Hamsters are adorable little creatures that make great pets, especially for older children. Not only are they cute and fun to watch, but they also teach kids about responsibility and care. Syrian hamsters, also known as Golden hamsters, are one of the most popular hamster breeds. In this guide, we will explore the ins and outs of caring for Syrian hamsters.
Syrian hamsters are generally healthy animals, but they can suffer from coughs, sneezes, and runny noses and eyes. If you notice any of these symptoms, ensure that they stay warm and away from any draughts. Acute diarrhea, known as “wet tail,” is another health issue to be aware of. If your hamster exhibits symptoms of wet tail, it is crucial to consult a vet immediately. Additionally, keep an eye on their teeth. If their teeth grow too long, it can cause eating difficulties, and you may need to have them trimmed by a vet.
While Syrian hamsters don’t hibernate, they may enter a state of deep sleep resembling hibernation if the temperature drops below 5C. If your hamster happens to escape from its cage, try placing a box with some of its favorite food in the corner of the room. You might find it in there the next morning. If you have any concerns about your hamster’s health, don’t hesitate to reach out to a pet shop or vet.
Choosing Your Hamster
When selecting a Syrian hamster, there are a few things to consider to ensure you’re bringing home a healthy and happy pet. Look for the following signs of a healthy hamster:
- Bright and alert
- No discharge from the eyes, ears, mouth, or nose
- Clean anal area
- Glossy coat with no bald patches or sores
- No breathing problems
- Easy movement without stiffness or staggering
- Not too skinny or bony
Providing a suitable living environment is essential for your hamster’s well-being. Opt for a cage with a plastic base and a wire top, as it is easy to clean and should be escape-proof. The cage should be spacious enough to divide into different areas for eating, sleeping, and using the toilet. Additional rooms or stories in the cage can add to their environmental enrichment. Avoid placing the cage in draughty areas, direct sunlight, near radiators, or in damp or humid conditions. Maintain a stable temperature between 17C and 23C to keep your hamster comfortable.
Hamsters require plenty of exercise, so make sure to include a suitably-sized exercise wheel in their cage. You can also use a hamster ball to let your pet roam safely around a designated area of your house. For the cage floor, soft, dust-free woodchips work well. Use soft shredded paper as bedding and nesting material, but avoid using fluffy bedding. It is recommended to empty and fully clean the cage using a pet-safe disinfectant at least once a week.
Food and Water
Syrian hamsters are omnivores, so a varied diet is essential for their nutritional needs. Opt for a high-quality commercial Syrian hamster mix or pellet as their primary food source. You can supplement their diet 2-3 times a week with small amounts of fresh fruit or vegetables (excluding citrus and onions). They also enjoy extra protein from cooked chicken, boiled eggs, or mealworms a couple of times a week. Additionally, treat your hamster to a small bowl of milky porridge several times a month. It’s a good idea to add vitamin supplements to their diet as well. Ensure that your hamster always has fresh, clean drinking water available, preferably in a gravity-fed water bottle designed for their cage.
Regular handling is crucial to build a bond with your hamster. When you first bring your hamster home, give them 24 hours to settle into their new environment. Gradually introduce your scent by placing your hand inside the cage. Once your hamster seems comfortable, gently cup your hands to pick them up. Always be focused and careful when handling Syrian hamsters, as they are quick and may slip out of your hands. Avoid trying to handle them when they have just woken up, as they may feel vulnerable and may bite.
To ensure you have everything you need for your hamster, here’s a handy shopping list:
- Book on hamster care
- Cage/housing unit
- Litter and bedding material
- Food and food dish
- Water bottle and bottle brush
- Exercise wheel
- Gnaw block
The Five Animal Welfare Needs
As responsible pet owners, it’s important to meet the five animal welfare needs outlined by the Animal Welfare Act 2006:
- Environment: Provide appropriate housing, shelter, space for exercise, and a secure, comfortable resting place.
- Diet: Offer the correct type and volume of food to meet their nutritional needs, along with access to clean, fresh water.
- Behavior: Allow pets to exhibit normal behavior patterns by providing suitable facilities.
- Company: Ensure pets have appropriate social interactions, either with their own kind or by being kept alone, depending on their needs.
- Health: Protect animals from pain, suffering, injury, and disease, and provide necessary veterinary treatment when required.
By following these guidelines and providing proper care, you can create a loving and nurturing environment for your Syrian hamster. Enjoy the journey of bonding with these delightful little creatures!