Hamsters are little creatures of cuteness. It’s fun to watch them do their hamster activities in their cage, such as running on their hamster wheel, hoarding food in their cheek pouch, and sometimes, doing their hamster acrobatics. If you’re one of the people who have seen their cute behaviour on social media, thoughts of getting a pair as a pet may have entered your mind. But taking care of a hamster isn’t as easy as ABC.
Hamsters are delicate animals, which is why it’s important to understand their needs before getting one. If you’ve turned to Google to find out how to take care of a hamster for beginners and landed on this page, that’s a good sign! It means you are on the path of being a responsible hamster owner.
You can also watch this great video of hamster facts. This hamster care guide will talk about species of hamsters, appropriate and safe hamster cages, healthy food, toys, bedding, hamster do’s and don’ts and so much more! Let’s learn a bit more about these fluffy members of the rodent family, shall we?
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE GETTING A HAMSTER FOR THE FIRST TIME
There are several things worth considering if you want to provide the best hamster pet care ever. Things like your level of commitment, your budget, the environment you’re living in, what species of hamster is best for you, and knowing the right food to feed them. Let’s learn more about these factors one by one:
TIP: Join these Facebook groups for a great discussion of hamster welfare
Are you responsible
Do you consider yourself responsible enough? Having a hamster is a lot of responsibility even though they are small animals. You need to know what their needs are, how to keep them safe and healthy, have the money to create a spacious cage, bring and pay for a vet service to name a few.
Make your hamster tasks like keeping tabs on supplies, cleaning schedule, feeding, and more by using our printable hamster task planner.
Can you commit
Taking care of another living creature requires your commitment. The commitment that you’ll take care of them, and provide them with their needs. It goes beyond the pleasure of just feeling the fuzzy warm feeling we often feel when we see cute animals.
You should realize that their lives depend on you and that you’ll always be there to meet their needs for their 2-3 years lifespan.
RELATED POST: Are hamsters good pets?
Can you afford
There is a long list of basic hamster supplies and essentials that you need to prepare before your hamster come home. These things are not cheap and do require an owner to have the budget to keep their hamster happy, safe, and healthy.
While buying a hamster isn’t expensive, taking care of them is! The budget you’ll need to get a cage, toys, and other accessories would be around $160. In addition, you’ll be spending on their food, bedding, and litter. Plus, you’ll need to take your hamster to a veterinarian at least once a year to make sure that they are as healthy as it can be. Here’s a breakdown of how much it cost to have a hamster.
Do you have the right home
Hamsters require a clean, spacious, and quiet place to live in for their safety and well-being. It is also important that they are placed in a big cage. Hamsters, being nocturnal and crepuscular creatures, are very active at night and they need a lot of space where they can explore to their heart’s content.
Do you have a quiet place
Hamsters are very sensitive to loud sounds. It can give them a lot of stress, so you need to be sure that they are in a quiet room. Ultrasounds, sounds that human ears can’t detect, can also irritate hamsters. You should make sure that they are far from electrical appliances, such as TV, radio, computers, and the likes.
Do you have any other pets
Another thing to consider before getting a hamster is if you have other pets in your home. Other pets, such as cats, may exhibit aggressive behaviour towards hamsters. Therefore, you need to be certain that you’ll be keeping your hamsters in a place where they cannot be harmed by other animals in your home.
TIPS ON TAKING CARE OF A HAMSTER FOR FIRST-TIME OWNERS
Hamsters are a very delicate bunch of creatures. Mistakes in handling may cause them harm. People often handle them in an abrupt manner, which isn’t advisable, because sudden movements can scare these little fellows.
In addition, they shouldn’t be disturbed when they are sleeping, as they’ll exhibit aggressive behaviour, and may bite you. Aside from handling them correctly, there are several things you should know as a first-time hamster owner:
Read what species of hamster is best for you
Different species of hamsters have different personalities. The friendliest hamster species is the Syrian hamster. They live longer and behaves well with humans, but they aren’t very social and may exhibit aggressiveness towards other hamsters. Dwarf hamsters, on the other hand, are more sociable with their kind, but they can be nippy with people.
As a general rule, hamsters shouldn’t be caged together, as they may hurt each other because of their territorial nature. In addition, not all hamsters enjoy cuddling with people, and if you have kids in your home, it is best to get the friendlier types. For that, we encourage you to research more on the personality of different species of hamsters that will best suit your home.
Calculate your budget
Buying a cage and its accessories for your hamster can cost around $100 – $160. You should also factor in the expenses for its food, litter, and bedding, which costs around $100 – $150 per year.
