All About Pets: Hamsters

By Alyssa Landau, Columnist, The Friday Flyer

"Robo" hamster.

Credit: Alyssa Landau

Short-haired hamster.

Credit: Alyssa Landau


Whenever children walk into a pet store, they always tend to gawk at the cute bundles of hamsters. This results in a multitude of questions from parents and customers regarding this cute and feisty rodent. Following this observation, I have decided to dedicate this article to the hamster. I will give you categories for what you need for your possible new companion, followed by a brief explanation injected with some fun facts about the fur balls that come in a variety of colors.

First of all, there are three major types of hamsters:

? Syrian Hamster: These are also known as golden hamsters and are the most common. They are easy for children to handle compared to the more dwarf-like hamsters. They are the least likely to bolt or leap out of your hands and love to be cuddled.

? Roborovskii Hamster (Robo): These are the smallest species of hamsters. They can be shockingly fast so you need to always be prepared before handling. These rodents must be held in your cupped hands as they are also jumpers ? some can leap up to one foot! Yikes! They are difficult to cuddle with because of their size. Once tamed, they become a tad calmer, but will always be rambunctious. Although miniscule and cute, this hamster is the least suitable for children. However, they are fun to watch as they speed around. You can consider them more of a decorative pet.

? Chinese Hamster (Dwarf): These hamsters are often nervous and aggressive, but once tame, they become calm and can easily be handled. They are good climbers and jumpers, so you must be careful of that.

Tip: Large hamsters live for approximately three to five years and the smaller ones live one to two years.

How many hamsters can you have? One. Once any hamster hits maturity, they become territorial and fight for their right to the cage, which can end up pretty gruesome. If you want two, you must put them in separate cages.

Bedding? Personally, I prefer the Carefresh brand, which is the more soft type instead of the wood shavings. The cedar and or pine bedding, although cheaper and more pleasant to the nose, has been linked to respiratory problems in small animals and can alter their liver functions. So, if your hamster is sneezing, it might be the wood bedding. Tip: If your hamsters cage always smells, try recycled paper bedding; it masks the odor and formation of ammonia.

Cage? There are many cages available. It’s up to you if you want a glass aquarium, wire cage or a plastic housing. Just make sure your cage has adequate floor space versus a taller cage. Tip: Hamsters love to have an exercise wheel. They have been known to run miles overnight!

Once a month, you want to do a full cleaning. Each week you can just clean their “potty spot,” which is an area they tend to designate just for such a use. Tip: Make sure you buy a house for them to sleep in. It makes them feel more secure and safe.

Food? You want to make sure your hamster has a main diet of pellets or packaged food. Second you will want to feed them fruits such as strawberries and apples, as well as vegetables like cabbage and carrots. Tip: Avoid foods made up with mostly sunflower seeds and dried fruits as it will cause malnourishment because they tend to pick through the food to eat the delicious treats.

In the end, you just have to handle a hamster in the store to see the temperament and always ask questions. It never hurts to do a little research on your own prior to purchasing that cute bundle of fur. Have a great cuddle with your new baby!