World Hamster Day 

There’s a pretty big day coming up for some of our smallest patients. April 12th is World Hamster Day! Hamsters are quite popular children’s pets. That makes sense, as they check all the boxes one would look for in a child’s animal companion. They’re cute, they’re easy to care for, they’re gentle, and they don’t need much room. Read on as a local Town N Country vet discusses the hamster.

Hamster Basics

Hammie is a cute little guy, who is native to much of Europe and Asia. They live about 2 to 4 years, on average. 

There are about 20 different kinds of hamsters. The largest would be the European Hamster, also known as the Eurasian hamster, black-bellied hamster or common hamster. These guys get to be 8 to 11 inches long and can weigh as much as 1 pound! The smallest would be the Roborovski hamster, or Desert hamster. These tiny little furballs only get to be one or two inches long! The ones most commonly kept as pets include the Syrian, Russian Dwarf Campbell and Roborovski breeds. 

Is A Hamster A Good Child’s Pet?

Hamsters are often chosen as children’s pets. Hammie is a great fit for many families. However, there are a few things you will want to keep in mind.

  • It’s important to understand that, like any animal, hamsters can carry viruses, fungus, bacteria, or parasites. Always wash your hands before and after handling Hammie and/or his belongings. (If you are getting a hamster for a child, you may need to oversee this part.)
  • Small children should always be supervised when handling Hammie. You’ll need to teach your little ones to always hold Hammie gently and properly and to never pull his tail or fur. 
  • Hamsters are nocturnal, so they are most active at night. The takeaway here? If you put Hammie in a child’s room, he may keep the young one up at night.
  • If your child is still very small, have them sit or kneel to handle their tiny pal. That way, if the hamster falls or jumps, he won’t fall very far.

Can I Get More Than One Hamster? 

You can, but you will probably need separate habitats. Syrian hamsters, which are the most popular pet hamster, should always live alone. They are very friendly with humans, but do not like roommates. Some of the other hamsters, however, can have buddies. Do lots of research before adopting one, and ask your Town N Country vet for advice. 

What Are Signs Of Illness In Hamsters?

As with any other pet, it’s important for you to keep a close eye out for signs of sickness. They are susceptible to respiratory issues, diarrhea, abscesses, proliferative ileitis (wet tail), and skin diseases.

These can be easy to miss at a glance. It’s important to pay attention to your little buddy. The more familiar you are with little Hammie, the easier it will be for you spot the warning signs.

Here are some of the main ones:

  • Lack Of Appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Not Drinking Water
  • Diarrhea
  • Dirty/Wet Bottom
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Dull, Red, Or Watery Eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Wheezing
  • Lumps, Bumps, Lesions
  • Fur Loss
  • Limping
  • Red Feet
  • Fur Color Changes
  • Changes In Stool
  • Overgrown Teeth
  • Uncharacteristic Behavior 

If you notice any of these things, please contact your vet right away. 

What Should My Hamster Eat?

Hammie’s menu should consist mostly of commercial food, which you can supplement with safe veggies and small amounts of fruit. Hammie will also like the occasional snack. You’ll want to ask your vet for specific advice, but a general rule of thumb would be to shoot for a blend of 80 percent pellets, 15 percent veggies, and 5 percent each of fruits and treats. You’ll also need to provide a water bottle, which you should clean and refill daily.

Options for safe veggies include spinach, broccoli spears, Romaine lettuce, dandelion greens and artichokes, carrot tops, cauliflower (limited), sweet potato, squash, and yellow peas. For fruits, you can offer your pint-sized pal apples, bananas, strawberries and pears.

There are also some things that can be given very occasionally, such as small bits of egg or cheese, cooked chicken or turkey, and even some dog biscuits. You’ll also want to be careful with seeds. For instance, many hamsters love pumpkin seeds. Several other types of seed, however, are unsafe.

It’s also important to know what not to give your tiny buddy. That list includes the following:

  • Garlic
  • Raw beans or potatoes
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruit
  • Rhubarb
  • Surgery foods
  • Salty foods
  • Junk food
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol

Always remove uneaten food so it doesn’t spoil. 

Keep in mind that Hammie is a pretty skilled beggar. He is really, really good at cajoling his owners into handing over yummy tidbits, only to stash them for later and resume his theatrics all over again. (Fun fact: Hammie got his name from the German word “hamstern,” which translates into “hoard”.) Pay attention to portion sizes, and don’t fall for that cute face!

Do I Have To Groom My Hamster?

Hammie is very clean, which is definitely a perk of having him. You won’t have to give him baths. He’ll clean himself, much the way cats do. (This is really cute to watch.)

What Kind Of Cage Do Hamsters Need? 

Getting a great cage is half the battle as far as hamster care. Pick something with a mesh or screen top, to ensure your pet is getting enough ventilation. It should have a solid floor, though: wire floors don’t hold substrate, and aren’t safe. You’ll need to add a good hidey-hole, as well as toys and accessories. 

How Do I Pamper A Hamster?

We believe that all animals, big or small, should feel safe, comfortable, loved, and happy at all times. You don’t have to spend a lot of time or money making Hammie happy. Just small touches can go a long way!

Here are our tips:

Give Your Hamster Toys

Toys actually serve several purposes for hamsters. Chew toys are crucial to your pet’s dental care. If Hammie can’t wear his teeth down, he may develop some very serious dental problems. You can make many of your pet’s chew toys out of common household items, such as plain paper and cardboard. There are lots of ideas online.  Just avoid anything with sharp or small parts. Ask your Town N Country veterinarians for tips.

Get A Hamster Runabouts 

Hammie is a very curious little guy, and he absolutely loves exploring nooks and crannies. Obviously, you don’t want to let such a tiny pet run around. You can let your furry friend explore using a runabout. Just be sure to put safety first! Make sure to get a runabout that is the right size. Don’t let your pet roll around near stairs, pools, fireplaces, or other pets. Also, don’t leave your hamster in it for too long.


Exercise Wheels


These are very popular with small animals. It’s also really cute to see Hammie happily running on his wheel. Be sure to get a solid one, though: the wire ones can cause injuries to those tiny paws and tails. 


Make A Maze For Your Pet


Hamsters absolutely love mazes and labyrinths. You can buy these, but you can also make them out of cardboard or PVC pipe. 


How Do I Bond With A Hamster? 


You’ll need to give your little buddy time to feel safe. Don’t try to handle him when you first bring him home: give him time to settle in. After a few days, you can gently pet him and talk to him. You may also hold him, but wait until he seems comfortable with you and be very gentle. Also, avoid picking Hammie up from behind or when he’s sleeping. That may (understandably) frighten the little guy. 


Contact Your Town N Country Pet Hospital


Do you have questions about hamster care? Contact us, your local Town N Country pet hospital, anytime. We are always happy to help. 

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