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Buying a Hamster

Buying a Hamster

The "journey home" is a very stressful experience for your hamster and stress is very bad as it can cause serious health and behavior issues. Therefore you should try your best to make the trip from pet shop to his new home as comfortable as possible.

Read bellow to find out what you should prepare before you buy a hamster and what you have to do after you take your new little fellow home with you.



Before you buy a Hamster

Most "first time" hamster owners buy the hamster and the cage at the same time, while they visit a pet shop. They go home and while their new hamster waits in a very small and dark cardboard box or even worst the hamster is out playing with the kids on the floor, they assemble and set up its cage. This is wrong and may be very bad for your hamster's health.

You should have the cage ready before you get a new hamster home! As we said before, the hamster's trip from the pet shop to his new home is a very stressful time for your hamster. Remember that pet shop hamsters are just a few weeks old so they are very sensitive and you have to be very gentle with them.

Click here to read how you can set up a hamster cage.

Taking your Hamster Home

From the pet shop they probably gave you the hamster inside a cardboard box. Holding the cardboard gently take it immediately to his new home/cage. This might sound silly but, do not get the hamster out of the cardboard box until you reach its new cage. Keeping your hamster inside this little box is less stressful than holding it in your hands while you are in the car driving home.

After you reach home place your hamster inside its prepared cage, close the cage door and let it adjust to his new environment. It is important that you do not disturb or attempt to handle your hamster at this point, as it should be left to settle for the first couple of days. During this period it may spend a lot of time exploring its cage and also a lot of time sleeping due to the physical exertion. However, you should still provide fresh food and water daily.

Wet-tail (Proliferative Ileitis)

Wet-tail (Proliferative Ileitis)



Wet-tail, also know as Proliferative Ileitis, is one of the most common and most serious diseases that can affect your hamster. It is a stress related bacterial disease which is very contagious and without veterinary treatment, a hamster will usually die within 24 to 48 hours after the symptoms are noticed.

Wet-tail is more common in Syrian hamsters. Dwarf hamsters do not get wet tail but they can suffer from Diarrhea.

Symptoms

Wet-tail symptoms are not easily noticeable for the first few days. It takes up to 7 days for the first symptoms to begin showing. The common symptoms are:
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Not eating/drinking
  • Excess sleeping
  • Walking with hunched back
  • Folded ears

Causes

Wet-tail is caused by the bacteria Lawsonia intracellularis. The disease is spread when the hamster comes into contact with food or water contaminated with the bacteria. There has been much research about the "Wet Tail" illness. The research proved that it is a stress related illness. Hamster stress can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
  • Small Cage
  • Change in environment
  • Change in diet
  • Unclean Cage
  • Being away from mother and/or siblings in early age
  • Illness or death of a pair-bond or mate

Treatment

If you notice that you hamster has Wet Tail symptoms you must isolate it from others and seek for vet care immediately! Although Wet Tail is a lethal hamster disease, taking immediate action may increase your hamster's chances to survive. 

Most common treatment consists of:
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-diarrhea medicines
  • Giving your hamster more water using a syringe

Prevention

  • Don't stress a new hamster after you take it home from the pet shop. Let the new hamster to adjust in his new cage for a couple of days before you come to contact with it
  • Avoid small cages! Use cages bigger than 1800cm2 (60cm x 30cm). Read more about how to set up a hamster cage here
  • Keep you hamster cage clean
  • Clean hamster's water bottle and put fresh water daily
  • Quarantine new hamsters for 10 days to make sure they are healthy
European Hamster

European Hamster

Origin: Europe
Species: Cricetus cricetus
Lifespan:  1-2 years in wild (up to 8 years in captivity)
Adult Size: 26 - 35cm
Body Mass: 220 - 460g









The European hamster also known as the Eurasian hamsterBlack-bellied hamster or Common hamster is the biggest of the hamster species. It weights 220–460 g and can grow up to 35cm long. They have a black belly and a tail of 4-6 cm.

