ers are little nocturnal rodents with large cheek pouches and short tails. They come in a variety of colors. The Syrian hamsters are generally gentler than the dwarf hamsters. Their average lifespan is 2-3 years.
Cage – Hamsters should have a minimum of two square feet of floor space. The enclosure can be made of wire, steel, durable plastic, or glass with at least one side open for ventilation. The floor of the enclosure must be solid as wire mesh bottoms can irritate the feet. If a wire cage is used, the spacing between wires should be less than ½ an inch apart to prevent escape.
Bedding – Bedding should be deep enough for the hamster to burrow. Bedding material should be clean, absorbent, non-toxic, and mostly dust-free. We recommend paper pulp products (Carefresh or Yesterday’s News) or shredded paper. Wood chips and shavings (especially cedar and pine) are NOT recommended as they can cause respiratory and liver disease.
Hide box – A hiding area should be provided. They can be commercially made hide boxes, otherwise, cardboard boxes or paper towel/toilet paper rolls can be used.
Wheel – Hamsters are prone to obesity and should be provided with the opportunity for exercise. A solid floor plastic wheel is recommended as wire wheels can lead to foot sores.
Temperature – The optimal temperature for hamsters is between 65-75°F.
Cagemates – Syrian hamsters should only be housed individually as they will fight. Dwarf hamsters may be housed together in same-sex pairs, but fighting is still a potential hazard.
Hamster food/Rodent blocks – Pellets or blocks can be offered free choice. Oxbow makes a high-quality hamster diet. Seeds are not recommended as part of the normal diet as they are high in fat and hamsters will preferentially eat seed if offered a seed/pellet mixture.
Treats – Small amounts of seed/treat sticks, vegetables, fruits, or unsweetened cereal can be offered occasionally.
Water – Clean water should be provided in sipper bottles or a spill-proof bowl. Water should be changed daily.
Cleaning – Bowls and water bottles should be cleaned every few days in the dishwasher or with a dilute bleach solution (1:30 bleach to water ratio) soak.
Syrian hamsters that are handled frequently can be very docile and seldom bite. Dwarf hamsters are more prone to biting even with frequent handling. Always use two hands and be gentle. Avoid sudden movements, loud noise, and excitement. If children are handling the hamster, have them sit on the floor and hold it in their laps. Only allow them to handle the pet with adult supervision.
We recommend a complete physical exam and fecal by an exotic animal veterinarian for all newly acquire pet hamsters. Thereafter, we recommend bi-annual exams and yearly fecal exams.
COMMON MEDICAL PROBLEMS
Obesity – Hamsters can be prone to obesity and should have access to an exercise wheel as well as an exercise ball to increase their activity.
Wet Tail – Severe diarrhea resulting from a bacterial infection is called wet tail in hamsters. This is most commonly seen in young hamsters but can affect hamsters of any age. This is a very serious condition that can result in death within days after the onset of diarrhea. Other clinical signs include matting of the fur around the tail, an unkempt hair coat, a hunched stance, and loss of appetite.
Dental Malocclusion – Hamsters have constantly growing teeth. In some hamsters, their front teeth (incisors) do not meet up properly and can result in abnormal growth of the teeth that can stop them from eating properly. This condition requires frequent teeth trims.
Lice and Mites – Skin parasites are common in new pets. Symptoms include itching, red skin, hair loss, and irritability.