The Right Pet for You?
Hamsters are lively, clean, interesting to look at and happy to live alone. They can take time to become tame and need to have peace and quiet during the day because they are nocturnal.
What do Hamsters need?
- To live alone.
- Daily feeding on a mixed diet of seeds, grains, nuts and washed fruit and vegetables.
- A constant supply of fresh, clean drinking water in a drip-feed bottle with a metal spout.
- A large home that is kept in a warm place indoors, out of direct sunlight.
- A nest box inside their home. The hamster needs somewhere it can burrow out of sight to sleep and hoard food.
- A clean layer of peat or sawdust on the floor of their home with soft hay and clean white kitchen paper for bedding. Do not use newspaper or cotton wool.
- Plenty of exercise. A solid exercise wheel (no open rungs) should be fixed to the wall of the hamster's home.
- Toys to play with, like cardboard tubes and wooden cotton reels.
- Their home to be tidied every day and thoroughly cleaned every week.
- A hardwood gnawing block to wear down long teeth.
- To be brushed every day, especially if they have long hair.
- Lots of quiet time during the day.
- To be taken to a vet if they are ill or injured.
- To be looked after when you are away on holiday.
Hamsters live for up to two years.
In the wild, hamsters make underground homes and have strong nest building instincts. They are nocturnal, which means they are active at night and should be left alone and quiet during the day. If the temperature becomes too cold, they may go into a deep sleep called hibernation. When two or more hamsters are put together they usually fight, so it is best to keep just one hamster.
Pick up a hamster very gently using both hands as a scoop and stay close to the ground or over a flat surface. Hamsters move very quickly and are likely to jump or fall if they are frightened.
The DSPCA strongly advises that you do not breed from your gerbils as it is very difficult to find good homes for the young. The best way to ensure that gerbils do not breed is simply to keep males and females apart. A female gerbil has an average of five to seven litters during her life, with up to eight young in each litter.
If your hamster develops skin sores, bathe them with warm water containing a mild antiseptic. If they persist, seek veterinary advice. Loss of fur and sore skin could also indicate parasites or the fungal disease ringworm. Sore eyes can be caused by dusty bedding, old age or breathing problems. Ask your vet for advice. If your hamster becomes too cold and goes into hibernation it can be revived by warming gently in cupped hands or raising the temperature of the room. Hamsters may suffer from overgrown teeth and claws. Both can be trimmed by a vet if necessary. The lining of a hamster's cheek pouches is very delicate and can be damaged by wood splinters or sharp food. If any material becomes lodged in the pouches, seek veterinary advice straight away.
If a hamster is sneezing, breathing slowly and has a sore nose, it may have an infection that could develop into pneumonia. Keep the hamster warm and improve its diet, but seek veterinary advice if symptoms continue. Wet tail is a potentially fatal disease that is highly infectious. If a hamster is tired, loses its appetite and has watery diarrhoea, seek veterinary advice straight away.
Remember - a pet needs your time and interest for the rest of its life.