Hamsters are small, fun to watch, and they make great pets. But take note these tiny creatures are fast and can easily escape if you don’t prepare a home for them. If you plan on getting a hamster, you must understand its specific needs to ensure your pet hamster will have a happy and healthy life.
You need a cage, food and water bottle, food, exercise wheel, critter potty, and plenty of nesting fluff for a hamster. Since hamsters enjoy burrowing and hiding, consider providing your hamster home with tunnels. Exercise balls and chew toys will also help keep your hamster busy.
Your hamster will spend a lot of time in its cage except when you’re cuddling with it. Give your hamster a large cage with access to all the items it needs. The rest of this article will explore hamsters and what they need to be comfortable and happy. Keep reading.
A Hamster Needs an Environment Where It Can Thrive
When preparing a hamster shopping list, note that the hamster cage is the most important item because everything else goes in there. Hamsters are quite independent and don’t need regular supervision, as long as they have everything they need within their habitat.
The following are items you need for your hamster’s cage:
- Beddings: They’re usually made of wood shavings and shredded paper. Avoid using pine and cedar shavings because they’re harder and break into sharp pieces. They won’t only hurt your hamster, but the smell will irritate your hamster.
- Exercise wheel: Hamsters have an instinct to run, and an exercise wheel makes them feel like they’re running even though they’re going nowhere. The wheel will also eliminate the boredom of living in a confined space for hours. Since your hamster’s diet is fattening, the wheel helps prevent obesity.
- Tunnel system: This item makes burrowing fun, and it’s an excellent place for your hamster to hide.
- Food bowl: Hamsters perform different activities in the cage, including playing, sleeping, relieving themselves, and doing lots of burrowing. A food bowl will ensure the hamster’s food isn’t contaminated, and you can keep track of your hamster’s consumption.
- Water bottle: Hamsters drink about 10 ml (0.34 fl oz) per 100 gm (0.22 lb). Since the average hamster weighs 200 grams (0.44 lb), this translates to about 20 ml (0.68 fl oz) a day. Small hamsters, like the Dwarf hamster, usually drink less water. On the other hand, Chinese and Syrian female hamsters drink much more. Get a hamster bottle with a holder and straw attached so you can mount it on the hamster cage.
- Litter box: Hamsters use the scent of their waste to guide them to go in one corner of their cage all the time. You should train your hamster to use the litter box instead of the floor.
- Chewing toys. Hamsters chew everything they come across because it’s one way to control their ever-growing teeth. They also do it to fight boredom and when they’re stressed. Place hamster chew toys in the cage to reduce pressure on items like the feeding bowl and cage, which will undoubtedly be the hamster’s target.
The eCotrition Hamster Cheesie Chews (available on Amazon.com in the USA) are cheese-flavored, 100% edible chews that’ll keep your hamster occupied for hours. They also don’t break easily.
Read Why Do Hamsters Eat Their Babies
What Does a Hamster Need To Be Happy?
Hamsters make great pets because they’re not demanding. You only need to meet their basic needs, and hamsters will be happy in their cage as you go about your business. Once in a while, they’ll need a cuddle, but other than that, they’ll find ways to occupy themselves, especially if they have everything they need.
A hamster needs a large cage, a healthy diet, exercise wheel, tunnel system, chew toys, clean water, treats, and lots of wood shaving for burrowing to be happy. Giving a hamster a warm and quiet environment will also keep it happy.
Hamsters don’t depend on friends to stay happy. They’re solitary animals, after all.
Always keep your hamster cage clean, but don’t overdo it because hamsters need familiarity—some scents in their habitat are important for their happiness and well-being.
Read Why is my hamster chewing the cage
Don’t Put Things That’ll Annoy Your Hamster in the Cage
Hamsters aren’t so fussy, as long as you get what they need. However, they also have dislikes, and unfortunately, you may make your hamster uncomfortable and possibly sick by putting the wrong things in the cage.
The following are the things you should avoid putting in a hamster’s cage:
- Pine and cedar shavings: These are brittle and will injure your hamster. The smell of pine and cedar tends to affect the lungs of hamsters, so you should be careful when buying beddings and toys.
- Sand: Don’t use sand for your hamster’s dry bath because some are dusty or too powdery and may affect your pet’s respiratory system.
