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Hamster Facts- What You Need to Know About Hamsters as Pets

Updated on May 6, 2012

Whether you're wondering whether hamsters make good pets or you're already the proud owner of one, the following information should assist you in answering common hamster questions. I finally caved in and got two hamsters after years of being begged by my kids. I did some research before our hamster acquisition, but I'm not going to kid you... not enough!

We had rodents in the past, two rats (R.I.P. Stella and Domino) so I had some misconceptions that they were pretty similar to hamsters. My first mistake: we got two. We thought they would enjoy each others company. Well, if they were Dwarf Hamsters that would have been okay, but we got the classic Syrian Hamster variety (one golden banded and the other sable banded). Bottom line: they don't play well with others. They can be together when they're babies, but due to their territorial nature they need to live a solitary life as adults. So, we ended up going back to the pet store for yet another cage (and wheel).

Hamster Facts: What They Eat

Their natural diet is made up of seed, fruits and vegetables. Purchasing a food mix made for hamsters from your pet store is recommended. Giving your rodent fruit and vegetable treats everyday is also a good idea. Stay away from excessive lettuce, however. It can cause diarrhea in hamsters.

Are Hamster Wheels Necessary?

Some people claim hamsters don't need to have wheels, that they're merely a form of entertainment and not a must-have hamster accessory. Okay, I must beg to differ. According to many veterinarians and owner experiences, hamsters are BIG on exercise: it's a big form of entertainment for them, but more importantly it's healthy for them. Crazy fact: hamsters run approximately six miles every night! The incessant noise is proof, trust me. Without proper exercise a hamster can get what's called "cage paralysis". Even a large cage doesn't offer a hamster enough room for proper movement.

Getting a hamster ball is another great way to them to exercise. It also provides a nice change of scenery for them. Just don't allow them to be unattended in the ball, especially if you have stairs or other animals. And don't keep them in the ball for extended periods of time. Although they have ventilation holes, they aren't sufficient for long periods of time, especially on hot days.

Hamster Habitat
Hamster Habitat | Source

What Kind of Hamster Cage is Best?

In reality, the bigger the better. A ten gallon aquarium works nicely. There are many hamster habitats on the market as well, but bear in mind they can be a beast to clean.

Getting the old-fashioned bar cage is another good option. But, make sure it's big enough. Many are now two stories and will offer your hamster ample room to climb and move.

The hamster habitats that work as modulars are also a great choice. Again, cleaning is more of a commitment with these. Getting into all the plastic nooks and crannies isn't easy. It requires a full disassembly to properly wash it all out. The other disadvantage is the trouble one can have accessing the hamster in these habitats. There are limited doors to grab your pet.

Hamsters Enjoy a Change of Scenery

Allowing your hamster time outside of his or her cage is recommended. Using a large plastic storage bin for the purpose works nicely. A ball is another great option. Supervised free-roam playtime is also an option provided you've taken measure to ensure his or her safety. Hamster chew... and they chew on anything. Make sure there are no power cords are within his or her reach.

Keep the hamster confined to one room and keep an eagle eye on that little rodent! They are quick, sneaky and can vanish before your very eyes. They love hiding in couches and beds, so make sure all family members are aware your pet is on the loose and very careful where they tread.

A small bathroom is a good place for a hamster to explore. It's easier to keep track of him or her in rooms with limited hiding places. You can even put them in your tub (no water, please) for a confined romp.

Do Hamsters Need Tunnels/Tubes in their Cages?

Using hamster tunnels is a great way to extend the square footage of your cage. They love to have places to hide, so tunnels make them feel secure. I would stay away from the tubes that have too many tight turns, however. Ours got stuck (we literally had to manually extract them) from some tubes that had some very sharp turns. We ended up taking off those pieces and all has been well since.

If you don't get the tunnels, then make sure you have some sort of hamster igloo or house for them to hide and sleep.

Bear in mind, you can make your own tunnels and tubes out of paper towel or toilet paper rolls.

Silent Spinner Wheel Is a Lifesaver at Night

Hamsters As Pets: Who Should Not Be a Hamster Owner

  • Children under 12 years of age. Hamsters are small and fragile, excited children can inadvertently injure them.
  • People who aren't prepared for the nocturnal antics of rodents. As I mentioned, hamsters run... ALL NIGHT LONG in many cases. And, the wheels can be noisy, especially if you have one with enclosed sides and a hamster who stores his or her food in it! It's noisy, trust me.
  • People who think a pet should never bite. Hamsters bite when they're scared. And it can hurt, they have very sharp little teeth. Handling them can help them get used to you and reduce the biting, but pick your times! They are nocturnal, so when they're sleeping during the day, leave them alone. Giving your hamster treats will also help them associate a hand with good things.
  • People who aren't prepared to properly clean their cages. You need to clean their cages once per week, thoroughly.

How Long Do Hamsters Live?

The average lifespan of a hamster is between two and three years. The common Syrian lives about three years, but smaller varieties live more like two years.

Giving your hamster a healthy diet, providing proper exercise and stimulation will increase the chances your pet will live longer.


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  • precy anza profile image

    precy anza 4 years ago from USA

    Thanks for the hamster habitat review, I'm learning a lot from your hamster hub. Voted up and shared!