The Adorable Hamsters
Many pet owners in the country keep hamsters as pets. They come in many shapes, sizes and colours. Did you know that there are about 14 different hamster species that have been discovered. The smallest of them all is the ‘Phodopus sungorus’. The most common is the golden hamster whose scientific name is ‘Mesocricetus auratus’ and the dwarf hamsters which are very alert and active. Some others are the cinnamon hamster and piebald hamster. Kids can spend hours gazing at their playfulness and are greatly mesmerized by them.
Life span of hamsters
Hamsters live for a maximum of 3 years if they are looked after with lots of love and care. Don’t forget that they can be very loving and affectionate too just like your other pets.
The gestation period of a hamster
The gestation period of a hamster lasts only fifteen and a half to sixteen days. Personally, it was shocking for me to learn this when I had hamsters before. Before delivery the female becomes restless and usually discharges a small amount of blood from her vulva. The male should be separated from the female during this time. The litter of pups usually range from 5 to 10 pups. The pups are born hairless with eyes and ears closed. They do, however, have their front teeth (the incisors) at birth. Female hamsters with young must be provided with abundant nesting and bedding materials, and plenty of food and water. They must not be disturbed in any way. The young should not be touched or handled until they are at least 7 days old. During this time it is important not to clean the cage or touch the litter of babies. Some females will even cannibalise on their young especially if they have been touched by the owner. Some mothers will make a burrow and hide their young to keep them warm. It is very important to keep children away from the hamsters during this time and do keep the cage covered during the critical 7 days.
Food and bedding
They love eating an assortment of nuts and seeds. Did you know that you could also supplement pregnant and nursing hamsters with the ‘Small Animal Vitamin’ supplement? It comes from the Aristopet range of pet hygiene and health products. You can mix this with their daily feeding of water. Remember to change the water and food every day to prevent unwanted problems like germs and bacteria. The sipper tubes or feeding bottle must be cleaned thoroughly and checked to see if they work properly. There are instances where the feeding bottle does not work properly and this is dangerous since the hamsters can get dehydrated easily.
Bedding comes in wood shavings that usually come in packet forms. They even have the scented type these days. Make sure you change the bedding at least once a week for a hygienic environment. The hamster cage must be at least half filled with this wood shavings. You can purchase them at your nearest pet store.
Hamsters are generally healthy. Any condition that results in loss of weight, hair loss, ‘wet tail’ due to diarrhea, unthrifty appearance or decreased activity should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian immediately.
The feeding bottle too must be cleaned and filled with fresh water daily. Bedding must be changed more frequently if you have more than two hamsters in a cage. It is best to have the soiled bedding removed every 3 – 4 days if possible. The cage should be washed with mild detergent to get rid of the odour. Please don’t forget to dry the cage before filling it with fresh bedding once again.
Hamsters can be given a bath by placing them in bowl of warm water with a little pet shampoo for a nice scent. These small animal shampoos can easily be purchased at pet stores too. Remember to keep the bath as brief as possible with as little water too and always remember to keep the water level far below the hamster’s head. Children however, should always be supervised when around these small animals. There was a case where a kid of eight gave a bath to his hamster by pouring water on him like he was bathing a dog. Sad but true it was too late for the poor hamster!