Hamsters

Hamsters make phenomenal first-time pets for young and old alike. They are not loud and do not take a great deal of space in your home. In addition, their life span is short. Most hamsters if handled correctly make exceptionally affectionate and interesting pets.

SOME FACTS ON HAMSTERS:

  1. Hamsters originate from Syria, Central and East Europe and Asia
  2. All domesticated Teddy Bear Hamsters can be traced back to one female ancestor called Eve that was caught in the 1800’s in Syria.
  3. The term Hamster derives from the term “hamstern” -which in old German means “to hoard”.
  4. Hamsters live between 2-4 years of age.
  5. The most common pet hamsters are:
    1. The Teddy bear or golden hamster
    2. The Dwarf hamster and
    3. The Russian dwarf hamster who is white
  6. Hamsters can reproduce almost every 8 weeks
    1. Where the male hamster is not removed on the day of the birth of the young, chances are very high that he will impregnate the female directly after giving birth.
  7. Hamsters may kill and will eat their young if:
    1. They are excessively stressed by being disturbed during the day by you.
    2. They are a young mother.
    3. They are being overbred.
  8. Hamsters wash themselves by having sand baths.
  9. Hamsters teeth continually grow, and they require wood as an essential in their cage and other chew toys to ensure their teeth do not overgrow.
  10. Hamsters will kill or injure one another if not introduced correctly and with patience and observation.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TEDDY BEAR HAMSTERS AND DWARF HAMSTERS;

  1. The Teddy is a larger sized hamster and its fur will generally be of a golden-brown colour. Sometimes flecks of grey and white are in the coat. Infrequently you may find white teddies that are albinos. Male teddies have longer hair growth on their bum area and are prone to be quite steady and calm in their behaviour. You will mostly find a male teddy sleeping on his back with his legs in the air.
  2. The dwarf is the smallest hamster and can be difficult to hold die to their small size. They are curious and investigative. Generally, very aggressive toward other hamsters not introduced to. They can be found in white -The Russian dwarf or in colours of grey with flecks of black and white.

Both make lovely pets and opinions vary on which is the better pet. It is as always, your behaviour and care that will determine the outcome of your relationship and the affection. In our opinion, Teddys are easier and kinder hamsters-even to one another. They are more chilled and laid back.

GENERAL CARE:

  1. A large cage is required for adequate room to move and play in. We recommend a large rat cage rather than the common smaller hamster cage. Please ensure your clasps on cage are secure and the bars of your cage are not too wide to ensure your hamster does not escape. Most hamsters die from being killed by pet dogs and cats upon having escaped from their cage.
  2. House, tunnels or boxes-hamsters like to borrow and hide and require these places to sleep, to raise their young and to store their food.
  3. Commercial Hamster bedding- hamsters like to borrow and nesting material aides them in finding comfort in their house. Where you cannot locate hamster bedding, give your hamster pieces of shredded newspaper or cardboard.
  4. Mineral chews- are small blocks of compressed mineral powder filled with essential supplements and assist in grinding down hamsters’ teeth that continuously grow.
  5. Wheel- as most cages are too small, an exercise wheel is a must.
  6. Wood – is an absolute ESSENTIAL. Hamsters require this to assist in grinding down teeth and general good health.
  7. Sand- is an absolute ESSENTIAL. Hamsters wash and keep themselves clean by bathing in sand. They will literally throw themselves into their sand bath and roll around for quite some time. If you do not keep a sand bath in your hamster’s cage as a standard, please ensure you place a sand bath in the cage at least once a week for 24 hours. The sand can be re-used.
  8. Substrates for your cage, either sawdust or fine corncob.
  9. Food- please ensure you supply your hamster with the right food, guinea pig and chinchilla food is not advised as a replacement. Also look at feeding fresh vegetables and fresh fruit in their diet.
  10. Large blanket to cover their cage
  11. DO NOT wash your hamster with water.
  12. DO NOT squeeze your hamster hard or mishandle him/he. Parents must supervise hamster handling for the first few times with their children and show how to hold, etc. Also, where friends of your children are introduced the first time the rules about handling must be made clear and abided by.

