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So you’ve decided on keeping a hamster as a pet! Well you’ve made a great choice, as tame hamsters make great pets for both children and adults alike. Hamsters (like gerbils and mice) belong to the animal family called rodents.

Although hamsters are small, they still require care and loving and are quite a big commitment, so to help you make that important decision, follow along with the advice below to ensure you choose the right type of hamster as your new family pet! 

Are Hamsters Rodents?

Hamsters are small furry creatures (from the rodent family) and they belong to the subfamily Cricetinae, which contains 19 species. They usually live wild in some parts of Europe and Asia, but more commonly they have become established as popular small pets, especially if they are well looked after.

Is a hamster a good pet?

The reason hamsters have become such good pets is that they can be tamed easily, especially when handled gently and patiently. One of the main reasons though is that they are really cute, attractive looking animals that are especially amusing to watch as they go about their daily life.

Hamster life

Hamsters are nocturnal animals, which basically means they are active at night, and mostly sleep during the day. This may be because in the wild there are fewer predators at night-time. 

Keeping Hamsters as pets - what should you know?

Loud noises can usually frighten hamsters as they have very acute hearing, and they definitely don’t like sudden loud noises. However, they will soon recognise the voices of children and adults, and react accordingly to those sounds. 

One thing to note though is that hamsters have very poor eyesight, and because they are from the rodent family, they have front teeth that will continue to grow throughout their life – and these teeth can sometimes bite small little fingers – so children need to treat them carefully when being handled.

Hamsters also have a very keen sense of smell, and they will be able to recognise objects more from the smell than from their form  or how they look. So hamsters will get to know you more from both your voice and your smell.

There are a few more things to consider before getting a hamster as a pet, so keep on reading…

Types of Hamsters

Before going out to buy your first pet hamster, you need to be aware of the different types of hamsters that you can get. The  most common pet hamster is the Syrian hamster, but there are a multitude of other types of hamsters including the Chinese hamster and others known as the Dwarf breeds, because they are so small. 

We have a page dedicated to each different type of hamster, but at a high level, syrian hamsters (the most popular hamster pet) can either be short or long-haired, and are sometimes called Golden Hamsters or “Teddy Bear” hamsters.

Dwarf hamsters, on the other hand, are about half the size of Syrian hamsters and due to their size can be quite awkward to hold and to handle.
If you are looking at Dwarf hamsters, the Campbell’s Russian (or sometimes referred to as Djungarian hamsters) are one of the most popular Dwarf hamsters to be kept as a pet.

Homes for Hamsters

There are SOOO many types of hamster homes on the market it would be difficult to detail all of them, but homes are mostly categorised into 4 distinct types:

  • Hamster_Tank
  • Hamster_Cage
  • Hamster_Labyrinth
  • Hamster_Burrow

    Tanks are more suitable for dwarf hamsters than for Syrians as the dwarf hamsters tend to stay on one level more than Syrians and don't climb up bars
    Recommended for Dwarf Hamsters
  • Cages

    Bar cages allows hamsters to climb and gnaw at the bars as well as allowing plenty of air flow
    Best for Syrian Hamsters
  • Labyrinths

    Labyrinths include a network of rooms and tunnels but can be quite pricey
  • Burrows

    Hamsters live in burrows in the wild so these types of digging towers or burrow boxes allow the hamster to make burrows into the hay

Products for Hamsters

You need to have the following bare essentials BEFORE getting your hamster and bringing it home. Most of the items can be found in your local pet store, but it is advisable to purchase online if you are looking for better deals!

  • Hamster_Wheel
    Best Hamster Wheels
  • Hamster_Bedding
    Best Hamster Litter
  • Hamster_Chew_Toys
    Best Hamster Chew Toys
  • Hamster_Cages
    Best Hamster Cages
  • Hamster_Water_Bottle
    Best Hamster Water Bottles
  • Hamster_Food_Dish
    Best Hamster Food Dishes

    Hamsters need to exercise and a hamster wheel is excellent for this purpose
  • Litter / Bedding

    Hamsters enjoy making their own beds, so purchase some soft hay or shredded paper bedding
  • Chew Toys

    Don't go overboard with toys, just enough chew toys that don't clutter up the cage
  • Cages

    Ensure you have a hamster cage ready to go before bringing your new pet home
  • Water Bottles

    Get a drip feed bottle that attaches to the side of the cage and make sure it is placed away from the bedding
  • Food Dishes

    Try look for an earthenware food dish so that your hamster can't knock it over

Feeding Your Hamster

Hamsters don’t need a a lot of food to stay healthy, but there are certin foods that hamsters CAN eat, and certain foods that you should definitely AVOID!

Dried Food & Grains

Most hamster food is a mixture of grains and should be considered as the primary food source for your pet hamster. As hamsters don’t eat much, a table spoon of the dried grains should be sufficient per day (dwarf hamsters will eat a little less). Most prepared hamster mixes that you get in pet stores will provide sufficient proteins and carbohydrates for your hamster

Vegetables & Fruits

Hamsters enjoy a small amount of fresh vegetables and fruit per day. You can normally give the vegetables and fruit at the same time as the dried grains or hamster mix. Carrots, broccoli, spinach, romaine lettuce, artichokes and any other dark green veggies are great choices.

In terms of fruits, hamsters love apples, strawberries, pears and bananas. However, you should try and avoid any citrus type fruits (oranges etc.) as these fruits can make hamsters unwell.

Timothy Hay

Timothy hay is a great gnawing food, and it is also great for your hamster’s teeth to keep them in good condition. 

Treats & Water

Treat sticks can be purchased from your local pet store, or you can make your own hamster treats. You can usually just hang treat sticks from the bars of the cage.

Also make sure that you give your hamster fresh water each day. Also, don’t be too concerned if it doesn’t drink it all, as hamsters will get some of their water from the vegetables and fruit.

Cleaning Your Hamster

Hamsters are actually very clean animals and that is one of the reasons many people consider them for pets. They actually wash themselves all over several times during the day, and at other times have what is called “mini-washes”.

Their washing routine is actually fairly quick and energetic. They basically lick their front paws and use them like face cloths, and repeat this exercise over and over to clean themselves. If they cannot reach a part of their body with their front paws, they will then use their back paws instead.

Also, by using their claws as combs, and even sometimes their teeth, they can nibble out tangles in their fur. As such, hamsters don’t really need any assistance in grooming and cleaning themselves. 

However, there are some types of long-haired hamsters which may need some kind of assistance to get stubborn tangles out of their fur.