Are you thinking about getting a hamster as a pet? Here is everything you need to know about how to care for a hamster so that they are healthy and happy. Caring for pets is a great way to help children develop leadership skills.
How to Care for a Hamster
Well looked after hamsters make wonderful small pets for older children. They are some of the easiest pets to take care of (fish are also easy, although less cuddly!) Pick a friendly breed (ours is a Russian hamster) to optimize child pet bonding. Here is everything you need to know about setting up a happy hamster habitat.
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#1 Care for Your Hamster By Giving Them Space
There are lots of different options for hamster cages, but from while doing research for our hamster learned that a lot of cages are too small! This can lead to unhappy and unhealthy hamsters.
After a lot of research, we settled on a 20 gallon fish tank (the long, short kind) for our small Russian hamster. You could get a tall tank and install platforms if you prefer. Some people recommend 40 gallon breeder tanks, but that is pricier and heavier, and when I looked at the actual square footage of the footprint it wasn’t much larger than my 20 gallon tank.
If you go for a traditional cage, make sure you look into square footage so that your hamster has room to run around.
#2 Provide Clean Hamster Bedding
We use carefresh bedding for our hamster, and replace all of it once a week. Some hamsters designate bathroom areas; so far ours hasn’t.
#3 Feed Your Hamster
We just bought the food they sold in the store; Amazon offers a wide range of options and prices.
Hamsters can also eat fresh fruits and vegetables; just make sure they don’t sit around rotting in the cage.
We use a ceramic dish to feed our hamster. It’s heavy enough to stay put, and the curved edges keep the food contained.
#4 Make Sure Your Hamster Always Has Water
#5 Offer Your Hamster a Hideout
Hamsters are nocturnal, and it’s really important that they have a place to sleep during the day where they feel safe. We bought our hamster a simple wood hideout, and he loves it.
Hamsters can be kind of messy, so I recommend picking a hideout that is easy to clean out.
#6 Care for Your Hamster with A Hamster Wheel
Hamsters need a lot of exercise! Our Russian hamster is on and off his hamster wheel all night, and occasionally during the daytime. We recommend getting a quieter wheel – we got the Kaytee Silent Spinner and have been very happy with it.
#7 Offer a Range of Hamster Toys
It’s really important for hamsters to have things in their cage that they can climb and chew on! We got our hamster a variety of chew toys. So far he mostly chews on his house and the cardboard toys Johnny makes for him.
Because hamsters chew their toys, we use Elmer’s school glue that is non toxic for making them. Johnny is always borrowing my Clover clips to hold the pieces together while they dry. He mixes food coloring with water to paint the toys.
#8 Your Hamster Needs A Dust Bath
Hamsters use dust to get clean! This was a big surprise to me when I was learning how to care for a hamster.
#9 Let Them Run in A Hamster Ball
A hamster ball isn’t strictly necessary, but it is a fun way for your hamster to explore the house while getting some extra exercise in.
#10 Your Hamster Needs Regular Interaction
Regular interaction is key to caring for a happy and healthy hamster who enjoys being held! My son is really good about playing with his hamster every night. The hamster understands the schedule and comes out ready to play every evening, right on time! This makes owning a hamster more rewarding for my child, and it keeps our hamster well socialized.
I heard of hamsters biting; ours has never shown any inclination towards that behavior. Part of it is because Russian hamsters are more friendly. The rest is the result of our hamster having a healthy home environment and regular interaction with owners.
Hamsters make wonderful pets for older children who are ready to learn how to care for their pet. It is important that children are patient, gentle, and respectful towards their pet’s space. Is there anything we left off of this list? Please let us know!
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