Hamsters: your day-to-day guide

Hamsters are fascinating pets, almost resembling miniature bears. They all come with their individual characters and enjoy exploring their surroundings. Find out how to care for your hamster day-to-day below.

/

Feeding your hamster

Hamsters are omnivores, so they need both meat and vegetables in their diet. Feed your hamster a good quality, complete dry mixture that provides their essential nutrients.

There are many good quality foods available for your hamsters. Choose one that has a good mixture of grains, seeds, pulses and a meat source such as dried meal worms.

Help your hamster forage for food

Hamsters are foragers and will spend hours digging through the bedding and searching through their cage looking for food. To avoid your hamster becoming obese and bored, scatter their daily allowance around the enclosure rather than feeding in a bowl.

Add a variety of treats to their weekly diet to keep it interesting and to provide all the essential vitamins and minerals your hamster requires.

Healthy treats for hamsters include:

  • Pasta, cooked or raw
  • A variety of fruits and vegetables including broccoli, curly kale, strawberries and grapes
  • Small amount of boiled eggs
  • Pulses and cereals
  • Fresh mealworms – one or two at a time, unless your dry food already has these included
  • Apple wood – or other fruit tree wood – to gnaw on
  • Dried herbs. There are many mixtures available from pet stores such as mountain and garden mix
  • Dog biscuits such as gravy bones

Water supplements, fatty or colourful chew sticks and mineral and salt blocks are unnecessary and can in some cases be harmful. Avoid these and stick to healthy, natural treats and food options.

How to handle your hamster

Hamsters can become easily hand-tame and enjoy coming out of their cage.

When your hamster arrives in its new home, avoid handling for a day or two to allow them to settle in. When preparing to handle your hamster, ensure they are alert and aware of your movements.

Syrian hamsters, in particular, can find a hand suddenly hovering above them when they are resting very threatening. Ideally, handle your hamsters during their active periods to reduce the stress of waking them up.

How to pick your hamster up

The best way to pick up your new hamster is to cup your hands under the hamster and gently lift them towards your body. Syrian hamsters can be gently picked up by placing one hand behind their front legs and supporting their rear end with the other. However, this should only be done once your hamster feels comfortable being picked up regularly using the cupping method.

Hamsters can make sudden movements, which could lead to injuries if they fall while you’re standing up. For the first few weeks, sit on the floor and allow your hamster to walk over each hand or sit in your lap.

Socialising frightened hamsters:

If your hamster is a baby or has had limited handling, they may be very nervous and have a tendency to rear up and scream at you in defence.

The safest way to socialise your hamster is to place a short tunnel in front of them to encourage them to walk in, and let them come out to investigate you in their own time. This can be done on the floor of a secure room or in a bath.

Wear a long-sleeved jumper with some of the bedding smell on the sleeves, and use the sleeves to cover your hands. Allow your hamster to walk on to your covered hands in their own time. After a few sessions of doing this you can slowly reveal your hands and encourage them to walk across and gently stroke your hamster.

Always try to place them back in the cage whilst they are still relaxed and happy with the situation rather than when they become irritable. Otherwise this will become a learned behaviour of how to get you to leave them alone.

Once they’re happy with you, you can slowly practice picking them up from your lap and placing them back down again. After one to two weeks of this calm and patient approach, you’ll find your hamster is quite happy to be picked up, handled and hand fed.

Roborovski hamsters and handling

Unfortunately, Roborovskis are not suitable for regular handling, especially by young children, as they are exceptionally fast. Due to their size, they are also difficult to pick up. Their fast and sudden movements could result in injury to the hamster. Therefore, with this tiny breed, it’s best just to enjoy watching them rather than handling.

Transporting your hamsters

Always have a suitable pet carrier available for when you need to take your hamster to the vet or to use while you clean out their cage. To keep your hamster relaxed and happy, place some of the bedding in the base of the carrier along with a little house or tunnel. Lastly, scatter a small amount of food around the carrier for your hamster to enjoy.