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Black Bear Hamsters: Everything You Need To Know To Raise Them Well
The black bear hamster is also known as European Black Bear and Black Syrian hamster. Black bear hamsters are a type of Syrian hamster. The hamster world has yet to fully recognized black bear hamster as a true breed.
There is a debate whether it is a separate subtype of the Syrian hamster breed or just an offshoot of the teddy bear subtype of the Syrian breed.Some consider this as a color variation of long-haired Syrian hamsters.
This hamster type was initially bred for the characteristic markings on its black fur. It is a popular breed as pets because of its gentle temperament.
Black bear hamsters are reported to be more tolerant of handling. They also seem to handle stressful conditions better than other hamster species.
They are also less inclined to bite or attack. They are generally more docile, making them good choices as pets. Children and beginners in taking care of hamsters will find this type easy to take care of.
They are not as energetic as other breeds, though. They seem more relaxed and not actively run around much like other hamster breeds.
Black bear hamsters need more exercise than other hamster species. They are more relaxed and are more prone to become obese.
To keep black bears healthy, place an exercise wheel in the cage. The spaces in between the wires of the wheel should not be too narrow. The long hair of the hamster might get caught in it and cause damage and injury.
Taking the hamster out of its cage is also a good way to promote exercise. Allow the hamster to run freely in a hamster-safe space. Placing him inside a plastic exercise ball may also help promote exercise.
Their larger size makes it possible for them to wear a leash and a harness. This can help when black bear hamsters spend a longer time outside their cages.
These hamsters are nocturnal, like other hamster breeds. That means they are more active at night and tend to sleep or be less active during the day. At night, these hamsters would eat, run around and burrow.
To keep the hamsters from interrupting humans at night, do not place their cages near the beds. The squeaky wheel and the constant motion of the hamster at night might disrupt humans who are sleeping.
The front upper teeth of black bear hamsters continually grow throughout their lifetime. Therefore, these hamsters need to gnaw at something regularly to wear their teeth down.
Black Bear Hamster Appearance
The fur of a black bear hamster is thick and slightly glossy.The color of the coat ranges from creamy dark brown to black.
Black bear hamster coats are either long-haired coats, satin or rex. Satin coats are shiny, with hollow hairs that reflect light better. However, the satin effect isn't as pronounced in black coats as compared to the effect on lighter colored coats. Rex means the hair is curly or wavy. The whiskers are also curly in rex coats.
Their black fur covers their entire body. At the belly area, the fur has some white markings, as well as on the face and paws. A patch of white fur may be found over the chest area, looking like a stripe. At times, this white stripe may extend all the way down to the genital area.
Black bears do not have a dorsal stripe.
The eyes and the ears are also black. The paws are pink-colored, which makes the hamster look as if it is wearing gloves.
The nose area hasusually little hair. Because of sparse hair, the nose area looks pinkish from the pink skin shows through.The tail is typically whitish pink, also due to little fur covering.
Black bears typically grow up to 5-6 inches long. Their adult size depends on how well they are taken care of and on their genetics. Some may only grow to the standard Syrian breed size of 3-4 inches.
Feeding Black Bear Hamsters
Proper nutrition, right food, and proper schedule help keep black bear hamsters healthy and happy.
Giving the Right Food: Black bear hamsters eat a variety of foods. They can eat different kinds of grains, seeds, and grasses. They can also various kinds of vegetables. They may also eat worms, insects, and fruits.
Pre-packaged seed mix can be given. Just make sure to give the hamster fresh vegetables and some fruit regularly for a more balanced diet. A few stalks of celery, broccoli and some bell peppers are enjoyable foods for these cute creatures.
Always check the cage for any food hiding places. Clean the cage every day to remove any food stored by the hamster.
Tip: Hamsters tend to hoard food. They fill their mouths with food and temporarily store it in their cheeks. They will bring the food to a hiding place and store it there for later consumption. However, stored food in the cage can attract flies, worms, and insects. Molds may also grow on the hamster's food store. All these may increase the risk for health problems.
