A Dwarf Hamster is a great pet for adults as well as older kids. These furry little creatures are extremely adorable and you would thoroughly enjoy having them as pets. Here is a guide that will help you understand how to prepare for your tiny pet and take care of them.
Facts about Hamsters You Need to Know
It is important to know a thing or two about dwarf hamsters before you get them. Below are some fascinating facts that you need to know before bringing the hamster home.
- Hamsters got their name because they literally stack a lot of food into their cheek pouches. Their behaviour depends on the environment and genetics.
- Dwarf hamsters have a tail which is way shorter than their entire body. They have short legs along with furry ears and make amazing pets. You can find hamsters in brown, black, yellow and white colours depending on their species.
- Did you know that hamsters have really bad eyesight? Although their sense of hearing and smell is really good. They use ultrasonic waves for their communication.
- Since hamsters are really fragile, the pet owner should be very alert and protect them from temperature change. Hamsters also have weak bones so you should be careful while handling them.
Diet and Behavior of Hamsters
Dwarf hamsters have really sharp incisors and they are omnivorous. They would eat anything edible with the help of their teeth which keep growing with time. The head of the hamster might look swollen if there is a lot of food in their cheek pouches.
Hamsters are known to eat their own excretion. However, this is a natural process which helps the hamsters in making the most of the food's nutrients.
Hamsters like to burrow during the day time in order to avoid any predators. Their diet includes vegetables, nuts and berries. They also consume meal-worms as well as small insects. Even after the hamster has been domesticated, it will still show the behaviour of looking for food post-dusk.
Hamsters enjoy digging and you can see them design the entrances and generating tunnels within their cage. They also love to keep a stock of food which they can later eat. Adorable, isn’t it? Moreover, hamsters can also survive for a few days after not eating food.
Types of Dwarf Hamsters
There are several species of dwarf hamsters that you can choose from. Below is a list of the most popular types of dwarf hamsters which you can consider.
Things to Keep in Mind While Adopting Pet Dwarf Hamsters
Before you get the cute dwarf hamster home, check the following things.
- Health: Buying a healthy dwarf hamster is very crucial. Your pet-to-be should have clear eyes and nose. Make sure that there aren’t any scabs and bald patches on its skin.
- Age: An average dwarf hamster only lives from 2 to 2.5 years, so make sure that you buy a baby hamster so that it can stay with you longer.
- Gender: Many people simply pick the hamster randomly without even identifying the gender. This gives them a hard time while deciding upon a name. You can ask the pet shop owner to help you find out the gender.
What Can You Feed to Your Dwarf Hamster?
Giving the right food to your pet hamster is really important. Choose a hamster mix that has all the essential nutrients in it. You should certainly not use food which is made for other pets. You may also give the food some variety by giving your hamsters fresh food. However, make sure that the food is given in small amounts first to see if the hamster likes it.
Know that hamsters belong to desert areas and feeding them with food that has a water content can cause diarrhoea. Also, avoid food which is high in sugar such as fruits. It should be noted that Russian dwarf hamsters are prone to diabetes.
- Safe Food: You can feed the dwarf hamster with basil, flaxseed, oatmeal, sesame seed, spinach and green beans. The best way to give food without bothering about the water content is to dry them first. Insects like crickets, grasshoppers and mealworms can also be given.
- Food to Avoid: Acquaint yourself with the kind of food you need to avoid for your dwarf hamsters. Anything sticky, sharp or containing pesticides should be avoided. You should also not feed the dwarf hamsters with citrus fruits, avocado, tomato, eggplant, kidney beans, watermelon, and fruit seeds. It is best to not feed anything that you are not sure of.
Things You Would Need to Take Care of the Dwarf Hamster
After you are done selecting the perfect pet dwarf hamster, you definitely need to prepare to welcome them. The location you choose has to be away from direct sunlight and away from other domestic animals. It should be noted that hamsters are nocturnal and are most likely to keep you up all night if placed in the bedroom. If you are a light sleeper then you should certainly keep the hamster in another room. Below is a list of things that you would need to get for your pet hamster.
