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Care Guide & FAQs

General Care

The most important rule with Syrian hamsters is... one hamster = one cage.

Syrians are strictly solitary and must be kept on their own once they reach maturity. If left with another hamster in the same cage, they will fight to the death. Don't worry, they won't get lonely on their own.

Once you get your hamster home

For the first day or so, try to leave them to settle into their new home and get used to the new surroundings and unfamiliar smells. After this you can start to handle them, and make sure to do a basic health check for any illness or injury. Use the food that is supplied with your hamster, and if you can, try to keep with the same brand ('Harry Hamster')

The first few months

Housing:

Try to get the biggest cage you can afford. They will be fine in a smaller cage at first, but I recommend upgrading once they get a bit older.

Recommended: floor space of at least 70cm x 40cm (cages: 'Alaska', 'Hamster Heaven' or 'Barney', available from Zooplus.co.uk)

Not recommended: Modular type cages such as Rotastak. They are difficult to clean out, lack ventilation and there is no space for a large enough wheel.

Wheels and toys:

I would recommend waiting till your hamster is at least a few months old before giving them a wheel full time. You can start to introduce one but as they are still growing, it's best to wait, as they can get addicted to them! Make sure the wheel is big enough for them to comfortably run in, and not arch their back (about 7 or 8 inches is usually sufficient). I am a fan of the large enclosed plastic wheels, and any wooden wheels, as they tend to be quieter. (Both are available from Zooplus)

Feeding

Continue to feed extras as well as their normal dry mix. I have been feeding them extras such as vegetables (broccoli, carrot, sweetcorn, cucumber) and baby food (mine love the 'Heinz' ones, particularly the ‘creamed porridge’ and ‘sunday lunch’). Just give them a small amount every day, and reduce the frequency as they get older.

Bedding:

There are a few choices of bedding available. The cheapest is just to use torn up toilet paper, but you can buy shredded paper or what looks like little pieces of 'J-cloth'. Never use cotton wool bedding - it is extremely dangerous. Even though some pet shops sell it and it says it is safe, it is not. It can be ingested and get blocked in their intestines or wrap around limbs and cut off blood supply.

Handling and taming:
If your hamsters is from a breeder, it would have been handled from when it first opened its eyes, but it will still probably be a bit nervous when getting used to its new owner and new environment. They do quickly get used to it with regular handing though.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I keep my hamsters teeth and nails from overgrowing?

Make sure your hamster has plenty of things to gnaw on. If they are in a cage with bars, they may bite the bars. Hamsters love to chew on cardboard, and I often give mine dog biscuits (‘Biscrok’ or ‘Bonio’ puppy biscuits). Wooden toys and wheels will also help to prevent your hamsters nails from overgrowing.

Do I need to provide a sand bath for my Syrian hamster?

It’s not essential, but they can use it as a potty, which makes it easier to clean their cages. They also love to dig in it, and it can help keep their nails short. The best sand to use is Charlie Chinchilla Sand, but please be very careful not to buy chinchilla dust - pet shops will try to tell you it’s the same as sand, but it isn’t! It may be ok for chinchillas, but dust is far too fine and dusty for hamster’s lungs.

What are those moles / dark patches on their hips?

These are scent glands and are perfectly normal. These tend to be more noticeable in male hamsters, and they can often look wet if they have been washing themselves.

What foods are safe or unsafe to give my hamster?

A full list of foods can be found here: Safe and Unsafe Foods (opens in new window)

There are so many types of hamster food - which do you recommend?

I feed all my hamsters on ‘Harry Hamster’ food, which is available from most pet shops, and only give a small piece of vegetable, pasta, egg, chicken, or a yoghurt drop as occasional treats.

Do long haired Syrian hamsters require any special care?

Long haired male hamsters may require some different bedding, as woodshavings can sometimes get tangled in their fur, depending on how long it is. Some people use wood based cat litter or cardboard based bedding (‘Finacard’). It’s also best to get a wheel that doesn’t have a spindle. Female long haired hamsters can just be treated the same as short haired hamsters.