To discourage hoarding, give food in small quantities several times a day instead of a large amount at a single time.
Proper Nutrition: You shouldn't just give food to your pet without checking if it provides essential nutrients. Hamsters need the following nutritional values each day:
- Proteins: 17 to 22% of their calorie intake
- Fats: 4 to 6 %
Vitamins and minerals from the fruits, vegetables and assortment of foods are welcome as well.
A few hamster experts believe that pre-mixed hamster food is low in proteins. If you feed this to your pet, supplement protein intake by giving mealworms, cat food, cheese, or hard-boiled eggs. Adding small bits of scrambled eggs or cooked chicken will also help ensure proper protein intake.
Tip: To keep hamsters healthy, avoid giving them food that can harm them. Avoid seeds that have husks. The husks are sharp and can hurt the delicate lining of the hamster's cheek pouch.
Foods that contain high moisture contents are also discouraged. Examples are lettuce and cucumbers. Some owners make the mistake of giving these to their pets, thinking the crunch and the moisture will be good for their hamsters. These foods have a laxative effect on hamsters. That means these foods promote defecation, at times, diarrhea.
Fresh Drinking Water: Make sure that the hamster has fresh water supply. Replace water in the water bottle every day.
Placing a sipper in the cage is one good way for the hamster to always have access to fresh water. Sippers keep water from getting contaminated by food or bedding.
Water in a bowl can quickly get dirty from dust, bedding, food, etc. The hamster can easily run into and out of the bowl, bringing dirt, shavings, food, and others into his water supply. Dust and insects can also easily get into the water if it is in a small bowl.
You can use plastic or glass water bottles. Glass is better because it is least likely to be contaminated with harmful chemicals such as BPA. If plastic is preferred, choose a hamster-safe plastic sipper.
Regularly clean the sipper. Use a bottlebrush to clean the inside. This is important to remove any precipitate or slimy stuff that may build up inside the sipper or water bottle. Harmful bacteria may find its way inside the water bottle. If you do not clean it well regularly, your hamster will get sick from drinking contaminated water.
In choosing the sipper or water bottle, check that it is hamster-approved.
Use filtered water, if possible. Tap water is also good but dechlorinate it before giving to the hamster. You can leave the water in an open container overnight for chlorine to evaporateeventually. Or, you may add de-chlorination tablets/liquid into the water and mix before giving.
Mineral or Salt Blocks: Some hamster enthusiasts recommend providing mineral or salt blocks. Some don't. These can serve as chew blocks for hamster. It may also help ensure that the creature gets enough minerals.
However, some experts maintain that salt and/mineral blocks are not necessary. Wood chew blocks are still better. Minerals and vitamins are best obtained from food rather than from these blocks.
Other Things You Need to Know When Taking Care of Black Bear Hamsters
Proper feeding and providing fresh water are not the only things an owner needs to do to take good care of a black bear hamster. There are a few other things that need proper attention.
Chewing: The upper front teeth of a black bear hamster continually grows, as previously mentioned. Always make sure that the hamster has proper chew items such as chew sticks. If not, the hamster will most likely start chewing the cage bars.
Chewing the hard steel bars would chip the hamster's teeth. This can lead to a host of problems such as dental decay.
Helpful items to safely promote chewing are wood form orchard trees (e.g., apple tree, cherry, plum or pear), dry whole wheat macaroni and dog biscuits. Check that wood is not from trees treated with pesticides. These can be toxic to the little creature.
Boredom: This is often a result of cramped living space and inadequate exercise. The hamster may constantly scratch at the glass or walls of the cage. He may also be observed running back and forth inside the cage following the same path. Promote activities to reduce boredom. An exercise wheel is a good choice. Putting a few chew toys will also help. Allowing the hamster to spend time outside the cage is also one way to prevent boredom.
Separating: Black bear hamsters may be docile and appear relaxed but these are very territorial. It is rare to find one that can live well with another. Place each hamster in his own cage.
