When you've just brought your hamster home from the pet store or breeder, you're probably eager to play with him. But resist the urge to immediately put your hamster into his new exercise ball to roam loose in your living room. You need to allow your hamster to acclimate to his new home and environment before you expose him to unknown experiences.
Selecting the Right Hamster Ball
You need to make sure the hamster ball you have purchased is the right type of ball for your hamster. Dwarf hamsters, for instance, need balls that are especially intended for their size. Larger hamsters such as the Syrians need larger balls that offer enough room for them to run and stretch out in. Your hamster ball should close securely, with no openings large enough for your hamster to escape through or get a paw stuck in. The ball should have adequate air holes for ventilation and to prevent overheating. Do not put extremely young hamsters in the ball. Hamster balls are designed for adult hamsters, those typically 4 months old or older. Younger hamsters may be injured or get stuck in the ventilation slots of an exercise ball.
Hamster Balls Inside the Cage
Some hamster balls are made for use solely outside your hamster's cage while others are equipped with a stand so your hamster can use the ball inside the cage as well. You can place a hamster ball equipped with a stand inside the cage as soon as you bring your new hamster home. Do not attempt to force your hamster to use the ball. He will discover and explore it on his own time. Stress can make your hamster sick, so allow him to acclimate and explore on his own timeline.
Hamster Balls on the Loose
If you are using an independent hamster ball you should wait until your hamster has adjusted to his new residence and is exploring willingly before you attempt to put him in the hamster ball. That means he should accept your touch and handling without resistance, a basic and crucial responsibility for you to work on by holding a nut or treat in your hand, in the cage, and waiting for the hamster to learn to step onto your hand. If you cannot handle your hamster easily you are putting both yourself and your hamster at risk. If your hamster struggles or bites and you drop him while you are moving him, he could be seriously injured or killed. If he escapes the ball and you are unable to catch him you may have lost your pet. Once you are able to place your hamster in the hamster ball you can seal it tightly and allow him to explore the rest of your home. Many hamster owners use hamster balls as a safe place to put their hamsters while they are cleaning the cage.
A Word of Caution
Hamster balls can be dangerous if not used appropriately. You should always supervise your hamster while he is playing in his ball. He should not be left in the ball for more than 30 minutes, as there is no way to provide water within the ball and he could become overheated from the exercise. Do not use the ball upstairs or on uneven surfaces. Do not allow your hamster to play in the ball on any surface that has a drop of any kind. Do not allow children or other animals to attempt to play with the ball while your hamster is inside it. Hamsters can and have died because of accidents that occurred while using hamster balls, so it is proceed with caution and supervise any time you place your hamster in the ball.
hamster image by cat from Fotolia.com
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.