Hamsters rank among the most popular pets in the world, so there’s a good chance you either have one or are planning to get one – especially if you’ve landed on this feature. A large part of the appeal of the creatures is that they are fun to play with, but are happy to keep themselves occupied when you’re busy doing other things. They are undoubtedly low maintenance compared to cats and dogs, but you should still make an effort to keep them healthy. With the 10 tips below, you stand every chance of being able to do just that without the need to work too hard.
1. Give Your Hamster the Opportunity to Eat Well
We’ll assume that your hamster won’t be out there foraging as they would in the wild and that makes it all the more important to keep a close eye on their dietary requirements. Choose a good brand of hamster food that provides a balanced diet in its own right, then take a keen interest in their eating habits. You’ll notice that many hamsters will pick out the tastier, more fattening parts of their food mix first – much like a human that goes for the cheeseburger instead of the salad. However, you should emphasise the importance of the other parts of the mix too, as they have been specially designed to provide a balanced diet.
2. Use Fruit and Vegetables as Treats
Unlike a human that goes for the cheeseburger first, hamsters appreciate fruit and vegetables as treats. Ideal foods are those that your hamster may encounter in the wild – the specifics vary depending on where your hamster is from, but you can’t really go wrong with carrots, cucumber, spinach and lettuce. Most fruits are fine too, although it is vital to steer clear of citrus fruits and only to treat them with small amounts at a time.
3. Pay Special Attention to Bedding
There are few rules and regulations surrounding what can and cannot be used for hamster bedding in most countries, so it pays to keep on top of what can be good and bad for your hamster’s sleep. Most materials sold as hamster bedding will work, but the one that you should always attempt to steer clear of is cedarwood. It is relatively common, but the oils in the wood may irritate your hamster’s skin.
4. Give Your Hamster as much Space as you Can
If you had the opportunity to move into a bigger house, then chances are you’d take it. Hamsters love space as much as we do – you have to remember that, in the wild, they are used to running for miles every night. Even if you don’t have enough space for a massive cage, you can give the illusion of space with toys, tubes and other obstacles to keep your hamster entertained.
5. Keep an Eye on Chew Marks on the Cage
Hamsters tend to take care of their own teeth, but they need something relatively hard to chew on to keep them in check. In many cases, this will end up being the cage itself. There is nothing inherently unhealthy about this, but there is always a risk that the hamster makes it all the way through the cage and ends up getting lost. That’s where health issues can arise, so keep on top of where they chew and if they are in any danger of breaking through.
6. Think About External Conditions when you Position the Cage
You may spend hours positioning toys, bottles, bowls and everything else in the cage, but it is essential not to neglect the overall position. You need to keep them out of the way of other pets that may wish to do them harm, and also consider the temperature and light around the cage.
7. Let Them Exercise
It is universally accepted that exercise is good for you, so you should take every opportunity to let your hamster have a run around. They should have the facilities to go for a run on their own time in their cage, so you should make the addition of a wheel a priority if your cage didn’t come with one. They can also benefit from a change of scenery too, so invest in a decent ball that will enable them to have a run around the house in safety.
8. Decide Early if you Want to Keep more than One Hamster Together
Some hamsters play well with others, while some prefer a quiet, lonely life. You should first check the preferences of your breed of choice and do so as soon as you get them. Most hamsters will not react well to a new addition further down the line. It is also vital to ensure that you get two hamsters of the same gender unless you fancy your chances at looking after a load of tiny hamsters – females can give birth to over a dozen children in one litter, and they can reproduce once a month!
9. Keep their Surroundings Clean
Hamsters are just as susceptible to illnesses as anyone else, so it is crucial to keep their cage clean and to change their bedding regularly. Regardless of the material you go with, it is best to clean them out once each week. It is also a good idea to leave just a small amount of the previous bedding behind so that it leaves a familiar scent for your pet to follow.
10. Befriend your Hamster
The chances are you didn’t get a hamster to keep in a cage all the time, and they do appreciate human contact. Stress is among the biggest causes of illness in hamsters, but regular contact and the knowledge that they have a friend outside the cage will keep them calm and happy – and a happy hamster is almost always a healthy one.