Next to dogs and cats, hamsters are among the most popular house pets for families to keep. It’s no wonder- they’re cute, fluffy and generally low-maintenance.
But despite being fairly easy to care for, hamsters need a few basic requirements to keep them happy, healthy and friendly.
You’ll need to establish a hamster health and cleanliness schedule in order to keep your child’s furry friend in tip-top condition. It’s also a great idea to sign up for pet insurance. Fortunately, there are many affordable options to choose from, like Bivvy.
Here are 7 hamster health tips to incorporate into their set of household chores…
7 Simple Steps to Maintain Hamster Health
In general, hamsters require almost the same basic amenities as most humans do to thrive. A clean, spacious environment, exercise, and a balanced diet.
Once you have these three basic requirements sorted, the rest is merely hamster health maintenance.
Here are 7 simple steps to maintain a healthy pet:
1. Provide a Healthy Living Environment
This is probably the most important factor in ensuring your hamster lives a happy and healthy life. Hamsters need a bit of space to truly thrive in their environment, so make sure to pick a spacious cage for their size.
At a minimum, a hamster cage should be 12-inches wide, 12-inches high and 18-inches long. If you intend on introducing another hamster, go for a bigger cage than this.
Hamsters are also quite vulnerable to cold and tend to get sick quite easily. Make sure to place your hamster cage in a warm, sheltered area, away from cold winds.
Keep an eye on the bars of your hamster cage as they love to chew, even if your cage is made from metal. If their chewing becomes an issue, you could switch to a perspex box cage without bars.
2. Clean Their Living Space Regularly
A dirty living environment could quickly turn into a breeding ground for bacteria and disease which could make your hamster ill.
Keep their living environment as clean as possible by cleaning out their cage once a week. Remove your hamster from the cage and place them in a hamster-safe container for the time being.
Toss all the used bedding, hamster droppings, and other debris from the cage. Disposable toys, bits of cardboard and leftover food and water should also be removed.
Wash food bowls, water dispensers, and other hamster toys with warm, soapy water and rinse well.
Scrub down the interior of the cage and use a disinfectant spray where possible, otherwise warm, soapy water will do. Rinse the cage properly when done.
Air dry the cage and replace a fresh layer of bedding and litter and all other hamster toys, accessories, bowls and feeders.
Only once the environment is familiar should you return your hamster to the cage.
3. Choose Hamster Bedding Carefully
Hamsters have very sensitive skin beneath their coat of fur, so choosing the wrong bedding could quickly irritate their skin.
Bedding made from cedar wood should be avoided as this is well-known to cause skin irritation. The same goes for pinewood bedding, scented bedding, fluffy material, newspaper or cat litter.
It’s best to ask a pet store clerk what they recommend for your hamster’s bedding or better yet, a local vet. Check out Timothy Hay for sale for great options.
If you’re using a litter box in your hamster cage, make sure their bedding material and litter box material is completely different! Basically, this will discourage them from using their bedding as a litter box.
4. Encourage Your Hamster to Exercise
Hamsters are kept most happy when exercising. By nature, they are active creatures so ensuring they exercise regularly is important for their health.
Remember to provide a hamster wheel and toys that will encourage your hamster to exercise and burn off excess energy throughout the day.
A lack of exercise can cause weight gain and also lead to serious digestive issues.
Other hamster toys to include in their cage range from plastic tubes and ladders which encourage your hamster to climb, crawl, and explore. Plush toys and blocks for chewing are also a great idea to keep them busy.
5. Choose High-Quality Hamster Food
As with most pets, their diet is exceptionally important in the maintenance of their overall health. So choosing the right type of food for your hamster is key.
Choose high-quality hamster pellets at your local pet store, and also include mixtures of dried seeds and nuts in their diet.
These pellets are specifically tailored to a hamster’s dietary needs and contain all necessary minerals and nutrients to keep them healthy.
If you’re unsure of how much your hamster should be eating every day, ask your local vet for advice. Hamsters range in shape and size, so each hamster requires varying amounts of food.
Keep in mind that stale food can leave to digestive issues, so make sure not to overfeed your hamster and replace food when necessary.
Avoid feeding your hamster wet food, unless recommended otherwise by a vet. But this usually reserved for hamsters that are ill or have digestive issues.
6. Maintain Their Teeth and Nails
It’s a well-known fact that a hamster’s teeth and nails never stop growing. This is why hamsters have an insatiable urge to chew on things to file their teeth down.
You may need to check the state of your hamster’s teeth and nails every few months to ensure they’re not overgrown and causing discomfort.
This is a job for the professionals, so book your hamster into the vet if their teeth or nails need a good trim.
7. Introduce a New Hamster With Caution
It’s worth noting that hamsters are not overly sociable creatures- so they take time to ”warm up” to new friends.
If you plan on introducing a second hamster to your cage, make sure to do so while your first hamster is still quite young. Remember that hamsters are extremely fertile and male and female hamsters will breed when placed together.
On average, a female gives birth to 3-18 babies every 30 days, so unless you want an army of hamsters, don’t mix the sexes in one cage!
When introducing new hamsters, take some at least a few days to do. Keep them in separate cages at first, then slowing make the transition.