Playing With Children: This type is generally docile and safe for children to play with. However, it is still best to supervise small children while they are playing with their pets. Also, teach children how to properly handle their pets. Any pet that gets hurt or threatened will likely fight back, no matter how tame they may be.
Here are a few fast facts that make these adorable hamsters even more amazing:
- The eyes of black bear hamsters are round and black. These are set one on each side of the face.
- The pink nose is at the end of the long snout, with long curly whiskers arising on each side of the face.
- The male hamster's neck is ringed by a long coat of fur that parts down the length of the back, fluffing out around the back of the body.
- The female black bear hamster's fur is also long and fluffy but shorter than the male's.
- The tails are stubby.
- The feet are small, with four toes on the front feet and 5 toes on the back feet. Each toe has a tiny nail.
- The skin over the hamster's cheeks is super stretchy. An amazing amount of food can be stuffed within the hamster's cheeks, which he carries to his secret food stash.
- The ears are round and large, standing straight up from the hamster's head.
- Males are referred to as "boars" while the females are the "sows". Babies are known as "pups".
- Females have been observed to kill their babies when they are terrified.
Tips to Choosing the Right Cage for a Bear Hamster
Black bear hamsters, like any other type of hamster, need adequate housing. A simple 4-cornered cage may seem enough for a hamster. However, to make your pet truly happy, you have to consider a few things. A larger home is good, so are good ventilation, proper temperature and safety. Adding a network of tunnels and tubes will be highly appreciated by your pet. Take this section to find out how to provide a good home for your beloved hamster.
This section will help you decide what type of cage is best suited for your pet as well as what size is best.
Types of Cages
Wire Cages: These are the most common type of cage for hamsters. These are readily available in any pet store. This type is also the most affordable.
The four sides and the top of the cage are made entirely of wire bars. The door is in one of the sides. This is typically small and made of wire. The bottom is a plastic tray. Sizes ranges from very small to something quite large.
Features to Check:
- Minimum Cage Size: The standard minimum size of a hamster cage should be 12 inches by 15 inches and 12 inches high (about 30 x 38 x 30 cm).
- For a quick estimate, look at the wire cage. If it is smaller than a 5-gallon fish tank, it's most probably too small.
- Spacing of Wire Bars: Two main factors must be considered when checking the spaces in between the wire bars. It should be small enough to keep the hamster from getting out yet large enough to keep the long hair from getting caught.
- The spaces should not be more than 1.3 cm (4/8 of an inch).
- Metal: The best metal to use for the wire cage is galvanized steel. This is resistant to rust and won't easily fall apart when the hamster gnaws on it.
- Steer clear of wire cages with plastic coatings. The metal is most likely cheap and weak. The hamster may eat the plastic coating, which can be dangerous to his health. The exposed metal will soon rust and start to fall apart.
Pros of Wire Cages
These cages are far cheaper than most other types. This is usually the choice for beginners in hamster care. This is also good for the hamster.
The open design allows maximum ventilation. This is good especially if the area is hot and humid.
Wire cages are also customizable later on. Cage door adapters and crossbars can easily be added. These allow the owner to add some neat features, create a new space for another hamster or any other customizations,.
Cons of Wire Cages
Metal bars for the cage floor will not be very comfortable for the hamster's feet. Canvas or mat can be placed to improve comfort.
Horizontal wire bars are also easy for the hamster to climb on. This can lead to accidental falls and may injure the pet. Vertical bars are not easy to climb up.
Habitat Modules: These are the fancier plastic hamster homes. These can be attached to each other or stacked on top of each other via tubes and tunnels. It can be a simple single cage or built over time into one amazing maze-habitat.
These are available in various colors. The cages are available entirely in plastic or in a mix of plastic and wire bars.
Do note that a single habitat module is too small, especially for a black bear hamster. These plastic habitats are intended to be connected to at least another module to house 1 hamster.
Round modules are not recommended to be the sole habitat for any hamster. This type can confuse the hamster and stress him out. Corners are needed for a hamster to get his bearings inside his home.
