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Hamsters as Pets

General information

Hamsters come in all shapes and sizes. They are characterised by large cheek pouches, thick bodies and short tails. 

Feeding

There are commercial hamster feed mixes available to buy in most pet stores. This diet can be supplemented with fruit, vegetables and nuts. Provide your hamster with fresh water daily via a water bowl (one smaller than the size of their body) or a water bottle. Hamsters are coprophagic, meaning they consume their own faeces/ droppings. This allows them to absorb as much nutrition and energy for their diet as they can.

Husbandry

No matter how secure your hamster cage is, hamsters are always seeking a means of escape! So it’s important the cage you choose is resistant to gnawing. Hamsters enjoy exercising, so provide them with a means to do so like an exercise wheel. Ideally your hamster cage would consist of more than one level to allow your hamster to climb around. Provide a nesting area, whether it is a plastic house or ball or ripped up newspapers. The substrate covering the floor should be deep enough to allow them to burrow (10-15cm depending on their length) and absorbent enough to soak up their urine.

Remember, their cages should be thoroughly cleaned out on a weekly basis to prevent the buildup of the toxin ammonia, a natural foul smelling product produced in their urine.

Handling

Handle hamsters with care and caution. They are nibbly little creatures, who commonly bite if handled inappropriately. They can be lifted in the palm of cupped hands or by grasping their excess skin (called their scruff) at the back of their neck. If a hamster feels threatened when handling them, they will bite, roll their eyes back and vocalise.

Common conditions

Trying to handle a healthy hamster is one thing, trying to handle an ill hamster can be a little more challenging as they are often more irritable. An ill hamster will usually have an unkempt coat, be off their food and water, have a hunched back stance and have crusty eyes. Common conditions of the hamster include:

  • dental disease
  • cheek pouch impaction
  • enteritis (diarrhoea)
  • skin diseases (alopecia, tumours and mite infestation)
  • endocrine diseases (Cushing’s disease and diabetes mellitus)
  • respiratory disease

Fun facts

A hamster’s cheek pouch can be used to transport and store their newly born litter in times of danger, as well as food. A Syrian hamster’s heart can beat up to 500 beats per minute

 

For further information on your pet hamster or if you’re concerned about them having any of the conditions/ symptoms mentioned above, come in and see us at your nearest Pets‘n’Vets surgery.

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