Hamsters are incredibly cute and personable. Small, soft and easy to get along with, they are one of the most popular of small pets. More domesticated than most other rodents, hamsters are less likely to scratch or bite, making them a good first pet for a child as well as being an easy-to-care-for companion for adults. Their size makes them especially appropriate if you live in an apartment or other dwelling where a larger pet is prohibited.
These pets are some of the greatest Houdinis of the small pet world, so make sure you have a glass tank or small-weave wire mesh cage. Larger weave can be squeezed through – hamsters are incredibly flexible and can make it through unbelievably small holes. Also, some metal mesh may be too delicate and can be ripped open by a determined escapee, so be sure the material used is thick and sturdy. Don’t use plastic containers, as these will usually get holes chewed into them very quickly. Many a hamster has gone AWOL because they are voracious chewers, so be certain that their home can withstand their toothy assault.
Along with a sturdy mesh top for a glass tank, investing in some sort of heavy rock or other object to place on top is not a bad idea, either. Hamsters are great leapers and climbers and can pop off most lids if not firmly secured or weighted down. Extra latches on a wire cage are also recommended to help prevent a break-out. I’ve had more than one little friend wiggle determinedly at a door until it pops open, allowing a freedom that is usually hazardous to the pet’s health. Double or even triple securing a wire cage door will help keep your little friend safe, although using a glass tank instead is highly recommended.
Like most other rodents, a hamster’s teeth continue to grow over their entire lives and they need something tough to gnaw on. You’ll want to invest in a few wood chunks or other chewable items to place inside the container. Many pet supply stores have wooden ‘forts’ and other structures not only for hiding in but for wearing down their teeth to a proper length. Wood shavings* of pine or ash and or old cloth rags work well for nesting materials, especially since your small friend will most likely shred these, too, with their busy mouths. Just make sure your pet has plenty to chew on besides food and its surrounding cage.
Hamsters, like most small animals, have a lot of energy when they’re awake. Some can be considered downright hyper. You will want to get a wheel for your tiny jogger. Not only is it mesmerizing fun, but it will give the little fellow something to do besides finding ways to escape. I’ve had more than small pet who seemed to think that if he just ran fast enough he could run right up the wall and out the ceiling of his cage. Or maybe she was trying to break the time barrier with her speed. In either case a wheel or other such activity devices give something to do for a busy little animal. And can be a lot of fun to watch, too.
Water can be offered either by hanging bottle or by ceramic dish. Again, like their cage, it is not recommended that a plastic container be used to hold water as the hamster will most likely chew holes into it. Also, a hanging bottle is better than using an open dish as even the heaviest ceramic bowl can be toppled and make the animal’s home very damp. Hamsters can get just as sick as humans if left in a cold, damp environment. Even wires wrapped around the dish to secure it to the cage wall and or to the floor are not necessarily an adequate deterrent for a determined animal. Placing something on the ground of its environment seems to trigger natural digging instincts and he will toss the dish aside in order to discover whatever is beneath it.
Food can be bought at any pet supply store. Since they tend to nudge containers around and spill the contents everywhere, leaving their food in a little pile works just fine. Your small buddy will gather it al up in enormous storage pouches along its cheeks and sides to transport to whatever spot it has chosen as its pantry. They favor seeds and grains to eat but have been known to enjoy a piece of fruit or small scoop of ice cream, too. Stick to approved hamster-specific treats, however. There are imitation cheese puffs, yogurt drops and any number of other delicacies to offer your tiny, furry friend. Watching him stuff an entire cheese puff into those enormous storage pouches is a day’s entertainment in itself, too.
So keep her safe, keep her fed and don’t forget to handle your pet often. Hamsters tend to be friendly by nature, but maintaining regular contact will help keep them that way or make them even more so. Picking one up is as simple as cradling them between two open palms or wrapping one hand gently but firmly around their waist, just behind their shoulders. They live for about two to four years, so make the most of enjoying the soft tickle of fur and tiny feet as you spend time with your small buddy.
*Do not use cedar shavings, as this can cause respiratory problems and even death for most small animals.