Housing

Although some people might have captured and raise a few of them, the European hamster has not been domesticated yet so we don't know a lot about their nature as... pets.

Natural Habitat

European hamster can be found at the steppic grasslands of Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania. As all hamsters, they live in underground burrows. A typical burrow is usually several meters long and 0.5 – 2 m below the surface. The hamster’s diet consists of wheat and other cereals, clover, alfalfa, bean, rape, beet and potato tubers. Small ground insects make up 10-15% of the diet.

European hamsters are very territorial and one burrow is used by one individual only.

There main period of reproduction is from early June to end of August. Each female usually produces two litters a year, the gestation period is 17-21 days and litter size can vary from 2-8 young depending on local conditions and food availability. The young become independent after 4-5 weeks.
Diabetes in Hamsters

Diabetes in Hamsters

Diabetes in Hamsters

Diabetes is a disorder of the metabolism, a condition where the body is unable to break down sugars either because there is a lack of insulin (Diabetes Type 1) or the insulin does not work properly (Diabetes Type 2).

Diabetes can be found in many species including humans and hamsters. It is more common in Chinese and Campbell's Dwarf Hamsters than Syrians, Roborovskis and Winter Whites. Studies have shown that diabetes in Campbell's behaves more like Type 1 while in the Chinese hamster behaves more like Type 2.

Notice:  Most of the Winter White hamsters you can find on a pet shop are hybrids (mix of Campbell and Winter White) and they are also at risk to develop diabetes.

Diabetes Signs & Symptoms

  • Excessive thirst
  • Production of large amounts of urine
  • Increased appetite
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Hunched posture
  • Irritability
  • Sleeping more or Excessive Exercise

Testing you Hamster for Diabetes

If your hamster has the above symptoms it is recommended to contact your vet immediately. In case you want to test you hamster for diabetes on your own then read bellow.

Purchase Keto-Diastix Reagent Strips from your local pharmacy. With this strips you can test your hamster's urine for the presence and concentration of glucose and ketone.

Put your hamster in a clean and without bedding container for 20 minutes. Make sure your hamster has access to his water bottle while you wait. Your hamster should urinate by that time so dip the test strip into his urine and compare the results to the chart of the Keto-Diastix container back. If the hamster doesn't urinate within 20 minutes then put it back in its cage and try again later.

Another technique is to watch your hamster, while it is in his cage, and after you see it drinking water then put it in the clean and without bedding container. This technique also requires the hamster to have access to his water bottle.

How to prevent Diabetes ?

The only way to prevent diabetes is to give your hamster a low sugar diet. Your hamster gets the required amount of sugar from his hamster food so no more sugar must be provided. Always prefer branded food products with no added sugars and avoid feeding your hamster treats in regular basis.



Hamsters FAQ

Hamsters FAQ

What is a Hamster ?

Hamsters are small, mammals that belongs to the rodent family and to the Cricetinae subfamily. They are very clean, friendly and easy to keep pets.


Are Hamsters expensive pets ?

Hamsters are medium cost pets. A good cage that includes a food bowl, water bottle and an exercise wheel costs about 40€, 1kg of good hamster food costs 5€, 1kg of good substrate costs about 3€ and a hamster costs from 5€ to 12€. So you need 60€ to start.


How much space does a hamster need in its cage ?

The recommended cage sizes vary by country but the minimum floor space a hamster needs is about 1800cm2 (60cm x 30cm). Small cages cause serious health and behavior issues and must be avoided. Read more about how to select and set up a hamster cage here.


How long do hamsters live ?

Syrian hamsters live up to 2 years. Dwarf hamsters lives from 1 to 2 years. Roborovskis lives up to 3 years and Chinese hamsters lives from 2 to 3 years.


What is the best room temperature for a Hamster ?

The temperature that’s most comfortable for a hamster is quite close to that for humans. They prefer the range between 20°C and 25°C.