Pros of Habitat Modules
Hamsters living in the wild spend most their time exploring their den made up of various compartments. Habitat modules are excellent when trying to replicate the hamster's natural habitat consisting of tunnels and various "rooms". This type is also good in preventing the hamster from getting bored and stressed because of the many ways and places for him to explore.
Cons of Habitat Modules
Air circulation is a major concern with habitat modules. The design does not allow proper ventilation. It is also prone to overheating. Pet owners in areas with humid and hot climates would need to add modules with open-air design (with wire cage materials) to improve ventilation.
Enclosed habitats like habitat modules are better for areas with cold winter climates. It is also better to choose habitats with air holes to maintain the temperature of the main living compartmentbetween 15°C (59°F) and 25°C (77°F).
Glass tanks or aquariums meant for fishes can be used to house hamsters. This is easy to purchase and inexpensive. You can use an old fish tank in your garage for your hamster's next home.
If you choose this type of home, the minimum size should be 40 liters or 10 gallons. This may adequately house the hamster but restlessness and behavioral problems may still develop. Installing tank toppers that fit well over the tank may be added to provide enough stimulation to keep the hamster happy.
Tank toppers have holes to accommodate hamster tubes. This will help increase the hamster's living space. This will also provide hamster opportunities to follow its natural inclination to run through tunnels and explore, just like in the wild.
Tank toppers also help with thermal control. On hot days, the hamster can climb up to an upper level made with wire. On cold days, the hamster can choose to stay at the bottom of the glass tank where it is inherently warmer.
Pros of Glass Tanks
Hamsters cannot gnaw on glass tanks, unlike in plastic habitat modules or some low quality wire cages.The solid glass walls will keep the beddings inside as the hamster digs about.
Cons of Glass Tanks
The solid walls do not provide enough air circulation. It can become too warm for the hamster to be comfortable. The hamster will be at risk for heat stroke, especially in hot weather.
Hamster urine emits ammonia gas. This gas can quickly build up within the glass tank. This can lead to respiratory problems.
The following table of sizes show minimum space requirements. However, this is not an absolute standard. Always check if it fits the full-grown (adult) size of the hamster. Also, check for comfort and overall space available once additions like exercise wheel, water bottle, feeding bowl and a few chew toys are placed.
Smaller than these and the hamster will be severely cramped. Your hamster will have inadequate space to move around, especially during his active hours. This can lead to boredom and stress.
Types of Cage
Minimum Space Requirement
2 modules connected through a hamster tube
1 hamster per 40-L (10-gallon) capacity
12 inches x 15 inches, 12 inches high per 1 Syrian hamster
Just because wire cages aresold in pet stores where hamsters are also sold does not mean it is a perfect for any hamster. Check a few features to make sure the hamster is comfortable in it.
Where to Place Cages
The location is just as important as the type and size of the cage. As previously mentioned, hamsters are nocturnal animals so expect them to be active and noisy late in the night and all through the wee hours of the morning. They should not be placed near the bed or even in the bedroom to keep t hem from disturbing your sleep.
Here are the other important considerations when looking for the perfect spot to put the cage:
- Traffic: The spot should be quiet or at least have low traffic during the day. Hamsters are typically asleep during daytime and noisy, busy spots will disrupt their rest.
- Keep the cage away from radios, TV sets and any loud appliances. Put the cage away from items that make a lot of vibrations or noises such as radiators and heaters.
- Noisy and busy spots keep your hamster from sleeping well. This can stress him out and lead to several illnesses and health problems.
- Light levels: The amount of light on the cage area is also an important consideration. In nature, hamsters live underground, where there is minimal sunlight. When living in cages, hamsters should also be placed in spots where there is no direct sunlight.
- Do not place the cage near a window where sun streams through. Avoid placing it near bright light bulbs, too.
- Temperature: The cage should not be too hot or too cold for the hamster. It should not be colder than 15°C (59°F) and not hotter than 25°C (77°F).
