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Keep a Happy Hamster

Keep a Happy Hamster

  • Do not use wheels that are made from mesh
Having trouble with your furry pal? No problem, all of your answers are here!

Part 1 of 4: Deciding about having a hamster (or two)

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    Know what type of hamster you have or are getting. There are different types of hamsters and some may be more suitable for you than others. In particular, decide from the outset whether you'll be happiest with a larger or a smaller hamster. Other things to consider include:
    • Stick with one hamster: If you are getting a Syrian hamster (the larger type of hamsters -sometimes called "Teddy Bear Hamsters" at pet stores), or a Chinese dwarf hamster, they must be kept alone! Unfortunately, not all pet store employees will tell you this. Once hamsters reach adulthood, they will usually fight if kept with anyone else. They will fight until one of them dies. Do not buy more than one Syrian to put in the same cage.
    • If you want more than one hamster: There are certain types of Dwarf hamsters (the smaller hamsters) that are okay to live together. They are: Campbell's Russian Dwarf hamster, Winter White or Siberian Dwarf hamsters, and Roborovski Dwarf hamsters.
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    Stroke and hold your hamster before buying. This is important to make sure it is friendly.
    • Some people say that male brown hamsters don't bite much and are very friendly. In general, females are more aggressive.
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    Consider existing pets. Do you have a cat? Cats will be curious about hamsters and can transfer this curiosity to a fatal bite. You need to be prepared to keep the cat well away from the hamster at all times.
    • Dogs may also pester and harm hamsters.

Part 2 of 4: Providing appropriate housing

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    Prepare the housing before bringing the hamster home. Your hamster will be happiest if you're not constantly disrupting its living environment by making several changes in its first week in your home. The transfer from pet store to home is stressful enough, so have the housing ready.
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    Purchase or build the perfect-sized cage. Asking the workers in the pet shop if your cage is the right size, is not always enough. They are trying to sell you a product and often do not know the information necessary to help you make the right choice.
    • A Syrian Hamster should never be placed in a 12X12 inch cage; they will be severely cramped. They need a large cage at least 75 centimeter (29.5 in) x 40 centimeter (15.7 in) x 40 (29.5" x 16" x16").
    • The size of the hamster wheel is also really important. Syrian (or Golden) hamsters need minimum 8" wheels, although they seem to be even more comfortable and straight-backed in 11" wheels. They run for up to 5 miles (8.0 km) a night in the wild so they need a lot of exercise to keep them happy, and cannot run that far healthily with an arched back! Try getting a solid floor hamster wheel so its feet won't get stuck.
    • Do not assume that a dwarf hamster will enjoy a smaller cage; get the biggest cage you can find (or afford). You can add tubes and other add-ons to some cages.
    • Consider levels as a way of keeping the hamster entertained and giving it more area to move around in.
    • When choosing a cage, be sure that you get one with obvious corners. Due to the hamster's poor eyesight, oval or rounder corners in housing make it difficult for the hamster to perceive boundaries without shadows (round corners do not cast shadows). This can cause them great discomfort or dizziness believing that it's just a drop-off.
    • If you have a wire cage make sure the hamster can not get through any of the holes between the wires.
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    Consider a tank. A glass fish tank with a screen cover is also a good option for a cage, but it needs to be a large enough tank for the air to circulate at all. The air circulation isn't as great and it provides less possibilities for add-ons, and they are harder to clean - but on the plus side harder to escape from. Make sure you add some sort of lock or clips to the screen if you have an escape artist or curious kitties!
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    Select the right bedding. This is very important. Do not use cedar or chlorophyll shavings. These are very bad for little hamster lungs. The best all around would be either aspen wood or any of the shavings made from recycled paper (like Carefresh).So you can buy a shredder and shred the paper for your hamster but, make sure that if there is ink on the paper that it is non-toxic such as newspaper. Modern newspapers use non-toxic ink.

