Caring for a Pet Hamster

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April 2, 2006
Light brown hampster.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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6 Questions

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October 12, 2009

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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October 23, 2008

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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November 19, 20080 found this helpful

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Share on ThriftyFunCheck out these photos. Click at right to share your own photo in this page.

September 17, 2018

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.

Tinkerbelle (Syrian Hamster) - in her exercise ball

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August 1, 2007

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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