Hamsters are pets that prefer to be solitary and don’t appreciate sharing their homes with others. In the wild, hamsters are found in the Syrian Arab Republic in dry, rocky or well-shrubbed places. They live singly in burrows and only come together for breeding purposes. Hamsters are omnivorous and are found to eat roots, plants, invertebrates, and carrion.
Hamsters have cheek pouches that can store large quantities of food. They collect their feed and later take it to a place where they can safely consume it. Before purchasing a hamster make sure you have their cage ready. Put them in the cage and don’t disturb them for the first day to allow them to get use with their surroundings.
Basic Care and Nutrition
You’ll need to monitor their food and water intake. Change their water every day or at least two days once even if they haven’t emptied it yet. Make sure that they have enough food and water. Hamster feed can be purchased from pet stores, which are mostly made of mix seeds (pumpkinseed, sunflower seed etc). Fresh vegetables are also very important as hamsters love them and need them to stay in top form. However giving too much leafy vegetables may cause diarrhoea. Some hamsters will choose an area as a toilet and you’ll be able to scoop out wet litter from here on a more frequent basis. Hamsters are not use to constant handling so it’s important to accustom them to handling. You’ll want to handle the rodents on a daily basis for short periods of time to get them use to it. When handling your hamster make sure your hands are clean as strange smell can frighten them. Initially, place your hand in the cage and allow the hamster to get use to it. Once they are comfortable with your hands’ presence they will approach it, then pick them up slowly by their underside and make sure you support their feet. Don’t pick them up by their tails as they don’t appreciate it and may struggle.
In the wild hamster are not affected by many natural diseases, most sick hamster are a result of being kept in unhygienic cages or improper care. As hamsters are small animals, minor illness can become serious if immediate veterinary care is not given. Hamsters should be checked regularly everyday as its difficult to notice a sick hamster due to their nocturnal behavior. Keep an eye on the hamsters eating habits, change in daily activities, strength of teeth, bones and limbs. The body should be checked for injuries and abrasions. Any unusual behavior that may worry you, should be given veterinary attention to avoid untoward incidences.
Hamster sexually mature at about 28 days old but breeding should be put on hold until the hamsters are between three and four months old. If mated too young, pregnancy related problems can be very common. Females can mate when in heat which occurs every four days and thus the male should be allowed in the same cage only when female is in heat. Female hamsters not in heat can be fierce and may attack the male, therefore what is normally practiced is to put the female in the males cage and not otherwise. A female in heat can be identified when it remains still and its body pressed to the floor with the tail held up when its back is stroked. When placed together, allow at least 20 minutes (unless one starts losing interest) and during this time the male will mount, dismount and wash himself several times. Gestation period is about 15 to 17 days and a distended abdomen is visible around the 9th or 10th day of gestation. Cage for a pregnant hamster should be made from non-toxic material, spacious, clean and has adequate bedding. Commercially available cages fit most of these criteria. The females environment should not be disturb as much as possible during pregnancy and at least ten days after delivery. However about 4 to 5 days before expected delivery the cage should have new clean bedding for the new mum to make a nest for the pups.
Raising Hamster Pups
Hamster pups are easy to raise as the mother does most of the work. It is important that ample food and clean water is provided at all times. The newborn pups have no fur, eyes are shut and appear very cute. They also can’t hear but have a strong sense of smell. Do not handle the newborn as this may cause some disruption with the mother and pup connection which can cause her to abandon her babies or eat them!! At about two weeks they will have soft layer of coat and will be happily running around in the cage. This is when they can be handled and by three weeks then can leave their mom to look for their own food. Once they are weaned, make sure different sexes are kept in different cages to avoid fights.