The hamster is the world’s most popular pet rodent, and for good reason! These little bundles of fluff can be wonderful companions and a great starter pet. They require less maintenance compared to some pets, but can still be handled and are social with their owners.
The tiny cousin to the Syrian Hamster is the Dwarf Hamster. Unlike the Syrian Hamster, these little guys like to live in pairs. They are very social with their own kind and do best if housed with a same sex companion. It is important to make sure you don’t house a male and female together as they breed very quickly! Due to their small size they can be more difficult for children to handle.
Size: 3-4” in length
Life Span: 1-2 years
Alias: Siberian Hamster, Winter Whites, Russian Hamster
The most well-known species of hamster is the Syrian Hamster. Syrian Hamsters are larger and have a longer life span than other species. This species of hamster does not like to be housed with a companion and should be alone in its cage. Syrian Hamsters are an ideal pet, especially for children. Never heard of Syrian Hamsters? They do go by many other names, check out some of their common aliases below!
Size: 5-7” in length
Life Span: 2-3 years
Alias: Golden Hamster, Fancy Hamster, Honey Bears, Panda Bears, Black Bears, Polar Bears and Teddy Bears
Choosing a Habitat
Hamsters are very active, social and inquisitive. As they are so active, they need to have a larger cage with plenty of room. Hamsters are nocturnal so they are most active from dusk to dawn. This does make them easier to handle when they are sleepy during the day after being active all night. It is a good idea to equip your cage with a covered house, tubes, tunnels and a running wheel. When purchasing a cage, make sure bars are no more than a half-inch apart. Set up your hamster’s cage in a cool place out of direct sunlight. Dwarf Hamsters do best in plastic or glass aquariums as they are able to squeeze through the bars of most small animal cages. If you do opt for a wire cage, use one with tight bars like CritterTrail Habitats. Hamsters can sneak through gaps of more than half-inch!
Hamsters like to burrow under their bedding and like to shred materials to make a nest. Line your cage with at least 1-2 inches absorbent bedding such as recycled paper, aspen or pine shavings, and provide additional nesting material made from natural ingredients.
Hamsters are herbivores and their diet should consist of a high-quality pellet supplemented with seeds, grains and cracked corn. Hamsters also need fresh fruit and vegetables every couple days to keep them healthy, removing any uneaten food before it spoils. You can feed them clover, lettuce, carrots, zucchini, kale, papaya and apples. Too much lettuce or leafy greens will upset their stomach so moderation is key. Hamsters also enjoy the occasional piece of hardboiled egg. It is important to always have fresh water available to your hamster in a drinking bottle. You can use a bowl for water if you are committed to cleaning it often, as bedding will often spill into the bowl.
Due to their small size, Hamsters can be timid. It’s important to socialize your new friend so they are used to you, your home and being handled. Start by feeding your hamster treats; once they’re comfortable accepting treats from your hand, you can gently and securely pick them up. Hold them for a short time at first and gradually increase the duration until they are perfectly comfortable in your hands. The most important thing about holding your hamster is not to drop them. Remember that all pets may bite, scratch or try to escape, especially when stressed. Don’t startle your hamster by picking them up while they are sleeping as they are likely to become defensive. If you want to wake your hamster up, do so by talking to them or very gently tapping on the cage.