Holding Hamsters as Pets: 10 Issues to Know Earlier than Adopting


Hamsters are sometimes regarded as a low upkeep, low worth youngsters’ pet – one thing short-lived and straightforward that’s purchased for a number of {dollars} from a pet store.  Actually, hamsters are advanced little creatures, with numerous persona, and a few fairly specialised wants. The previous stereotype of a kids’s pet that isn’t a giant deal doesn’t do these superior animals justice – or give them a superb high quality of life. So, in case you are contemplating changing into a hamster proprietor, listed below are ten issues price understanding.

This text was co-written with Beri Instone, small rodent wrangler extraordinaire (and custodian of many hamsters)

There’s no such factor as “a hamster”

Many individuals assume “hamster” refers to at least one form of animal. However there are 18 completely different species of hamster, of which 5 species and one hybrid are generally stored as pets:

  • Syrian (Mesocricetus auratus)
  • Roborovski (Phodopus roborovskii)
  • Campbell’s (Phodopus campbelli)
  • Winter White (Phodopus sungorus)
  • Chinese language (Cricetulus barabensis, generally often called the striped dwarf hamster outdoors of the pet commerce)
  • In captivity there may be additionally a Russian hybrid species, created by crossing P. cambelli and P. sungorus. 

“Dwarf” hamsters are formally the three Phodopus species, however you’ll typically hear the time period used to imply any hamster that isn’t a Syrian. Nonetheless, it’s essential to know what species of hamster you may have because the care wants of every are completely different.

Hamsters aren’t social animals

Many pet rodents, like rats and mice, belong to social species who have to dwell with others of their sort. Nonetheless, hamsters are a bit completely different and usually want to dwell alone.

Of all the species, Russian hybrids are almost definitely to have the ability to dwell fortunately as pairs, though solely as same-sex siblings, not unrelated adults. Even this isn’t simple or low cost to do, as every hamster nonetheless wants sufficient impartial area, they usually want duplicates of all sources in order that they’re not competing for a similar factor. Holding a couple of hamster in a cage is finest left to skilled house owners who can determine bullying. Beri has taken in a number of pairs of hamsters supposedly “pleased dwelling collectively” who turned out to be nothing of the kind and needed to be instantly cut up up for his or her welfare.

Within the wild, hamsters dwell alone, coming collectively solely to breed. In some species the male will assist with baby-rearing, however please don’t assume breeding will permit your hamsters to dwell collectively. Holding men and women collectively will end in again to again litters which is actually unhealthy for the well being of the mum.

Hamsters aren’t low cost pets (and are positively not disposable)

Simply because hamsters are small furry issues simply purchased from a pet store doesn’t imply they’re low cost to maintain, or that they deserve much less respect or dedication than bigger animals.

In fascinated with the monetary dedication, it is very important issue within the following prices of holding a hamster:

  • a superb sized cage (see under) and furnishings,
  • high quality meals,
  • and potential vet’s payments.

Hamsters can dwell for 2-3 years so they’re additionally a medium-term dedication, not a fast experiment in pet-keeping that may be given away if a baby will get bored – which is likely one of the commonest causes for hamsters being dumped or rehomed.

A small physique doesn’t imply a small cage

Hamsters could also be little, however they’re super-active. So, their cage wants to supply sufficient area for them to behave naturally and have a superb degree of psychological and bodily stimulation. If they’re stored in a cage which is simply too small (and sadly this contains many pet store cages offered for hamsters) then they are going to be confused, and extra prone to endure from behavioural and well being issues.

The minimal steady uninterrupted footprint of cage ought to be 4000 sq. centimetres (620 sq. inches), which equates to 80 x 50 cm (31.5 x 20 inches) or an extended, thinner 4ft tank. We’re specifying steady as a result of many hamster cages are offered as modular programs of interconnected smaller areas – nonetheless from the hamster’s perspective, numerous little areas don’t obtain the identical expertise as a single giant enclosure.

Hamster balls aren’t a superb type of train

Hamster balls are well-liked as a result of the hamster is totally enclosed whereas out the cage so unable to flee and disappear into furnishings or partitions. Nonetheless, whereas balls reply a human drawback (stopping an escape), that doesn’t make them a pleasant expertise from the hamster’s perspective.

If we have a look at it from the attitude of the hamster within the ball, we will see how unnatural the concept is. Hamsters wish to run round at their very own tempo, discover issues, sense obstacles with their whiskers, snuffle and scent. Shutting them in a plastic globe stops all of that.

