Hamster Care Guide
Hamsters Are Solitary
Unfortunately, many pet websites state that hamsters can be kept in pairs or small groups as pets. However, this is not true.
Even though hamsters live in colonies in the wild, these are loose colonies where hamsters interact primarily to mate or fight over territory.
When kept in captivity, hamsters (including dwarf breeds) should be kept alone. Hamsters that are kept in the same enclosure are likely to fight and injure one another.
The first step in providing an excellent life for your hamster is choosing the right enclosure. Hamsters need more space than you might expect. They enjoy running around and exploring their environment at night, so having enough room is essential.
A dwarf hamster should have a minimum enclosure with at least 600 square inches of floor space. A Syrian should have at least 775 square inches of space.
Additionally, hamsters need an enclosure that’s deep enough for digging and burrowing. Their enclosure should be at least 12 inches deep.
If you use a wire cage, make sure the bottom tray is at least 5-6 inches deep for digging and burrowing.
Not all hamsters are created equally! In fact, there are five hamster species commonly kept as pets. Any hamster you see in a pet shop belongs to one of these species. It’s important to know what kind of hamster you’re adopting because they have different needs.
Syrian (or “teddy bear”) hamsters are much larger than other hamsters. They require more space as well as a larger wheel and often more food, too.
Dwarf hamsters, on the other hand, are tiny and fragile, and they require housing that doesn’t allow them to escape. We recommend a tank enclosure or a cage with closely spaced bars (no more than 1/4 inches apart).
Food and Water
Hamsters need 24-hour access to fresh food and water. The best way to do this is with a small bowl of water or a water bottle, as well as scattered food .
In the wild, hamsters eat a mix of grasses, seeds, grains, and insects. Although they’re often mistaken as herbivores, hamsters are actually omnivores, and many hamsters enjoy mealworms and even some unseasoned chicken.
Because hamsters are omnivores, protein is a very important factor in a hamster food mix. Look for a food mix that has 15% to 20% guaranteed protein content.
Some hamster owners prefer to use only a high-quality seed mix rather than a combination of seed mix and pellets. If you go this route, try to ensure that your hamster is eating all of the different parts of the mix before you give them more.
Hides and Tunnels
Hamsters need several different hideouts, tunnels (not plastic tubes), and nest boxes.
These can be as simple as a toilet paper roll, a small flower pot, or a coffee mug. These hiding spots help a hamster feel safe and stay warm and snug when they’re sleeping.
Chews and Toys
Like other rodents, hamsters’ teeth grow continuously throughout their life. That’s why it’s so important to provide chew toys, such as apple wood sticks or untreated wood blocks.
You can also provide Timothy hay as a nesting material, snack, and chewing activity that can help keep your hamster’s teeth trim.
Providing enough toys in different shapes, textures, and sizes keeps your hamster mentally stimulated and busy.
Hamsters need a wheel in their cage or tank to help them stay active. Not all hamsters enjoy running on a wheel, but it’s important to provide one to give your hamster the option.
When choosing a hamster wheel, look for one that is solid and stable, especially if it’s a standing wheel rather than one that attaches to the bars of the cage.
The hamster wheel should be made of wood or plastic, rather than metal bars or mesh. Metal bars and mesh wheels are hard on a hamster’s feet, and they can even cause injury to your hamster.
It’s also important to make sure the wheel is large enough for your hamster to run on it without their back bending.
A hamster shouldn’t spend all of its time inside its cage or tank unless they dislike coming out. It’s important to let your hamster explore new areas while helping them feel safe.
Once you’ve bonded with your hamster and it feels safe being held, you can set up a playpen that you can sit in with your hamster.
You can purchase a small pet playpen or make one yourself out of cardboard boxes. The idea is to block off an area of space where your hamster can run around, explore some new items, and interact with you more closely.
Do not put your hamster in a hamster ball. These are dangerous and stressful to hamsters and all small pets.
Hamsters are clean creatures and don’t need bathing by their owners. However, if you notice your hamster looking ruffled or dirty, they might enjoy bathing themselves in a sand bath.
Not every hamster likes taking sand baths, but it’s a good idea to offer it anyway. Many hamsters simply enjoy digging around in a jar or box full of sand.
Choose sand that is dust-free and safe for small animals. Don’t use chinchilla “dust,” since this is too fine for a hamster’s coat and can even cause respiratory distress.
Make sure to change the sand in your hamster’s sand bath regularly, especially if they decide to use it as a bathroom.
For dwarf hamsters, a popular choice is to cover 1/3 of the enclosure with a substrate of sand. This gives your hamster plenty of space to dig and groom themselves in the sand.
Pet Hamsters Are Nocturnal
While wild hamsters are crepuscular, pet hamsters are often fully nocturnal, which means they’re active at night and sleep all day.
It’s important to provide a quiet enough space for your hamster to get rest during the day. Try to interact with and hold your hamster in the evening or after the sun goes down, rather than waking them up when they’re trying to rest.