Thinking about a pet for the first time? Consider a hamster. They are small, easy to care for, and unbelievably cute! Most people might rather own a dog but they are larger than hamsters and may not be the best pet for you if you've never had one before. The first thing you should do before you choose a hamster is to figure out why you want one. Is it because you like the idea of having a pet? Is it because you need some company? Whichever it is, it's best to choose one that will make a pet that’s easy to take care of such as the Syrian hamster. If you have a number of pets at home, it's also best to choose one that won't pose any risk to the other animals.
Choosing the right hamster as your first pet can be a daunting task. There are so many different types of hamsters and so many features to take into consideration like the colour, size, etc.
That’s why we’re here! We’ll help you decide how to choose your first pet hamster. But first, let's get to know some fun facts about hamsters in general.
Get to know hamsters
Hamsters are part of the rodent family, which includes all the types of animals we commonly know such as mice, rats, and squirrels. They are small animals, typically weighing between 60 and 100 grams and can measure up to 11cm long. Hamsters have strong, long hind legs that allow them to run at a high speed. The bottoms of their feet are covered with fur, or hair. This keeps the heat from escaping their bodies. Hamsters don't have very good eyesight, and they rely on their senses of smell and hearing. Since they are nocturnal animals, they sleep during the day and wake up at night. A hamster's average life span is about two to three years, although it could be longer if it receives good care.
Which Hamster Should I Get?
Ok, short introduction done, let's go over the three most popular types of hamsters for pets - dwarf hamsters, Chinese hamsters and Syrian hamsters.
Dwarf hamsters come in a variety of colors. Some are brown with a white belly and some are white with dark markings. They have the same physical characteristics as the Syrian hamster. Russian Dwarf Hamsters were first discovered in Russia, giving rise to their name. They’re also known as the Winter White Dwarf Hamster and are popular in India.
Syrian hamsters, also known as Golden Hamsters, on the other hand, are one of the most docile among hamsters, making them the perfect pet for both kids and adults. But bear in mind, Syrian hamsters are about double the size of dwarf hamsters, so they require more room in their cage as well as proper habitat.
Chinese hamsters are distinguished by a black stripe on their back and a longer tail compared to other breeds. They're mostly good-natured and relatively easy to care for, which makes them good house pets. They tend to be calmer than other breeds, are quite social and like to be held.
Now that you have an idea about which type of hamster you could go for, your task just got easier!
Preparing For Your Hamster
Here are a few things to keep in mind before you bring the little furball home.
Will your hamster be safe in your home if you have other pets?
You should be able to introduce them to any other pets you have at home. However, it's best to take certain precautions to ensure that your hamster stays safe at all times. Keep in mind that your hamster may also be a little frightened by the presence of these other pets, so make sure to give them plenty of time to adjust to your other pet before you bring them home. Also, ideally your hamster’s cage should be made of a material that cannot be messed with by other animals. Don't leave your hamster unsupervised if there are other pets around the home. These may include dogs, cats, or even birds that could want to make a quick snack out of your hamster. If you are taking your hamster outside, ensure they have a safe space to hide in and keep an eye on them at all times.
What are a hamster's cage requirements?
Remember to read up on the ideal flooring for your hamster. How big should the cage be? How much space will your hamster need? It all depends on how active they are. The floor space is the first indicator you will have to go by. Take note of how much space you have available in your home and where. A corner away from the busy spots at home would be ideal. This should also help you decide on the kind of hamster that will be best for you. If your home is small, a dwarf hamster may not be the ideal choice.
House trained hamsters are better for kids or people who want to have a pet they can keep in the house at all times. Provide them with an exercise wheel or even a ball. Be prepared to play with them for some exercise and give them company while they are in their cage.
How much time can you spend with your hamster?
The time you spend with your hamster depends on their personality. And each one is unique! Friendly hamsters will allow you to spend a long time petting or cuddling them. Some would prefer to be left alone on certain days. Some other hamsters love to spend time outside their cage and this is a good opportunity for you to play with them. That said, experts suggest one to two hours as an ideal timeframe to spend with your hamster.
What accessories should I get for my hamster?
In addition to a suitable cage, water bottle, exercise wheel and feeder, hamsters also need toys to keep them occupied. Hamsters are very active and energetic creatures, and having a variety of toys will add some fun to their cage. They love to clamber around, hide in them and enjoy exploring the different designs. Chew toys are a good idea to work out their extra energy and also to keep their teeth and gums clean.
What should I feed my hamster?
Hamsters are herbivores and their ideal diet will include a healthy mix of fruits and vegetables in order to prevent tooth decay, help keep their teeth clean, and provide enough dietary fiber. Supplement your hamster's diet with pellets or muesli which are high in fiber and protein. Hamsters love lettuce, carrots, apples, and broccoli. Offer a variety of healthy treats for your hamster to enjoy, as different types of food will provide nutrients they need to stay healthy. When choosing a treat, make sure it is made specifically for hamsters and does not contain sugar or other unhealthy additives. Chocolate in particular is very harmful to them and may cause internal bleeding. Also, make sure treats such as raisins or nuts are given in moderation.
Settling your hamster in
When you arrive home, open the cage door carefully. You might not even notice your hamster inside if they have buried themselves in a corner. Don't attempt to dig them out or entice them as they can nip in fear.
Your new hamster can be particularly nervous and twitchy as they take their time to get used to new sounds, smells, and faces. Pick them up only if it's really needed as it's likely they would be scared. Allow them time to get used to their surroundings for the first week and leave them alone in a calm, peaceful corner. Make sure that they are healthy and well-fed. Watch out for any unusual behaviors, such as over-sensitivity to noise or light. If your hamster seems particularly thin or small, you'll want to consult a vet before giving them any free-range time since their smaller size may indicate they are not old enough for such independence. An especially small or thin hamster may need regular monitoring during this time.
Only lift your hamster if absolutely necessary as this would cause additional stress.
Next steps and life ahead
Once your hamster gets used to you, it's time to start training sessions. When they're awake and well-fed, get them used to being handled. Hold them and let them get used to your hands. As your hamster becomes accustomed to your presence they learn to relax and accept more people. Just as with dogs or cats, taming and training a hamster requires patience, attention, and love. Give them time, be gentle. Be prepared to receive the odd bite or nip as they get out of their comfort zone and try to work with you. Gradually you're sure to simply enjoy their boundless curiosity and company!