Agreeing to a hamster
At the weekend, my daughter Lyndsey was 11 years old. She received some lovely gifts as well as some money from her relatives. Most of the weekend was spent begging her step-dad and I to let her buy a hamster. I sat down and worked out a list of pros and cons of allowing her to keep a hamster, and eventually gave in and took her to the pet shop yesterday to choose a furry friend. Before I could say "are you sure about this Lyndsey?", she had chosen a rather lovely female Chinese Hamster, a pink girly cage and a trolley full of accessories for the cute little critter.
While the assistant packaged newly named "Tinkerbelle" into a carry box, Lyndsey proceeded to the check-out, proudly announcing that she was now a mum!
Chinese hamsters are much smaller than the traditional Syrian Hamsters which are the more popular choice of pet. Originating from China and Mongolia, they are very distinctly marked with a black stripe down their back and a white underside. They look like a small mouse, but without the long tail. Adults grow to around 7-9cm in length. Although they are small in size, they are not of the dwarf variety, but often mistakenly referred to as dwarf hamsters. They are easy to handle, but are very quick and can get into the smallest of spaces. Male Chinese Hamsters can be kept in pairs; although it is not advisable to keep females in pairs as they can become aggressive with each other.
Housing a Chinese Hamster
An aquarium style house is more suitable to this type of hamster, as they can escape through the bars of a traditional cage type hamster house. They will need a little house or box with bedding to sleep in and some hamster safe shavings or shreddings to run around in. Some pet stores offer a hamster starter pack as part of the deal when you buy the house.
Feeding guide for Chinese Hamsters
Hamster specific mixes are available to buy at pet shops and their diet can be supplemented by some fresh fruit and vegetables in very small quantities, as too much can result in diarrhea.
Suitable fruit and vegetables:
Strawberries, apple (no seeds), papaya, cantaloupe, banana, melon, pear, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, celery, carrots, corn, peas, squash.
Chinese Hamsters are prone to diabetes, therefore, their diet should be monitored very carefully.
Always replace the feeding bottle with a fresh supply of water each day.
Chinese hamsters are semi-nocturnal animals, but will come out for an hour or two in the day. To keep your pet happy, you should invest in a few "toys" to avoid them becoming bored. These are a few ideas to keep them contented:
Small teddy/bed buddy (especially if they are kept on their own)
Log or tunnel with holes in (they love to hide and explore)
Wheel (for exercise)
Wooden hamster sticks (to gnaw on, as their teeth grow constantly)
Mineral stone (will maintain health and provide essential minerals)
Ladders, blocks, etc will all add to the quality of your hamster's life.
Playtime for your furry friend is just as important as its diet. Letting your hamster run around gives them a change of surroundings and gives you the opportunity to play with and handle them. My daughter takes Tinkerbelle out of her cage once a day for an hour or so and puts her in a hamster play pen with a selection of toys. Chinese hamsters love to play, and once tame they like to be handled and cling on with their tiny paws.
Their life expectancy is around 2-3 years. Once they are tame, they love to be handled and very rarely nip. Chinese hamsters make wonderful pets, but as they are very fast, they are not recommended for younger children.