The hamster is the world’s most popular pet rodent, and for good reason! These little fluff balls are wonderful companions and make a great starter pet. They are social with their owners and relatively low maintenance.

Types of Hamsters

Syrian Hamsters
The most well-known species of hamster is the Syrian Hamster. Syrian Hamsters are large and have a longer life span than other species. Syrians don’t like to be housed with other hamsters and prefer to be the only cage tenant. An ideal pet for children, these hamsters are easy to handle and low maintenance. They do go by many other names, so you may have heard of them called by something else!

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

Dwarf Hamsters
The Dwarf Hamster is a tiny cousin to the Syrian Hamster. Opposite to the Syrian, dwarf hamsters like to live in pairs. They are very social with their own kind and do best with a roommate of the same sex. They breed very quickly so it’s important to get same sex hamsters! Unfortunately, they can be difficult for children to handle because of their small size. We recommend adult supervision if you have young children!

Size: 3-4” in length
Life Span: 1-2 years
Alias: Siberian Hamster, Winter Whites, Russian Hamster

Choosing a Habitat
First, you must know that hamsters are very active, social and inquisitive. They need 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. 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. Remember to remove any uneaten food before it spoils in their cage.  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 hard boiled egg. A small piece will be a nice treat for them. 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. Bedding will often spill into the bowl so keep that in mind if you want something low maintenance.

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.


About The Author Michelle Edmundson

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