- Cage: First and foremost, you need to get a cage wherein you would keep the dwarf hamster. The cages are available in all sizes and you should pick the one that is largest while being mindful of your budget. Remember to pick a cage with small bar spacing as the hamsters can sneak out if it is too big. There are ready-made tanks available for keeping pet hamsters. These tanks come with a food dish, water bottle, as well as a place for exercise. Choose the size of tank appropriately as hamsters need a lot of space for playing around.
- Water Bottle: Getting a water bottle for your dwarf hamster is absolutely important. The bottles can be hung from the cage. Getting a water dish is not a good idea as the hamsters can end up kicking it while playing around. Buy an adjustable wire hanger which can be used to hold the water bottle in the cage. Make sure that the water bottle material is chew-proof as well as climb-proof.
- Exercise Wheel: Dwarf hamsters can literally walk miles in the wild. You will surely need a running wheel inside the cage to keep the hamster healthy. Make sure that the wheels don’t have any gaps as it can cause injuries. Moreover, get a running wheel which is silent and wouldn’t bother the family members. Dwarf hamsters love to stay active and they need to exercise a lot.
- Hideout or House: Hamsters love to spend their time alone and certainly need a house or hideout inside the cage. You can either use a toilet paper roll for a hideout or get a house-like structure built. Buy something that is huge enough for the hamster to move around. They can hide inside it and keep their stash of food there, too.
- Bedding: Your new pet hamster needs bedding that is free from toxins and is comfortable. You should avoid using cedar and pine shavings as your pet can develop respiratory problems because of the same. Choose bedding that absorbs and prevents odour. This will save you from changing the bedding often.
- Food: You should buy the right food mix for your pet hamster. Make sure you select the food that has all the necessary nutrients. Apart from this, you can also feed the pet with fresh food as well as seeds and nuts. Choose the food that is devoid of any artificial preservatives.
- Toys and Treats: Opt for toys that your pet can chew on. You may also use Popsicle sticks. Remember that hamsters love to gnaw and it is important to have something that they can chew on. Treat your furry pet with amazing rewards and special foods.
- Food Dish: Keep a proper food dish wherein you will keep your hamster’s food. Make it a point to keep this dish away from the bedding as your hamster can end up kicking it. If your cage is multi-story then you should perhaps place the food dish on a different level.
How to Keep the Hamster Clean?
Did you know that you should not bathe the hamster with water? However, it is important to keep their cage clean. You can clean the cage as frequently as needed depending on its size. A small cage should be cleaned at least once a week. Here are a few tips that will help you in cage cleaning.
- Use bedding that is absorbent so you would not have to keep cleaning all the time
- Clean only the spots wherein you find the soil
- Remove food leftovers and make it a point to replace it with food for your pet each day
- You can hang charcoal near the cage in order to absorb any smell.
- Clean the cage using warm water
- Make sure that the accessories are also clean such as wheels and food bowls
The cage can smell really bad due to the smell of the accessories. The hamster can end up peeing on the accessories which contributes to its smell. You can buy sand for hamster baths along with a bathhouse.
Tips on Playing with Your Dwarf Hamster
Playing with your hamster is an important part of taking care of them. Dwarf hamsters are extremely playful, and they love it when their humans shower them with affection. Although hamsters mostly spend their time alone, they do crave for human attention every once in a while. Hamsters are active during early morning and late at night so you can play with them before ending your day.
You can let them sniff your hand so that they know it’s you and gently hold them. Make sure that you don’t shock them by grabbing from behind as they may end up biting you. Do not make loud noises as hamsters are really sensitive to sound. Time and again, you can take the hamster out so that it can play outside as well. However, make sure that you build an area which has walls. Otherwise, the hamster will end up sneaking out. Try not to hold the hamster high as it can fall and get injured.
Thus, you can now know exactly what to expect while keeping a hamster as a pet. Make sure that you get the right supplies in place which will help you take care of them. Hamsters are nocturnal and you should certainly not keep them in your bedroom. Play with your hamsters from time to time as they like to stay active.
References and further readings:
- Martha Stewart, All About Dwarf Hamsters
- ResearchGate, Seasonal adaptation of dwarf hamsters (Genus Phodopus): differences between species and their geographic origin
- Sue Fox, Dwarf Hamsters (Quick & Easy) , 2003(Find This Book)
- Dr. Anne McBride, Dwarf Hamsters. (Pet Friendly), 2012(Find This Book)