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10 Things You to Know About Keeping a Hamster as a Pet

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Keeping Your Hamster Happy and Healthy

Hamsters, for many people, make excellent pets. They don't require a lot of attention, get enough exercise running on their wheel, and are cute, cuddly, and pleasant to hold. They can make an excellent starter pet for some children.

Unfortunately, hamsters don't come with care instructions. While caring for a hamster isn't difficult, it does help to have at least a basic understanding of what you're getting into when you keep one as a pet.

1—Not Too Young

A hamster might seem like the perfect pet for a small child, but this is not the case. They require careful, gentle handling, may bite, and don't generally feel safe in smaller hands.

2—Always Feed Hamsters from a Dish

Always make sure that your hamster's chow, whether block or kibble, is served in a bowl or dish of some sort. Hamsters may ingest their bedding otherwise, and this may cause serious health issues.

3—Change Hamster Food Daily

Hamsters don't like to eat leftovers. For optimum nutrition, keep you pet's feeding dish about three-quarters of the way full, and change her food out on a daily basis.

4—Feed Hamsters Fresh Food Every Other Day

Supplementing your hamster's regular food with small pieces of fresh fruits and vegetables is a great way to help your pet enjoy her food while getting balanced nutrition. Make sure that fresh offerings do not exceed around twenty percent of her diet. Fruits and vegetables are not a complete a diet as hamster chow.

5 —Change Hamster Bedding Monthly, Clean the Cage Weekly

Depending on the type of cage you keep your hamster in, you will want to spot-clean her bedding (removing feces) on a weekly basis, changing her entire bedding once per month.

6—Hamsters Do Not Need Help with Grooming

Hamsters groom themselves, and often do it more than once a day. There is no need to bathe, comb, or otherwise supplement your pet hamster's grooming practices.

7—Annual Healthcare

It is a best practice to take a pet hamster to see your veterinarian once per year, regardless of her apparent health. Health concerns to watch out for include sores on her feet, blood in her urine, loss of appetite, loose stools, overgrown front teeth, bald patches in her fur, wheezing, and running nose.

8—Daily Exercise

Hamsters need daily exercise. If her cage is not equipped with a wheel for running, then consider getting her a hamster ball to run inside of. But no matter what you do, don't ever leave your hamster unattended while she's inside of a ball.

9—Bedding Should Be Made of Natural Materials

Timothy hay, orchard grass, brome hay, botanical hay, and oat hay all make excellent bedding options for hamsters.

10—Chew Toys Make for More Content Hamsters

A hamster without anything to keep its teeth occupied may choose to chew on her cage or enclosure. Pet stores offer special chewing toys and blocks made just for hamsters.

About the Author

Dr. Evan Ware

Dr. Evan Ware is a veterinary practitioner in Phoenix, Arizona. He received both his undergraduate degree in microbiology and his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from The Ohio State University.

Dr. Ware is currently the Medical Director of University Animal Hospital (VCA) and is also the owner of two other hospitals, including Laveen Veterinary Center and Phoenix Veterinary Center. His areas of expertise include orthopedic medicine and surgery, veterinary oncology and chemotherapy, and general and advanced soft-tissue surgery.