Pet Care Guides Small Pet



Asia & Europe

Approximate Size:

1-5 ozs. & 3-6inches

Approximate Lifespan:

2-3 years

Hamsters & Children:

Good pets for older children when cared for properly.

Intro to Hamster Care

Having a hamster as a pet can be a very rewarding experience! Before purchasing, do plenty of research to understand their behaviors, proper handling and care requirements. Help them live a long and healthy life in your care.

Today's fancy hamsters are descended from three Syrian Golden Hamsters taken into captivity in 1930. Dwarf hamsters are a different species, though they are still part of the same rodent family and require similar care. Three species that are common in captivity are the dwarf Russian hamster, Roborvaski, and Dzungarian. All hamsters are small, easy to care for animals which explains why they continue to make popular pets. Hamsters are a popular pet for children but best kept with older children due to their small size and likeliness to bite their owner. Hamsters are primarily nocturnal, spending their day sleeping and the night feeding and exploring.

That Pet Place cannot guarantee that any animal will get along with any other animal, even if they are purchased from the same cage, even if chosen from the same tank. Most hamsters are solitary creatures and should only be kept one per enclosure. As they grow, they become exceptionally territorial and will fight, even to the death.

That Pet Place cannot guarantee the sex of any animal of any age, especially young rodents, since they are very difficult to sex.

Housing Your Hamster

There are a variety of housing options for hamsters: wire cages, plastic cages with a complex systems of tubes or a basic glass tank with a screen lid. We recommend using glass aquariums or wire cages and to avoid plastic. Be aware that hamsters may chew through the plastic bottom of a wire cage or the plastic habitat. Solid bottom wire cages are also acceptable as long as the wire spacing is a ¼” or less to prevent escape.

We recommend a minimum of 10 gallon glass tank with a metal screen lid (secured by clips). Syrian (Fancy Hamsters) require a larger cage, a minimum of 20 gallons (30”x12”).

Ideal indoor conditions for your hamster are 65-75 degrees, normal household humidity of 30 to 50%, and away from drafts. Temperatures above 8o degrees are too high. If it is too hot, provide your hamster with a frozen water bottle, fan or “chinchiller” to lie next to and cool off.

We recommend lining the tray or bottom of your cage with a 3-6 inches of small paper pet bedding to absorb waste and odors. Do not use cedar chips or pine bedding, as they can be harmful to your pet.

Spot clean their bedding weekly and replace every 1-2 weeks or as necessary. Soiled wet bedding can lead to health issues with breathing and sore feet. Also, the cage itself must be cleaned with pet friendly disinfectant.

No hamster habitat would be complete without an exercise wheel. Hamsters need to be able to exercise to stay healthy and physically fit. Choose a wheel that is enclosed.
• 8” wheel for dwarf and smaller hamsters (Russian, robo, Djugarian, Chinese)
•10-12” wheel for Syrian (Fancy hamsters)

In the wild, hamsters live underground in a maze of tunnels. So you can provide basic wood hiding place as it is vital to their health and well-being. Also, hamster love to chew so provide chewable items like wooden chew toys. Hamsters' teeth grow constantly and need to be worn down by gnawing on wood blocks. A variety of enrichment items & toys, switched out frequently, are recommended to keep your hamster busy and prevent boredom.

Provide unlimited spring water in a 8 oz. hanging water bottle. A ceramic food dish is recommended, as plastic dishes will be chewed and possibly ingested.

Feeding Your Hamster

Your hamster is an omnivore, which means they eat both plant and animal material

Your hamster’s diet should be
• 75% Hamster pelleted food
• 20% Greens
• 2-5% Treats

Hamsters do best on a varied diet. Hamster pelleted food or blocks should be used as the staple of the diet, but other things can be added to make sure the animals are receiving the optimal nutrition. Feed a basic diet of pelleted food for the first 2-3 weeks, until your hamster has adjusted to their new home. After the first 2-3 weeks, you can offer small amounts of vegetables like romaine, kale, parsley, and peas. Introduce greens gradually and in small amounts to avoid upsetting their stomachs. After several more weeks, greens can make up to 20% of their diet. Treats can be offered occasionally a few times a week. If a vegetable or treat causes digestive issues, discontinue its use.

Habitat Maintenance and Care for your Hamster

Hamsters require attention and care every day. You will need to:
• Provide fresh food, and water daily.
• Spot clean their bedding twice a week.
• Replace bedding once a week.
• Wash dishes and bottles once a week or more if necessary.
• Clean the cage itself weekly with pet friendly disinfectant.
• Replace toys and chews as needed.

