Recommended Child’s Age: 5+

Lifespan of Pet: 2-3 years

Required Care: Easy

Pet Interaction: Moderately Social

Costs: Low

 

About Hamsters

Hamsters are super cute, come in a variety of breeds and colors and have a nub for a tail which can be more attractive to some as they are less rat looking compared to gerbils and mice. They are nocturnal by nature and tend to be most active at night, they are also solitary animals and prefer to be alone in their cage. Hamsters are cute, easy to care for pets at a low cost.

Hamster Housing
Hamsters aren’t the chewers that gerbils are, but their housing recommendations are typically the same, a glass aquarium with a screen top, or a metal cage with a flat floor and thin horizontal bar-spacing (some hamsters enjoy climbing) will do fine. Either way you want to make sure they have plenty of room, about 1 by 2 feet is good.

The bottom of their cage should be lined with a couple inches of bedding/shavings to make it comfortable for the hamster. Next make sure you hamster has a nice little house or place to hid, as well as something to climb on and a wheel for exercise. Many hamsters enjoy a toilet paper tube as a fun toy to chew on and hide in. Lastly they will need a water bottle, and a dish for their food that is not easily spilled.

Their housing area should be placed off the ground and away from other animals, out of direct sunlight and drafts, and not next to loud tv’s or speakers, a simple corner spot in the living room usually does well. Keeping a hamster cage in a childs room is not recommended as their nocturnal nature can result in waking up kids as they will be scuffling around and running on their wheel most of the night.

Getting your Hamster
When picking out your hamster at the pet store, make sure to ask the age, as there life span is relatively short. Ensure they are okay with being handled and appear healthy and active. Their fur should be clean and shiny, their eyes sparkling, and their faces clean.

Unlike gerbils, hamsters are solitary by nature, and will prefer to be on their own so don’t worry about buying more than one. In fact keeping more than one hamster in the same cage can cause them to fight.

It is helpful to purchase a small plastic carrying container to take you hamster home in, which then becomes useful as temporary housing when cleaning the cage regularly. It is also less likely that they will sneak out of a plastic travel carrier than a cheap cardboard carrier.

Hamster Care
You’ll want to make sure their environment stays clean. Switching out their shavings/bedding every week or two is usually fine. Make sure the water is fresh, and the food bowl doesn’t have any old or spoiled food in it. If your hamster seems to sleep a lot during the day, keep in mind that they are nocturnal, as long as they are still active in the evening and at night and otherwise appear healthy and eat regularly they should be fine.

Your hamster may be timid at first as they get to know you and are sometimes known to nip as a way of checking you out, this usually isn’t hard enough to break skin. Just be sure your kids know to expect this so they don’t jump or swat back if the hamster nips while getting familiar with them.

Even once your hamster is familiar with you, keep in mind that they rely on scent, changing your perfume or eating a pungent food prior to trying to handle the hamster may make it hard for them to recognize you. Tame hamsters can be picked up by their middle around the waste, and held in the hand. Make sure when ever playing with your hamster out side of the cage, they are in a secure area where they cannot fall or hide in a spot where you cannot get them out. A hamster ball can be a fun way for extra exercise, just make sure they are in an enclosed area where they won’t roll down stairs for example.

Your hamster should be given fresh food daily, but can typically be left with extra food and water for 2 or 3 days if needed. If you need to leave your hamster for more then 2 or 3 days be sure to get a pet sitter who can check on them every other day and provided fresh food. Hamsters like gerbils love fresh veggie snacks like carrots, cucumbers or apples, and will also enjoy treats like chew sticks. Watching your hamster eat can be a fun treat as they have pouches in their cheeks and will often fill them causing them to puff out, so they can transport the food to another area of their environment for eating.