Hamster Care

So, you have decided that a hamster is the right pet for you? Congratulations!! We here at Four Seasons Animal Hospital want to help you every step of the way in the care of your hamster, starting with the basics.

General Behavior

When handled gently, hamsters are very good pets. Many hamster breeds are nocturnal: they sleep during the day and are awake at night. When you reach in to pick up a sleeping hamster, make sure you scoop him up gently and allow him to wake. Poking or petting a sleeping hamster is an invitation for the hamster to bite! You might notice your hamster’s food dish often is empty within minutes of filling it. Hamsters are notorious for hoarding food! They like to create stashes around their cages and eat the stockpiles later. Do not give in to the urge to keep adding more food, unless you have checked the cage for stashes and have found none. Hamsters stuff food, bedding, treats and anything else they find into their cheek pouches. They like to chew everything, so it’s a good idea to provide hay or a wood block to prevent them from chewing on their cages. Some of your hamster’s behaviors are rather strange. You might notice him eating his own droppings, for example. This is a natural behavior and a good way for hamsters to receive extra vitamins and nutrients.

Housing

You can keep your hamster in a variety of cages, including wire cages and glass aquariums. Plastic aquariums and cages are not ideal, because your hamster easily could chew a small hole through the plastic, squeeze through and escape. If you choose an aquarium, be sure it’s well-cleaned and has a wire mesh top. Aquariums are not as well-ventilated as wire cages and require more cleaning. If you choose a wire cage, it should have a solid bottom. Make sure the wires are close enough so your hamster can’t squeeze through the bars. It’s also a good idea to make sure the cage door is large enough to allow you to reach inside easily to handle or feed your hamster. Provide a layer of bedding for your hamster, such as Oxbow’s all-natural Eco-Straw. Avoid aromatic cedar and pine shaving beddings, because they contain resins that could be irritating to your hamster’s skin and lungs. Grass hays can be an important addition to your gerbil’s home, because they are ideal nesting, digging, tunneling and burrowing materials. Gerbils love to chew on the hay and move it around during playtime. Keep at least two of these varieties of grass hay on hand: Western Timothy, Orchard Grass, Alfalfa Hay, Brome Hay, Botanical Hay and Oat Hay.

Make sure you have these supplies for your hamster:

● Cage designed for hamsters

● Hide house such as Oxbow’s Timothy Club bungalow or tunnel

● Exercise wheel

● Oxbow’s Eco-Straw or other litter or bedding

● Water bottle

● Heavy food bowl

● Oxbow’s Healthy Handfuls or other fortified food

● Nesting material

Nutrition

It’s important to feed your pet correctly to keep him from getting fat and unhealthy. Hamsters are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal material. Your hamster requires a simple diet of kibble or block food, plus clean water. Fresh water always should be available in a sipper bottle. A complete fortified kibble or block form of feed is better than mixes, because they prevent your pet from picking out favorite pieces and leaving healthy pieces behind. The best kibble and block contain all-natural grass and whole grain ingredients, with a shape ideal for nibbling to promote healthy teeth. Kibble and block feeds do not get lodged in cheek pouches like seeds, nuts and dried fruit can. Oxbow makes Healthy Handfuls especially for hamsters.

Treats and Veggies

Treats are a great way to bond with your hamster. You love giving treats and he loves eating them! However, the main purpose of a treat should be to encourage interaction between you and your pet. Offering too many treats can lead to obesity and rob animals of nutrition. Offer only very small amounts and pay attention to the treat size—large pieces are much harder to pouch and un-pouch. Contrary to popular belief, your hamster does not need a steady supply of carrots, honey sticks or fruit. Sunflower seeds in particular are high in fat. Offer healthy treats only after your pet eats basic foods. Hamsters may have vegetables and fruits, but these should be considered treats and not a staple in your pet’s diet. Be sure to give only very small amounts. As with any new food, introduce new vegetables slowly to avoid upsetting your hamster’s stomach and causing diarrhea.

Last but certainly not least: When selecting your pet, make sure to ask if the hamster is male or female. They reproduce quickly!
Content courtesy of oxbowanimalhealth.com

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