Pet shop Gloucester advice on caring for your Syrian hamster.
Hamsters generally make good family pets. However there are issues that you need to take into consideration.
They are nocturnal so being more active in the evening allows the busy family time to enjoy them. However in a child’s bedroom this can be a problem, unless you buy a silent wheel and a cage that does not have bars for the hamster to constantly chew on. They are small mammals ideal for families with limited space. Hamsters make a suitable pet for children providing they are taught the responsibilities of their pets daily cleaning, feeding, handling and care.
Syrian or Golden hamsters originally come from Syria. In the wild they live in burrows in the day to keep cool, so they love tubes and tunnels. They are active animals and travel great distances at night, hence the need for a wheel. They will carry food in pouches and hoard it, so check yours is eating what you put in for it or when you clean it out you will be wasting food by throwing away its food store. Syrian hamsters are solitary animals and best kept alone. You will see them together in the shop but this is because they are young, sexually immature animals. When they reach sexual maturity they will start to fight. Syrian hamsters have more than twenty colours and coat types such as smooth coat, satin and long haired. Syrian hamsters average life span is 2 -3 years.
Hamsters normally stay healthy throughout their lives. They can suffer from coughs and sneezes and their nose and eyes may run, so keep them warm and away from any draughts. If the signs persist seek veterinary advice. Hamsters can suffer acute diarrhoea known as wet tail . If this occurs take your pet to the vets immediately. There is normally no problem with hamsters’ teeth. However if they do not meet properly they will grow too long and eating will be impossible. If this occurs the teeth must be clipped regularly. It is therefor essential the teeth are checked BEFORE you buy. Also make sure your hamster has something to gnaw on to keep its teeth worn down.
Syrian hamsters do not need to hibernate but will appear to do so if there is a sudden drop in temperature below 5°C. They will go torpid and their breathing will be so shallow they appear dead. Sadly hamsters have been disposed of in the past because the owners thought they had died. Hamsters will also exhibit this behaviour if the temperature becomes too high (35C)
If your hamster escapes from its cage try putting a box (its nest box) or bowl in the corner of the room. He may well be in it the next morning. If you are concerned about your hamster’s health speak to your pet shop Gloucester or your vet.
Use a good proprietary brand of hamster food. This will have the correct balance of nutrients. Hamsters in the wild eat a mixture of seeds, plants and insects. Make sure you feed yours a similar balanced diet. If your mix does not contain insects (many do not) then supplement with meal worms. We use live but if you are squeamish you can used dried (both available at your pet shop Gloucester). You can also feed some fruit and millet etc. or hamster fruity treats but you will not need too many of these. Be aware that hamster store food. They will cram as much into their cheek pouches as possible and store it in a “larder” (designated part of their burrow) for later. Just because the bowl is empty does not mean it has no food. Check the cage for the store and monitor that.
Sexing hamsters is very easy. The testes in the male are clearly visible under the base of the short tail from a very early age. Also the distance between the anus and the genitals is much greater in the male. In our pet shop Gloucester we tend to keep males as they will tolerate each other for a lot longer than the females. Females need to be separated earlier but males will eventually fight. In the wild the fights will result in one hamster losing and running away. In the confines of a cage there is nowhere to go and so the fights will result in the death of one (at least) of the hamsters.
A good sized cage is required. You can use either a wire cage with a plastic bottom, or a plastic covered cage. Both have disadvantages and advantages. Whilst hamsters love tunnels, I would avoid cages with horizontal tubes as part of the construction. Hamsters naturally use a latrine (another designated part of their burrow) and you can almost guarantee it will select the most inaccessible part of the tubing system and the wee will leak out of the tiny air holes in the plastic (this is from experience!). Buy tubes to go inside a normal cage, they are easier to clean. Due to this habit of using a latrine it is possible to litter train a hamster. Buy a hamster toilet and put some of the soiled bedding in it and soon the hamster will be using this as its latrine, saving on cleaning out the whole cage. Definitely get a hamster wheel or saucer. Hamsters love to exercise. Not having one is really unfair on the animal.
When cleaning cages and accessories make sure you use a small animal disinfectant not household which are toxic. A very useful piece of equipment is the hamster ball. Not only is this excellent for exercising the hamster but it is useful to use it whilst you clean out the cage.Two birds with one stone.
If you need further advice on hamsters call into our pet shop Gloucester and have a chat.
The Angell Pets Team