Should I give my Hamster a bath ?

No ! You should never do that ! Hamsters clean them self on a daily basis. Their saliva, which they use to wash themselves, has antibacterial properties (like cats). If you bath your hamster then you remove essential oils from the fur that keeps the hamster healthy.


How often I should clean a Hamster's cage ?

Depending on the size of the cage it will need cleaning every 2-4 weeks.


Where should I keep my Hamster's cage ?

The cage must be placed in a room where the noise levels aren't too high. Also avoid placing the cage under direct sunlight because hamsters prefers shadow.


How often to feed and give water to a hamster ?

The hamsters food bowl must be refilled every 1 to 2 days. It depends on the size and number of hamsters in the cage. The hamster's water should be changed daily !
Can hamsters live together ?

Can hamsters live together ?

There are 5 domesticated hamster species. The Syrian, the Winter White Dwarf, the Campbell’s Dwarf, the Roborovski Dwarf and the Chinese. From these 5 species only the three dwarf hamsters are social and can live together.


Syrian Hamster & Chinese Hamster

Syrian and Chinese hamsters are not a social pets and after they reach the age of 6 to 7 weeks, they should be kept alone in separate cages. They are solitary and very territorial and may kill one another if they are kept together. They are designed to live alone and they will never feel lonely.

You may see more than one Syrian or Chinese hamsters in the same cage on pet shops. These hamsters are young, usually 4 to 5 weeks old, so they don't display any territorial behaviours.

So Syrian and Chinese hamsters must be kept alone !

Dwarf Hamsters

Dwarf hamsters (Winter White, Campbell’s and Roborovskis) are social pets. In the wild they form in small groups of about ten dwarf hamsters but each hamster have to be accepted by the others to join into. If one hamster doesn’t get along with all of the hamsters in the group it will end up been chased out or even killed.

So in case you want to keep more than one dwarfs in the same cage you should be prepared to separate them to different cages.

An other precaution you should take is not to get trios or odd number groups. This is because dwarf hamsters form a pairing bond and single hamsters are seen as a threat to them and they bully it.

Notice that it is not necessary to keep more than one dwarfs in the same cage. Dwarfs can live on their own as well and they will not feel lonely.

Roborovski Hamster

Roborovski Hamster


Origin: Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Tuva, China
Species: Phodopus Roborovskii
Lifespan: 2 to 3 years
Adult Size: 4.5 - 5 cm
Body Mass: 20 - 25 g









Roborovski hamsters, also known as Robos, are the smallest dwarf hamsters, the size of a ping pong ball. Distinguishing characteristics of the Roborovskis are eyebrow-like white spots and the lack of any dorsal stripe.

Housing

Roborovski hamsters, like all Phodopus species, are social pets. That means that they can live with other Roborovskis but not always!

For more information on how to keep Roborovskis together click here.

A Roborovski hamster cage needs to be at least 1800cm2  of floor space and should have 4 to 5 cm deep bedding because they like to dig and hide. Aspen, hay, and paper-based beddings are perfect for this purpose.

Natural Habitat

Roborovski hamsters are found in sand deserts and semi-deserts of Mongolia (Govi Altai Mountain Range, Great Lakes Depression, Valley of the Lakes, Northern Govi, Eastern Govi, Dzungarian Govi Desert, Trans Altai Govi Desert and Alashani Govi Desert; Sokolov and Orlov, 1980) and adjacent territories of Kazakhstan, Russia (Tuva) and North China.

They dig and live in burrows with steep tunnels as deep as 2 meters underground and they live in family groups of around 10.

Roborovskis, like all hamsters, are crepuscular, being most active at dawn and dusk. They primarily eat grains, vegetables, fruit, and plants, but they will also eat meat and insects in small quantities.

Health

Roborovskis along with most rodents, are prone to tumours and they can also receive injury in the cheek pouch by sharp objects damaging the fragile inner lining.