Hamsters as pets can either be easy or incredibly challenging. It honestly can go either way, and people’s experiences can be the polar opposite of one another. The best thing you can do is to do your research, prepare yourself, and understand the pros and cons and the amount of commitment that being a hamster owner requires.
This hamster care sheet can be helpful for everyone. Whether you are thinking of getting a pet hamster or already have one, this care guide will be beneficial in keeping track of your daily tasks for looking after your furry baby and providing it with the best life.
HAMSTER CARE SHEET
You most likely landed here because you already have a hamster and want to expand your knowledge or get to the final stages of your decision and ensure you are prepared. Regardless, a lot of information below will guide you on this journey and ensure that you are providing your pet with the best care.
ALSO READ: Breakdown cost of having a pet hamster
The first thing you have to do is figure out the hamster enclosure. There is a lot of misinformation out there, both online and from chain pet shops. I personally fell for those as well.
I failed to do my research and pretty much let what I saw in photos and videos of another inexperienced hamster owner influence my decision.
How big should a hamster’s cage be
Hamsters need a large cage. They need lots of space to run around, burrow and imitate the life of a hamster in the wild. Having plenty of space means adding lots of toys, making the bedding deep, and ensuring that your hamster stays active and busy.
- Dwarf and Chinese hamsters – 100x50x50 cm (4000 cm2) or 39×19.6×19.6 in (450 square inches)
- Male Syrian hamsters – 100x60x60 cm (39×23.6×23.6 in)
- Female Syrian hamsters – 120x70x70 cm (47×27.5×27.5 in) 620 square inches
A hamster’s cage should also be unbroken, meaning you can’t try to meet the size requirement by expanding the cage. Whether by connecting two small cages with a tube or getting a vertically tall cage. Hamsters don’t need the levels, they need space that offers a deep tray and horizontal space.
Setting up a hamster’s cage
Setting up a cage before bringing your pet home is much better. Of course, this might not be possible if you rescue a hamster and take it home with you right away.
When setting up a hamster’s enclosure, you can start by just having the basic hamster accessories such as the cage, bedding, water bottle and food bowl, running wheel, and a sleeping hideout. Later, you can add more accessories such as a climbing platform, tubes, rocks, and more.
If you want to do a themed cage, let’s say you want a natural theme hamster cage. Make sure that you have everything ready. Try to draw the set-up you want. It doesn’t have to be a good drawing. The plan will help you visualise what you need and where things should go.
It’s also vital to wash everything first (including the cage) and ensure everything is super dry. It’s best to wait a day after you wash the items before start setting up the cage.
A busy hamster means it’s less likely to escape its cage, get bored, or be aggressive. There are at least 11 things that are necessities inside a hamster’s house. We have a free checklist that you can print. Below is a quick rundown:
- water bottle/bowl
- food bowl/dispenser
- sand bath
- running wheel
- chew toys
- stairs/slide* – list of the best climbing platforms and ladders
- vet carrier*
When it comes to a hamster’s diet, you should know that your pet needs 18% of the food to be protein. We also have a compilation of all our articles about hamster food and diet.
What is a balanced diet for hamsters
You should make sure that your hamster is getting a balanced diet, which means protein, greens, carbs, fibre, and fruits. There should always be a bowl of dry mix in the hamster’s food bowl, and it must be replenished once a week or every third day of the week.
What do hamsters eat
Hamsters can eat a lot of things. The best source of protein will be white eggs, lean meat (no pork), and tofu. Hamsters can also benefit from oats, broccoli, corn, and fruits such as apples (no seeds) and dried fruits. Citrus-based fruits must be avoided.
Dried mealworm is a great treat, but some of them are greasy, so make sure to give it as a treat instead of as a primary source of protein.
Unlike rabbits, hamsters don’t need a lot of fibre, but it’s still necessary. You should avoid anything high in sugar and fat. There are also vegetables that hamsters cannot eat. Read our guide on what vegetables hamsters can and cannot eat and our FAQ on hamster food.
How often to feed a hamster
You should feed your hamster cooked meat or food at least once daily. The dry mixes will do the rest, so ensure the food bowl is filled daily. You should also change the water every day to a fresh one. Wash the bottle before refilling.
Physical and Mental Health
A hamster care sheet is not complete without discussing hamster health. A hamster’s mental health is just as important as physical health. These two work hand in hand and can affect one another if the other part fails.
