Dogs are great to play with and cats can be very cuddly, but they are not for everyone. Some may prefer a smaller pet, or one that doesn’t require as large of a time commitment, in those cases, a hamster can be a good choice.
There are several different types of hamsters. The best known, and one of the first to become pets, is the Syrian Hamster. Syrians are also known as Golden or Teddy Bear hamsters. They are solitary animals, so if you want more than one Syrian Hamster, you should plan on having an individual cage for each one. Siberian or Dwarf Hamsters are smaller than the Syrian, and are more social and can be kept in pairs. Keep in mind that if you get more than one to make sure they are the same sex, or you will soon have more hamsters than you know what to do with. Also be aware that all hamsters are nocturnal by nature. That means they sleep during the day and are awake at night.
Get the largest cage you can afford or have room for, since this is where your hamster will be spending its time. Aquariums with mesh tops will work, as well as wire cages, although be sure to get a wire cage with a solid floor. There are cages with tubes and tunnels as well that are made for hamsters.
Hamsters will appreciate things to burrow into in their cages. Paper towel and other cardboard tubes will be appreciated. Hamsters are rodents and will chew on anything available, so be certain any item in their cage will be safe for them to chew on. Good chew items are untreated wood, such as from fruit trees. Many toys made for birds to destroy will be enjoyed by hamsters as well. In the wild, hamsters can travel long distances, so an exercise wheel is a good idea too.
What should you feed your hamster? There are many premade hamster diets available. Most consist of a mixture of seeds and pellets. Hamsters will also enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, apples, greens and spinach. Be sure to clean up any uneaten fresh food before it spoils. Hamsters will stuff their cheeks full of food and hide it elsewhere in their cage to munch on later, so be sure to be extra thorough when cleaning up after them. Also be certain to have fresh water available at all times in either a hanging water bottle or a bowl that’s heavy enough they can’t tip it over.
Hamsters are generally hardy little animals, but do on occasion need veterinary care. Signs of illness can include: lack of appetite, runny eyes or nose, diarrhea or matted fur. We at Troy Animal Hospital do treat hamsters and other small rodents, so if you ever have questions, feel free to call us.
With the proper diet and care, hamsters can make wonderful and amusing pets for your family.