A greater method of letting a hamster out their cage is in a supervised playpen. To cease escapes, the perimeters must be stable (not bars) and at the least grownup knee peak. There additionally must be a lot for the hamster to take action they’re much less tempted to try to escape by means of boredom.

Hamsters prefer to climb (in addition to burrow)

Hamster's cage should provide climbing options

It’s a typical delusion that as a result of most species of hamsters sleep under floor in advanced burrow programs, that’s their whole habitat. Truly, it’s simply the place they sleep and go to floor. You will need to present a deep substrate so a pet hamster can dig and tunnel, however their cage additionally wants to supply area for different actions, together with climbing.

Chinese language hamsters are the most effective at climbing. Their lengthy skinny physique form is extra mouse-like, they usually have inch-long tails that assist them steadiness. They take pleasure in climbing on thicker branches and ropes.

The second-best climbers are Syrians. They often can’t handle branches/ ropes as they don’t have the back-limb dexterity, however they love platforms at varied heights, slim steep ledges and tubes.

The least ready climbers are the Russian hamsters and Robos, however even they may admire a species-appropriate structure together with issues like cabinets that aren’t totally horizontal to imitate hills. Different good climbing choices are linked ledges/ staircase bridges to hop up and down, and better equipment within the substrate to clamber on as look-outs.

Similar to people, the extra practiced a hamster is at climbing, the extra they may do it and the extra agile they are going to be. Which means a hamster who has no expertise of climbing received’t thrive in a posh structure right away. As a substitute, they want mild introductions with simple layouts that may get more and more extra climby because the hamster develops their expertise. Creating climbing capacity, even in Russian hamsters, will assist them use all their muscle mass and so cut back the danger of weight problems.

Hamsters aren’t nocturnal

Like rats and mice, hamsters are crepuscular – most lively round daybreak and nightfall. They are going to adapt their sleeping patterns to suit with their proprietor’s routines – however provided that they such as you. If a hamster is uncomfortable with individuals, sad, or confused, they may actively keep away from interactions. So, a hamster nobody ever sees is a hamster whose care must be reviewed.

If hamsters chunk, it’s for a motive

Hamsters have a status for being aggressive and biting individuals for no motive. Nonetheless, there may be at all times a justification from their perspective.

The commonest motive for hamsters to chunk is as a result of individuals don’t know tips on how to deal with them, or misinterpret their alerts. As with many animals, if their early warning alerts of discomfort or stress are ignored, hamsters will ramp up the aggression to flee a state of affairs that’s making them distressed.

Probably the most frequent conditions during which hamsters chunk are when individuals try to choose them up, or prod them to wake them up. For the latter, no animal likes to be disturbed of their mattress – it’s their final secure area, and being woken up out of the blue offers them no time to evaluate the risk. For the previous, many hamsters may have had unhealthy experiences being picked up previously and discover it scary. One of the best factor to do is encourage the hamster to come back to their cage door at a superb time for you, and supply them with a secure space to stroll out the cage earlier than being picked up. That method you aren’t intruding on them or the areas the place they really feel safe.

Pet hamsters don’t are inclined to hibernate (they usually can’t catch your chilly)

Some species of hamster do hibernate within the wild, however the actual particulars of when and why aren’t well-known. In captivity, hibernation isn’t one thing they should do. As a substitute, such a body-shutdown is their response to a state of affairs they may battle to outlive, reminiscent of a sudden temperature change – and it’s not a secure state for them to be in as they’re unlikely to have had time to correctly put together for it. So, in case your hamster torpid, chilly or limp, don’t simply assume it’s hibernating, as a substitute take it to a vet!

Like all rodents, hamsters have delicate respiratory programs and choose up infections simply. Nonetheless, they don’t catch human viral colds. Like rats or mice, a hamster with a snotty nostril or a crackly chest almost definitely has a bacterial respiratory an infection and desires vet remedy.

Hamsters are wonderful pets – in the event you put the time in

Hamsters could be superb pets – Beri normally has 2 or 3 hamster cages which might be 1 metre (3.28 ft) lengthy at anybody time! In the event you present sufficient area and species-appropriate enrichment then their personalities actually shine by means of and they’re each bit as particular person as rats. They’re actually enjoyable to simply sit and watch within the cage doing their very own factor, however in addition they take pleasure in human interplay that’s respectful of their species-type and life historical past. As with many animals, the extra you realize about them, the extra rewarding the connection shall be.


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