Caring for a Pet Hamster

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Hamsters are relatively easy and inexpensive to keep as pets. This is a page about caring for a pet hamster.


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Description: Hamsters are small, prolific rodents that are similar biologically to mice. They are easy to distinguish from gerbils by their lack of tails. Although many species exist, only a few different species are commonly sold as pets. The dwarf hamster is the most social and the Syrian and Chinese hamsters are the easiest to train.

Size: There are several common varieties of domesticated hamsters. They range in size from 1-6.5 oz. and 6-8 inches long. Unlike some other small rodents, female hamsters are usually larger than the males.

Compatibility: Hamsters are solitary by nature. In the wild they live alone in single burrows and dens. They should be housed separately from one another and introduced only cautiously if breeding.


Appeal: They are fastidious and clean by nature. They require very little maintenance and are relatively inexpensive to keep. They are attractive and interesting to watch. There are many colorful acrylic housing systems ready-made and designed specifically for hamsters.

Drawbacks: They have a short lifespan and should be acquired young. They are nocturnal by nature and tend to be more active at night. They have more of a tendency to bite than other rodents and are not suitable for small children. They must be housed separately to avoid fights. They are escape artists, always seeking to escape by burrowing rather than remaining above ground.

Diet: Hamsters require a diet made up of a cereal-based seed mixture that is supplemented by small amounts of fresh vegetables and greens.

Problems & Health Issues: These rodents can be prone to tumors and injuries caused by falls. They can also be susceptible to hernias and various dietary problems.


Lifespan: Hamsters have a short life span of only 2-3 years.

Interesting Facts: The name hamster comes from the German word "hamstern," meaning "to hoard," and reflects their habit of stuffing their cheeks with large amount of food in order to carry it back to their den.

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

July 12, 2020

I'm not sure if maybe I have never noticed, or that my hamster is just a bit chubby, but I am really worried about the size of his stomach. My hamster's stomach looks really swollen and I don't know what's going on. After taking the pictures I also noticed he seems to have a pretty dark belly which is something I also have never noticed.

I would like to say that he's about two years old, maybe a little older. He's still active like usual and I don't see any change in behavior. I'm very sorry about the blurry pictures. I swear he doesn't hate me and always crawls up onto my hand when he can, he doesn't like to sit still while on his back, but it's the only way I would be able to show you decently. Please help.



July 13, 20201 found this helpful
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There are several reasons this one could happen. Your hamster could be constipated. You should try putting him in a clean box with some paper towels and watch him. In a few hours you should see some pee and poop in the box. If you are not then you need to try and feed him some greens and a small piece of apple to try and get him to poop again. I don't really think it is a tumor but it is also possible this could be the case. In small rodents like this tumors are always a possibility especially in the females.

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July 13, 20201 found this helpful
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A year and a half old is elderly for a hamster. So other things need to be considered. It will take a Vet to give you a definitive answer.

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I am strongly considering buying a hamster. Can anyone provide me with information about owning a hamster. Thanks.

By carla from Huntington, WV


October 12, 20090 found this helpful

I have only had one hamster after having cats all my life and wanting a pet that was approved for my apartment. What I did not know before I got it was their life span is only 2-3 years and you don't know for sure how old they are if you get them at the pet store. I was in shock when my little guy died after having him only a year.


Also they are nocturnal so they sleep during the day and are noisy at night. Mine didn't really take to handling but your experience may differ. I think if you get them young you can train them to like to socialize more. Mine was a sneaky guy and could pick the latch on his cage quite easily. We found him climbing the Christmas tree.

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October 18, 20090 found this helpful

Thanks for your feedback. That is a cute image of a hamster climbing the tree!
Thanks, Carla

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January 1, 20100 found this helpful

Please can someone tell me if hamsters can function happily in the pitch dark? Because I need to cover him at night with a bed sheet or something similar, otherwise my cat gets over excited and I cannot monitor what is happening at night.