PRODUCTS:

FOOD:

  1. Commercial hamster food, we recommend a food that has fewer sunflower seeds and is more balanced toward vegetable pellets.
  2. Hay, eragrostis or bunny bedding- is a great addition as food and something for hamsters to play with and eat. Do not feed lucerne instead of hay as it is high in fats and sugar.
  3. Fresh vegetables-try finely chopped baby marrows, carrots, salad excluding Iceberg and any herb especially Fennel.
  4. Fresh fruit-try strawberries, apple, pear, small amounts of banana.

CAGES:

  1. Small to large standard hamster cages
  2. Hamster cages with tunnels added on outside
  3. Small to large rat cages

TOYS:

  1. Treats
  2. Running wheels
  3. Ladders made of wood
  4. Hanging ropes and beads
  5. Seesaws
  6. Hanging beds

Behavioural / Health issues:

If your hamster is excessively chewing on the bars of the cage and any other item, ie the plastic house OR plastic house it may be suffering from the following:

  1. Teeth too long, facial injuries or misaligned teeth
    1. Rodents teeth continuously grow and unless they have access to wood to continuously chew and grind down their teeth, most hamsters will have overgrown molars leading to excessive chewing and obsessive behaviour. Tooth pain is not fun, it can also lead to lack in ability to eat.
    2. Always check their teeth, you may need to get to a specialist vet(exotic) to have them shortened.
    3. Always make sure your hamsters have wood platforms or a piece of sekelbos wood in their cage, as well as a mineral chew. Sekelbos is known as a hard wood, it is indigenous and known for its anti-inflammatory properties for animals.
  2. Boredom– Usually the cage is too small, and the hamster is frustrated, showing its frustration by obsessive chewing. Look at adding another cage with tunnels to connect and consider changing the houses and ladders around from time to time. Alternatively buy a larger rat cage with two or three platforms. These do not have access holes for tunnels-however you can add these to the inside of the cage. Also having access to a room in the home or a piece of garden properly secured is highly advisable to alleviate boredom.

Where your hamster is excessively scratching around the ears, check:

  1. The ears and head immediately for small red mites.
  2. Also check for bald patches around the ears and head even if you do not see mites-this is high indicator that your hamster has mites.
  3. If you do not treat your hamster and cage immediately, you have a high probability that your hamster will be dead within 48 hours.
  4. The reason for mites is generally no access to a sand bath by your hamster.
  5. What to do:
    1. Transfer your hamster into a secure box.
    2. Use an animal disinfectant on your hamster by making the solution as directed and spraying this on your hamster and rubbing the solution around the ears and into the ears. (PLEASE make sure that the disinfectant is not poisonous to your hamster).DO NOT use a common commercial disinfectant-it will kill your hamster.
    3. Repeat this morning and night for 3 days.
    4. F10 is a great animal disinfectant to have in your home, or a generic cage disinfectant from Reptile Resorts.
    5. Dispose of any bedding, nesting material, mineral treats and food immediately.
    6. Clean ALL items in your hamster’s cage by washing them in a hot soapy solution and disinfecting them thereafter with F10.
    7. Place the items and cage in a sunny spot and allow to dry and the suns rays to disinfect for a few hours.
    8. Reassemble your cage and place your hamster back into it.
    9. ENSURE your hamster has access to a sand bath daily.

PLEASE NOTE: these mites are not transferable to you and should not affect a human at all. However, it is advisable to use disinfectants in the areas outside the cage where your infected hamster played.

No movement or very little movement of your hamster generally.

  1. This may be a high indicator your hamster is suffering from ill health, either digestive issues or general illness or boredom.
    1. Take your hamster to a specialist vet.
  2. Boredom, where some hamsters display excessive/obsessive behaviour as explained above- this is the second phase, where your hamster has given up and will eventually die for “unknown” reasons.
  3. Excessive sleeping, no movement on the wheel, very little movement is a high indicator that your hamster will die soon. To change this you must change:
    1. The environment by
      1. Adding another cage with connected tunnels or buying a much larger cage AND
      2. Changing food and adding fresh fruit and vegetables
      3. Adding a great deal of wood chews and toys
      4. A running wheel is a must
      5. Allow your hamster to explore your house or garden in a secure area.