Many of us love our small animals and would do anything for them to make sure they are happy. It is important we care for them to the best of our ability. This includes putting the extra effort into learning about their needs and providing them with those things.
Hamsters can make great pets but do require a good amount of care so that they can live a happy life.
There are many key factors that go into giving a hamster proper care so they can thrive. Some of these include enclosure size, the amount of bedding provided, wheel size, cleaning their enclosure, and giving them enrichment to prevent boredom. It is not only important to provide them with these things, but to make sure you are giving it to them properly!
1. Large enough enclosure
It is a common stereotype that since hamsters are small, they should live in small cages. This is very untrue. Small cages do not allow enough space to fit a proper sized wheel, hides and tunnels, allow burrowing, and other basic needs. Hamsters are highly active animals, so when not provided enough space, they commonly will show signs of stress. This can include bar biting, constantly trying to escape, and showing aggressiveness. To avoid this stress, I recommend giving a hamster at least 800sq in. of unbroken floor space, but more is always better and recommended!
2. Deep enough bedding
Hamsters are “natural burrowers”, therefore in the wild they build deep tunnels and burrow underground. It is important we always give them the option to do this so they can act on their natural instincts. I recommend providing at least 8” or more of bedding at one end of the enclosure giving them a “deep end”. As always, more is always recommended. Providing deep enough bedding will allow them to replicate what they do in the wild.
3. Cleaning their enclosure
When a hamster has a properly sized enclosure, this can make the cleaning process easier. It is never recommended to fully empty and replace the bedding in the enclosure completely, but to “spot clean”. This means removing and replacing bedding from the areas where your hamster pee/poo’s in, but leaving other clean areas left alone. Hamsters tend to choose certain spots to do their business, so cleaning those areas is the most important. When emptying the whole enclosure, this removes their scent and causes stress.
4. Proper sized wheel
Since hamsters are such active animals, they need a wheel to allow them to get exercise. Hamsters can run up to 5 miles a night, therefore, are running on their wheel for long periods of time. Their wheel should be comfortable for them to run on. This means it needs to have a smooth and solid surface, upright, and most importantly large enough. Syrian hamsters should have a wheel size of 11”-12” in diameter while a dwarves wheel should have a diameter of 8”+. A large enough wheel will prevent your hamsters back from curving while they are running!
Since a hamster's life is mostly spent in their enclosure, they need enrichment to keep them busy and provide them with mental stimulation. You can have a large enough enclosure but should also provide activities for them to engage in or they may get bored. Since hamsters are naturally clean animals and cannot have the traditional bath with water, providing sand is an important enrichment that allows them to clean themselves. Not only this, but they enjoy digging and playing in the sand as well! Some other enrichment options can include scatter feeding their dry food to encourage foraging, providing chew toys, hideouts, and tunnels.
Overall, there are many important factors that play a role in proper hamster care. Yes, a hamster can survive without these things properly given to them, but they will not be thriving. Therefore, it is especially important to provide these needs for your hamster, so they can live their best life!
Guest Post by Haley M. @honeythehamster28 (above photos are all taken by her) - be sure to follow her for more great hamster care and adorable photos!