Most people will allow their children to have a hamster, this I always find strange, why have a hamster? It is asleep when we are awake and awake when we sleep. It bites, when disturbed, it runs around in a wheel to get exercise and it hoards its food in cheek pouches and empties it into its bed to eat later, but I must admit they are cute.
We have had every colour and species of hamster through our doors, why? Mostly because the kids have got bored with them, that’s strange because they don’t do much and surely we are aware of this before we get them! Their lifespan is from 9 months (Russian) to 2years so what is there about not keeping this simplistic little rodent?
What do they need?
A cage sturdy secure cage because one thing all hamsters are good at is escaping! They need a wheel and you don’t need to worry about their tail and to see two or three Russian, Chinese or Roborovski’s running in a wheel together can cause hilarious laughter, especially when one stops and the other continue, throwing the one who stopped, up and over the others! Laughing aside the wheel needs to be carefully chosen if your hamster is long-haired as the fur can be caught up in the wheel axle and it also should be big enough for the hamster to prevent fur rubbing on the hamsters back. Cage paralysis can be caused if your hamster has not got a wheel, so it is important to get it right.
The cage should be thoroughly cleaned out weekly, including all the tunnels, they should be parted and cleaned then put back together again, leaving no gaps for the hamster to start gnawing at allow it to escape. They need tunnels but beware the can get stuck if fat, they can also cause condensation if they get warm, so check to see that the hamster is able to move in the tunnels and if wet dry them off.
There are plenty of food and treats specially designed for the hamster, so what are the forbidden ones? Chocolate is one, it can kill because it is toxic, cakes and sticky sweets can cause pouch impaction, so if you would like to give a treat, try apple or a dried mealworm! Like the rabbit a hamster will eat its own droppings by doing so it allows the hamster to get the required amounts of vitamin B and K because they are formed by the bacteria flora. They cages must be cleaned out weekly and all food removed, they can store it up again! The toilet corner should be cleaned out daily thought o stop a build up of ammonia which could cause respiratory conditions.Ailments to look out for: Hamster have two scent glands, known as hip spots, on either side of their body, they may appear greasy and the may start to lick them causing them to become bald and wet, it is not a problem unless it becomes sore and inflamed but should be checked out just in case.
Keep a close eye on the eyes, make sure they are clear and bright and free from discharge, build up of ammonia can cause eye problems along with dust and draughts.
If the temperature drops below 5⁰C a hamster can go into hibernation, slow, shallow breathing may make the hamster appear dead, bring the cage and the hamster into the warm, and then allow it to gradually build its body temperature up and with a little glucose water it will be as right as reign in no time.
Syrian hamster should be kept on their own, Russian hamster (dwarf) are more sociable and can be kept in single sexed groups, preferably sibling groups. Chinese hamster and Roborovski are best kept in single sexed pairs and sibling pairing is best. However you must keep a close look out for fighting, they will all fight to the death, so be prepared to separate them if necessary.