Hamsters are cute and furry animals often mistaken as bunnies. Like little rabbits, hamsters are a member of the rodent family and can be taken in as pets. However, before getting hamsters as pets for your child, or even for yourself, you should first learn what kind of hamster is best for your home. There are five types of hamster, which include the Syrian or golden hamster, dwarf Campbell’s Russian hamster, dwarf winter white Russian hamster, Chinese hamster, and Roborovski hamster.

Syrian hamsters are the easiest hamster to find in pet stores. It is also called golden hamster because of its original wild gold fur. Syrian hamsters are solitary animals that mostly prefer to live alone in the wild or even in captivity. It is not recommended to keep a group of Syrian hamsters together as they are aggressive towards each other.

Dwarf winter white Russian hamster originated from Siberia and Northern Kazakhstan. Outdoors, their fur becomes like a white winter coat, a protective coloring instinct. Although dwarf winter white Russian hamsters originally lived in cold places, they are most comfortable in moderate temperatures ranging from 180 – 260Celsius. Unlike Syrian hamsters, these little white hamsters can be kept in groups of the same gender if housed together from a young age.

Dwarf Campbell’s Russian hamsters are a close kin of Dwarf winter white Russian hamsters. They have thicker coats, making them appear larger than their dwarf winter white Russian kin. They also have stripe coat lines and yellow to brownish coats that turn grey in cold weather. Similar to their other kin, dwarf Campbell’s Russian hamster can be housed in a same-gender group.

Roborovski hamsters are the smallest dwarf hamster with striking whiskers and a very short tail. They can only grow up to 6 cm, minus the tail which is hardly visible. Roborovski hamsters have yellow to brown coats, sometimes appearing rusty in color. They can also be kept in groups of same gender.

Chinese hamsters are pretty moody hamsters that can be tamed through patience and time. It has a neat fur, dark-brown dorsal stripes on the back, and a grayish belly. Chinese hamsters can grow up to 12cm long with the female smaller than the male Chinese hamster.

Housing the hamsters

Hamsters need ample space where they can run, play, eat, and sleep comfortably. The cage must also be secured to keep your little hamsters from getting hurt or sneaking away. Hamster cages can be bought at pet shops and stores and are available in plastic, glass, and wire cages. A glass and plastic container prevent draughts and have aesthetic features. However, it does not provide proper ventilation and are difficult and messy to clean. Small hamsters like roborovski hamster are suitable to house in a plastic or glass cage as the cage can prevent them from escaping. A wire cage provides better ventilation. It is also easier to clean. Wire cages are best for Syrian hamsters or Chinese hamsters but are not recommended for dwarf hamsters. Use paper-based bedding for your hamster as wood shavings can initiate skin reaction and collect dust that are harmful to the hamsters’ health. Tissue or toilet paper also provide a more comfortable sleeping area for this cute pets.

Feeding your hamster

Pet stores sell basic mixes of hamster food that includes nuts, barley, cereals, wheat, peanuts, grains, sunflower seeds, flaked peas, and maize. They can also be fed with rabbit or guinea pig diets but may not meet their dietary requirements. Green foods or vegetables should be given lightly as it may cause diarrhea. Hamsters’ food bowls must be made from durable ceramic or earthenware as plastic or metal can be knocked out easily. They also get hungry fast so refill the bowls frequently. Supply your hamster with clean water in a regular basis. Get a drinking bottle that has a tube with ball bearing to prevent water leaks. Clean the drinking bottle regularly, at least once a week to ensure clean and fresh water for the hamsters.

Hamster toys

Hamsters love to play and explore. Place a toilet paper tubes inside their cage since they love going in and out of toilet paper tubes and rolls. You can also place a new toilet paper roll so they can tear the paper and make a nest from the sheets.

For a more adventurous game, make a maze from different boxes, PVC tubes, cylindrical containers, plastic jars, and more. Let your hamsters explore the maze and have fun watching them go through the different levels of this play area.

Exercise toys

Place hamster wheels inside the cage and let your hamster gain some speed. Do not buy small wheels as the hamster may not feel comfortable with such small space. Syrian hamsters also need bigger hamster wheels that can carry their weight. If you like to place your hamster outside the cage, put them inside a hamster ball. These are clear, durable plastic that comes with an opening. Place the hamster inside the ball, shut the ball, and let them run around your house. Since hamsters are nocturnal, they would probably use the wheels and balls at night.

General hamster language and behavior

If you want to keep hamsters as pets, you should know their actions and basic language.

  • When a hamster stretches and yawns, it’s feeling contented and happy
  • A hamster listens while standing on its hind legs and with its ears up
  • A grooming hamster also means that it is feeling secured and happy
  • Hamsters mark their territory by rubbing their scent gland on objects. Dwarf hamsters have scent glands on their stomach while Syrian hamsters’ scent glands are on their hips
  • A squeaking hamster means it’s afraid or feeling agitated. Hamsters also squeak when they are in a fight or wanting to play for dominance
  • A hamster grinding its teeth is feeling irritated and needs to be alone. A hamster will also grind its teeth when its ready to bite
  • Hissing in hamsters indicates an upset or frightened mood
  • At night, when you hear your hamsters biting their cage, it means they want attention, hungry, or wanted to play outside.

Keeping hamsters as pets require patience and a lot of responsibility. You should also consider the hamsters’ life expectancy if you are planning to keep them as pets for your kids. Most hamsters have 2 to 3 good years to live. Take good care of your hamsters for them to have a long and happy life.