Hamsters are nocturnal rodents, and as may keep you awake if they are to be kept in your bedroom. They have expandable cheek pouches ideal for carrying food or bedding material in. Hamsters can live from 2 to 5 years. If you cannot provide a 5 year commitment, select an older animal, or do not even get a hamster.
As Children’s Pets
Hamsters are often kept as children’s pets but they can bite, especially if they are not used to being handled when young. On the whole no pet should fully be a childs responsibility, children are not able to understand or undertake the lifetime commitment of pet ownership. Therefore you should not get a pet hamster for a child unless YOU, the adult, are fully willing to undertake the care should the child get “bored” with it. Children will need daily reminders to feed, water, play with, and clean the cage.
Be aware that small children may not be able to hold a hamster safely. A hamster must be supported fully from the underneath and held gently. In the hands of a small child, a hamster can easily fall or be squeezed too tight. Children sometimes do not know when they need to let go, and return the animal to its cage. Tame hamsters should not be picked up by the “scruff” of their neck.
Selection and Purchase:
There are several different varieties of hamsters, including dwarf hamsters and larger teddy bear (fluffy) ones. Pick a variety that is appealing to you, remember that the fluffy ones will be more prone to problems with their hair and may require some tangles to be gently removed. The best time to pick your hamster may be later in the day or evening as this fits with their time of activity. The hamster should be at least six weeks of age. Males have been found to be somewhat tamer than females.
Do not accept a hamster from a place where they cannot tell you the gender. Hamsters are easy to sex, so if the place is unable to do so, they are not a reliable seller. In mixed tanks you may risk buying a pregnant female. If the facility is dirty, over crowded, or in otherwise poor condition, it is not a good idea to purchase a pet from them. Sadly most people feel they are “rescuing” animals from horrid situations, but in reality you are merely rewarding them with your purchase price, and you may be buying a sick or distressed animal. In most places there are excellent animal shelters, or SPCAs, where you can adopt hamsters for less than stores sell them for. Sometimes these shelters have used cages that either come with the hamster, or which you can purchase for a low price. Or you can buy your pet from a private seller whose hamster has had babies.
If the handler is using gloves to pick up the hamsters, then its pretty clear the hamsters have not been handled enough. You always want to get a well socialized animal. Usually the ones from private sellers or animal shelters are more tame than ones sold in pet stores, were most animals come from mass breeders and are not handled regularly.
Select a hamster that is active within a short time of being picked up, has no spots of missing fur, and is well rounded (not thin). If possible ask for a health guarantee.
Housing and Care:
As with all pets, the bigger the cage, the better. This is especially true for hamsters who, if bored, will develop negative behaviors such as chewing on their cage bars. In a pinch you can use an aquarium, but over all these are not desirable because they lack good air ventilation. Some cages are plastic on the bottom, sides, top, and have loads of tunnels. These may be great, but might be tricky to take apart to move or clean. The most common type of cage for use with hamsters is a wire cage with a plastic bottom. You need to make a nesting (bed) area. This can even be a tissue box. They love toilet paper rolls to play in and chew on, but make sure they were from non-scented toilet paper. You can also rip up some strips of toilet paper and hang them in the top of the cage. Your hamster will eagerly take them down and make a bed with them.