When it comes to learning how to care for a hamster, your goal should be to remember that your furry friend must be kept warm, dry, and entertained.
A hamster’s needs are directly related to the life it would be living were it a wild animal. Hamsters are desert creatures, populating dry, rocky areas in places like Syria, Mongolia, and Pakistan. This is why it’s essential that you meet your hamster’s need for dry, warm housing. Avoid keeping your hamster in an aquarium, as the glass enclosure will promote the locking-in of moisture. Instead, seek out a cage made especially for hamsters-either a standard wire enclosure or one of the popular “habitrail” type cages. A habitrail cage, with all of its tubes, turrets, and tunnels will also help ensure that your hamster’s need for entertainment is met.
Diet is another essential element in knowing how to care for a hamster. Fresh water should be made available at all times via a specially made drinking bottle. Never put your hamster’s water in a dish, as the dish will quickly be tipped or filled with debris, and then you will have a sad, wet hamster. As for food, there are a multitude of pre-packaged hamster foods on the market, and it’s always a good idea to make those foods the bulk of your hamster’s diet. However, hamsters, like people, appreciate a little variety at dinnertime, so an offering of apple pieces, carrot slices, or crackers is always welcome. Greens can also be integrated into your hamster’s diet, but avoid overfeeding these vegetables to your hamster as they will contract an illness called “wet tail,” which is fatal if left untreated. Keep in mind also that hamsters are hoarders. It is nearly impossible to overfeed them, as they will most likely take much of their food with them into their nest, so remove uneaten foods that might spoil if your hamster decides to save them for later!
Other items that should be on your hamster care checklist include plenty of bedding (try cedar or pine shavings), adequate nesting material (facial tissues work great), and the all-important exercise wheel. Hamsters are nocturnal by nature, so be sure to get a wheel that won’t make a ruckus and keep you awake as your pet makes its nightly rounds. Always be sure your hamster’s wheel is unobstructed and can turn freely. The exercise a wheel provides is necessary to prevent your hamster from developing a condition called “torpidity.” When a hamster is torpid, it hasn’t had the activity it needs to maintain proper mental health. This lack of exercise will cause the hamster to snap, and possibly attack you when you reach in to pet it. Also be sure to respect your hamster’s nocturnal habits. Avoid waking your hamster during the daylight hours as much as possible, as this could result in a nasty bite, or in the very least, a grumpy, confused pet.
Now that you’re prepared, it’s time to go pick out your new friend. Make sure you choose a clean, reputable pet store from which to buy your hamster. Look carefully to ensure that none of the animals seem sick, and make sure that the pet store employees are equipped to answer any questions you may have. After bringing your hamster home, allow it a day or so to adjust to its new surroundings before attempting to handle it. This may seem like a lot to remember, but know that the time you devote to learning how to care for a hamster is time well spent! Hamsters are affectionate, fascinating, and of course, adorable pets who will provide you with several years of enjoyment and companionship in exchange for your expert, loving care.
Author: Barry S. Mcgee
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