An active hamster is less likely to be aggressive towards you and less likely to be stressed, bored, and plan an escape.
Place lots of toys so your hamster will always have something to do. Every day, you should allow your pet to get out of the cage, and either does free roam or play in the playpen for at least 15-30 minutes a day to get a break from its cage.
Once every six weeks, you can rearrange the cage so your hamster will stay curious about exploring its own space.
Daily Hamster Tasks
Now that your hamster has a comfortable home, a healthy diet set up, and an exciting playpen, it’s time to talk about maintenance and daily tasks for you.
There are day-to-day things that you have to do, this includes:
- refilling food bowl
- replenishing and cleaning water bottles
- wiping the running wheel (some hamsters pee/poo on them)
- placing back the toys that are out of place
- picking our seed shells to avoid injury
- changing the sand
- playing with your hamster
This is just a quick overview of the things you need to do daily. It shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes to do these (excluding the playtime). However, making sure that the tasks are done properly will go a long way in ensuring that your hamster has a clean and healthy house.
Cleaning and Maintenance
As mentioned before, there is daily cleaning (aka spot cleaning) that you have to do, but none takes hours. However, you should be aware that you have to clean the entire cage (aka deep cleaning) once every six weeks and not more often than that.
Hamsters are pretty clean pets. They love cleaning their own coat in the sand bath, and with enough time, they’ll pee on the sandbox. However, the bedding eventually gets filthy and needs to be changed to avoid serious health issues or infections.
We have a guide on how to clean a hamster’s cage, where both spot cleaning and deep cleaning are discussed.
You don’t want to clean the cage deep more often because changing things frequently will cause stress on your hamsters. These pets don’t have excellent eyesight, and they rely on familiar scents and spatial memory. If you move something or change the bedding, it could confuse them or get into an accident which leads to stress or injury.
Illnesses to watch out
Hamsters are tiny animals that are hard to treat due to their size. Unlike dogs or cats, it’s also hard to tell if your hamster is seriously ill since it will likely hide away.
The most common hamster health issues :
- wet tail – this is 95% fatal
- impacted cheek pouch
- eye infection
- respiratory problems – from unsafe bedding/sandbath
- fur loss
- bumble foot
These are just to name a few. Check our ultimate guide on hamster illnesses. I also recommend you have at least 2 vets on your contact list in case the other one cannot accommodate you during emergencies.
Make sure to look for an “exotic vet” or one specialising in rodents. Most vets often only treat dogs and cats and are not known to handle a hamster or pets of that small size.
FAQ ON HAMSTER CARE
Let’s quickly discuss common questions when it comes to having hamsters as pets. If you have questions that are not addressed here, you can leave us a comment below. You can also read our cool facts about hamsters article.
Hamster lifespanHamsters could live up to 2-3 years. But hamsters from pet stores or mills often die at 6 months old due to health issues.
Do hamsters like being pet (touched)Not exactly, but there are hamsters who enjoy cuddles. Hamsters are prey animals, it’s a natural instinct of them to think that anyone or anything that tries to touch or approach them is dangerous
Do hamsters hibernateNo, but hamster experience torpor when the temperature drops very low. Unlike hibernating, hamsters cannot wake themselves up from it and often pass away due to starvation and malnutrition.
Are hamsters low maintenanceGenerally, yes if compared to dogs and cats. However, hamsters cannot be left alone for a longer period of time. If you plan to travel, make sure to do some arrangements for a pet sitter.
Do hamsters need a bath (water)No, hamsters must never be washed with water. The only way to bathe a hamster is by providing a sandbox with a sandbath.
Are hamsters nocturnalHamsters are more crespuscular. This means that they are more active during dawn and dusk.
HAMSTER CARE SHEET PLANNER (printable)
Of course, a hamster care sheet guide is not complete without a planner to help you keep up with everything. We have a printable task planner that is colour-coded and can be reprinted as often as you want. It’s only $2, and you only need to pay one time.
These cute little animals don’t require too much attention like a pet dog. However, you still need to monitor them daily to ensure everything is okay. It also relies a lot on you to make the right decision, from picking the cage, and setting up the enclosure, to feeding them a healthy diet.
I hope that you found this guide on the hamster care sheet helpful. I’m sure your furry baby is very grateful that you are going the extra mile to ensure their health and happiness.