8 Things You Should Know Before Getting a Pet Hamster

Updated on June 28, 2019
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Poppy has been keeping hamsters for nearly four years and enjoys helping other pet owners.

So you're thinking about getting a pet hamster, or perhaps you recently bought one. Great! Hamsters are relatively easy to take care of and are ideal for people who don't have the housing space or the time for a larger pet. These cute fluffballs are quite charming and fun to play with.

Though they are small and don't need much attention, there are still many important things to know about keeping a hamster. Here are eight things you should know before getting one.

8 Things to Know About Hamsters

  1. Males and Females Should Not Be Housed Together
  2. Syrians Shouldn't Be Housed Together At All
  3. They Need a Lot of Exercise
  4. They're Nocturnal
  5. They Dislike Loud Noises
  6. Pet Shop Owners Often Make Mistakes
  7. They're Timid
  8. They're Omnivores

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1. Males and Females Should Not Be Housed Together

No exceptions. Perhaps you bought a 'pair' from a pet shop or thought a brother and sister would get lonely if separated. Despite this, I get many questions from people who are housing males and females together. Always keep opposite sex hamsters separated, for these reasons:

  • They might fight.
  • They might breed.

Though you might want to breed your hamsters, you should still keep the male and female in separate enclosures. Hamsters breed incredibly quickly, and once the babies are born, they could be in danger of being attacked by the father. In turn, the mother could attack him in defense of her litter. There are many things you shouldn't do if your hamster has babies, and a big no-no is having the male anywhere near the mother.

Always keep males and females in separate cages, even if they were together when you bought them. Hamsters are solitary animals; they do not get lonely and won't pine for each other like other animals do.

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2. Syrians Shouldn't Be Housed Together At All

Some breeds of hamsters can live quite happily together (though only if they're the same sex). Syrians, however, can get incredibly hostile toward others in their territory. Keeping two or more Syrians in the same enclosure can result in injury or death of the little fluffballs.

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3. They Need a Lot of Exercise

Hamsters might be small, but they need plenty of exercise. To keep them in a small cage or to never let them out is cruel. In the wild, these animals run for miles and miles every night. To ensure your hamster gets enough exercise:

  • Install a wheel. Some cages include them. Be sure it's an adequate size so it doesn't cause back injury to your hamster.
  • Let your hamster out to play. This can be just for a couple of minutes each day. A hamster ball is useful for keeping it out of mischief. If you decide not to use a ball, keep an eye on it so it doesn't get lost.
  • Have a decent-sized cage. Multiple floors and plenty of room to run around are good ideas. Enough items and toys for your hamster can make it happier and help it live longer.

4. They're Nocturnal

Some people don't know this, but hamsters are nocturnal and are most active at night! Don't worry if you buy your new hamster and find that he just sleeps all day because that's normal. Once the sun goes down, you'll hear him foraging, building a nest, and running on his wheel.

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5. They Dislike Loud Noises

Hamsters mostly use their ears and noses. Loud noises, such as vacuuming, shouting, a TV or loud music, and banging can frighten them, so it's better to house them in a quiet room if possible. Since they sleep in the daytime, noise can also affect their rest and their health.

Always speak quietly and gently to your hamster when you're handling him, and don't tap his cage or make unnecessary noise.

6. Pet Shop Owners Often Make Mistakes

At least once a month, I hear of cases where people have bought two hamsters, thinking it's two boys or two girls, only to find a litter of babies. If you've bought two hamsters, keep in mind that pet shop owners often make mistakes since sexing hamsters is difficult, especially when they're small. Some owners don't even bother sexing them but house them together to sell them more quickly.

If you buy more than one hamster and keep them in the same cage, try to sex them yourself to be sure you won't suddenly come across a litter of babies. The YouTube video below is helpful in determining your hamsters' sexes.

7. They're Timid

Hamsters are prey animals in the wild, which means it's unlikely they'll warm to you right away in the sense that another animal, such as a dog, might do. It might be weeks before you can pick up your new pet. Here are some tips on taming your hamster.

