When you think of someone owning a hamster, it’s most likely a little kid that you’re picturing. Hamsters are the typical first pet for many children because most people think they are easy to care for and can be kept in small enclosures, as that is what pet stores advertise. For proper Syrian Hamster care, you need to get a much bigger enclosure than you’d think!
They are very active and friendly little animals if cared for properly. In my experience of owning my first hamster at 20 years old, and my second at 21 years old, I have realized that adults would be much better suited to caring for these little creatures.
Pet Stores Don’t Sell Big Enough Enclosures!
You’re probably thinking.. “How is it possible that PET STORES, who specialize in the care of animals, don’t sell cages big enough for these animals?” I know.. It makes no sense! The Humane Society of the United States says that the minimum amount of space for a Syrian Hamster is 576 square inches, while the typical enclosure sold by pet stores is anywhere from 100-200 square inches. Most people think that just because they have a wheel to run on, they don’t need all that space.
The reality is.. They don’t sell cages anywhere near big enough! The only thing those cages are good for, is to use them for parts. You can find big plastic storage bins at Walmart, Canadian Tire, etc., and you can use the wiring from the pet store cages to create a really awesome home-made bin enclosure. You’ll need to use tools to cut out the front section of the bin and screw in the metal wiring so that air is able to flow through (I’m sure you can find many videos of this on YouTube). See Neptune modelling one of my home-made hamster cages below.
The Wheels Aren’t Big Enough Either??
The wheels that come in the small pet store habitats are way too small! A Syrian Hamster needs AT LEAST a 10-inch wheel. Your hamsters back should be flat when he runs, not curved or it will lead to back pain and back issues down the road. In the wild, hamsters can run up to 5 and a half miles EACH night. Therefore, they do lots and lots of running on their wheels while you’re asleep so you need to make sure they have a good enough wheel to compensate.
Also, you’ll often see wheels with metal wiring that they are to run on, although this is actually very dangerous for them. They can get their toes stuck (leading to broken toes, feet and legs, as well as dismemberment) and conditions such as Bumble Foot, which causes scabs, swelling and infection. Lots of people don’t understand why wire wheels are bad because several pet stores still use them, but don’t be fooled by that. Many popular pet stores continue to use out-dated equipment, such as wire wheels, which makes customers believe it is safe, but please do your own research and realize the risks before getting one for your hamster. Or just take my word for it because it is best to get a solid-based 10+ inch wheel for your hamster!
What Is the Best Bedding Material?
If you go to the pet store to choose bedding for your hamster, it can be hard to choose which type to get. There’s paper bedding, scented bedding, wood bedding, and the list goes on.
I can understand that you may think scented bedding would be a good idea to mask the smell of hamster pee and poop, but it can lead to respiratory issues so it’s best to steer clear of that. Hamsters put everything in their mouths so added chemicals and scents aren’t good for them.
Wood bedding also isn’t a great choice, because again, they put everything in their mouths, so it can be dangerous for them due to the chemicals they contain.
One type of wood bedding that is actually safe for hamsters is aspen bedding, although it is not as soft or absorbent as paper bedding, so I must say paper bedding is your best choice.
Many pet stores sell this fluffy nesting material that is to be added to their enclosure for comfort, although steer clear! The good thing about paper bedding, is that if your hamster eats it, it is water-soluble so it will be able to pass through them. This fluffy nesting material can cause impaction and blockages if your hamster manages to ingest some. They can also get stuck in the material, so the safest bet to keep your hamster comfy, is to add pieces of toilet paper or Kleenex to their enclosure and they will nest with that. Cheaper and safer!
Social, But Non-Social
While Syrian Hamsters are non-social animals in a sense that they can’t live with other Syrian Hamsters, or with other animals PERIOD, they do like socializing with their humans. It is best to get them used to handling from the day you get them so that they won’t be nippy with you and to facilitate their life with you. They like to come out and explore, just be careful because they are way faster than you think! They can also get into small holes under cupboards and other unreachable areas.
Make sure to give your hamsters lots of toys and interactive items for them in their enclosure, although you will still need to take them out to play a few times a week so that they don’t become bored or depressed.
I Hope You Learned Something Today
Thanks for reading this article about hamsters today! I hope you guys learned something new or interesting.
I’ll just finish this off by recommending to everyone that you steer clear of buying hamsters from pet stores as that encourages bad practices within the industry. Instead, please consider buying from a reputable breeder (NOT a backyard breeder), adopting from your local Humane Society or rescuing those in your area.
Enjoy these furry little friends and give them the best lives possible!