Sometimes hamster owners want their hamsters to look different and stand out. This is especially true if they have kept more than one hamster together in one cage.
It’s possible to make your hamsters look unique in many different ways. One can tie a ribbon or hang a name tag around the hamster’s neck. However, hanging ribbons or nametags can pose a slight risk to this small furry animal.
There have been cases where hamsters have been strangled by these neck strings and died.
Another method of distinguishing hamsters is by placing them in separate cages. But this will deprive hamsters of interacting with one another or even enjoying each other’s company. The latter is true if they are one of the friendly varieties of the Dwarf hamster category.
Some hamster owners have also tried snipping off a tuft of their hamsters’ hair, but even that fails to distinguish these little critters from each other.
Some hamster owners have also wondered Is food coloring is safe for hamsters? Can they use it to tell their hamsters apart? The answer is yes and no.
Even if food coloring is safe for humans to ingest, it can irritate a hamster’s skin. There, it’s recommended not to use packaged food color to mark your hamster.
But if the food color is extracted from fresh fruits or vegetables and is completely organic, it can be used in small quantities.
Using Dyes to Distinguish Hamsters
Hamster owners have discovered one very creative way to tell their hamsters apart. They have solved this identity problem by dyeing their hamsters in different colors.
But what kind of colors are safe to use for hamsters? Many people make the mistake of using dyes meant for human hair. The problem with these dyes is that they can be toxic for hamsters.
They are made of human hair and contain substances unsuitable for hamsters. Hair dyes may contain harmful chemicals such as ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, phenylenediamine, and the like.
Research has shown ammonia is poisonous for hamsters, whereas hydrogen peroxide can impede your hamster’s ability to breathe. Phenylenediamine can cause cancer in hamsters.
Certain dyes are also known to give hamsters allergic reactions. That’s why it’s very important to thoroughly research the dye you are using and determine its ingredients. An allergic reaction can shock your hamster’s entire system and cause it to die.
Using Food Color to Distinguish Hamsters
Is using food coloring to mark your hamster safe? Many hamster owners mark their little pets with small different colored dots to tell them apart. For example, one hamster may have a blue dot while the other may have a green dot. Sometimes owners also like to dye their hamsters’ tails. This is usually done if many hamsters are kept together.
Using food coloring to mark hamsters is a slightly controversial topic.
Some people believe that food color should not be used to mark hamsters. This is because it may contain artificial chemicals that can irritate a hamster’s skin.
Others believe using completely natural food coloring devoid of artificial substances is safe.
Several owners mark their hamsters with a permanent marker. This is not recommended at all. Hamsters are constantly licking their bodies to clean themselves. If there is an ink dot on them from a marker, there is a chance they may lick it.
This can be poisonous for a hamster. Even if the hamster does not die, it can get very sick.
Natural Food Colors
It’s also possible for hamster owners to make food colors by themselves. For example, paprika or carrots can be used to create orange color, whereas green color can come from spinach. Beetroots give a natural red color, while raspberries and strawberries can be used to mark pink.
Using such natural extracts to mark your hamster is safe. If you put a dot on your little critter with these natural extracts, it will not be harmed.
If you create natural food colors yourself through organic fruits and vegetables, remember this color can be easily washed off. You will have to dot the hamsters to ensure they stay marked repeatedly.
If you have two hamsters, you can also just dot one. Hence you can tell them apart as one will have a dot and one won’t.
Other Methods of Telling Hamsters Apart
There are also other techniques you can use to tell your hamsters apart. Let’s look at these in detail below.
Observing Their Personalities
Hamsters may look alike, but they have unique personalities. If you have kept multiple hamsters, you can notice their differences upon observation.
For example, one hamster might be shyer and prefer to remain in the safety of its cottage. It might run if you attempt to hold it or turn away if you offer it food. At the same time, the other hamster might be braver and more open to interacting with you. It might not shy away so easily and welcome food if you offer it.
Several breeds of Dwarf hamsters, such as Campbells and Roborovski hamsters, can be kept in pairs or groups in a single cage. In such cases noticing their habits will enable you to distinguish them from each other.
On the other hand, Syrian hamsters are solitary creatures. They can become quite aggressive in the presence of other hamsters and need to be kept alone.
With them, you don’t need to worry about markings. Syrian hamsters are also very friendly and quickly develop a strong bond with their owners.
Cutting Out a Tuft of Your Hamster’s Hair
Even though using natural food coloring is safe for hamsters, cutting out a piece of your hamsters’ hair can also distinguish one from the other. If you have two hamsters, you just need to snip off a tuft on one hamster’s hair. This will serve as a marking, and you can tell them apart.
Cutting your hamster’s hair is relatively simple. However, always use a good pair of scissors and be careful when cutting. Using surgical scissors is a good idea to do as they are sharp. You will just need one stroke to get the results you want. You can also use children’s scissors.
As children’s scissors are blunt from the tip, they provide safety in case your hamster becomes restless and attempts to move.
Always cut out a tuft of your hamster’s hair from the upper part of its body. This will make the cut more noticeable, making it easy for you to distinguish one hamster from the other.
When cutting the hair, it’s best if two people do it. One person should hold the hamster while the other should snip off the hair. When snipping hair, first hold the hair between both fingers and then cut. This will ensure you don’t cut past the hair.
However, if your hamster trusts you completely, you can manage this task alone without needing a second person’s help. Grab your hamster in one hand and keep it occupied until it is completely calm.
Then carefully grab a tuft of hair between your fingers and cut it off. Make sure there is a dent in the fur so that you can tell your hamsters apart.
If you feel your hamster is very active and you might hurt it, it’s best not to do this yourself. You can take your little critter to the vet. The vet will expertly carry out the job in a few seconds, and you won’t have to worry about your hamster getting hurt. The vet might charge you, but you know the hamster will be safe and unharmed.
Keeping Your Hamsters in Separate Cages
Another way to distinguish hamsters is to keep them in different cages. Mark each cage with the hamster’s name so you know which. Placing the hamsters in different cages will also help you study their personalities better.
If you take the hamsters out to play and accidentally place them in the wrong cage, you will be able to realize your mistake as you’ll be aware of their personalities.
Suppose you want to keep two or more hamsters in the same cage; it’s best to opt for siblings. Keeping siblings together reduces the chances of fights and quarrels. Hamsters from the same nest are less likely to react badly to each other.
But at the same time, ensure each hamster has its own space. For this, you need to have a big enough cage. Also, keep more than one feeding area, so the hamsters are comfortable.
It’s also a good idea to keep another cage at hand in case the hamsters start fighting. You can easily separate them by placing them in the other cage.
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My name is Everly. I am a Milwaukee-based mom of 2 and have been a proud owner of many hamsters throughout my life. Like many of us, my introduction to hamsters happened when I was very young. My family saw several hamsters come and go through the years, and I enjoyed playing with them, but I never fully appreciated them until I grew up and my own children decided to jump on the hamster bandwagon. At that point, I was determined to learn all I could about caring for these adorable pets. Read more