Hamsters are fantastic. Bizarre little critters, they go about their duties with gallant pluck, with diva-esque sensibilities and an all-encompassing desire to acquire and consume food. Kind of like humans then, we guess, but in a much more user-friendly way.
Our hamster, Keith, is approaching his second birthday. After almost 24 months with the little dude, and his endlessly entertaining antics, we thought we’d put together a starter pack guide for any wannabe hamster owners out there.
We’re plenty sure you woke up this morning and went, “Gee, I really should own a hamster. If only there was an informative guide to read from hamster experts!” You’re in luck, sir or madam.
How to Own a Hamster
You can simply pick one up from the local pet store, but you’re going to need a cage to keep the SOB contained. Believe it or not, but you can’t let a hamster roam wild about your house.
Why? As it’ll chew its way through your property and end up creating a home in your TV set, or something.
Indeed, they are experts in escaping. Think of the Great Escape but with no Steve McQueen and an adorability factor through the roof.
So, yeah, buy a sturdy cage. More importantly, however, you must know the hamster and its frame of mind.
A hamster, a cage, and some entertaining things will probably cost around £50-60. The cage is the expensive bit, so once that’s acquired maintaining your hamster will be less than £10 a month from there.
You’ll need to clean the cage once a week – give it a good scrub with some environmentally friendly cleaning products, then fill the cage up with wood shavings and bedding.
They’ll naturally (we don’t know how) realise what the bedding is (we use recycled shredded paper – Keith loves it) and make it into their bed for the week.
Also, feed the little git daily. Only a small amount is enough, and we mention with what further below.
The Ideal Home For a Hamster
Yes, hamsters are very cute. But they’re not ideal for every household. They love peace and quiet and don’t like being woken up.
So, you’ll need to keep them in their cage away from loud areas of your house.
If you have kids, make sure they’re aware of the responsibilities towards the hamster. They need a clean cage once a week.
And careful handling, plus regular exercise. A daily run around in the hamster sphere is a 100% must, not least as it’s fun watching them hurtle about.
Hamster Personality Traits
Hamsters are fairly consistent with their behaviour as they are hamsters. Their instinct does the work, but their personalities vary in interesting ways.
They’re sporadically sociable with humans (primarily as they recognise their owner as a Food Machine) and will greet you as you come home from work and in the mornings.
They’re extremely shy once you buy them – one must win them over with bits of food.
Once you’ve bonded your hamster will turn into a diva obsessed with food, running, performing acrobatics, and clattering about the place.
They’re crepuscular, too, which means they’ll be most active during twilight and dawn. By heck! Above all else, however, they’re sweet natured beasts who just love to eat food and exercise.
They’re not particularly sociable with each other and will often fight to the death if you keep two of them in the same cage. Keep those rampaging war beasts apart!
How to Tame Your Hamster
This bit is super important! When you first buy your hamster, they won’t be ready to bond with you in human-pet rapture.
Quite the opposite. They’ll be scared and will want to be left alone. Once you have their cage set up, leave them alone for a good 24 hours or more.
After that you can start introducing yourself. The best course of action is:
- Talk to the hamster regularly.
- Offer it food.
- Give it plenty of space (as in, back off if it’s scared).
- Move your hand near the hamster in its cage so it can get used to you.
- Put food on your hand to encourage the hamster to tread on you.
Eventually, you’ll make small wins such as picking your hamster up for the first time.
That’s a glorious moment! Keep that up for the weeks ahead and before you know it, your hamster will be standing by its cage door expectantly for you.
The Best Hamster Food
Hamsters bloody love food, and we’ve found a varying array of online information about what you can and can’t feed them.
One site informed readers not to give them mushrooms or raisins, for instance. Keith has been eating both for two years and is super healthy.
What we can recommend are as follows: Store-bought hamster muesli and any organic vegetables and nuts (given to them sparingly). Think:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Carrot sticks
Be warned! A hungry hamster is a hyperactive hamster. Be particularly manic until they slake their desire to acquire, store, and consume food.
As such, just before you feed your hamster, your adorable little fluffball is at its most dangerous.
— Mashable (@mashable) October 19, 2015
Hamsters have active lives and won’t be content sitting around staring into the middle distance.
These beasts have endless amounts of energy, so choose some fun stuff to keep them entertained. As they’re agile, they like to perform acrobatics such as backflips.
What you’ll need to occupy them includes:
- A wheel – they’ll spend at least 50% of their life on the thing, so get a good one!
- A Small Animal Sputnik House (you can hang this from the cage roof so they can clamber in and out).
- A tunnel of some sort – they like to burrow about the place.
- Anything else which takes your fancy!
The Hamster Wheel
We’ve highlighted the hamster wheel here as it is central to a hamster’s existence. Seriously, if hamsters know love it’s for two things: Food and their wheel.
The device was first noted when it appeared in a newspaper advert in 1949, and for whatever reason hamsters have a strong motivation to run endlessly on them.
Boy, do those cats run! Apparently, it’s recorded many hamsters will run up to 6 miles in one night, and the 24 hour World Record set by rats is some 27 miles.
Coupled with the latter’s brain power, you can see why major cities have such a rat infestation problem.
Regardless, hamsters love the things so be sure to shell out for an awesome one.
Do Hamsters Suffer in Cages?
Some scientists have carried out studies whereby a group of hamsters could run anywhere they wanted in a large open area.
Some hamster wheels were included to allow for preference. They all ended up on the wheels, hurtling around in a perpetual loop.
So, this means they aren’t compelled to do so due to captivity conditions. They just bloody love it.
A similar idea is postulated for house cats. A it turns out, cats can find it highly stressful living in urban communities with hundreds of other cats around. The security and comfort of a home environment is perfectly fine for them.
Hamsters are much the same – keep them occupied and they’ll be happy. You can tell a happy hamster from a mile off as their ears will be stuck right up and they’ll be full of energy.
You Need a Hamster Sphere
To spice things up, you should also get a hamster ball to let your little monster run wild about your property.
Whilst they break up a hamsters routine, some aren’t always in the mood to run in them.
Indeed, Keith occasionally gets a bit distressed to be out of his home and makes a peculiar electronic buzzing noise. We’ve come to the conclusion he is half-hamster, half-robot.
Anyway, keep an eye on your hamster when they’re in the ball so they don’t come to any harm.
Is My Hamster OK In An Earthquake?
— Metro (@MetroUK) November 20, 2015
Your hamster will take care of itself, abandoning its human owner to fate. Please leave a spare jam jar lying around at all times.
A Hamster-Based Conclusion
You’ll need to fork out about £50 ($60) to get everything your hamster needs for a happy and productive life.
Just remember, they’ll be very timid with you for the first week. You’ll need to win them over slowly. Offering them food is a great way to do that.
Once they’re settled they’ll be off! Try to give them a daily run in their hamster sphere. And provide them with fun snacks, such as vegetables and hamster chocolate.
They’re a joy to own and awesome little companions, so don’t hesitate to go out and own one!