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San Diego Humane Society

Hamster Care

BACKGROUND

LENGTH: Syrian hamsters, 6 inches; dwarf hamsters, 2-3 inches
LIFESPAN: 1 ½ to 2 years
FUN FACT: Watch your hamster stuff his face and then empty out his pouch for late-night snacking.

Please check out Weecompanions.org small animal rescue for more information and resources on hamsters.

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 FOOD

  • High-quality rodent chow (rat blocks) should be available to your pet at all times. Supplement this with hamster mix, made up of pellets, grains, seeds and dried veggies.
  • Fresh, clean water should be available 24/7. A water bottle with a drinking tube that attaches to the cage is the best way to go.
  • Offer small, bite-sized bits of fresh veggies and fruits such as spinach, lettuce, carrots, apples, daily. Avoid: chocolate, candy, junk food, onions, uncooked beans
  • Your hamster may enjoy bits of sugarless cereals and whole wheat bread as a treat.

HOUSING & ENVIRONMENT

  • Syrian hamsters, also known as golden or teddy bear hamsters, MUST be kept alone. Dwarf species like to live in pairs. Do not house male and female dwarf hamsters together, as hamsters breed quickly. 
  • In the wild hamsters run up to 5 miles a night, so it's important for your hamster to have a large enclosure.
  • Your pet needs a cave for sleeping, such as a flowerpot or box.
  • Set up the cage indoors, away from drafts, direct sunlight and pets such as dogs and cats.
  • Line cage with at least 6 inches of bedding. Don’t use cedar or pine chips, as the fumes can be harmful. Provide paper towels or tissue for nesting.
  • Keep your Syrian hamster in a solid-bottom wire cage or aquarium with a wire mesh top. Try to get the biggest cage you can afford—your pet will appreciate the extra space. Dwarf hamsters can be kept in a cage made for mice.

BEHAVIOR & HANDLING

  • Hamsters are nocturnal by nature, so it’s normal for them to play and eat at night. They tend to nip if awakened during the day, so take care not to bother your pet while he’s sleeping.
  • Once your hamster is hand-tamed, allow him outside of the cage for a supervised period of time every day. Keep him in one room or screened off area that’s been secured so he can’t escape. Hamsters don’t have good eyesight, so take care that he doesn’t fall or otherwise hurt himself. And remove all electrical cords from the area, please!

EXERCISE & TOYS

  • Hamsters are big on exercise, so make sure yours has a wheel for running. Your pet will love tunneling through tubes, which can be homemade (empty cardboard tubes from paper towels and toilet paper).
  • Give your hamster appropriate chew toys to help wear down his teeth, which grow continuously. Recommended: unpainted, untreated wood or twig, hard dog biscuits.
  • Hamsters are burrowing animals. They should have a minimum of 6 inches of bedding (8-12 is best). 

CLEANING

  • Remove soiled bedding, droppings and stale/uneaten food daily. Clean and refill the water bottle every day.
  • Change out 50% of bedding every couple weeks and scrub the cage with warm, soapy water as needed.

SIGNS OF ILLNESS

  • Bring your hamster to the veterinarian annually for check-ups. Don’t wait if you think your pet is sick—seek help immediately. Common signs that something isn’t right include dull-looking eyes, overgrown teeth, matted fur, weight loss, shaking, runny nose and diarrhea.

HAMSTER SUPPLY CHECKLIST

  • Solid-bottom wire cage or aquarium with mesh top or hamster cage
  • Rat blocks and hamster mix
  • Timothy hay, aspen shavings or pelleted bedding
  • Small boxes or flower pots
  • Exercise wheel (appropriately sized - dwarf hamsters 8–10-inch wheel / Syrian hamsters 10–12-inch wheel)
  • Cardboard tubes (paper towel and toilet paper rolls)
  • Attachable water bottle with drinking tube
  • Unpainted, untreated wood or twig or safe chew toys

 

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