Syrian or golden hamsters have life spans of two to three years. Dwarf hamsters live for 1 to 2 years. Hamsters require adequate housing with plenty of space and toys, as they are active pets. They are mainly active during the night, although they are nocturnal creatures. They need daily feeding, and their cages need to be cleaned weekly. Buy your hamster from reputable breeders, or better yet, adopt from shelters or small animal rescue groups.
Syrian hamsters are territorial; They must survive on their own or they will fight to the death. The Syrian house must be at least 2 square feet and 6 inches high. Hamsters need sturdy iron wire cages or glass enclosures, as they will chew through wood or plastic. If you use a cage, the spacing between the bars should be half an inch or less to keep the hamster from squeezing through. Another option for hamster habitat is an aquarium with a tight wire mesh cover. The tub fits dwarf hamsters but needs to be a minimum of 24 inches long — the longer the better — and 12 inches wide. Dwarf varieties are more social than Syrian hamsters, so you can keep them in same-sex pairs. All hamsters appreciate an enclosed sleeping box. Place their cages where they will be safe from other pets and away from drafts, sunlight and heaters.
Feed your hamster
Hamsters need to eat every day. One tablespoon of hamster seed or pellet mixture sold at pet stores is sufficient for any hamster. Because dwarf hamsters are so active, they can eat the same amount as Syrians. Pack the creamy mix once a day, with fresh fruits and vegetables such as an apple slice, floret of cauliflower or a small amount of greens. Hamsters appreciate small amounts of fresh grains, alfalfa pellets, nuts and sunflower seeds. For the feeding dish, use a sturdy ceramic bowl that your hamster can’t chew or tip over. Hamsters store food in face pouches and hide it around their cage to eat at a later time. Provide fresh water, changed daily, in an inverted bottle with a sipper tube to prevent the cage from drying out and to clean it. Make sure the drinking tube is low enough for the hamster to reach.
Keeping Hamsa fit and happy
To keep your hamster happy, provide a deep layer of non-toxic, absorbent litter to dig into. Use aspen shavings, shredded paper, pellet bedding or processed corncob. Do not use pine or cedar sawdust, as the fumes from these woods can be harmful. Hamsters have fun tearing up tissues or napkins to make a comfortable nest. An exercise wheel, appropriately sized, is a must for hamsters. They also enjoy things they can run through and climb on, such as cardboard tubes, PVC tubes, and toys from pet stores. A piece of untreated, unpainted hardwood. Or a hard biscuit will give your hamster something to chew on to refuse its ever-growing teeth.
Every day, remove uneaten food and soiled bedding from the cage. Take out all litter and bedding once a week, and wash the cage floor and food bowls with hot, soapy water. Rinse everything off and let it dry before refilling the cage with fresh litter. Every so often, or when a hamster is sick, wipe down the entire cage or tank with a solution of 1 part bleach and 10 parts water. Leave it on for 15 minutes before rinsing it off with clean water. Soak bowls and water bottles in the same solution for 15 to 30 minutes, then rinse them well.
Handling a hamster
Hamsters rarely bite if they are handled regularly when young, unless they are startled or suddenly awakened. Get a young hamster used to you by hand feeding him treats. Gently pat your pet in both hands, close to your body, when handling him. Coax an older hamster who is not used to being kept in an enclosure, or wear gloves to lift him from his cage. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends that only children 6 years of age or older be allowed to handle hamsters, and then only with adult supervision.
Hamster health care
Symptoms of the disease in hamsters include dull eyes, matted fur, decreased weight, shaking, diarrhea and runny nose. Always consult your vet if you notice these or other signs of illness. Hamsters are prone to respiratory problems, and they can catch colds.