How to Care for Your Pet Hamster: From Toys, Food to More!

Reading Time: 6 minutes

pet hamster toy wheel with rodent exercisingWhen we think about classic nostalgic pets, the hamster is the first thing that may come to your mind! Fluffy, friendly, small, and cute—hamsters are undoubtedly one of the most memorable pets of our childhood. So, if you’re looking to relive this nostalgia, or if you’d love to introduce your children to a one, then read on to learn more!

Where Do Hamsters Come From?

In zoology, hamsters are classed under the family Cricetidae. The family Cricetidae consists of other similar animals like mice, rats, voles, and gerbils.

Zoologists believe that there are approximately over 54 species of hamsters in the world; each of these species will fall under 1 of 7 different genera.

Hamsters come from all over the world. Those that belong to the Mesocricetus genus are found across Syria, Turkey, Romania, and Russia.

While, hamsters that belong to the Phodopus genus are distributed across Mongolia, Siberia, China, and Kazakhstan.

All About Pets: There are many types of Dwarf Hamster Breeds You Can Adopt!

golden hamster sitting on a rock

If you’re looking to adopt a furry little rodent, then you’ll first need to familiarize yourself with the types of species out there. Like our dogs and cats, hamsters to come in different briefs.

They can be classified under seven different genera. However, the most common pet hamsters are classified under the genus, Phodopus, Cricetulus, and Mesocricetus.

In Latin, Phodopus refers to hairy feet; and so hamsters classed under this genus will have small feet, a short tail, and hairy feet. Breeds under this genera include the Campbell’s, Roborovski, and Djungarian dwarf hamster.

The genus, Cricetulus, refers to the larger hamster breeds. These furry animals will retain a more rat-like appearance, compared to hamsters seen in the Phodopus genera.

If you’ve ever visited the small animal section of a pet store, then you’ve probably noticed the classic Syrian hamster! Well, this breed falls under the genus Mesocricetus, and they have undoubtedly become the most popular breed.

Syrian Hamster

The Syrian hamster is without a doubt, the most popular breed of hamsters. Often nicknamed the Teddy Bear or Golden hamster, the Syrian is considered a large breed hamster.

As their name suggests, these little furry friends originated from Syria. However, they can also be found roaming parts of Turkey.

The Syrian can come in different varieties. Some common types include the:

  • Long-haired
  • Satin
  • Rex

They can also come in a variety of colors & patterns like:

  • Beige
  • Black
  • White
  • Sable
  • Banded
  • Piebald
  • Tortoiseshell, and more!

Chinese Dwarf Hamster

Another popular breed of hamsters is the  Chinese Dwarf hamster. These little guys originate from parts of China and Mongolia, and they are well suited to living in warm and humid areas.

The Chinese hamster is actually not a dwarf! In fact, these furry friends can weigh anywhere between 50 to 75 grams. Unlike the happy Syrian breed, the Chinese hamster will have a temper on their head.

These furry friends can be very naughty at times. So, handling them a lot will ensure they remain tame and friendly.

Winter White Hamster

Commonly known as the Russian dwarf hamster, the Winter White hamster can be found across Mongolia, Siberia, and Kazakhstan.

The Winter White is a small little rodent who can weigh up to 30 grams. These little love bugs are incredibly playful and docile! So, it’s no wonder why people love them as pets.

Robo Dwarf Hamster aka the Roborovski!

The Roborovski hamster is another dwarf breed that falls under the Phodopus genus. Similar to the Winter White, these furry friends are incredibly playful and friendly.

The Roborovski will weigh around 20 grams; so it is actually considered the smallest breed of pet hamsters. Because of their tiny stature, they are not suited to homes with children.

The Roborovski is a true desert inhabitant! These little guys can be found across deserts in Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and China!

Are they Healthy? How Long Do Hamsters Live for

Getting your child their first pet hamster can be an exciting moment! But, unfortunately, these little rodents don’t have a long lifespan. On average, a well-cared hamster can live anywhere between 2 to 3 years. 

Like any living creature, these little pets are also prone to infectious disease. Veterinarians believe that the most common illness a pet hamster can succumb to is wet tail.

Wet tail is an enteric disease which can be caused by bacterial agents like Escherichia coli and Campylobacter. When a hamster gets wet tail, they will display symptoms like:

  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Loss of appetite

Wet tail is a disease that is often triggered by stressful situations. This can include anything like a drastic change in environment to not enough mental stimulation.

Hamsters who are diagnosed with wet tail will have a poor mortality rate. These little guys often die within 48 hours of when their first symptoms.

Two other common health problems seen in hamsters are pneumonia and spontaneous neoplasia.

Pneumonia refers to the inflammation of the lungs. It is a respiratory disease that can be caused by dust, dirt, bacteria, or viruses. A hamster who has acquired pneumonia will show signs through:

Excessive coughing

  • Nasal discharge,
  • Lack of appetite, and
  • Difficulty breathing

An even more common disease seen in hamsters is spontaneous neoplasias. Spontaneous neoplasia is a tumor that can appear in a hamsters cheek pouch or on their mammary glands.

These types of tumors are most common in the Syrian breed, and they tend to affect hamster that is over 2 years old.

What About Wild Hamsters as Pet?

pet hamster sticking head through whole in cardboard box

Hamsters in the wild prefer to live solitary lives. It is only during mating season when they may choose to accompany another.

If you ever come across a hamster in the wild, you will not be able to keep it as a pet. This is because an adult hamster in the wild will not have the social skills needed to bond with humans.

