Are you ready to add a hamster to the family? Congratulations! So how do you pick out a winner?
Do You Really Want A Hamster?
You may be wondering if a hamster is the best pet for you. Hamsters are great pets for people of all ages! Young children may need help caring for a hamster, but there are many types of hamster that are gentle and friendly enough for the kids. If you are worried about working long hours, don’t worry about your hamster; hamsters are nocturnal, and are active in the evenings and overnight.
Your biggest initial expense will be the cage and equipment. Other than that, hamsters are generally inexpensive pets! A hamster may live up to three years or more, so you aren’t committing to a long lived pet. Your hamster won’t take up much space, either — you can easily keep a pet hamster in an apartment or townhouse.
How Do You Pick A Hamster?
The first thing you should do is look at the conditions the cages are kept in. Are the cages clean? Do the hamsters have access to food and water at all times? If the pet store or breeder doesn’t seem to be taking good care of the hamsters, you may want to look elsewhere. Trust your eyes, your nose, and your instincts.
If the general conditions of the pet store or breeder seem good, now it’s time to look at the hamsters themselves. But what do you look for?
The hamsters should seem to be generally healthy. No diarrhea in the cage! No sick hamsters! Watch out for runny or stick eyes, a runny nose, a wet or dirty rear end, and matted fur. Make sure your hamster has no visible scars. Check that the fur is not thinning, and that there are no bald spots. Make sure the ears are intact, not torn. The hamsters should not be overcrowded in the cage.
The hamsters should be separated by sex — males in one cage and females in another. If the staff can’t guarantee the sex of a hamster, this is not a good sign! You may find yourself accidentally buying a pregnant hamster. The hamsters should be approximately five to six weeks old. Hamsters should not be sold any younger. Look for a hamster that is bright-eyed and alert. Look for a hamster that is inquisitive and outgoing. Ask if you can handle the hamster of your choice. This gives you a chance to check the hamster’s general health close up AND see how friendly a pet it will be.
Bringing Your Hamster Home
The pet store or breeder will offer you a container to bring your hamster home in. However, this is usually a cardboard box! Hamsters are notorious chewers, and your new friend may chomp his way out of your container before you get home. If your drive home will be a longer one, you may want to bring another container — perhaps a plastic carrying box. A handful of wood shavings can cushion the plastic box for comfort; include a bit of apple or cucumber for moisture.
Place your hamster immediately in his new cage when you get home, then give him some time to settle in. It will take a few days for your hamster to get used to the new sights, sounds, and smells of his new environment. Try to resist the urge to take your hamster out and play with him for the first few days; young hamsters can suffer from a stress response called wet tail.
Your hamster may run around a lot in his first few days at home. He may move his nesting spot several times, and spent a lot of time sleeping. After a few days, you’ll see him start to settle into a routine. This is when you can start taking him out of the cage for handling and play.