Critter Culture
Caring for Your Pet Hamster
Small PetsRabbits & Rodents

Caring for Your Pet Hamster

Amelia, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Oct 15, 2020

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Hamsters are the most common introductory pet in the United States. These curious critters are a relative of mice and gerbils. They are low maintenance and provide an endless source of entertainment to owners. Creating themed habitats is part of the fun of these pets. With proper training and care, they can bring years of love and enjoyment to their owner.

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1

The best hamster breeds

Hamster looking at camera Kerrick / Getty Images

There are 16 known breeds of hamsters, but only 4 are commonly sold as pets. These 4 breeds come with differences in size, appearance, and demeanor:

  • Syrians are large and require the least maintenance.
  • Roborovski hamsters are the smallest breed and dislike being handled.
  • Chinese hamsters usually have striped coats and enjoy human company.
  • Dwarf hamsters are very active at night and need more care than a Syrian.
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2

Chewing is a must

Hamster eating from the food bowl Mayerberg / Getty Images

Like all rodents, hamsters have a pair of upper and a pair of lower teeth that never stop growing. Your pet needs to have chewing blocks and toys they can use to grind their teeth down and prevent overgrowth. Toys as simple as wooden blocks and toilet paper rolls will help with the maintenance of your hamster's teeth.

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3

Hamsters love having a clean home

Curious hamster enjoying the view

Hamsters are quite the tidy little fellows. They keep themselves very clean and odorless. They even designate a corner of their enclosure as a bathroom to keep their droppings in one spot. Ensure your hamster habitat has plenty of room and shavings so they can keep a clean house and stash all their treats.

abalcazar / Getty Images

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4

Form a routine with your hamster

Close up of Hamster in Wheel gemenacom / Getty Images

Hamsters are prone to anxiety, so building up a routine with your hamster is very healthy. Be sure to clean the cage on the same days every week and fill their food at regular times. Giving your hamster a sense of routine gives them comfort.

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5

Hand training your hamster

A woman with manicured nails holds a baby hamster looking at the camera. Carlina Teteris / Getty Images

You can train your hamster to be very interactive and sociable. Start when the hamster is young by placing a treat in your palm and encouraging the hamster to climb up to get it. Repeat this frequently until they get used to standing in your hand. As they grow, they'll come to enjoy playing with you and being held.

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6

The best habitats for hamsters

Hamster on a wheel

A proper hamster habitat is crucial to their health and happiness. A large cage, bedding and nesting materials, running wheel, food bowl, water bottle, hideout structure, and toys are all crucial elements of a good hamster home. If your cage has a ledge or elevation, be sure that the ramp or ladder is sturdy and safe for their little paws to climb on.

Bartolome Ozonas / Getty Images

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7

Common health problems

Brown hamster in its cage, looking down Paul Starosta / Getty Images

There are some common health issues you need to watch out for in your hamster. Like most rodents, they are especially prone to respiratory illnesses, abscesses, digestive illnesses, and skin diseases.

Keep an eye out for signs that your hamster is ill. Some symptoms are loss of appetite, watery eyes, dirty coat, hair loss, or excessive itchiness.

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8

Your hamster's lifespan

A hamster eating a nut Yajie Wang-Campagne / Getty Images

Hamsters have a relatively short lifespan compared to other common pets. Each of the 4 breeds of hamsters has a slightly different lifespan, but a hamster will live between 2 and 3.5 years on average. It's not uncommon for a hamster to live up to four years, if given proper care.

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9

Intelligence and Curiosity

Hiding in a toilet paper roll Shantell / Getty Images

A common trait among rodents is intelligence, and hamsters are no exception. Your hamster is a curious and creative critter. This makes them very clever escape artists if they get bored, so keep them entertained! Give them plenty of new and interesting things to explore, such as toys with strange smells and hideout buildings.

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10

Hoarding habits

Cute Orange and White Syrian or Golden Hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) keeping food in elongated spacious cheek pouches to its shoulder on with dark blurred background. A food hoarding hamster behavior Vichai Phububphapan / Getty Images

Your hamster is a natural hoarder, and their bodies are equipped for it. They have special pouches in their cheeks that expand to hold food. Hamsters like to carry their food to hiding places for late-night snacks. If you notice your hamster stuffing their cheeks and stashing food, don't be alarmed — it's a natural instinct.

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