Grooming Your Hamster

Hamsters do not need to be groomed. Their nails stay short from digging. They should not be bathed unless it is medically necessary. Some dwarf hamsters enjoy a sand bath. This can be provided a few times a week in a ceramic container specifically made for dwarf hamsters and gerbils.

Enrichment for Your Hamster

Hamsters love to chew. Enrichment, exercise, and fun are required! Provide toys, chews, and mats to encourage natural behaviors essential to your hamster’s health and happiness. Create different levels for them in their habitat to enjoy climbing on and provide tunnels for them to run through or hide in.

Supply grass hay to stimulate natural foraging and nesting, which helps in the prevention of obesity. Hamsters enjoy Oat Hay, which often contains tasty immature seed heads.

Rather than handling, hamsters can better explore from the safety of a small pet exercise ball, which allows them the freedom to go where they want without getting lost or injured. Limit "ball time" to no more than 15 minutes. Wash ball thoroughly in between uses.

Bringing your Hamster Home

In a new environment, your new furry friend may be rather nervous. Allow your hamster time to get used to their new surroundings. Put their cage in a quiet area for the first few weeks and limit handling for the first 2-3 days. Check on them often for signs of illness. Their eyes, ears, and nose should be free and clear of any discharge. Watch for other signs of illness like sneezing or trouble breathing, abnormal eating or drinking, blood in the urine, hunching in a corner or lack of activity (lethargy), overgrown front teeth, bald patches in the fur, lumps or sores on the body or sores on the feet.

The most common problem with hamsters is wet-tail (diarrhea), a condition caused by the stress of a new environment, especially if the environment is not kept clean. Minimize stress and feed only hamster food for the 2-3 weeks. Then begin gradually some greens and vegetables to their diet.

If they develop wet tail, it is a serious ailment, and it can be fatal, even with proper treatment. If your hamster shows signs of wet-tail, being providing Pedialyte, wet-tail medication, omnivore care and benebac. Follow product instructions. This will normally improve their condition within a short amount of time, but if no improvement is noted, an exotics veterinarian should be consulted. Treat any sign of illness immediately.

Handlling Your Hamster

Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling any pet animal. Help prevent the spread of germs and prevent accidental bites by washing away smells that may entice them (like if you recently handled food or treats). Many hamsters can be acclimated at a young age to tolerate gentle handling and enjoy time out of their cage, if you take the time. Handle your hamster with easy, calm movements; loud noises and quick movements can startle these animals. Some hamsters will bite defending their territory, by biting when handled in their cage. Any animal, even a friendly one, will bite or scratch if it feels threatened.

Remember, hamsters are primarily nocturnal. If you need to wake your hamster during the day, do so slowly and gently, by speaking and tapping lightly on its cage or den. It is best to wait until the hamster's ears are fully perked up and it looks alert before you put your hand in the cage. When holding them, do so with two hands and be close to the floor or sitting on the floor. Offering it a treat before it returns to its home to encourage it to come out again the next day.

Hamsters are fragile animals. Your new pet may leap from your hands in fear when you are handling them or when startled. If your hamster falls or is dropped, they can become seriously injured. They should be seen by a vet, as not all injuries are visible to the naked eye.

If you are selecting a hamster for a young child, hamsters may prefer not to be handled like some other pets. Young children should always be supervised by parents when interacting with their pet. Not only are these animals fragile, but they can, if frightened, bite or scratch. Parents are encouraged to handle the animals first to get them used to contact and to teach children the proper way to hold or carry their pet.

Hamster Care Summary

1. Provide a cage with 1/4” or less bar spacing.
2. Provide unlimited spring water.
3. Provide balanced hamster food (75% of diet)
4. Provide fresh greens daily. (20% of diet)
5. Provide chews for good teeth health.
6. Replace paper bedding every week or as necessary.
7. Provide a sand bath weekly.
8. Provide an 8-10” enclosed exercise wheel.
9. Handle carefully on your lap or near the floor.
10. Provide love, care, and company!

Thank you for taking the time to learn about your new family member.   We recommend having a veterinarian check-up soon after you bring your new pet home. It is helpful to keep a medical record about your pet should an emergency ever occur.

Pet care is always evolving & changing.  Please continue to research and monitor your pet’s behavior to assure they are thriving.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our small animal department at 717-299-5691 ext. 1274 or