feel more relaxed and healthier. When they are stressed, they tend to be moody and bite you. Microbe build-up can also cause health issues.
If it is a cleaning day, owning two cages or having a safe and escape-free playpen is ideal. To make it easier for you, transfer your hamster to another cage or the playpen while you clean the main enclosure.
However, you should remember to put just a small amount of old bedding back into the cage so that your pet can recognize its scent and be comfortable as the home didn’t change too much.
Allowing Your Hamster to Get Fat and Not Providing a Healthy Diet
Many pet owners think it’s cute when their pets get fat, but this is very dangerous. Mindlessness can lead to accidental over-feeding and obesity.
To prevent them from gaining unhealthy weight, make sure to feed your hamster a healthy diet and give them plenty of exercise in a wheel or playpen. Please note that an overweight hamster is unhealthy and prone to disease and illness. It is best to weigh them every couple of months to ensure their diet is working out ok and they have a stable weight.
ALSO READ: Best hamster food diet and dry mixes
Not Letting your Hamster Out of the Cage Once in a While
Not letting your hamster out or not correctly taming them could result in some negative consequences. A spooked hamster often bites when they are not familiar with your smell.
Holding your hamster every day could help to tame them. Do this at least once a day so that he can gradually remember your scent. You can use a playpen to tame, play, cuddle, and bond with your hamster.
Much like humans, hamsters need to move freely outside their steel-enforced cages for a change in the environment. This is also an excellent way to spend time with them and do some taming tricks. Don’t make your hamster feel like it is in jail!
Remember, do not put your hamster in a situation where it can escape or be exposed to harm. During their playtime, put your hamster in an environment you have 100% control over. It will be less stressful for you and the hamster.
Buying in Bulk
I know how easy it is to simply buy in bulk, especially when a big sale in the shop or the nearest pet store is quite a distance away. However, you should only do this once you are sure that the product or toy is safe for your hamster and you know that your pet likes them.
For example, only buy one pack of bedding or sand bath and test if your hamster doesn’t develop any irritation or allergy from it. Once you let your hamster try these new products, observe their behavior for 2-3 weeks, if they seem to be happy, energetic, and healthy, go ahead and stock up.
TIP: Remember this rule when you switch to a new brand in the future
Thinking that Bar Chewing is Cute
If you are an inexperienced hamster parent, and you might be asking yourself “why does my hamster chew on his cage?”. It might look cute, yes, but not it’s not good. A hamster chewing a bar cage means many things.
It can be a sign that their cage is too small and they want to get out, or there are not enough entertaining toys or things to chew on. It can also mean that the cage needs some cleaning as it has become dirty and uncomfortable for them.
The most important thing you must remember is to find out how to stop bar chewing. If your hamster keeps doing this, it will hurt its nose or nose bridge which can also result in nose balding by abrasion. The paint on those metal bars is most likely harmful to your hamster when swallowed. In the worst case, hamsters could have their teeth break or fall off because they need soft chew toys. Metal is not suitable.
Giving a hamster as a gift
During holidays like Christmas or birthdays, parents or adults tend to give their family members pets as gifts. This is a hazardous thing to do. For one, because of all the things listed above – the new hamster owner needs to educate themselves and do deep research before committing to having a pet animal.
Second, pets like hamsters are often abandoned or killed by inexperienced hamster owners, uneducated hamster owners, or simply people and kids who lost interest in their hamsters. For more reasons why you shouldn’t gift a pet, read this post.
Finally, a young child is not the most suitable full-time carer for a demanding pet such as a hamster. If your children really wants to have a hamster, as a parent, you must understand that you are still the primary caregiver of this pet.
Never going to the vet
When you first acquire your hamster, I recommend you take your pet to the vet one month after. This checkup shows if your hamster is healthy and adjusting well to its new environment.
You can also ask the vet some questions to help you provide the proper care for hamsters and check if you’re missing anything. It’s also important that you make a regular 3-month checkup and bring your hamster to the vet for general checkups.
Buying a hamster before the cage
When you buy a hamster it is super exciting! But you need to think about what you need before bringing a hamster home. Most of us have made the mistake where we get a hamster home and then suddenly realize we don’t have a suitable home for our new pet.
It is best to buy a cage first and set it up with the correct bedding, wheels, water, and have some fresh foods and herbs to feed your new friend.
Of course, if you are rescuing a hamster it can survive in a travel carrier for a night while you go shopping the next day. Your hamster will be happy if it has a nice new home instead of having to move around again.
Stress traumatizes a hamster and it can affect your initial relationship and make taming harder.
Not using a reputable hamster breeder
Hamsters are prone to inbreeding. If you want the best hamster, you need to avoid pet stores selling multiple types of pets. These are not hamster experts and can even give you a hamster opposite of the gender that you wanted or worse, found out it was a pregnant hamster due to misgendering.
You want your hamster to have genetic diversity so it is healthy. Imbred hamsters are prone to disease and might only live 6 months instead of their wild life expectancy of 2-3 years. If you ever see a crowded cage like the above photo, it means your to-be hamster could be inbred.
If you love hamsters, you should get one that is capable of living a long and healthy life with you. This is when ethical hamster breeders come into play.
Check out these reputable hamster breeders to avoid making a mistake, or at least check online where can you buy hamsters first locally before going to a general pet shop that is not specialized in hamster care.
Many new pet owners are at risk of making these common mistakes. It is OK to make mistakes and learn from them, but try your best to reduce them because the hamsters end up suffering the most. Many uninformed hamster owners who didn’t take the time to educate themselves end up injuring or abandoning their hamsters or, worse, killing them.
We hope that this article about common mistakes new hamster owner make has been helpful to you. If you have more ideas to add to the list, let us know in the comment section below. What were your biggest mistakes?
Check and download our hamster needs checklist for best hamster care.