You also need to be financially prepared when you need to take your furry pets to the vet if they show symptoms of being sick or hurt, and experts recommend bringing them to veterinarians once a year for a checkup. Like everything else in life, taking care of a pet means thinking ahead of time, especially in terms of potential expenses.
MUST-READ: How much does owning a hamster cost?
Space is an equally important factor when considering taking care of a hamster. You need to have a quiet place away from direct sunlight for your furry friends. When a hamster is active, it needs a lot of space to roam around and play, so a hamster cage needs at least 480 square inches or 80x50x50cm (4000 cm2) or 31.5x20x20 in (620 square inches) space for Dwarf.
A Syrian needs a little bigger, 90x60x6o cm (35x20x30 in) and a female Syrian hamster cage is 100x60x60 cm (39x20x20 in).
One thing to remember, it can never be too big as long as you can afford it and have the energy to keep it clean and tidy.
Learning to tame a hamster
Learning how to tame a hamster is important if you want to be able to pick up your hamster to pet it, or you simply want to take it to the vet. However, the taming process takes time and requires a lot of patience from the owner. It usually takes a week or so before your hamster begins to warm up on you.
It is advisable not to touch or hold your hamster for a week after getting one. If you want to feed your hamster, simply place the food inside their cage. Give your hamster treats from time to time, and after a week, when your new pet has become accustomed to your presence, you should see signs of your hamster warming up to you. You may be able to touch your hamster or go on top of your hands.
There are a lot of ways to tame a hamster such as the “coffee mug system”, “bathtub taming”, and other options. Read this “how to tame a hamster” guide.
Many hamsters get abandoned because they bite their human parents, what many don’t understand is how to put effort into getting to know their hamsters and train them to stop biting. Here’s our guide on why hamster bites and how to stop it.
Buying the right food
Not all pet food in the market give enough supplements that your hamster needs. Like humans, hamsters need a balanced diet. Hamsters are omnivores, which means they eat both meat and vegetables. Sure, they may love to eat seeds, especially sunflower seeds, but they also need veggies and fruits, whole grains, cereals, and you can also feed them scrambled eggs as a source of protein.
Just remember not to give them citrus fruits, such as lemons, oranges, or lime, because the acidity of citrus fruits may make your hamster sick. In addition, a hamster’s frontal teeth keep on growing, which means they have to regularly bite on hard objects in order for them to manage the growth of their teeth. And the same goes for their nails, hence, good hamster nail care is very important, you can use these rocks and place them inside the cage. You can help them trim their incisors by giving them hard food, such as dog biscuits or peanuts.
Cleaning the cage
Hamsters are fragile creatures, and they can easily get sick when stressed or placed in an environment with poor sanitation. This is the reason why you should regularly clean the cage and use the best hamster beddings of your little furry companions. You need to spot clean their cage, and regularly replace their bedding to prevent the growth of fungi or bacteria which may make your hamster sick.
You will also need to wash the cage at least once a month or also known as general cleaning, to ensure that it is as clean as it can be. The use of antibacterial soap is highly recommended when cleaning the cage. You can temporarily place your little cuddly in a playpen or travel cage, or in any safe place where they won’t escape or get hurt.
Another way to keep the hamster cage clean is to make sure that the hamster sandbox is always filled with a clean sand bath.
ALSO READ: Ways on how to find an escaped hamster
Exercise ball, hamster wheel, and toys
Hamster exercise balls are still in the grey area if it’s safe or not for hamsters. You can read more information about the pros and cons of a hamster exercise ball. Here are our suggested safe hamster chew toys.
Placing a safe and large hamster wheel is a necessity to keep your hamster happy and have a place to spend all their energy. You can read about how to choose the best large hamster wheel here. Adding tunnels and tubes are also a great way to keep your hamster active.
While hamster toys do play a great part in taming, entertainment, and exercise in a happy hamster’s life. However, as an owner, you have to do your research on which toys are safe for your hamster to use. All of the things mentioned above are important because they keep your hamster busy, active, and happy.
ALSO READ: Guide on buying the best hamster water bowl and bottle
HAMSTER MUST-HAVE ACCESSORIES STORY
HAMSTER DO’S AND DON’TS
When getting a pet for the first time, you need to be as knowledgeable as possible about your pet’s needs, things to avoid, and things to do. Since you’ve searched online on how to take care of a hamster for beginners, we’ve compiled some do’s and don’ts to help you start your journey as a hamster owner. Check them out below:
So, you’re planning to buy a hamster, and you’re doing the first and most logical thing to do: learn more about hamsters. We are helping you to help yourself by presenting to you the dos of hamster parenting. Here they are:
Always keep an eye of your hamster when you take them out from the cage to play with
Your hamsters are innately playful and curious, so even if they are already tamed, when left unsupervised outside of their cage, they may roam around the house. You don’t want your little babies to go out of your house and be lost, be accidentally hurt. This is why it is extremely important to always keep an eye on your hamsters when you’re taking them out from their cage.
