Blue Cross is warning hamster owners to be aware of the needs of their small pet after a Russian hamster was brought into a rehoming centre without any fur as a result of stress.
The hamster, named The Lorax by staff, arrived at our Burford site in Oxfordshire with very little fur and dry, cracked skin. He had been kept with his two brothers, unknowingly, in a cage which was too small for them and resulted in them fighting.
Vets treating him believed the hamster’s condition was likely to have been caused by the stress of his previous living conditions and old age as rodents tend to develop skin conditions and lose fur as they get older.
Simon Yeats, Animal Welfare Assistant at Burford, says stress is a common problem they see with small animals coming into the pet charity.
Simon said: “We regularly see small pets like hamsters who have unknowingly been kept in too small a cage with their littermates but their owners just haven’t been well informed when they first got their small pets.”
Last year Blue Cross pet charity took in 378 small animals, including 47 hamsters.
Sadly The Lorax passed away but Simon wanted to use his story to raise awareness of the welfare needs of small animals.
“The Lorax was such a special and happy little chap despite his ailments that I wanted to give him the very best retirement home. What he lacked in fur he certainly made up for in personality and determination.
“We wanted to still use his story because we wanted to make people aware of the needs of small animals as they’re so often overlooked.
“We would always recommend that potential owners do their research on the species they are interested in first rather than purchasing accommodation, toys, bedding and the animal itself, on a whim.
“A lot of the cages on the market are just not large enough and aren’t fit for purpose but can be attractive to consumers as they are cheap and often come with a wheel again that isn’t always bit enough.
“People also need to research if their small animal prefers to live on its own or in pairs or small groups.
“Syrian hamsters are solitary creatures so need to be kept on their own.
"Dwarf hamsters can live in same gender pairs but they will need plenty of space and resources and you also need to be wary that they may fall out at some point; just because they are littermates does not mean they will live harmoniously for the rest of their lives, as was evident in The Lorax and his brothers, so you may need to separate them if this happens.
“Their needs can change as they age too so it may help to transfer them into a cage with a lot of surface area instead of tubes and different levels so they can still have plenty of space to move around.
“We’ve lots of advice online on keeping small animals and also lots of hamsters and other small animals such as rats, guinea pigs and rabbits looking for new homes.
“They can all make wonderful pets and great companions with the right care and attention but it’s just about getting the right advice before getting your pet to ensure they live a healthy and happy life.”