Hamsters are small, fluffy and at first glance particularly easy to care for – and therefore a popular pet, especially among families with children. However, it is a widespread fallacy that the cute rodents only need little space and that their care requires little time. Thus, quite a few animals eke out a dreary existence in cramped plastic cages. In this article you will learn everything you need to know about the proper keeping of hamsters and what to consider before purchasing them.
Hamsters are not cuddly animals…
… and therefore – contrary to popular belief, rather unsuitable as a pet for children and young people. Furthermore
The life expectancy of hamsters is maximum 2 to 3 years. Especially children usually find it difficult to cope with the loss of a beloved pet after such a short time. The nocturnal animals only become really lively when most children have been in bed for a long time. Waking them during the day, breaking their natural habits, can shorten their life expectancy and encourage aggressive behavior.
Also, keep in mind that the small body size of hamsters says nothing about their actual space requirements.
Point 1: Choosing the right hamster cage.
Hamsters have an enormous need to run and a high urge to move, which is why a sufficiently large cage is indispensable for species-appropriate small animal husbandry:
Even with daily free running, a hamster cage should be at least 100 cm in length and width, as well as at least 70 centimeters high. If you decide on a cage with bars, make sure that the distance between the bars is not too large, so that the hamster cannot crawl between the individual bars or get stuck there. Aquariums or terrariums can also be converted into a hamster cage. However, a sufficient air supply must be ensured.
In addition to a suitable cage, suitable equipment is also required for species-appropriate housing. After all, hamsters are solitary animals that only seek contact with other hamsters during mating season. Therefore, provide variety – otherwise your little roommate will get bored very quickly and display untypical behavior. This includes, for example, nibbling on the cage bars.
Point 2: Accessories and cage equipment
When furnishing and equipping the hamster cage, it is advisable to follow the rodents’ natural needs:
Hamsters love to dig – so a suitable bedding contributes significantly to the well-being of your hamster. Running: To meet the rodent’s urge to move, a running wheel as well as various toys should not be missing in his cage.
Of course, a so-called hayrack as well as a stable food and water bowl also belong to the basic equipment of every small animal cage, although you can replace this with a nipple drinker.
Dig, dig, dig – The right bedding
To allow the hamster to dig extensively, the bottom of the cage should be covered with at least 30 cm of litter. Mix commercial small animal litter with paper shreds, hay and straw so that the tunnels, which the small rodents love to dig for their lives, cannot collapse. Clean the hamster’s toilet corners daily and gradually renew the rest of the litter. This way the animals are exposed to less stress.
The wheel – Size matters
Besides digging, the hamster’s main occupation is running, which is why a sufficiently large running wheel should be available in every hamster cage. Only from a diameter of 25 to 30 cm your hamster can follow his urge to move without posture problems.
Also make sure that the wheel is only open at one point and has a closed running surface, so that the hamster can not injure himself.
Use natural materials!
Also colorful plastic tubes or movable toys (such as hamster balls) do not belong in the hamster cage because of the high risk of injury. Better suited are, for example, slip tubes made of clay, branches, gnarled roots or tunnels made of pieces of bark and much more. Many hamsters also enjoy a sand bath with chinchilla sand. Instead, it is recommended to use mainly natural materials when furnishing the cage – this also applies to the sleeping house.
Place of rest and retreat: The sleeping house
The sleeping house should consist of several sleeping chambers and be additionally padded with hay, straw and cellulose. However, do not use wool or hamster cotton, because the hamster can easily injure itself on these materials. Since hamsters like to build up a large food supply, the lid of the hutch should be removable so that you can remove perishable food remains more easily.
Point 3: The right location
The following criteria should be considered when choosing a suitable location:
Always place the hamster cage at table height so that you do not have to reach into the cage from above, which the small rodents naturally perceive as a threat and are thus exposed to unnecessary stress. Also, make sure that the cage is not in direct proximity to a radiator and avoid drafts and direct sunlight.
Point 4: Exercise – quintessence for a happy hamster life
Apart from a species-appropriate cage, your hamster will also enjoy daily exercise in a hamster-proof part of your home. Pay attention to cables, gaps between the wall and furniture in front of it or other possible sources of danger. With stones, branches and roots or a sand-filled bowl, you can make the daily run a real highlight in the hamster’s everyday life. Keep in mind, however, that the little animals are masters in hiding and it is better not to let the hamster out of your sight during the time it spends outside its cage.
Point 5: Hamster food – As natural as possible
As a rule of thumb, anything that a hamster would not find in the wild should not be on his menu, even in captivity. This includes, above all, sweeteners, pellets and other artificial feeds, as they are often offered in pet shops.
In the wild, dwarf hamsters eat primarily seeds and seeds, while medium hamsters eat primarily grains. In addition, the diet of both hamster species can be supplemented with herbs, flowers, insects, nuts or dried vegetables.
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