Hamsters are the best known and one of the most popular of all the small rodents kept as pets. But to keep them happy and healthy, they need the right food, housing and enrichment. Here are our top tips for happy hamsters:
1. The ideal home for a hamster is a large wire cage with a plastic base no smaller than 60cm x 30cm floor space, by 30cm tall.
2. Dwarf hamsters can squeeze through small places so are best kept in a tank or aquarium no smaller than 60cm x 30cm floor space, by 30cm tall. The tank needs a securely fitted wire lid to allow ventilation and stop them escaping.
3. Hamsters love climbing on different levels so a cage even taller than this is better but be careful not to make it too high in case they fall and hurt themselves.
4. Wood should be avoided as it absorbs urine and quickly becomes smelly and unhygienic.
5. A lot of hamster wheels too are too small and can damage their spine as they have to curve their backs to use them. We would recommend a wheel at least 8.5 inches in size. For dwarf hamsters, we find flying saucer style wheels better.
6. Hamster balls can cause a great deal of stress as there is no way for them to get out so we would recommend using a playpen for when you want to let your hamster have a run around outside of their cage.
7. Regular cleaning – spot checks should be done daily. Hamsters tend to be pretty good at toileting in one spot which makes it easier. Any wet bedding should be removed daily. A deep clean (taking out all bedding and replacing with fresh) should be done at least once a week.
8. If you have given your hamster any fresh fruit or veg then make sure they haven’t hidden it somewhere and it has gone off as this will obviously be bad for them.
9. Check your hamster regularly for any signs of illness, check eyes (make sure they are bright), ears (make sure they are clean), teeth (make sure they are not overgrown), bottom (make sure clean and dry).
10. Rotate toys and enrichment to prevent boredom and bar biting.