With their lively personalities and appealing looks, hamsters are a popular choice when it comes to small pets. Did you know that there are 0.6 million of these cute creatures in the UK, second only to rabbits and guinea pigs in the small pet popularity stakes.
So where do you start when it comes to hamster ‘must-haves’?
First things first… your new pet needs a place to call home. A suitable cage is one of the biggest purchases that you will have to make and it’s super important to get it right. Although these pets may be pocket-sized, they still need plenty of space to keep them happy. Their wild cousins travel vast distances every night in search of food and the hamster home that you choose should reflect this.
The Blue Cross recommends that the cage should be at least 100cm x 50cm x 50cm for all hamsters, but this is just the minimum and bigger is almost always better.
You will also need to think about what type of cage to get your pocket pal. Wire cages with a plastic base can be a good choice as they are easy to clean and well ventilated. Make sure the base is deep enough for a thick layer of bedding though, because it’s not just bunnies who like to burrow!
If your hamster is a dwarf breed, make sure they can’t fit between the bars of the cage. Alternatively you may want to consider a plastic modular cage or tank to keep your small friend safe. There are pros and cons of each, and you should choose whichever option suits you and your hamster.
Make a house a home
Once the all-important living quarters have been chosen, the next step is a few home comforts and top of the list is suitable bedding. As hamsters are natural burrowers, a deep layer of bedding that they can make sturdy tunnels with is essential. Tiny Friends Farm Eco Bedding meets these needs perfectly and is also highly absorbent, virtually dust-free and soft on tiny paws.
As well as a comfy bed, your hamster will need plenty to keep their busy mind occupied and this is where environmental enrichment comes in. Adding tunnels provides interest and will encourage your hamster to follow their natural instincts, as well as increasing exercise space. Hamster wheels are another popular way of keeping these small pets busy, but you should make sure that they are a suitable size. As a general rule, hamsters should not have to arch their back to run in a wheel. This means that Syrian hamsters may need a wheel diameter of 20-30cm, while 15cm may be big enough for a dwarf breed.
Most of us are feeling the pinch when it comes to spending at the moment, so why not give some thought to a bit of DIY enrichment. Something as simple as a cardboard tube will help your hamster friend to follow their natural instincts. But why stop at cardboard tubes…
…how about hamsterscaping?
Hamsterscaping has been popular in mainland Europe for some time and is beginning to catch on in the UK.
So what is a ‘hamsterscape’ and how do you go about creating one? The hamsterscaping ethos centres around creating an environment for your hamster to live in that allows them to express their natural behaviour, and live their best hamster life. So sand baths, hiding places, suitably sized wheels and deep bedding should all be part of a hamsterscape, with an emphasis on natural materials where possible. Giving some thought to providing an environment that mirrors a wild hamster habitat, improves hamster wellbeing, making for happy, active pets and a reduction in bar chewing, biting and other unwanted behaviours.
Image Credit: @hamsterscapingofficial
Another big question is what is the best food to feed your hamster? Hamsters are omnivores, eating a variety of foods in the wild, including seeds, leaves and roots as well as some insects. Their nutritional needs differ from other small omnivores though, with hamsters requiring more protein than gerbils for example. This means it’s best to feed them a species-specific food tailored to their particular needs.
From mixes to single component, there can be a bewildering choice of options. Supreme’s single component extruded nugget Science Selective Hamster Food is a nutritionally complete diet, that is highly palatable with no added sugar. It comes recommended by vets and is suitable for all hamsters, from Syrians to dwarf.
Or what about muesli-mixes? Muesli-mixes are diets containing many components such as flaked maize, peas, grains or seeds. Muesli can provide a variety of food types which adds interest and enjoyment and the opportunity to forage. The range of textures, sizes and shapes also offers a variety of chewing experiences. All Supreme’s Tiny Friends Farm diets, including Harry Hamster Tasty Mix and recently launched Harry Hamster Fruity Nutty Mix, are packed full of delicious natural ingredients.
Fast fact: hamster teeth are naturally yellow. Having pearly-whites can be a sign of health problems.
Sand Baths have traditionally been associated with other small pets like chinchillas and degus, but guess what…. hamsters love them too! A sand bath can be a great treat for your pet. Offered several times a week it helps to provide enrichment and improve wellbeing. Sand baths can also do wonders for coat condition, removing excess oils from the coat and keeping fur clean and shiny.
Why not treat your pal to a spot of hamster pampering with Tiny Friends Farm Harry Charlie and Gerri Bathing Sand or Science Selective Bathing Sand.
And finally….temperament, taming and treats
Spending time with your pet and building a close bond with them is one of the most rewarding parts of hamster ownership. However, as a prey species, hamsters are often easily startled and the settling-in period can take some time. While most hamsters have a good temperament, they can be inclined to bite if scared, so getting your pet used to being handled and building that all-important bond, needs to be taken slowly. Carefully hand-feeding treats to build up contact and trust can work wonders.
Treats can also be hidden round the enclosure to encourage natural foraging and keep your hamsters busy and happy. From Harry Hamster Yippees Treats to Tiny Friends Farm Stickles and Selective Naturals Harvest Loops, there’s something to suit all tastes!