Part 3 of 4: A healthy hamster is a happy one

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    Give the hamster plenty of space to adapt to its new environment. When you first get your hamster, put it in its cage and let it look around. Allow it the time to get used to the new digs before you take your hamster out of the cage. It needs to settle and adapt to its new surroundings and that takes a good few days.
    • Allow at least 3 days for your new hamster to settle into its new surroundings before getting worried about its behavior or demanding its attention. Be predictable.
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    Change the hamster's food every day. Change the water every couple of days or if the water turns green (avoid this as it can cause illness). Thoroughly clean all traces of any greenness out of the bottle with a bottle brush, or buy a whole new bottle.
    • Give your hamster about 4 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon worth of food.
    • After giving your hamster a while to enjoy its food, be sure to check its food stash. Remove any leftovers so they don't go bad and cause your hamster to become sick.
    • Make sure the food you buy has a reasonable amount of salt. If not buy a salt lick or salt wheel.
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    Give the hamster new food and treats for variety and novelty. If you always give it the same food, it may get bored and unhappy. Try new things.
    • Always be sure what your hamster can and can't eat before you feed the hamster new food. Veggies or fruit are usually safe choices.
    • Try feeding your hamster a few sunflower seeds as a tasty treat every now and then. It will most likely love them!
    • Do not overfeed your hamster with treats. Especially with any type of dwarf hamster, too many treats full of sugar can lead to diabetes in your hamster.
    • Hamsters love to get treats of certain types of fresh fruits and vegetables, like strawberries, blueberries, and cucumber.
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    Clean the cage regularly. The housing can easily become a source of germ build-up, so clean at least weekly and pick up droppings and food scraps daily.
    • Clean your hamster's cage once a week. Cleaning more often will eliminate the odors a hamster releases that tells him where to relieve himself, sleep or eat. Less often will be detrimental to the natural cleaning habits of your hamster.
    • Get a travel cage or hamster ball (just make sure he doesn't roll down the stairs) to use while you are cleaning the cage.
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    Encourage exercise. Keep your hamster healthy with suitable exercise, such as the hamster wheel and chasing after a ball.
    • Allow exercise in moderation. Too little and too much exercise is bad for your hamster. Don't leave your hamster in the ball too long, as it can become tired and anxious. Up to 30 minutes is the maximum.
    • Some hamsters love to be left alone to exercise, so give your hamster some alone time to exercise and stay healthy. A hamster will occasionally drink or eat a small amount to keep enough energy, so ensure that the hamster has access to this when exercising alone.
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    Get to know your local vet and make use of their facilities for regular checkups. If your hamster seems sick to you, call your vet, just the same as for your dog or cat.

Part 4 of 4: Quality time with your hamster

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    Know how to pick up a hamster properly. Scoop up your hamster from underneath as hamsters can get very scared if you try to pick them up from above. Keep the hamster close to the floor or another safe surface; hamsters will be afraid of falling and can struggle and accidentally fall if you aren't taking care.
    • Don't hold your hamster up in the air because it can jump and fall and hurt itself all before you know what has happened.
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    Hold and play with your hamster as much as possible, and it will become very tame. Love him. Like humans, hamsters need affection and attention for some of the time. Playtime allows the hamster
    • Handle with care! Hamsters are delicate and require gentle handling.
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    Provide toys. Keep the hamster entertained, especially when you're not about. In-cage enrichment is an important part of keeping your hamster happy.
    • Hamster balls are a great item to keep in the cage. Buy a few so that you can swap out dirty ones for cleaning and replace an already clean one straight away.
    • Use a playpen or large cardboard box with an open lid for your hamster to run around in. Add toys and treats. The hamster will get exercise and have fun at the same time. You can also put it in it while cleaning the cage.
    • Let the hamster come to you when you want to play. Don't force it or it may never become used to playing with humans.
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    Make toys for your hamsters. You don't need to spend oodles of cash on your beloved hamster. Some of the more fun things are in your house already. For example, hamsters love empty toilet roll tubes––these will keep them occupied for hours! For more ideas, see How to build hamster toys out of household items and How to make toys for hamsters.
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    Talk to your hamster regularly. Use a soft voice and be caring in your tone. Use some words regularly that have meaning for you and your hamster, so that your hamster comes to associate them with you or even with expected responses.
    • Hamsters have very sensitive hearing and will hear you perfectly even if you whisper. This also means that they will act jumpy and anxious if you raise your voice, so aim to keep it low and gentle.
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    Allow your hamster to create its own space. If your hamster moves something around it is because it prefers it there. Since the hamster has to live there, respect the decisions it makes unless the situation it creates is dangerous for it.
    • Some hamsters may move its bedding to a different area. Again, let it be and do not move it back because the hamster will just repeat it, which is stressful for the hamster and overall pointless.


