Hamsters may be small but it doesn’t mean they are the easiest pet to look after. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely much easier to have a pet hamster than, let’s say, a dog. A hamster doesn’t need to be walked or given petting all the time. However, they need a different kind of care.
If this is your first time having a pet hamster or you recently found out that everything the pet store told you is wrong – I am here to guide you about providing proper hamster care.
On the other hand, if you are here doing your due diligence before committing to a pet, good on you! This article is going to tackle many topics, but don’t worry, I will walk you through them one by one.
First things first, let’s learn what you should know and do before you even bring a hamster home. If you already have one, I still recommend you to read through this section – it’s filled with much helpful information.
Proper research to be done
When we say proper research, a 5-minute Google or Youtube video is not enough. Doing proper research includes hours of reading or watching different videos from different resources.
While I assure you that our blog only writes and publishes ethical information on hamster care, I still encourage you to check out other websites or channels to learn as much as possible. Our article on things to know before buying a hamster is a good start.
Here’s the thing, most information provided by pet stores and a quick internet browse usually give you the wrong information. For example, pet stores (who pretty much only want your $$$, will recommend you to buy an unsuitable cage), while other websites or channels will tell you it’s okay to have multiple hamsters in one cage. Check this compilation of bad hamster cages to avoid.
I find forums (Facebook, Reddit, etc) very helpful. Sure, there is still misinformation there but people are always engaging, correcting, and providing updated information about proper hamster care.
When you do your deep research, I want you to confirm the information you received. For example, one website says, buy a critter cage. Instead of taking that website for it, look at another website what they think about critter cages for hamsters or use the search term “is critter cage safe for hamster”
Take a look at our hamster care sheet. This will give you an idea of what life wit ha hamster looks like. The printable care sheet is available as well.
Don’t be spontaneous
I remember my first hamster, I had the idea and suddenly want to have a hamster. I’m not going to lie, even though I didn’t jump out of my bed and head to the pet store right away, I still made a mistake.
The point here is, don’t let your feelings make your decision. Sit on the idea first and while waiting, spend time doing your research on how to provide ethical care for hamsters.
Speak to your parents (if you live with them)
If you are a minor or live with your parents (or even other people), you have to have a conversation with them if it’s okay for you to take in a pet.
For young people, it’s vital that your parents will give you the support and permission you need. First, because it’s their home. But second, and most importantly, it’s not cheap to have a hamster. The cage itself can cost up to $200 plus continuous items you have to buy like bedding, food, and chew toys. Lastly, the vet cost can really be expensive. Take a look at the breakdown cost of having a pet hamster.
For people who live with a roommate in or apartment building or even school dorm rooms, you have to check if it’s allowed or okay to have a pet. Even though hamsters are tiny pets, some people can be allergic or generally don’t allow pets in the building.
If you don’t check in with your parents or landlord, you might have to abandon and give up your hamster and that’s something you should definitely avoid.
HOW TO PROVIDE A PROPER HAMSTER CARE
Now to the fun and most important part. What are the things you have to know, prepare, and constantly do to make sure that you are giving your hamster the best care and best life.
If you are still deciding, this part will help you visualise what life with a hamster will be like. Perhaps it will help you decide if a pet hamster is for you or not.
Learn which species of hamster for you
Funny thing, the hamster is actually going to be the last thing you will buy or get. But it’s the first thing you need to make a decision on.
Depending on which hamster you choose will identify the cage size, wheel size, and food that you should know about.
For example, a Syrian hamster will need a bigger cage than a Dwarf or Chinese hamster. If you go with a Roborovski hamster, you should be aware that they are the most aggressive and hardest to tame. Learn more about species of hamsters.
One thing you should know – hamsters don’t get lonely and don’t need company. They are solitary and very territorial animals. Read more facts about hamsters.
Knowing which accessories you need
First, you should know what items you need to buy and prepare before you go out and get a hamster. Here is a quick list of things you need to gather before bringing a hamster home.