- Too many toys in the cage: Putting too many toys in your hamster cage can get in the way and inhibit your hamster’s movements as it runs around the cage. Instead, put a few toys at a time and keep interchanging them. Alternatively, you can replace those in the cage when they become worn out.
- Unsuitable food: Just because hamsters nibble on anything doesn’t mean you should throw in pieces of your food all over the cage. Some foods, such as peanuts and almonds, are harmful to hamsters.
- Anything with a citrus scent: Hamsters identify what they need using their sense of smell. They’ll find their favorite toy, potty area, and even food based on the smell. However, the same sense influences their repulsion to certain things, especially the citrus smell. Avoid putting lemon or orange pills in a hamster’s cage since this will make the place inhabitable.
Tips on Caring for a Hamster
Hamsters make great pets. However, only 2% of Americans keep them. If you’re thinking of keeping a hamster as a pet, you’ll likely learn everything to do with hamsters online and not from friends and family, especially if none shares your interest in hamsters.
Below are some things you should do when caring for a hamster:
- Don’t get a cage that’s too small. Did you know that hamsters can run up to 21 miles (33.80 km) a night? A small cage will inhibit their movements. Although they’re quite small, hamsters need a cage that’s at least 80x50x 50cm (31.5x 20×20 in) in length, width, and height, respectively. The cage isn’t just for the hamsters, but everything they need for their active lives.
- Avoid keeping multiple hamsters in one cage. Hamsters don’t need company. Assuming that your hamster is lonely and getting a companion is a mistake you should avoid. Hamsters are territorial, so they’ll likely fight when sharing their habitat with other hamsters. If you desperately want more than one hamster, keep them in different cages or get species like the dwarf hamsters that can live together.
- Don’t use scented beddings. Hamsters burrow through the beddings just as they would in the wild. Unfortunately, scented beddings can cause allergic reactions, such as sneezing. Pine beddings cause respiratory issues in hamsters. The best beddings for hamsters include Aspen shavings, folded soft toilet paper, and other commercial beddings specifically made for hamsters.
- Don’t get an exercise wheel that’s too small. A wheel that a dwarf hamster uses may not be ideal for a Syrian hamster. When you get a hamster pet exercise wheel that’s too small, your hamster will likely strain its back. Dwarf hamsters need an exercise wheel that’s at least 20 cm (8 in), while a Syrian hamster needs a 28 cm (12 in) wheel.
- Avoid getting noisy toys. Hamsters are nocturnal, so they’re likely to play with the chew toys at night. You want your hamster to go about its nightly activities without interfering with your sleep, especially if its cage is in your room.
- Clean the hamster cage regularly. Keeping a hamster pet comes with a range of responsibilities, and one of those is ensuring the habitat is clean. Hamsters are naturally clean, but they need help to keep their environment clean. Spot clean the hamster cage once a week and do a thorough clean at least once a month.
- Teach your hamster how to potty train. Hamsters make potty training easy because they always relieve themselves at the same spot. You can use this habit to your advantage by introducing a litter box in the cage and placing one of the beddings that smell of his waste in it. It may take time, but the hamster will eventually learn to go in the litter box.
- Don’t overfeed your hamster. Giving your hamster more food may appear to be the best solution if you’re away most of the time. However, you risk overfeeding your hamster and causing it to gain too much weight.
If you’re usually away during feeding time, you can use the MURCAT MURCAT Hamster Food Dispenser (available on Amazon.com). It’s a transparent, automatic feeder that you can hang on the hamster cage above the food bowl. The top opening is large, so refilling is easy.
Hamsters have specific needs you have to meet. Before getting a hamster, you need to make sure you have the cage ready and equipped for your hamster. Before you start shopping, ensure you know what items to get. Consider your hamster’s safety and comfort when deciding what you should get.
Give your hamster a cage large enough for it to run, an exercise wheel for it to stay active and healthy, tunnels for it to run through, enough food and water to keep it nourished, and clean beddings. Don’t forget to provide your hamster with toys to play with, too!
Related Hamster articles:
- How To Tell if a Hamster Is Pregnant
- Does Hamster Bite Dangerous?
- How To Train Your Hamster To Cuddle
- What Does Hamster Eat?
- How To Make Your Hamster Happy
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