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Hamster Care Basics

September 15 2016

Are you looking for a pet that is small in size but big in personality? You may want to consider getting a hamster. These tiny furballs are absolutely adorable, and really make great pets. A McHenry, IL veterinarian discusses basic hamster care in this article.


Make sure your tiny furball is comfy and cozy in his cage. Hammie will need a cage that is at least 3 square feet, though bigger is better. A wire cage with a solid bottom is a good choice. You can also get a glass or plastic tank. Be sure to pick one with a mesh or screen top, to ensure proper ventilation.


Once you have the cage, you’ll need to add a good substrate. Aspen is a good choice. Avoid pine or cedar substrates, as they aren’t safe for small animals. Your furry pal will also need a hidey-hole and a water bottle. Hammie may also enjoy an exercise wheel. Choose a solid one, as wire wheels can hurt your pet’s tiny feet.


Keeping Hammie’s cage at the proper temperature is very important. If your little pet gets too cold, he may try to hibernate. This is very dangerous for pet hamsters! Make sure your hamster’s cage stays between 65-75°F at all times.


Hammie can have commercial food for his main meals. This can be either a pellet food, or a seed mix. There are pros and cons to each. Pellets offer complete nutrition, but can be a little boring. Seed mixes taste better, but they make it easy for Hammie to secretly stash tidbits for later, and then beg for more. You’ll want to supplement these things with fresh produce and the occasional treat. Ask your vet for nutritional advice, including serving sizes, safe and unsafe foods, and, of course, suitable snacks.


Offer your pint-sized pal plenty of toys, including lots of suitable chew toys. Many wood, paper, and cardboard items are safe, as long as they don’t have small parts or sharp edges, and aren’t coated in paint, varnish, glitter, or dye. (Tip: cardboard toilet-paper rolls can make great chew toys.) Hammie may also enjoy a runabout, or exercise wheel. Just be sure to take proper safety precautions. Ask your vet for specific recommendations.

Our Advice on Hamster Care Basics in 2024

What essential accessories should be included in a hamster’s habitat for health and comfort?

A hamster’s habitat should have several essential accessories to ensure health and comfort. Firstly, a spacious cage with a solid bottom, adequate ventilation, and plenty of room to explore is crucial. Aspen shavings can be a soft substrate for bedding and burrowing material inside the cage. A hidey-hole or shelter offers a private space for rest and security. A water bottle ensures a constant, clean water supply. An exercise wheel promotes physical activity, and chew toys support dental health. These accessories help create a stimulating and comfortable environment for the hamster.

What are the ideal temperature conditions to maintain in a hamster’s environment, and why?

Maintaining a temperature range of 65-75°F (18-24°C) in a hamster’s environment is crucial for their well-being. This range mimics the moderate climates of their natural habitats and helps prevent stress and health issues. Temperatures outside this range can lead to heat stress or hypothermia, potentially triggering dangerous conditions like hibernation attempts in species not naturally inclined to do so. Consistent, comfortable temperatures ensure the hamster remains active, healthy, and less prone to illness, providing a stable environment that supports their physical and emotional health.

How should a hamster’s diet be structured?

A balanced diet for hamsters should consist primarily of commercial pellets or a seed mix to provide complete nutrition. Pellets are beneficial for ensuring all necessary nutrients are consumed, while seed mixes offer variety but can lead to selective eating habits. Supplementing this base diet with small amounts of fresh vegetables and occasional fruits is essential to add vitamins and minerals. Avoid sugary and high-fat treats. Fresh water should always be available. Serving sizes and specific food choices should be tailored to the hamster’s species, age, and health needs, following veterinary guidance to prevent obesity and nutritional deficiencies.

What types of toys are suitable for hamsters?

Suitable toys for hamsters include a variety of chew toys made from safe, natural materials like wood, cardboard, or untreated paper to support dental health by allowing them to gnaw and keep their teeth at a proper length. Exercise wheels provide necessary physical activity but should have a solid surface to prevent injuries. Puzzle toys and tunnels encourage mental stimulation and mimic natural foraging behaviors. Always ensure toys are free from small, detachable parts, sharp edges, and toxic substances like paint or varnish. Regularly rotating toys can also help keep your hamster engaged and prevent boredom.

Why is it crucial to seek veterinary advice for hamster care, including diet, toys, and overall well-being?

It’s essential to consult with veterinarians specializing in small animals for hamster care, as they can offer customized advice to fully address a hamster’s health, nutritional, and habitat requirements. They can provide guidance on proper nutrition, safe toys, and habitat setup to prevent common health issues. Regular check-ups help detect and treat diseases, dental problems, and nutritional deficiencies early. Veterinarians also educate owners on the specific needs of their hamsters, including behavior and signs of stress or illness, ensuring a long, healthy, and happy life for the pet.

Do you have questions or concerns about hamster care? We can help! Contact us, your McHenry, IL animal clinic, today!