A hamster is one of the cutest and least expensive critters in a pet shop, leading many people to purchase them on impulse. Hamsters do make friendly and funny pets, but learning how to care for them properly once you get them home is important. Hamster care isn't difficult, but there are key points a new hamster owner should know.
Your hamster wants a clean home with plenty of room to roam. A 10-gallon aquarium, a cage with metal bars or even a large storage tub made of clear plastic will do. The top for an aquarium or a storage tub should be made of wire mesh to allow for ventilation and the bars of a metal cage need to be spaced at a quarter-inch or less to keep your hamster from squeezing out. All doors and tops need to be secure so your hamster doesn't escape. Keep the hamster home out of the direct sun and in a draft-free area of the home. It's also best to keep the hamster away from the kitchen so it isn't exposed to cooking fumes.
Cover the floor of your hamster's home with an absorbent bedding material such as pine shavings or the recycled newsprint bedding specifically designed for animal use. Do not use cedar shavings since the oils can irritate your hamster.
Hamsters love to be active so cage toys should always be available. Your hamster will love playing on an exercise wheel, crawling through tubes and hiding in things. Toys don't have to be fancy. An old paper towel tube and small cardboard box are just as enjoyable to your hamster as expensive plastic toys from the pet store. For even more exercise, get a hamster ball for your pet so it can run around the house safely.
Your hamster will do best if you provide it with a food specifically intended for hamsters. Follow the recommendations on the package for how much food to give your pet each day. Hamsters also love fruits, vegetables, yogurt drops and nuts as a treat. Don't be surprised to see your hamster stuff its cheeks full of food and take the food elsewhere. This is their natural behavior. Avoid buying treat sticks because they have a high sugar content that isn't good for your pet.
Always provide fresh water for your hamster, preferably in a water bottle rather than a dish. Your hamster will urinate in the same corner of its cage. Every other day you should scoop away this soiled litter so your pet isn't exposed to the ammonia for too long. Each week, give the cage a thorough cleaning. Use only mild soap and water to clean.
Don't neglect your hamster's teeth. The teeth of your hamster grow continually through its life. Always provide a wood chew, an apple tree twig or even a dog biscuit for your hamster to gnaw on. For the most part, hamsters that are fed and housed properly and who get enough exercise won't have any health problems.
Based in Portland, Ore., Tammie Painter has been writing garden, fitness, science and travel articles since 2008. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as "Herb Companion" and "Northwest Travel" and she is the author of six books. Painter earned her Bachelor of Science in biology from Portland State University.