The care of small animals can be more difficult than it seems, not least because they are so small that signs of illness or injury can be difficult to spot. Fortunately, prevention is often much better than cure for these tiny creatures, and there are plenty of steps that can be taken to ensure that the worst does not get the opportunity to happen. Whether you’re brand new to the world of looking after hamsters or are an experienced handler seeking to brush up on your health skills, the information below covers all the essentials to keep your pet happy and healthy.
1. Start with the Diet
As with humans, your pet’s diet can be the underlying prevention against disease and injury, so it is important to get it right from the very beginning. Standard hamster food is all you need for a balanced diet, but there are still some things to keep an eye on. It will not escape your attention that each hamster decided on something in the bowl they like the most, and they will often empty that out first – whether to eat or to store. That’s fine, but it is often the fattiest foods that go first, so you should make every effort to encourage them to achieve a balance with all available foods.
2. Healthy Treats are the Best Treats
Following in the footsteps of humans once again, fruits and vegetables rank among the best possible ways to treat your hamster. Unlike some humans, they enjoy it too, as berries, apples and various vegetables are similar to the kinds of foods that your hamster would expect to eat in the wild. Most bread and cereals will also go down well, while also adding a further degree of balance to your pet’s diet.
3. Keep on Top of Your Hamster’s Chores
You clean your house and wash out food and drink containers, and hamsters require the same kind of treatment. Bedding should be changed regularly, with just a little left behind each time to maintain the familiar scent, and you should not be afraid to give the cage a good scrub while the bedding is out. Water may be inherently clean and healthy, but do not neglect the water bottles, as they can be the source of bacteria growth once the water reaches room temperature.
4. Give them Plenty of Space
Hamsters are used to running for miles each night when they’re out in the wild, and while it is unreasonable to expect to replicate this exactly in your home, more space is always better. The wheel is an obvious source of exercise, and a variety of tubes and tunnels will mix things up just enough to keep your hamster interested and active to avoid gaining weight.
5. Exercise Starts in the Cage
Further to the tip above, the cage itself should not only be spacious, but suitable for whatever exercise routine your hamster decides to adopt. If you go for a cage with bars, then they can climb to their heart’s content, and it all counts. In solid, plastic cages, the obvious option disappears, but you can replace it with other climbing activities like ladders, platforms and tunnels.
6. Keep their Teeth in Check
A hamster’s teeth never stop growing, but this is something that they are predisposed to taking care of themselves as long as they have enough options. Anything relatively hard works to keep those teeth filed down, and this is why tissue tubes and wooden toys are a common sight in many hamster cages. If you neglect to provide such materials, the teeth can potentially get out of control, in which case they may need to be filed back down to an appropriate size by a professional.
7. Consider Health in Cage Placement
Your hamster’s environment will dictate just how it gets on in health terms, and you do not want to do anything to make their conditions worse. When you decide where to put your pet, consider whether the location is too hot or cold, or whether it is liable to fall over, potentially causing injury in the process.
8. Invest in a Good Hamster Ball
We have talked already about making your hamster’s cage conducive to the active lifestyle they crave, but you fight a losing battle if you expect your hamster to get everything he needs within the cage itself. We do not advise that you allow your hamster to run free around your home, as there is potential for injury at every turn and a decent chance that he gets lost altogether. However, a good hamster ball is inexpensive and gives them a relatively free run, while also doubling as a great place for them to go while you clean their cage.
9. Hamsters Often Prefer Personal Space
There is plenty to consider if you want more than one hamster. Over time, you’ll feel that they are relatively low maintenance and that you will have no trouble at all with managing more than one. In most cases, it is best to keep each hamster separate – Syrian hamsters, in particular, are prone to fighting with each other if kept in close quarters. Dwarf hamsters are more likely to enjoy being around others, although males are susceptible to fighting. In any case, never mix genders, as you may find yourself with a dozen or more little hamsters to look after if the parents don’t get to them first!
10. Be Friendly with Your Pet
As much as hamsters are unpredictable with their own kind, they tend to appreciate contact with their owner. Wet tail, the most common hamster illness, is caused by stress, so go out of your way to make them feel happy and comfortable for the benefit of their overall health. Most are friendly to human contact and those that are not can be conditioned along the way to respond better to being picked up and stroked.