ALSO READ: Common hamster illnesses
Only handle them not more than 15 minutes at a time in the beginning until they get to know you
It is recommended by experts to not handle hamsters for at least a week after bringing them to your house. However, there are times when you’ll need to handle them, such as when you need to clean their cage. To minimize the stress of your hamsters, try to also minimize the time you’ll be holding them to 15 minutes at a time.
Give them treats once in a while
To help strengthen your bond with your hamsters, be sure to give them treats from time to time. This way, they’ll know you are not a threat, but in fact, a friend. In addition, giving treats, such as fruits (with the exception of citrus fruits) and veggies ensures that they are receiving nutrients they cannot get from ordinary food pellets or seeds.
You can hide treats under the bedding, in this way, you are encouraging your hamster to dig and move its body. This keeps them active, entertained, and happy.
Always observe their behaviour
You need to be very observant when caring for a hamster. Oftentimes, how your hamster feels reflect on their body language. They are usually happy when you see them burrowing or digging, and when they are cleaning themselves, it usually means that they are contented.
But you need to seek professional help when they become unresponsive, lazy, not eating, or their poop is very soft because it usually means that they are not feeling well. Here are the signs that a hamster is unhappy and how to fix that.
Always wash your hands before holding them
Hamsters have an excellent sense of smell, which is why you should wash your hands using unscented soap before holding them, especially if you have handled another hamster. Hamsters are very territorial creatures and they won’t like the scent of another hamster on your hand; it can make them act defensively. The scent of food from your hand may also confuse your hamster and cause them to bite your hand.
Knowing the things to avoid when taking care of a hamster is important because you want them to be as safe and as healthy as possible. You don’t want to stress your pet, make them sick, or inadvertently hurt them. So here are some things to avoid when caring for a hamster:
Don’t make the same mistake as a new hamster owner
We have all been there, a new pet, a new challenge. Most new hamster parents make a mistake, it’s vital that you don’t make the same error. Read this article about common mistakes a first-time hamster owner have done and do your best to avoid repeating them.
Don’t house more than one hamster in one cage
You can’t house two or more hamsters in one (1) cage because hamsters are very territorial, housing them together will cause a fight or worse death. Another reason is, hamsters can get pregnant at an early age, as young as 16 weeks old. Housing more than one hamster in a single cage is one of the reasons why hamsters fight.
ALSO READ: Accidental pregnancy guide
Don’t get them wet or make them swim
I’ve seen so many videos of hamsters placed in a tub or sink and let them swim. Many people think this is the right way to clean their hamsters or simply it’s cute to see them swim. But the truth is, hamsters can swim but they shouldn’t. It’s stressful and very dangerous. Read our article about this.
Don’t let them alone with other pets or kids
You don’t want to leave your pet hamsters with kids as you don’t want your pets and kids to hurt each other. More importantly, kids don’t really know how to take care of a hamster, it is important that you explain to them how delicate a hamster is. Use protective gloves like gardening or cleaning gloves.
You should also be wary of your other pets, especially your cats and dogs, as they may behave aggressively towards your hamster. Always keep your hamster in a safe place.
Don’t wake them up
Hamsters are nocturnal beings, and humans are awake during the daytime. It might seem okay to wake them up during the daytime, but doing so may stress them. Let them sleep when they want to sleep, and play with them only if they are wide awake and active, usually at night or evening.
Don’t hold them higher than .5 meters (1.6 feet) high
Hamsters can get easily injured if they fall from a high place. Keeping them as close to the ground as possible also minimizes the risk of them getting an injury, should they accidentally fall from your hands. Never ever hold your hamster by scruffing it, or lift it by its legs.
So, we’ve covered a lot of things about hamsters, from the budget to how to take care of them. If you are really keen on getting a pet hamster, we recommend researching more about them. The more you know about these cute little rodents, the more you’ll be able to take care of them properly.
Having a pet isn’t just about finding them cute, and wanting to cuddle them, or touch them, or play with them. Having a pet means knowing what’s best for them, and making sure that all their needs are met. Having a pet is loving; a responsibility, and a source of happiness.