|If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man. - Mark Twain|
Pet Hamster Information
Cute Hamsters are great little pets. They come in two main types, the Golden or Syrian and the Dwarf Hamster. Dwarf hamsters are about half the size of the Golden hamsters.
Hamsters were first discovered in Syria in 1839 but were not domesticated until 1930. They have since been popular pets in America. They have relatively short lives - between 2 to 4 years. Hamsters are nocturnal meaning they sleep during the day and are active at night - the opposite of the human schedule. The intermediate crepuscular schedule (twilight activity) is also common. Nocturnal animals generally have highly developed senses of hearing and smell, and have specially adapted eyesight.
Pet hampsters are not particularly good at learning tricks but can be entertaining to watch. They are also smaller than guinea pigs and are equally as furry and appealing, which makes them more appropriate for homes with limited space.
Although pet hamsters do hibernate off and on during the winter in the wild, they will not do this in captivity when kept in a warmer climate.
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Hamster Care, How To Take Care Of A Hamster
Caring for a hamster is really not that hard.
A Hamster House
Hamster cages come in three main styles, wire cages, plastic cages and aquariums. The wire cages are good because the hamster can climb all around the cage. Despite their small size, appropriate housing for hamsters should always have a floor space of at least 16 by 24 inches and be at least 24 inches in height.
Plastic hamster tubes that you see sold in most pet stores can be really cool looking, with all of their different compartments and space aged tubes to travel between pods. But, they are often too closed, preventing sufficient air circulation. And the plastic surfaces, while easily cleanable, cannot absorb the hamster's urine like natural materials. Cleaning the tubes can be troublesome and sometimes the Golden Hamsters will get too large to use the tubes easily. The result is often a more damp and uncomfortable climate that is a perfect habitat for germs and fungi. Also, the plastic tubes and plastic houses are made from synthetic materials that are unhealthy to gnaw on and can often be expensive compared to an old disposable shoe box that the hamsters can remodel to their heart's content.
Aquariums are good stout cages that allow you to view your pets. They are easy to clean and it is often possible to find them at garage or yard sales. Be aware that you most probably will need to cover the aquarium, both to keep the hamsters in and any other pets out. Cover them with a screen material to allow are it get into the cage. Aquariums must not be higher than their width to allow for a sufficient air circulation.
Dwarf hamsters, although smaller in size, should have bigger housing than their larger relatives, at least 2 feet by 4 feet. This is because the dwarfs are very active, running and digging a lot. Usually hamsters with a bigger and more interesting home will live longer and provide more visual entertainment.
Cages should be placed in a quiet location in the house. Dark places are best, but most any shady place should be fine as long as they are never exposed to direct sunlight.
Hamsters Love to Chew
Hamsters love to chew. It is their natural desire because their teeth never stop growing - kind of like fingernails. They will chew on just about anything, even their cage. It is not hurting them to chew on the bars of their cage; however it probably means that they do not have enough things to chew on. Give them different types of wood blocks made for small animals such as niblet munchies and bunny bites. This is flavored wood and most hamsters love it. You can also give them empty toilet paper rolls to keep them busy. To discourage them from chewing on the cage, you can try using some bitter apple furniture cream on the bars. Do not give them anything that would be harmful if ingested.
Cover the inside of the hamster's residence, including all intermediate levels, with a sufficiently thick layer of wooden litter for rodents, available in pet stores. Although alternative materials may work as well, most of these have additional dangers. Cat litter is unsafe because gnawing and eating the chunks is deadly.
Wood shavings deep enough to let the hamsters burrow in is recommended. There are a few different types of wood shavings marketed for hamsters, however, not all of them are truly safe. Pine and cedar shavings contain oils which can be irritating to the hamster's skin and should not be used. Instead, choose aspen shavings for your furry friend. Aspen shavings or paper based cat litter is a better choice if possible.
Clean their home at least once a week. Refresh their bedding when needed.
Hamsters are nest builders. A steady supply of fresh strips of tissue or newspaper (with soy-based ink) allows them to build a secure and comfortable spot in a corner of their enclosure or in their hiding house. Hay, from shops or even fresh from the garden, is also a valuable building material for cozy hamster nests, and as an additional bonus, is also perfectly edible.
Besides the ubiquitous hamster wheel, Hamsters do great with very simple toys, from paper towel tubes to sticks and other miscellaneous chewable toys. Hamsters can cover as much as 8 km in a night. In short, if you get a hamster, get a good quiet wheel... you'll be glad you did.
What do hamsters eat? Most pet store sell hamster food. However, they also need fresh vegetables like carrots and cucumber and occasionally fresh fruit, like apples and pears. They also like bird seed, nuts (not salted!) and enjoy living insects. This is an important part of their diet. Other foods, like grains, rice and dry noodles can also be fed to hamster. Never feed your pet chocolate as it is not good for them.
It is often easiest to get a simple water dispenser, as it can't spill and keeps the water clean for several days to a week at time. A heavyish shallow food bowl is best as they don't flip easily and are easy to clean.
Feed you hamster once per day in the later afternoon or evening and feed him at the same time every day. Provide a small handful of hamster mix and a small handful of vegetables. If any is left uneaten, give less the next day. If all is eaten, try giving more, but first check that your hamster is not hoarding it in its cage.
It is easy to provide a hamster with a healthy, well-balanced diet. This is one of the reasons this animal is considered such an easy-care pet. Although they require access to food at all times, supplying that food is so simple even a young child can take on the duty, with parental supervision, of course.
Socializing Your Hamster
Although hamsters do bite, it is usually from being frightened. By letting your hamster slowly get used to you by feeding it raisins or various seed by hand, soon you'll be able to gently carry your hamster around with you.
Catching An Escaped Hamster
If your hamster gets away, don't fret. Often they will return to the cage on their own to get food and water. Additionally, you can place a can on it's side, and try to lure or herd your hamster into it. This is actually a good handling technique for new hamsters that aren't yet tamed as well.
Selecting A Hamster
A single Golden Hamster can be kept by itself, while Dwarf Hamsters are better kept in same sex pairs. When shopping for a hamster, make sure you look for a happy curious alert hamster, with a good shiny coat and clear eyes.
A Hamster's Lifespan
A hamster's life span is around two years. However, they can live to be three years old.
With proper care and feeding you and your family should have a enjoyable experience raising hamsters.
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