- For better temperature control, keep the cage away from drafty windows or near heaters.
Preparing the Hamster's Home
After purchasing a suitable cage, the next thing to do is to make it comfortable.
Safe bedding is vital. You can't just put anything at the bottom of the cage. Wood-based beddings such as sawdust and wood shavings from cedar and pine are not suitable bedding materials. These contain oils (turpentine's) that can harm the little creature.
Cotton is also not suitable. This can clog the hamster's intestines when he eats it. This condition can kill your hamster. Cotton can also get caught in between the hamster's tiny toes or around his legs. This can cause the legs and/toes to break.
Fluffy beddings are also just as dangerous. Even though the package of cotton and fluffy beddings says it is safe for pets, there is still a risk for injury.
Shredded paper is most suitable as bedding material. These are available in pet stores. Shredded paper can help absorb odors. It helps keep the cage cozy and clean.
Sawdust may still be used as bedding material, as long as it is from untreated wood. It should be specifically labeled "untreated" when bought from pet stores. Do not buy sawdust from carpenter shops or wood mills. Wood used in these places is most likely already treated with chemicals that can harm hamsters.
How to Help Your Black Bear Hamster Settle in the New Home
Before buying a black bear hamster, everything should be ready. The cage should be set and cozy, with a ready bowl of food and water bottle.
Bring the hamster straight home right after purchasing. Avoid detours because this can add more stress to the hamster and make it extra harder to settle down.
Place the hamster straight into the cage from its carrier. Leave him alone to get used to his new environment. This is not the time for playing because the hamster is most likely tired. Add the confusion of a new environment and he will be most likely frightened and ready to bite. Let him get used to the new environment on his own for about 48 hours.
After 48 hours, slowly start getting acquainted with your new pet. Approach with caution. Do not barge ahead and pick him up immediately. Test if the hamster wants to be picked up. Observe closely how he reacts to being handled.
Talk in a soothing voice. Start with simple, small strokes over his back. Pet him carefully and gently. See if he starts to turn an aggressive stance or seems not to mind the physical contact. This technique helps the hamster get used to your presence.
Initiate interaction when the black bear hamster is active. That would be in the evenings.
Wash your hands before petting hamsters. They have poor eyesight and rely mostly on their sense of smell when they interact. If your hand smells of food, the hamster may mistake it for a treat and bite you. This is also one reason why handfeeding hamsters is not a good idea.
If you wish to use food to help your hamster get used to your presence, place food on a spoon or right inside the cage. As the hamster eats, slowly but cautiously stroke him.
You may have to do this a few more times before you attempt to pick up your hamster. Make short and non-aggressive interactions a number of times per day until your pet starts to become more comfortable you. You will notice this when he is no longer very shy in approaching you. When you stroke him, he no longer flinches and seems to like it.
Only then should you start picking him up.
Scoop the hamster gently. Slide your hand (palm up) under his belly. Pick him up slowly and cup your other hand over the front portion of his body. The first attempt may not always go well. The hamster may struggle and try to get away. Let him go. Do not insist in holding him if he refuses. Doing so will likely result in some nips and scratches. Your hamster may start to become unwelcoming, too.
Experts say that it will take around 2-3 weeks before a new hamster can be picked up and taken out of its cage.
How to Care for Bear Hamsters
Adequate food, water, cage and space are very important. Here are quick care tips to keep your hamster happy and healthy:
Bedding: Wood shavings on the floor of the cage give padding to the hamster's tiny feet and paws as he moves and plays around. Wood shavings also serve as places for hamsters to burrow in. This allows them to do what they are naturally inclined to do (hamsters are burrowing animals).
The wood shavings must be replaced immediately once it becomes wet or soiled. Check the layer of wood shavings regularly for any of the hamster's secret food stash. Remove it immediately to keep the cage fresh and clean. Food stashes can rot and grow molds, making the cage air musty and unhealthy.
Exercise: Hamsters need regular exercise to keep them growing obese. It is easy for hamsters, especially black bear hamsters to become fat fast because they are more relaxed and somewhat reticent.