  • Leave him alone, except to feed him and give him water, for at least seven days after you've brought him home. This gives him time to get used to his new environment and the smells and sounds he is experiencing. This downtime will also allow him to build a nest.
  • Never grab him or chase him around the cage.
  • As mentioned above, don't surprise him with loud noises.
  • Approach slowly and carefully. Offer him your hand to smell. Speak gently to him. Never punish or harm him.

Taming a hamster takes time and patience. You might be excited about your new pet and want to play with him straight away, but rushing the process can do more harm than good.

8. They're Omnivores

Many people mistakenly think that hamsters are vegans and only eat nuts and vegetables, but it's not true! Hamsters can eat meat. Unseasoned cooked chicken is a nice treat, as are bugs and worms.

Of course, hamsters also need nutritious foods such as pellets, seeds, and dried fruits and vegetables. There are many veggies you can offer your hamster but be sure to check what's ok and what's not. For example, cucumber, small amounts of cabbage, and carrots are perfectly fine, but you must never give your hamster onion or citrus fruits.

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A hamster may be small, but it's still a creature with feelings! Keep these things in mind, and you'll have a happy little friend who loves you.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Poppy

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      • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

        Poppy 

        9 days ago from Tokyo, Japan

        Thank you!

      • profile image

        Animal Advocate 

        10 days ago

        Good article for first pet owners

      • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

        Poppy 

        4 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

        What a lovely story! Hammy sounds like a naughty little thing. He made his nest and then went to play with the girl hamster as soon as you got her! I'm glad you found him safe and well.

      • profile image

        Crystalmartin 

        4 months ago

        At 14 years old, i bought a pet hamster from a store called elgin pet which has since been closed due to not feeding/watering the animals including puppies/kittens, abusing them. However, each and every animal came out of that store alive and did survive, they were scared and they were emaciated.

        Anyways, it was a gorgeous teddy bear hampster. I had a abused hamster that i took from a ex friend, she was gonna kill him and his name was hammy lol. One morning, i got up and he was not in his cage! He was up on my dresser which had 4 dresser drawers just to give an idea of how high up he was. I searched high and low for him and thought he died from the fall.

        I went and got the new hampster named peaches. She was a big, sandy brown gorgeous hampster. One night i heard a very low and light noise and the heard serious movement and got scared as it was dark and that was not a normal noise...

        I went back to sleep and in the morning, i looked in and sure enough, there were 7 extra tiny souls with no hair yet! Not knowing a thing about raising baby hampsters, i went and got a book about it and the rest is history... 2 days later making it 4 days total, i found my other hampster very hungry and thirsty. I couldnt put him in the same cage therefore i rushed out, got one and got all the needed supplies as fast as possible so he could get the food and water into his system..

        The next day, i took him to the vet and thankfully, no broken bones, no fractures nor anything else of that nature. He was scared from being alone and from the fall which startled him and the fact that our family dog kept trying to dig at something and unknowingly, it was him she was trying to get those days he was missing. He was missed and he was held and kissed alot that day he was found and from then on as was the mama hampster!

      • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

        Poppy 

        4 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

        Thanks for commenting, James. They're cutie pies.

      • profile image

        JMD-Reid-Fantasy-Author 

        4 months ago

        Great article! My brother had a hamster when we were a kid. Loved watching him roll around in his ball.

      • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

        Poppy 

        4 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

        Thank you so much for your comment, Doris, I really appreciate it! They are sweet little things and can be very mischievous.

      • MizBejabbers profile image

        Doris James MizBejabbers 

        4 months ago from Beautiful South

        I agree that hamsters make precious pets. Years ago when my kids were in junior high, their grandparents bought them each a hamster. Since they were male and female, we kept them in separate cages. I loved the little fellows and one lived to be 3 years old.

        We got them each a hamster ball and discovered how mischievous they really are. I liked to put them in the balls and keep them in the kitchen with me when I was cooking supper. Then the little dickens would aim the ball at my feet and come rolling as fast as he could. The ball would hit my foot and send the hamster rolling over and over. When the ball stopped, the hamster would shake his head and come at me again. We played like this for about 15 minutes and then I would put him back into his cage to rest. I say "him", but I remember that they both loved to run over me.

        We finally stopped buying hamsters because my boys said that their lifespans weren't long enough, and it hurt too much when they died. Great article, Poppy!

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