Housing and Toys, Cleaning, Health Care & Food

Housing and Toys

Winter WhitesI recommend dwarfs are kept in plastic or glass rather than wire cages as they can, and will, very easily escape through wire cages. There are plenty of houses for sale specifically for dwarf hamsters. I have found the most suitable cages have a plastic bottom and top with small areas of wire which open to enable entry to the cage. A few manufacturers make this type of cage which have wheels and sleeping areas built in, some also have bottles and food bowls included, although most hammies will just empty a bowl to find their favourite treats!

An important consideration when choosing the housing is where you intend to keep the hamster. If it is going to live in a bedroom then it is best to avoid cages as hamsters will often chew the bars and it will be very disturbing and either wake you or keep you awake. Small cat bowls make good sand baths and don't take up too much space in their home. There are a lot of types of different types of bedding available, I have found that ordinary kitchen towel makes excellent bedding, some of the synthetic fibre type beddings have been found to get stuck in hamsters pouches.

There are also a lot of toys for hamsters. If you're going to buy toys for them bear in mind they are more than likely to chew it, in fact many toys are specifically chew toys. I feel that both Robs and Winters benefit from having a wheel, they really enjoy playing on them, its good for them to exercise and its lovely to watch. I would always choose a silent wheel as they are so much less disturbing. If a wheel starts to squeak lubricate it with olive oil. It should stop the squeak for a while but it will need re oiling periodically. An excellent toyis the inside of a loo roll, it can be climbed on, through or even better chewed to make more bedding!.

Although mainly nocturnal it is very simple to train both Robs and Winters to get up at the time you desire by feeding regularly at a specific time. This way your hamster will learn when its time for food and either, get up ready to be fed, or get up when it hears the food. The best way to achieve this is to feed through the wire as this make a noise your hamster will learn to associate to feeding or treats.

Care and cleaning.

Winter WhitesMany people clean out their hamster too frequently. Dwarf hamsters are normally very tidy and clean animals, they rarely smell although some male Robbos can smell a little musky as they mature. Hamsters will normally choose an area which they designate as their toilet. This area should be scooped out, wiped with a cloth with pet friendly disinfectant and have clean sawdust replaced when it becomes wet. Its easy enough to keep an eye on their loo when you get them up to play with them. Winter whites may choose their sand bath as their toilet. Once the sand gets wet it should be replaced. Robs will poo in their sand but it is easy to sieve it to remove the tiny poos and the sand can be reused. If you continue regular maintenance of the toilet are he main cage will not need cleaning very often.

Hamsters have specific areas where they have their beds and also areas where they store their favourite treats so cleaning them out can be a little irritating for them as they have to start again. Therefore cleaning out less often is better for them and for you! I use a pet friendly disinfectant to thoroughly clean the base and specifically their toilet area.

Health care.

Very simply if you are concerned about your hamsters health you should take it to the vet. As they are relativity short lived as soon as an animal exhibits signs of illness it best to get them seen as the time scale available to treat them successfully is proportionately shorter than that of longer lived pets. There are a lot of sites on the internet with excellent information regarding illnesses related to both Robs and Winters which I recommend that you look at if you're concerned about you're hamsters health. As with all small rodents hamsters occasionally suffer from tumours. I have had winter white and Syrian hamsters operated on to remove tumours. This has been successful all bar one occasion where he didn't survive the anaesthetic. Choosing surgery depends very much on the location of the tumour and the age and general health of the hamster. For example a healthy younger hamster with a tumour in loose skin stands a very much greater chance of surviving than an older animal who has begun to succumb to the illness. Cost is also a consideration but the main thing to take into account is whether surgery is causing unnecessary suffering to the hamster, your vet is the best person to advise you.

Food

There are many ready made hamster foods available, in my experience how “good” they are depends on what the hamster doesn't eat and what, in effect, is being thrown away when you clean them out. This is what I choose to feed my hamsters. A good quality brand basic hamster food to which I add, wild bird seed ,containing sunflower seeds, kitten/ puppy dry food for protein and peanuts but sparingly as they can put on weight. Sprigs of millet are a huge favourite and its wonderful to watch them climbing on it as well. Each hamster is different and you will soon establish what they like and don't. Fresh treats are also appreciated but if they are not eaten remove them so they do not rot in the cage.


All photos and text copyright ©Lydia Sefton/Cheshire Hamster Breeder 2009.
Please do not use without permission.