Hamsters, those tiny and adorable creatures, have found their way into the hearts of many as beloved family pets. With several different breeds available, such as the lively dwarf breeds and the long-haired teddy bears, the Syrian or golden hamster remains the most popular choice. These little furry friends, if socialized from a young age and treated gently, are generally slow-moving, easy to handle, and affectionate. However, due to their nocturnal nature, they may not be the best companions for light sleepers.
Hamsters are great family pets but should never be left unsupervised with small children. Their tendency to startle easily can lead to a defensive reaction, especially if they feel frightened. As owners, it’s important to let a hamster know you are there before attempting to touch them or gently awakening them before handling. Forcefully restraining or frightening a hamster while being held can result in a bite. Keep in mind that the smaller dwarf hamsters are more excitable and fast-moving compared to their larger counterparts. Among all the pocket pets, hamsters have a reputation for being the most aggressive and prone to biting. However, they do not shed excessively and rarely cause allergic reactions. Overall, hamsters are hardy, clean animals that are relatively low-maintenance.
It’s important to note that hamsters have a shorter lifespan, usually living between 18 to 24 months, with some reaching up to 36 months. Therefore, it’s essential to inform children about their pet’s lifespan to avoid any unexpected heartbreak. Despite this, hamsters make excellent family pets and are suitable as a first pet for children, as long as they are supervised.
Hamster Care Facts
Hamsters may appear clumsy, but they possess impressive chewing skills, which makes them great escape artists. Their large cheek pouches enable them to store food or bedding material for later use. Additionally, hamsters have continuously growing incisors (front teeth), requiring appropriate objects for chewing to prevent overgrowth. It’s worth noting that the upper incisors are shorter than the lower incisors, maintaining a 1:3 ratio. On their sides, hamsters have a hip or flank gland, which can often be mistaken for a mole or tumor. This gland is less developed in females. Female hamsters may experience a pungent vaginal discharge around the time of ovulation, which shouldn’t be mistaken for an infection.
To maintain a healthy diet, hamsters should not be fed a strict seed-based diet as it can lead to obesity. Instead, they should be given a pelleted diet made specifically for hamsters. This can be supplemented with small amounts of vegetables and limited quantities of fruit. It’s advisable to house hamsters separately, as males and females tend to fight with each other. Pregnant females may also display aggression towards males, except during breeding periods. Hamsters are sensitive to heat and should be kept in a cool area during hot summer months.
Selecting Your Pet
When choosing a hamster, you have the option to adopt from shelters or purchase from pet stores or breeders. Look for clear eyes and noses, free from any discharge that may indicate a respiratory infection. A sneezing hamster could be a sign of respiratory issues. Curiosity and inquisitiveness are positive traits to look out for, while a hamster sitting quietly in a corner could indicate illness. Ensure that the hamster has a healthy weight and no moisture around the anus, which might suggest diarrhea. If possible, inspect the hamster’s mouth for broken or overgrown incisors, check for discolored gums (they should appear light pink), and look for any visible sores. Lastly, inquire about any health guarantee offered by the shelter or seller.
Within 48 hours of acquiring your pet hamster, it’s crucial to schedule a veterinarian visit. This examination is often required by shelters or sellers to validate any health guarantee. During the visit, the veterinarian will examine your hamster, weigh it, and provide guidance on housing, proper diet, and suitable toys. A fecal sample will also be examined for parasites, and the possibility of neutering can be discussed. Although hamsters do not require vaccinations, they should undergo annual physical examinations and fecal tests to ensure they are parasite-free. Older hamsters may benefit from biannual check-ups to monitor their health.
Welcome to the delightful world of pet hamsters! These tiny, lovable creatures can bring joy and companionship to your life. With proper care and attention, they will thrive and become cherished members of your family. So, whether you’re considering adopting or purchasing a hamster, remember to provide them with a safe and comfortable environment, a nutritious diet, and regular veterinary care. Enjoy the journey of being a hamster owner and create lasting memories with your new furry friend.