If you’re considering getting a hampster-or several-for a pet, then you’ll have pets that are easy going, easy to take care of, easy to breed, and easy to love. Read on to learn all about hampsters before you actually bring one home.
The word “hampster” comes from the German language, from a word referring to the way they hoard. They have stretchy cheek pouches, which are actually lined with fur, to store up food. They’ve been an identified species for less than two hundred years, and it wasn’t until 1930 when a group of golden hampsters was found in Syria. They were shipped to a lab and soon were bred and eventually distributed as both laboratory animals and as pets.
A hampster lives about two to three years. Female hampsters can breed every month, so separate males and females if you want to prevent breeding. As you learn about hampsters, you will realize the babies can be weaned after three or four weeks, and by that time they are capable of breeding also, even though it’s not advisable for such young pets.
Their friendly, good-natured attitude is one of the best things about hampsters. Many people say they are nocturnal, meaning active only at night, but that’s not accurate. They are actually crepuscular creatures, which means they are most active at either twilight or dawn. You’ll have the most fun playing with them or training them during those times of day.
Bring your hampster home when he’s about six weeks old. Let him adjust to his surroundings and become familiar with you. It’s best to give him those first few days to adjust before you begin engaging him in activities.
Always protect your hampster. He will not land cat-like if he falls, so keep him only six to eight inches off the ground whenever you have him outside of his cage. Some hampsters tend to bite in the beginning, and if your hampster is one of these, then just wear gloves. As he gets to know you, he’ll stop doing it. Always lift him carefully, and supervise small children closely.
Start off by putting some food out for him and laying your hand beside the food. As he nibbles at it, he’ll become familiar with you and your scent. Play with him two to four times a day so that he gets used to you and to keep him happy.
Learning about hampsters means knowing proper nutrition. Feed him a commercial hampster mix, because this is guaranteed to provide the nutrients he needs. Avoid mixes marketed for several types of pets, because they might not contain sufficient hampster nutrition. Hampsters will eat just about anything, but try to keep them to a vegetarian diet. It’s also wise not to over-feed them; if they store too much food in their cheek pouches they can develop problems. He can have small bits of fruit or vegetables, but just give him a small piece every other day. Always keep water available.
As you become familiar with and learn all about hampsters, the ones you own will begin to recognize their names. Talk to your hampsters and they will become familiar with your voice. Play with them on a regular basis, and they will come to expect you!
Now if you decide to get a pet guinea pig instead, make sure to check out our guinea pig care forums for tips, discussions and ideas on owning a healthy pet guinea pig.