The information on these pages only applies to Syrian hamsters at the moment. These are the most common pet and are easier to handle by small children than are the Russian and Chinese dwarf hamsters. Syrian hamsters (proper name Mesocricetus auratus) live alone, while the others should live in colonies.
Because Syrian hamsters are solitary animals they communicate at a distance by scent, so smell is important to them. Like any animal, Syrian hamsters need fresh water, a cage that is cleaned regularly, and properly balanced diet. They also need things to chew, areas to hide in, and warm dry bedding. It is claimed that male hamsters are more docile than females (Wolfensohn & Lloyd 2003)
If your child is very young, always supervise its play with the pet. Children under the age of eight may harm a small animal without meaning to. That said, you can have a lot more fun with a hamster than your probably thought. It’s also an ideal pet for the housebound, as long as you realise that hamsters are nocturnal so will not be active by day. If you put your hamster cage in your bedroom, it may keep you awake at night with its activities.
We know quite a lot about hamsters, thanks to studying laboratory hamsters but some of the information hasn’t filtered through to the pet world. Hamsters need to be able to dig, burrow, climb, explore and hoard food, as they would in the wild. Scientists have discovered that they feel more optimistic if they are kept in good conditions (Bethell & Koyama 2015). Best book for pet owners is Hamsters: understanding and caring for your pet, by Anne McBride.
Helpful links can be found below the Index. If you just have a pet hamster, ignore the references in brackets. But for those that are really interested in this little animal, the references will help you learn more.
CAGE AND EQUIPMENT FOR YOUR HAMSTER
BEST BEDDING AND LITTER FOR YOUR HAMSTER
HOW TO AVOID BEING BITTEN BY YOUR HAMSTER
BITING THE BARS OF THE CAGE – A SIGN OF STRESS?
KEEPING YOUR HAMSTER BUSY NOT BORED
HOW SHOULD I FEED MY HAMSTER?
HOW TO LITTER TRAIN YOUR HAMSTER?
HOW TO CHOOSE A HAMSTER
ESCAPED? HOW TO GET YOUR HAMSTER BACK
CATS AND HAMSTERS
TRAINING YOUR HAMSTER
HOW TO TELL IF YOUR HAMSTER IS IN PAIN OR ILL
OTHER SPECIES OF HAMSTERS coming later
DO HAMSTERS KILL MICE? coming later
Towy Vale Hamstery. www.towyvale.com – Remarkably good information sheets on all hamster matters.
For safe hamster bedding made of paper or plant material not artificial fibre like nylon – http://www.petlifeonline.co.uk/?p=safebed&hi=hamster
Bethell, E. J. & Koyama, N. F. (2015), ‘Happy hamsters? Enrichment induces positive judgement bias for mildly (but not truly) ambiguous cues to reward and punishment in Mesocricetus auratus,’ Royal Society Open Science, 2, 140399.
Wolfensohn, S. & Lloyd, M., (2003), Handbook of Laboratory Animal Management and Welfare, Third edition, Oxford, UK, Blackwell Publishing.
These notes are my copyright. I am also usually happy to have the exact words reproduced on websites, in return for a link, my name, and if permission is asked beforehand. I like to check the websites where it might be used. Email me via this website for permission which will usually be given. Organisations wishing to use them in print should contact me via this website. Copyright © 2007 Celia Haddon. All Rights Reserved.
All normal safety precautions should be taken when dealing with animals. The advice in this section should be taken only at the owner’s own risk. All sick animals should be seen by a vet.
General advice of the kind found in this website is no substitute for an individual consultation with a vet or qualified behaviourist working on a vet’s referral.