Pet hamsters are known by many names, including dwarf hamsters, teddy bear hamsters and golden hamsters. The hamster species available today are usually one of five species: the Syrian hamster, the Roborovski dwarf hamster, the Campbell’s dwarf hamster, the Winter White dwarf hamsterand the Chinese dwarf hamster. The Roborovski, Campbell’s and Winter White are known as Russian dwarf hamsters. The Syrian hamster is the largest species and sometimes referred to as a golden hamster. A longhaired Syrian hamster is sometimes called a teddy bear. Syrian hamsters are solitary and must have their own habitat. The dwarf hamsters can live together in same-species groups if introduced at a young age.
The pet hamster species originated in arid areas that include Syria, Russia, China and Mongolia. The Syrian hamster was the first to arrive in the United States in the late 1930s and gained popularity as a pet in the 1950s. Since that time, many people have fallen under the spell of these furry busybodies.
Hamsters have been immortalized in children’s books, television shows, video games and movies (who could forget Rhino the hamster from the movie Bolt?). Hamsters even inspired the famously addictive Hamster Dance and, since 1996, a hamster for president campaign. And the recent Zhu Zhu pet toys are a phenomenon. Pet hamsters are here to stay.
Once a hamster is added to the family, hamster owners soon realize that learning all about hamsters and becoming familiar with hamster facts helps in caring for hamsters. So be sure to check out all the hamster information on SmallAnimalChannel.
How to hand-tame hamsters, hamster weight concerns, determining hamster gender, traveling with hamsters and normal hamster behavior are just some of the hamster information topics you can read about in our hamster experts section.
Caring for a hamster can be confusing if you don’t understand hamster behavior. If you’ve got a behavior question about hamsters, then you’ve come to the right place. Martha Boden, our SmallAnimalChannel hamster expert, has a wealth of hamster experience and can answer most hamster behavior questions. If you’ve got a non-behavior question about hamsters, she’ll try to answer that, too, as long as it’s not a medical question.
Boden is CEO of the SPCA Tampa Bay and a previous CEO of the Humane Society of Indianapolis. She founded and ran a hamster rehabilitation organization from 1999 to 2007. See her author bio for more information.
Hamsters are crepuscular, being most active at dawn and dusk, but their schedule can be modified a few hours either way if lighting conditions are right and food is offered at set times. A good rule of thumb is never to wake a sleeping hamster, because that usually causes a grumpy hamster.
Although patience and proper training can get a hamster to perform simple tricks like begging for a treat or running an obstacle course, hamsters are mostly a pet to enjoy watching. When awake, hamsters always seem to be busy doing something, be it tunneling through bedding, rearranging bedding, running in an exercise wheel, sniffing and just ambling or running around their habitat. Even the way hamsters eat can be fascinating.
Hamsters are prey animals, so owners usually must work to gain their trust. Hamsters also seem to be masters at hiding and escaping, so keep them in a secure habitat and take care whenever you let them out to play.
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Hamster Cages and Housing
Hamster cages, hamster tanks, hamster habitats – many options are available for housing hamsters. The ideal hamster cage is safe and kept clean, and once those qualities are met, choosing which hamster cage or habitat is best for you and your hamster is often determined by available space and budget.
A safe hamster cage prevents escapes and injuries. Hamster owners play a vital role in their hamster’s health with proper hamster housing maintenance. Different types of hamster cages and housing require varying degrees of difficulty to clean. If lifting a heavy, glass aquarium once or twice a week for cleaning isn’t your thing, then avoid that type of hamster housing. Hey, no one said caring for hamsters came without a bit of work!
Once the type of hamster housing is chosen, it’s time to outfit your hamster’s abode with bedding, toys, water bottles, an exercise wheel and other fun hamster home accessories. The choice of hamster beddingis important, because hamsters enjoy digging and burrowing in it.
Where you place your hamster’s cage is also important. You don’t want it in a room that gets too hot or too cold, and it shouldn’t be in direct sunlight or a breezy area. And always keep in mind that a hamster’s cage is its refuge. It should be a place of safety that’s secure from other pets or unexpected visitors.
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Besides a hamster being lost, nothing strikes fear into the heart of a hamster owner more than hamster health problems. Hamsters are so small, that it seems impossible for a sick hamster to overcome its illness.
But veterinary medicine has come a long way, and more and more people are taking a sick hamster to the veterinarian if the hamster falls ill with a hamster disease or gets injured. The Hamster Health Center is all about hamsters and possible hamster illnesses. Need to know the signs your hamster is sick? We’ve got that covered. Need to find a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about treating sick hamsters? We have that hamster information, too.
The best way to treat a sick hamster, of course, is to take preventive action to avoid hamster illness or injury. Feeding the proper food and providing safe, clean housing are two major steps to keeping hamsters healthy. Hamster cheek pouch care and hamster digestive care are two more. Knowing all about hamsters is a huge part of caring for hamsters.
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Although hamsters are pet rodents, they often can’t eat the same food as other pet rodents. Hamster nutrition needs might be similar to gerbil nutrition needs, but don’t ever feed a hamster food that’s made for a rat, chinchilla or other pet rodent. Hamsters need to eat hamster food.
The basic hamster diet in the wild includes seeds, fruits, greens an occasional insect or other form of protein. Many pet owners offer their pet hamster a seed-based hamster food or a lab block type of hamster food, which keeps the hamster’s constantly growing teeth worn down. Fruit should only be offered as an occasional treat and fresh greens should be in small quantities. Any fresh food offered should have leftovers removed that same day so they’re not stashed by the hamster and spoil.
Hamsters enjoy treats, but take care that a hamster doesn’t fill up on treats and eat only little or none of its hamster food.
Hamster owners can share some table foods with their hamster pets, but not everything that’s safe for people to eat is safe for hamsters.
Don’t forget the importance of water for hamsters. Water must be fresh, clean and always available.
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Part of the fun of caring for hamsters is interacting with them. Keep in mind though that most hamsters enjoy doing their own thing and don’t often like to be cuddled or held.
Learning how to interpret hamster body language is just some of the hamster information you need to know to interact with your pet. Knowing how to handle hamsters is another important step. There is a right and a wrong way to handle hamsters.
Introducing hamsters to people and other hamsters is also important information. Remember that Syrian hamsters must always have their own home; housing them with another hamster could lead to deadly hamster fights. Dwarf hamsters that are introduced at a young age might be able to share housing.
Your goal as a hamster owner is to learn all about hamsters to make both your life and your hamster’s better.
Click here for more information about hamster interaction with you and other pet hamsters.