  • If your hamster takes its food from its bowl and hides it in its house/tube, don't move it unless it has started to go a bit 'funny' or smelly, its just your hamsters way of storing its food, just like we store our food in fridges and cupboards.
  • If you ever get bitten by your hamster, put it back in the cage and leave it to calm down for about an hour before making contact again.
  • If your hamster eats its own poop, it means that it is not getting enough nutrients from the food. This is perfectly normal just like cows regurgitating digested food as it helps them get the best out of their food, however it is annoying and they do have a habit of storing the poop in their cheek pouches, if your hamster starts doing this give them extra food that you know they like and clean out their cage, that usually stops this.
  • Make sure they know you care about them.
  • Get down to the hamster's height; this will ensure it won't be scared of you. If you approach it from the top, it may get scared and run away as it thinks you are a predator.
  • Play with your hamster so he or she will get used to you.
  • If your hamster is asleep don't disturb it; if you do, it might bite.
  • If your hamster starts biting you, wear thick socks or gloves on your hands to protect them from the hamster. Once it stops biting you, you can then stop using them.
  • Try to potty train your hamster. Potty training will make cleaning the cage easier because they will learn to go to the bathroom away from the bedding.
  • If you have more than one hamster of the same sex, and they can be put together, put them together once in a while; maybe in a home cage or a cage to run around in.
  • The hamsters cage needs to be at least 360sq inches! Keep the cage clean. Keep the hamster fed. Give it treats and toys.
  • Make sure you clean the cage at least every week or more to ensure proper hygiene, so your hamster doesn't fall ill.
  • Don't put two hamsters in the same cage together. They will fight until one is dead.
  • If your hamster is making really loud noises he or she might just want to play.
  • Try to keep track of how much food he/she eats.
  • Don't force your hamster to do anything it's not comfortable with, this can cause stress which can be very harmful to hamsters, in some cases causing diseases like wet tail.
  • Do not put your hamster outside by itself. Most birds will eat him/her!
  • A good time to handle your hamster(s) is between 7-10 at night or it will be tired and may bite.
  • Let them run in a neutral area. For example your bedroom or a large coffee table with a barrier around so they don't fall.
  • Make sure you change your hamster's food every day. If you don't and they are left hungry for a day or more, they will become ill.
  • Also, be sure to get food that is suitable for your type of hamster by reading the labels on the packaging. If you make the hamsters food yourself, make sure that the ingredients are safe for your hamster to eat. Remember that hamster have allergies just like us.


  • Never wash a hamster, unless instructed by your vet, as they do not like water. They catch colds very easily! If you must clean your hamster, read: How to Give Your Hamster a Bath.
  • If your hamster spits out food at you, it means that it is scared. It is probably best to put it back and leave it alone.
  • If your hamster escapes, try to contain it in one room Leave out food in its cage in the hopes of luring it to return to it.
  • Do not feed your hamster candy or chips.
  • Try to prevent illness. If you have any queries about your pet's health soon after you have bought it then call the pet shop where you bought your hamster from and they will give you the number of local vets.
  • Hamsters love their wheel, but use one that is solid, not the kind with wire rungs. They love to go fast, and with wire or mesh wheels, their legs can get caught between the rungs or they can get bumblefoot which is very painful.
  • Keep their area as clean as possible. Change the shavings in their 'potty corner' every day, but only clean their cage once a week. This is the most important. Hamsters get sick extremely easily and it is hard to cure.
  • Never give hamsters too much lettuce, as it can cause liver problems


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