8 Things You Should Know Before Getting a Pet Hamster
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 having a hamster. Here are eight things you should know before getting one.
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, it should still be done so as the male and female living separately. 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 of others in their territory and to house two of these breeds together can result in injury or death of the little fluffballs.
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.
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, the smells and sounds he is experiencing, and enough time 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 mistakingly think that hamsters are vegans and only eat nuts and vegetables, but it's not true! Hamsters can eat meat. Uncooked, unseasoned cooked chicken is a nice treat, as well as a variety of 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 carrot are perfectly fine, but you must never give your hamster onion or citrus fruits.
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.
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