Cute and Cuddly. If that’s what you’re looking for in a pet, consider a hamster.
A pocket-sized pet, the hamster makes a perfect choice for a new animal companion.
If you’re not familiar with this type of pet, take a minute and read up on them. We’ve put together a hamster care guide with the new owner in mind.
Learn everything you should know before you bring home Hammie.
A Hamster by Any Other Name
First, make sure you’re bringing home a hamster. Hamsters are sometimes confused with gerbils. While they both belong to the rodent family, they’re not interchangeable.
For example, hamsters have shorter tails than gerbils. A hamster’s face is round and fat, while a gerbil’s face is similar to the face of a mouse.
Gerbils have bigger feet and stronger legs. They hop around more than hamsters. Hamsters, like gerbils, can stand on their hind legs, but their legs aren’t as powerful.
When you look for a hamster at pet stores, you may find different species. Three common hamster species offered most often in pet stores are:
- Syrian Hamsters
- Dwarf Hamsters
- Chinese Hamsters
Before you buy your new pet, make sure you understand the differences between each species. One may enjoy the company of other hamsters. Another might prefer living alone.
Welcoming Your New Hamster
If you’ve had a cat or dog, you know it takes time for them to get used to their new environment. It’s the same with hamsters.
New experiences can cause stress for your new hamster.
Make the transition easier by having a cage, accessories, and food set up before bringing the hamster home. Provide privacy by covering the cage with a cloth for the first few days. That lets her get acclimated to her new home without distractions.
Also, as much you want to cuddle, avoid handling your hamster for a few days. It’s also better if you don’t invite visitors over to peer into the cage. Once she’s adjusted to you and her new home, then you can introduce friends and family.
The Hamster House
It turns out hamsters and their humans have something in common. Like humans, hamsters like a house with room for living.
Hamsters create areas for eating, sleeping, and, well, using the bathroom.
The habitat you set up for your hamster depends on what type you choose. The larger Syrian hamster like a wire hamster cage. Wire provides excellent ventilation—important not only for odor control but for health.
A dwarf hamster needs a cage where they can’t escape. A wire cage doesn’t work well for them.
Hamsters don’t like extreme temperatures. Keep their environment between 65-75 degrees. This means placing the habitat away from heat sources such as direct sunlight or the stove.
Be careful about cold temperatures too! Don’t keep your hamster in an unheated room like the garage or basement. Avoid breezy conditions.
Finally, give your hamster a bed. They love burrowing, so add small animal bedding to the cage. If you’re not sure what makes the best bedding, check with a vet or a small animal specialist at your local pet store.
The Hamster Wheel
Every hamster needs a wheel! Hamsters come with an instinctive desire for running. Adding a wheel to the habitat gives your pet plenty of exercise.
Ladders and tubes also let hamsters run and burrow. Consider buying a clear exercise ball. That way you can take the hamster outside the habitat when it’s exercise time.
Just like dogs and cats, you’ll find a wide range of fun toys you can give your hamster for playtime.
Grocery Shopping for Your Hamster
While you won’t find specific brands in this hamster care guide, ensuring proper nutrition is part of your job as a hamster parent. With a few exceptions, hamsters don’t eat people food.
Hamsters eat pellets and seed mixes. They need a balanced mix that includes nutrients for heart, brain, and eye health.
If you’d like to share your food, offers small amounts of greens. You can share an apple. No skin or seeds!
Top off meals with water from a bottle hung in the cage and you’re set!
Do Hamsters Take Baths?
These adorable tiny pets generally don’t need baths.
Hamsters produce natural oils. The oils keep their coats in excellent condition. They also self-groom eliminating a need for water baths.
The only time you should bathe a hamster is if something gets stuck in the fur coat.
Before you use water, try sand first. Yes, sand! When your hamster rolls in the sand, any dirt should fall off.
Should your hamster need a more intense cleaning, use a drop of unscented pet shampoo in water. Dip a cloth in and use for cleaning the hamster’s coat. Never dunk or dip a hamster in water—they chill easily.
Have you ever wondered why hamsters often have wood chips or hay in their habitats?
Their teeth never stop growing! Providing wood chips gives them something to gnaw on and gnawing prevents their teeth from growing too long.
Your New Best Friend
Hamsters make wonderful cuddly pets. They enjoy spending time with their human. Give your hamster time for adjusting to the new home and then begin the bonding process.
Take the hamster out of the cage and provide plenty of petting time. This helps create a bond. Giving treats also gives you opportunities for bonding.
Remember, hamsters are tiny things and may feel threatened by you. Don’t grab your hamster! Be gentle and use your quiet inside voice when talking to her.
Did You Enjoy the Hamster Care Guide?
Congratulations on choosing an amazing and cuddly pocket pet to join your family. Hopefully, this hamster care guide helps you and your hamster begin a successful life together.
If you care for your new pet properly and give them lots of love, you’ll have a friend who fits in your hand and your heart.
For more articles on hamsters and other great pets, visit our archives.