CARING FOR YOUR PET HAMSTER
Hamsters are one of Canada’s most popular pets. There are 24 species of hamsters found around the world, with 120 varieties to choose from. The Golden hamster, which has smooth hair, is the most common. The Fancy, which is multi-coloured, and the Teddy Bear, which has fluffy long fur, are other varieties that are widely available.
Hamsters are not social animals like gerbils, rats, mice or guinea pigs. They do not like to live in family groups and unless breeding, prefer to live alone. It is for that reason they should be kept as single pets.
Sexual maturity occurs at 30 to 60 days and the gestation period is 16 days. The number in a litter may be four to 10 and their eyes open at 15 days. During birth, and during weaning, only the mother should be with her babies. Very little intervention other than fresh food and water are required. Anything more than a quick change of dishes and the occasional spot cleaning will aggravate the mother, which could cause her to harm her babies.
The optimum room temperature is between 68°F – 74°F (20°C – 23.8°C). Rapid changes in temperature may lead to respiratory problems. Place the cage away from direct sunlight, heat or air-conditioning vents and any drafts.
Hamsters are masters of escape, so it is important that the home you provide for them is escape proof.
Our pet counsellors are small animal lovers and because they are, they hold and play with all the small animals in our store. Our guests also play a big part in our small animal’s social skills.* This is why Petland small animals are quick to bond with their new owner.
To provide a happy, healthy atmosphere for your hamster, Petland recommends the following necessary and fun accessories. We have listed them as your new pet’s four basic needs: Nutritional, Environmental, Maintenance and Behavioural. When these needs are met, along with a loving environment provided by you, your hamster can live a long and happy life. Typically, a healthy hamster may live between two to three years.
Your Hamster’s New Home – Whether it is a two-storey cage with a removable plastic bottom, an enclosed plastic unit with tunnels and attachments, or perhaps it is an aquarium with a snug-fitting screen lid; do not underestimate your potential escapee! Try and give your hamster room enough to run, sleep and tunnel.
Nesting Material – This material is specifically made for hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats and degus (it’s safe). One package goes a long way in giving your new pet soft bedding that he can form into a cozy bed.
Hiding Place – Every living creature needs an area to call their own. Their hideaway is necessary in reducing stress and makes them feel secure. Their home can be made of ceramic, wicker or wood, but make sure it is made specifically with a hamster in mind. Tissue boxes or toilet paper rolls, although happily slept in and chewed, are potential health hazards that you should avoid. Your hamster will grow, so buy a large enough home to fit him when he’s all grown up!
Your hamster is an omnivore, which means he eats both plant and animal food. Your hamster’s primary diet is extrusion food. A few cubes placed in his dish every day, plus the following extras in his daily feeding program, will keep him satisfied. Provide mixes with nuts, corn, seeds and fruit as a treat only. Hamsters have a habit of selecting these tempting morsels and leaving the healthy pellets.
Treats and other diet variations – Supply grass hay to stimulate natural foraging activities to help in the prevention of obesity. Hay is an excellent source of nesting material. The bonus is that they also love it. Choose from a variety of hay. Hamsters especially enjoy oat hay, which often contains immature seed heads.
Treats are a great way to help keep your hamster from becoming bored with his fare, and stay healthy and active. All hamsters should be introduced to new foods gradually. Never more than 5% of their total diet should consist of treats, or about a ½ tsp daily. These also include mixed seeds and treat sticks. Offer treats to encourage interaction between you and your pet, but only after your pet eats his basic diet.
We recommend that for the first few days in your home, you do not feed your new pets any fruits, vegetables or treats. It is at this time that they will be most prone to getting diarrhea (wet-tail). Limiting their variety of foods is best until they are settled. Fresh foods are considered treats for hamsters rather than a staple in your pet’s diet. Carrot and beet tops, dandelion greens and flowers (that have not been subjected to spraying), kale, collard greens, romaine and leaf lettuce (not iceberg lettuce), parsley, carrots and pea pods are some good choices. Large amounts of green foods should be avoided, since they are difficult to digest and can cause health concerns.
Dri-TailTM Remedy – This product is used to greatly reduce the risk of your new pet getting diarrhea in the first few days in his new home. Moving from one environment to another is exciting, but stressful for your little pet. Stress is a major factor in a hamster developing diarrhea (wet-tail). Your pet counsellor can instruct you about the dosage required and the length of time to administer the remedy.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplement – This should be added to the drinking water or food according to bottle directions. In the wild, animals can choose the foods their bodies require. Even if you give your pet a variety of foods, you may not be providing him with certain vitamins/minerals that he needs.
Salt and Mineral Stone – Your hamster needs a salt and mineral stone available at all times. Salt will encourage him to drink enough water, and the water aids in digestion.
Water Bottle – The use of a four to eight-ounce water bottle is necessary, so the water stays clean and the vitamins are not wasted.
Litter – Pine shavings are recommended for your hamster. Use of cedar or other aromatic litters may be used in very small amounts in his toilet area only. This corner should be spot cleaned every one or two days. Many hamster owners use a hamster toilet. It is easy to remove, reduces the time and cost of maintenance and cuts down on odour. Use a small litter scoop to spot clean corners. Once a week you should wash his cage with hot water and a mild soap, rinse well and dry completely. Do not use bleach or other household cleaners, which will irritate your hamster’s respiratory system.
Deodorizer – Everyone has their own definition of what is stinky. There are products available made specifically with a small animal in mind. You should use a product that contains enzymes. Enzymes eat up odours!
Bowls – These are easy to clean, and your hamster cannot chew them! Pick up two, one for food and one for treats.
Brush – Most hamsters enjoy a gentle brushing a few times a week. Afterward, reward him with a treat and it will be an activity he will look forward to.
Chew Blocks – Your hamster’s teeth will grow throughout his life. Give him a variety of chewing aids to keep his teeth trimmed. A branch from outside may not be safe nor will a toilet paper or paper towel roll. Hamster chews are generally made from balsa wood, which is hard enough to gnaw on, but soft enough not to splinter or cut. Your new pet does not play fetch with a ball, or run after a squeaky toy as other pets do, but he does have a behavioural need and that is to chew.
Exercise Wheel – Just like us, hamsters need exercise to stay healthy and trim. As any hamster owner can tell you, the wheel is used nightly for your little one’s instinctual need to run, run, run!
Exercise Ball – An exercise ball can be a fun and safe way for your hamster to gain a little more freedom, while staying in shape. Remember to keep his ball far away from stairs to prevent an accident! A ball should never replace an exercise wheel.
Harness and Leash – Hamsters enjoy an outing! Take him out for a safe walk and don’t worry, he won’t pull you over!
A Book on Hamsters – Petland has many excellent books on small animal care available. If your goal is breeding or just maintaining a single pet, your pet counsellor can help you select a book that will best suit your needs.
Please ask your pet counsellor what other items pertain to your particular pet’s needs.
*Ask about the volunteer programs at your nearest Petland location.
Cleanliness and Safety
All pets must be kept in a clean environment to avoid the spread of dirt and contaminants to yourself and others. Always keep your pet’s home clean, and wash your hands before and after handling your pet or cleaning his home.
Please remember that all pets may bite or scratch, and may transmit diseases to humans. Young children, infants, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with pets or their homes.