9 things to consider before buying a pet hamster

If you’re planning on getting a hamster for a pet, don’t forget to consider these 9 things before making a decision.

9 things to consider before buying a pet hamster

Hamsters belong to the rodent family and are distant relatives of rats and mice. They’re a popular choice for pets because of their small size, cleanliness, and relative affordability.

However, the assumption that taking care of a pet hamster is without any difficulty is a common misconception. They may be relatively easy to take care of but there are also several things to take note of to make sure you can provide the best care for a pet hamster.

If you’re planning on getting a hamster for a pet, don’t forget to consider these 9 things before making a decision.

1. Keep in mind these guidelines when choosing a hamster from the pet store

When you walk into a pet store looking for a hamster, you might be overwhelmed with the different variety of hamsters to choose from. Most stores keep more than one hamster inside a pen, which usually makes singling a particular hamster for a pet a little difficult.

The first you will want to check is the enclosure’s overall condition. You need to take note of the cleanliness, smell, and overall appearance of the enclosure the hamster is being kept in.

Are the feeding and watering containers clean? If so, are the food and water in the containers fresh and clean as well?

Look for signs of contamination in the water container. If you can see fecal matter floating, it’s a sign of poor enclosure management which can directly affect the health condition of the hamsters being housed inside the cage or pen.

After observing the environment the hamsters are being kept in, you will then need to observe the hamsters’ behavior inside their cages.

  • Do they look generally healthy?
  • Are they alert and responsive to external stimuli?
  • Do their eyes look bright or do they appear dull?

These signs can give you a fair idea of their general health condition before you get one.

Lastly, make sure to check the hamster for any signs of pregnancy. Hamsters housed together in one cage can reproduce quickly, and it’s not uncommon for pet stores to accidentally sell pregnant hamsters to people.

You wouldn’t want to bring home one hamster and then suddenly find 5 or more hamster pups in a couple of weeks, would you?

2. Hamsters are fragile and agile creatures that need a secure home appropriate for their living

Unlike some common house pets, hamsters do not require a large amount of space at home because of their small size. Even so, there are special considerations you need to think of in providing an appropriate home for your pet hamster.

It takes more than just a small cage to provide an appropriate living environment for your little furry friend. The key is to mimic its natural habitat in the wild as closely as possible.

The most important factor to consider in setting up a home for your hamster is protection. The enclosure should be able to protect your hamster and keep it safe. Make sure the walls and the top covering is sturdy enough to prevent any injuries should objects accidentally fall or bump into the enclosure.

Hamsters are great escape artists and will try to get out of its cage whenever there’s an opportunity. You have to make sure that the cage is secure enough to prevent the hamster from escaping.

Appropriate flooring is also important for a hamster’s home. The floor should be solid with deep bedding and nesting material, with abundant clean nesting material.

Lastly, the cage should always be kept clean. Bedding and nesting material should always be fresh and changed regularly.

3. Hamsters have specific nutritional requirements that needs to be met

Hamsters are omnivores, and eat both plants and meat in the wild. Pet hamsters can be given commercially available pellet food designed for rats and mice. These are usually sufficient to cater to your hamster’s nutritional needs.

Occasional treats such as fruits and vegetables can be given but should be limited to only a portion of their diet in a day.

Seeds can be given but in small quantities as hamsters tend to prefer these over commercial pellet foods. Giving too many seeds in their diet can lead to refusal to eat pellet food and possible malnutrition as seeds do not satisfy a hamster’s nutritional requirements.

Fresh and clean water should always be available. Drinking water contained should be routinely cleaned to avoid any infection.

4. If you plan to keep more than one hamster, you need to consider individual cages.

Hamsters, like their distant mouse cousins, are very prolific creatures. If you’re planning on getting more than one hamster, it is not recommended to put them together in 1 cage or enclosure.

Housing hamsters of different genders together can result in a rapid increase in the number of animals in a short period. Hamsters start to breed as early as 10 weeks old and can produce about 6 to 8 offspring every 2 months or so.

Also, males can be quite aggressive during mating period and may be difficult to handle.

Placing several hamsters together, regardless of their gender, is also not a good idea as most hamsters become more aggressive as they get older. They may attack each other and may cause serious physical injuries.

If you plan to get more than one hamster, be ready to provide separate cages for each one.

5. You have to be familiar with a hamster’s behavior and temperament

Hamsters are fun and active pets and can be entertaining to watch while they play and explore inside their enclosure.

They are mostly nocturnal animals and are more active at night, which is why getting a hamster pet for a young kid may not be ideal. It usually takes a few days for a pet hamster to adjust to a new home and be comfortable with human handling, and will tend to bite if they feel threatened or startled.

Make sure to give your new pet hamster a few days to adjust before you attempt to hold and pick them up. Once they’ve become accustomed to human handling, they can be easy to hold and handle.

Their small size makes them very fragile, so you have to be very careful not to use too much force in handling your pet hamsters.

6. You will need to provide means for your pet hamster to exercise, they need a lot of it.

Hamsters are very active creatures and will need constant exercise to keep them happy and healthy.

A training wheel is a very good installation that will help keep your hamster busy with exercise. Make sure the training wheel you will provide is sturdy with a solid running surface to prevent any injuries and protect the hamster’s feet. The size of the wheel should be big enough for the hamster to move freely and allow it to easily enter and exit.

Another popular option is exercise balls, which confines a hamster and allows them to move around the cage during exercise. When buying exercise balls, make sure it has enough space and proper ventilation to make the hamster comfortable while running inside it.

This video shows you how a hamster exercise ball should look like and how it’s used properly.

Including boxes and tubes inside the cage are also a great way of promoting exercise for your pet hamster.

7. You should be able to tell if a pet hamster is not feeling well.

Keeping a pet hamster is not all fun and games. Part of your responsibility will be ensuring its welfare and health, which means occasional visits to the veterinarian is necessary.

It’s best to bring your hamster in for an early veterinary visit to establish a basic medical record to help keep your pet healthy and treat any medical condition that may arise.

You have to be observant enough to know if your pet hamster is suffering from some sort of illness. Hamsters are fragile creatures and even common medical conditions, if left untreated, can be fatal to them.

Having an idea of what signs to observe can help identify early stages of disease, and ultimately save their lives.

Make sure to closely observe your hamster’s behavior inside the cage during its first few days with you, to establish a reference on their normal behavior. Any deviation from what you perceived to be normal behavior can be an indication of illness.

You may also observe physical changes like a ruffled coat or a hunched posture, which may mean that your pet hamster needs a veterinary visit.

8. They don’t need much in terms of preventive health care but dental care is very important.

Unlike dogs and cats, Hamsters do not require preventive vaccinations and parasite control. Most of the preventive care will come from making sure the hamster’s environment is safe and secure.

Keeping their cages, feeders, and water containers clean at all times can go a long way in terms of preventive health care.

Hamsters also have front teeth that grow continuously. They will need food and chew items to help trim their front teeth and avoid dental problems brought about by overgrown teeth. Signs of overgrown teeth can include drooling, decrease in appetite, and weight loss.

If you’ve observed that your pet hamster may have overgrown front teeth, you can bring it to a veterinarian for a quick trim.

9. Make sure to secure your pet hamsters from hazards around your house.

Because of their behavior, certain household items can be a hazard for a pet hamster. If they can escape their cage, they may inadvertently chew on electric wires which can cause electrocution.

Their small size makes them easy to be accidentally stepped on, which can lead to serious physical injuries. Making sure they have a secure enclosure will help prevent unwanted accidents from happening.

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