Exercise wheel inside the cage is one of the simplest and easiest ways to provide exercise for the hamster. Check that the exercise wheel is safe. Black bear hamsters have long hair, especially the males. The spokes of the wheel should not
Plastic running balls are also good exercise items. Hamsters can safely run around and get some exercise while outside the cage.
If the home affords, a hamster-proof room can be provided for daily exercise. For an hour so, the hamster can be let loose inside this room and allowed to roam freely and get some much needed exercise.
Grooming: The longhair needs to be groomed regularly to remove debris. Dirt, water, urine and feces, as well as food and wood shavings can get caught in the hair.
It can quickly become matted if not combed and cleaned regularly. Poor grooming can lead to problems, including hair loss. Stuck debris can invite mold growth and cause skin and hair problems.
Groom the hair once a week to remove debris and keep hair and skin healthy.
Use a good clean brush or comb to clean and untangle the hair of a black bear hamster. A small flea brush for cats is a good choice.
Do not pull at tangled or matted hair. Gently run the comb through these spots. If gentle combing does not help, a trim may be necessary. Trim off little by little to remove stubborn tangles.
Grooming Tips: Hamsters that have been groomed since they were young are less likely to be fidgety during grooming sessions. A hamster not used to grooming should be groomed for short periods initially. Hair may not be untangled or cleaned well but it is more important to give time for the hamster to get used to being groomed. You may extend grooming sessions longer as the hamster starts to get used to it.
To help, you may feed your hamster with bits of vegetables or fruits. This helps reduce stress. The hamster will also come to associate grooming with snacking, so he will eventually learn to sit still for longer grooming sessions.
Health Issues of Black Bear Hamsters
This cute pet lives an average of 2-3 years. Some may live longer, up to 5-6 years. These lovable creatures may get affected by genetic illnesses such as these:
- Wet Tail: This ailment affects the intestines. It is caused by Lawsonia intracellularis. This bacteria cause the hind end of the hamster to become severely wet.
- Diabetes: This is similar to diabetes experienced by humans. This condition is characterized by the hamster's body being incapable of breaking sugars because of insulin problems. There is either too little insulin or the insulin is not functioning adequately. Preventing this condition is one of the main benefits of providing adequate and regular exercise to your pet.
- Cancer: Abnormal cell growth can happen inside the hamster's body and cause cancer.
- Bladder stones: These are hardened minerals within the urinary tract. Giving enough water all day to your hamster greatly helps in preventing this condition.
- Salmonellosis: This is a diarrheal condition caused by the bacteria Salmonella. Female pregnant hamsters may miscarry if Salmonellosis is present.
Things to Avoid
Black bear hamsters are docile but will bite when they feel threatened or get hurt. To avoid any untoward incidents and ruin a good relationship with your pet, avoid the following mistakes. These mistakes may also cause injuries and illnesses in your pet. Children must be taught to avoid these to keep them from getting nasty bites and scratches.
- Do not startle hamsters to wake them up. They may give a nasty bite when they are jolted awake or picked up roughly while they are still asleep.
- Always handle the hamster with care. These pets cannot handle falls. They may get injuries or even die with a particularly nasty fall.
- Do not squeeze a hamster tightly when it tries to get free. This will hurt him and he will likely bite your hand. Hold him firmly but not tightly. If he struggles strongly, quickly put him back in his cage or anywhere safe for him.
- Do not insist in holding and petting a hamster that does not want to be held. Learn to keep distance and give him space when he wants it.
- Do not leave a hamster unattended when out of the cage. These creatures are naturally curious and adventurous. They also have poor eyesight. They are prone to fall off or get stuck in dangerous places. Keep a close watch always, especially if the area is not hamster-proof.
- Do not place a hamster in an unsecured cage. Check that the cage is not easy to escape from. Check that the door is latched properly.
- Do not put a black bear hamster with another hamster in the same cage or play area. They are very territorial and like to be alone.