- cage – how to choose the right hamster cage
- bedding – safe and unsafe hamster bedding
- food bowl/food dispenser
- water bowl/bottle
- running wheel
- chew toys
- dry mix
- tunnels/tube/climbing platform
- vet carrier/transport cage
Ordering or buying these items might take a few days to arrive, it’s important that you wait for them to be here, set it up, before bringing your hamster home.
If you are getting a hamster from a pet store, they usually allow you to hold or reserve the hamster until you are ready to pick them up. If you are rescuing a hamster, you can keep them in a travel cage or plastic box (storage box) until the main cage is ready.
LEARN ABOUT THESE BASIC ITEMS HAMSTERS NEED
Prepare the cage
First, you should draw on the paper how you want the cage to be set up. Are you planning to fill it with bedding or only 1/3 of the cage will have bedding? Are you thinking of setup a rock corner for the nails or creating a big pit for the sandbox?
Now that you have everything ready, it’s time to set up the cage. If it’s a plastic or glass cage, you can wash the cage with mild soap and warm water. Make sure to thoroughly rinse and dry it.
If you have a wood cage, use wet wipes (use unscented if possible) to clean the cage. Dry it properly.
Using suitable toys or accessories
Make sure you use safe toys. For example, running wheels with mesh base wire is not good for your hamster’s feet. Using pine or cedar shredded wood for bedding is also not safe. We have a list of common mistakes new hamster owners make.
Leaving your hamster alone
Once you bring your hamster into the cage, let it alone for about a week. During this week, your hamster will get comfortable in the cage, learn where the food bowl is or the water bottle, and spread their scent to mark their territory.
Taming your hamster
After the first week, you can start the taming process with your hamster. Remember that not all hamsters can be tamed. They are naturally aggressive and in case your hamster can’t be tamed, you should not force it.
Providing balanced diet
Leaving dry mix in your hamster’s food bowl is not enough. While it is required, it’s vital that you also feed your hamster cooked food.
When giving your hamster cooked food, you should not use any spices (not even salt or pepper). Simply boil the food, cool it down, and hand it to your hamster. Food that your hamster will love is lean chicken, eggs, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, and pasta.
You can also give your hamster some fresh fruit like apples, strawberries, tomatoes, and grapes. Avoid acidic fruit like lemon and orange. You can give your hamster some watermelon too and other types of high in water kind of fruit but not too much as it can cause diarrhoea.
When choosing a dry mix, make sure to inspect the dry mix you buy from a pet store. If it has dried mealworm or dried fruit, remove it. Dried fruit often has too much sugar and dried mealworm often too greasy. But don’t worry, you don’t need to throw them. You can give these as treats (1-2x a day).
Free roam or playpen time
It’s important that you let your hamster roam free or spend time in the playpen for at least 10-minutes a day. This is not only good for their mood but also a great way to keep your hamster active and busy.
Make sure to bring your hamster back into the cage after 10-minute especially if there’s no water in the playpen.
Clean the cage
There are two ways to clean your hamster’s cage. Spot cleaning and deep cleaning. Spot cleaning is done 2-3 times a week and deep cleaning is a must every 5th or 6th week. Read our article on how to clean a hamster’s cage.
Visit a vet
Even though your hamster seems to be healthy and happy, remember to visit a vet every 3-4 months for a general check-up. If you notice that your hamster seems sick, contact your vet immediately.
LEARN ABOUT THE COMMON HAMSTER ILLNESSES
Here are more tips:
Don’t wake up your hamster
Hamsters are nocturnal animals. This means, they sleep during the day and awake at night. Don’t wake your hamster up while sleeping. This can really lead to them being irritated, stressed, and aggressive towards you.
It’s okay to make mistakes
If you made mistakes, that’s okay. What is important is you learn from it and now you are striving to be better.
Check out this ethical hamster care book
To be honest, there are so many things to learn for you to be able to provide proper hamster care. In this article, we just scratched the surface. We tackled more about ethical and proper hamster care through our book.
I hope that you found this article about proper hamster care helpful. If you have other tips that we forgot to mention, check out our book or leave us a comment below.