My hamster is very active at night, but I do not want to depress her by keeping the cloth over her cage. I do not want to make her vision inactive. She seems to be happier without the cage clothed. tks,

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We received a 1 yr old hamster about 1 week ago, and he was very active. He got out of his cage one night and now sleeps a lot. He does not run like he used to when in his ball, and does not run between his cages like he did before (we have 2 cages connected).

Yet, he is still active when we hold him. We have no other animals (cat, dog, etc.) so I know that nothing got hold of him. What could cause a hamster to not be as active as he used to be?

Janice from IL


By Kacy (Guest Post)
October 23, 20080 found this helpful

He might have found a chemical or swallowed something while he was out. If you think so, check and see if there is a vet that will see hamsters in your area.
It also could be that he was active at first because of all the excitement of a new place, but now he has gotten used to his environment. Hamsters are nocturnal so most of his activity is at night when your family is asleep.

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By gedo (Guest Post)
October 25, 20080 found this helpful

Don't worry...enjoy. Once your hamster has become an adult (after about a year), he/she has a few "wild" episodes, but basically settles down. I'm really enjoying mine now that the childhood stuff is over. He's much calmer, and less excited about things--perfectly healthy. Just more mature.

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November 19, 2008

Can someone tell me some tips for dwarf hamsters?



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Your Pet's Age

Your Pet's Breed
Syrian Hamster

How and when did you get your pet?
While shopping at a local pet supply store for my dog and two cats, I decided to look around and discovered the small pet section. I had recently lost the second in a pair of male gerbils, and I missed caring for them. Although I was still grieving that loss I decided to adopt a hamster.

Unfortunately not all hamsters and other small pets have good lives. Some people treat them as toys for their kids rather than living creatures with feelings. Others buy cages and fancy enclosures that are far too small, and they don't get the care and attention they need and deserve. I wanted to make a difference for one by providing a healthy happy life.

Tinkerbelle was the only one left, and it didn't take long to see why. She had a patch of missing fur on her face, and it might have been permanent. I was told the wound was caused by a litter mate. It's human nature to look for pets without flaws, and that's likely why she was the last one to find a home.

Unlike gerbils, hamsters don't get along well as they mature. Gerbils live longer when paired, but hamsters are loners. They connect better with their human family members. I didn't care that she had a patch of missing fur on her face, and it didn't matter to me that it could be permanent. She was still adorable and otherwise looked very healthy.

What does your pet like to do for fun?
Every evening, I let Tinkerbelle out to explore. How can a hamster explore without getting lost? I bought a clear exercise ball. I open the ball and let her climb in. That's a great way to pick up a hamster, especially if they're frightened or they aren't used to being handled.

She quickly learned how to maneuver the exercise ball around the family room. After banging into the walls and furniture a few times, she figured out how to apply the brakes and make sudden turns. Now she's an exercise ball expert! She zips through doorways and around furniture without hitting anything now. The ball enables her to safely exercise and explore beyond the confines of her cage. I wouldn't want to be cooped up for days on end, and our pets shouldn't be jailed either.

Do you have anything else to share about your pet?
Tinkerbelle loves Kaytee Blueberry Yogurt Dipped Treats. Hamsters have food preferences just like other pets, and these are by far her favorite snack. She meticulously turns the little ball around and around while gnawing off the yogurt. She eats the inside last. It's fascinating to watch her little fingers in action!

What amazes me the most about Tinkerbelle is her personality and level of intelligence. I loved my gerbils, but they weren't nearly as personable as little Tink. She observes what I'm doing, and we really connect. She's more loving and intelligent than I ever imagined a hamster could be.

After a few weeks the wound on her face completely healed, and the fur grew back. :D

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Freddie is a 1 1/2 year old Siberian Hamster. We adopted Freddie from the Raleigh Rodent Rescue organization last summer (2006). Freddie LOVES some treats, and he also loves being held and just hanging out in his hamster cage.

Siberian Hamster

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Pets Hamsters AdviceOctober 22, 2012
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