Caring for your hamster

hamster-01049

Female: Sow
Male: Boar
Young: Pups
Life span: 1-3 years
Litter size: 4-12 pups
Gestation period: 15-18 days
Average weight: 85-150 grams

Breeds:

There are over 20 different breeds of hamsters, each with their own individual markings and colours.

Housing:

Hamsters can be housed in a wire cage with a firm plastic base, a plastic hamster home or an adapted aquarium (viviarium) with a well ventilated cover. Wooden cages should not be used as hamsters can chew their way out. Hamsters love to explore, so a big cage with multiple levels is ideal. Your hamster must always have a place to rest and hide and another area to play and feed.

Your hamster needs warm, absorbent bedding. Do not use synthetic bedding as it could harm your hamster if eaten.

The temperature should be constant (out of direct sunlight or draughts) and should be away from loud noise (radios and tvs).

Feeding:

Hamsters should be fed every day, preferably in the evening as they are nocturnal. A metal bowl is ideal as they will chew plastic ones. Follow the recommended daily allowance on the food bag to ensure your hamster has enough food and make sure that fresh water is always available, preferably in a water bottle.

Treats should only be given occasionally and should be specially designed for hamsters as some human foods can be harmful to them.

Exercising:

Hamsters need daily exercise, either in a ball or a wheel. The wheel must be big enough that they don’t need to bend their back to fit in it, and must have a solid floor rather than rungs. Most hamsters will exercise for 3-4 hours a night. They will enjoy playing in tubes and boxes and having willow branches to chew on. You can also hide your hamsters food around the cage to encourage them to forage.

Handling:

Make sure that your hamster is awake before handling them, as they may bite if startled. If possible, let it approach you and sniff your hand first. Then slowly offer your palm. Some hamsters will crawl into your hand. Alternatively you can scoop your hamster up and cup it in both palms to make sure it’s safe. Lift it slowly and either place it into your lap or hold it close to your chest while carrying it.

Companionship:

Some dwarf hamsters can be sociable but hamsters like Russian, Syrian or Chinese, are solitary and therefore should be housed alone to avoid fighting. If you have more than one hamster than a larger cage will be needed.

Common illnesses:

Diarrhoea: Generally caused by feeding too much green food. Stop feeding green food and instead just give your hamster its dry food. If the problem persists, consult your vet.

Constipation: A lack of droppings or hunched appearance may be a sign of constipation. Feed your hamster a small amount of green vegetables and see a vet if the problem persists.

Wet tail: A bacterial infection that can cause extreme diarrhoea. The anus and tail area appear wet and sticky. The hamster may appear hunched up as if it is in pain. This condition is highly infectious so affected hamsters should be housed separately. Clean the cage with AntiBAC+ and seek advice from your vet immediately.

Overgrown teeth: Hamsters teeth grow continually and they therefore need to gnaw to keep them short. Make sure your hamster has lots of things to gnaw on and consult a vet if they are struggling to eat.

Overgrown nails: Nails should be trimmed regularly by a vet to ensure that your hamster is comfortable.

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk

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