Wild hamsters will see humans as predators, and so it is improbable for a person to tame a wild hamster. In addition to this, a wild hamster that kept in a small caged area can develop health problems in the long-run. This is mainly due to a lack of mental stimulation and stress.

Feeding your Furry Companion Hamster Food: What Do Hamsters Eat?

Just like our dogs and cats, a healthy diet can significantly influence your hamsters’ longevity.

Hamsters are omnivorous animals; this means that they will require a mixture of fresh fruits, vegetables, and insects, as part of a balanced diet.

If you’re having a hard time understanding what your furry pal needs—don’t worry—we’ve created a hamster diet checklist for you to follow.

Wild Harvest Wh-83543 Wild Harvest Advanced Nutrition Diet For Hamsters Or Gerbils, 4.5-Pound
Advanced Nutrition Diets In Flip Top Containers. More Convenient Than Screw Top Containers. Best Blend In The Best Packaging. Less Mess Than Using Bags
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Pellet Diets

Pelleted diets are a type of hamster feed sold in pet stores. These commercial diets are formulated to meet hamsters daily nutritional requirements.

Providing your furry friend a formulated food will ensure they not only remain healthy but that they are free from disease.

When choosing a pelleted diet for your furry rodent, consider the following requirements.

  • Pregnant or growing hamsters require more protein! These little guys require a minimum of 24 % protein in their feed.
  • Older hamsters on a maintenance diet will require a minimum of 16% protein.

Fresh Foods for your Little Friend

To ensure your little buddy remains healthy, you will need to include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet. Some healthy vegetables and fruits you can add are:

  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Kale (in moderation)
  • Peas
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Boiled egg (in moderation)
  • Hay (Alfalfa, Oat hay, and Timothy Hay)

Dangerous and Toxic Foods

Although these little guys can indulge in a variety of foods, there are still a few things you should not feed them. These include:

  • Garlic and Onions
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Chocolate
  • Almonds
  • Lemons, Oranges (any citrus fruit)
  • Foods that contain sugar and salt
  • Raw beans and potatoes
  • Apple seeds
  • Leafy green parts of a tomato
  • High-fat meats

Housing your Pet Hamster: Where do Hamster Live?

The majority of pet hamsters sold are of the Syrian breed. So, before getting your first one, you will need to purchase and create a proper housing system.

Hamsters will require cages with a solid bottom and rounded edges. Ideally, you want to choose a cage that is large enough to accommodate running wheels, tunnels, burrows, toys, food bowls, and a house.

It is crucial to remember that these little guys love to chew. So, ideally, you should pick a cage that is made of stainless steel or wire. Although some owners may choose to use a glass cage, owners should be aware of a lack of ventilation in glass cages.

When selecting a cage, it’s good to keep in mind that one small hamster will require at least a 19 square inches of floor area.

The Environment they Need

Although hamsters are desert creatures, they can indeed adapt well to a new environment.  When housing a pet hamster, we advise that pet owners maintain the room temperature above 20 degrees C (68 F).

Additionally, you should aim to maintain the humidity of the environment as well! Ideally, the humidity should be anywhere between 45 to 70%.

It is crucial to keep in mind that low temperatures and short days (that is short periods of daylight) can induce hibernation in hamsters.

The Importance of Proper Hamster Bedding

All pet hamsters will have an innate desire to explore their surroundings. And, they do this by chewing on interesting toys, by sniffing, and of course by digging.

So, it is critical for owners to ensure that there is plenty of bedding available to your little rodent friend. Bedding for your rodent friend can come in the form of wood shavings, shredded paper, and even ground corncobs.

When selecting proper bedding for your hamster, you will need to ensure that it is free from toxic chemicals, clean, absorbent, and it show be free from mold.

Bedding needs to be placed in the cage at all times! And, you will need to ensure that you’ve placed a thick layer of bedding so that your furry friend can make their burrows comfortably.

For pet owners who are unsure about what’s the best bedding, check out our list on the best beddings for hamsters!

Carefresh Complete Pet Bedding

Carefresh provides high-quality bedding for small animals who love to burrow. All Carefresh litter is non-toxic, absorbent, dust-free, and super soft.

They’re perfect for a hamster to burrow into!

Carefresh Complete Pet Bedding
Carefresh complete comfort care provides all the features small pet parents care about. SOFT - Made with comfyfluff. FRESH - 10 day odor control. DRY - 2X more absorbent than shavings. CLEAN - Low dust and easy to clean
Rated 4.00/5.00 by Certapet
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Kaytee Clean and Cozy Bedding

Kaytee Clean & Cozy small animal bedding is a competitor of Carefresh. Like Carefresh, Kaytee Clean & Cozy beddings are non-toxic, highly absorbent, soft, and dust-free.

Kaytee Clean & Cozy Colored Small Animal Bedding
Odor Control Guaranteed. 99.9% Dust Free for a Cleaner Cage. Absorbs 6x its Weight in Liquid. Safe for your Pet. Fun Colors inspire kids to get involved in cage cleaning
Rated 4.00/5.00 by Certapet
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Keep your Little Friend Entertained with Hamster Toys!

syrian hamster sitting on miniature table for tea

When we talk about toys for hamsters, we aren’t talking about stuffed toys, etc. Hamster toys are generally designed to provide some form of mental stimulation to these little rodents.

Many of these toys are created to cater to their innate instincts. For example, different shapes of wooden toys will cater to their need to chew on things. While, wooden obstacle courses, tunnels, and tubes provide to their explorer instincts.

Now, if you ever do a quick google search of hamster toys. The opportunities are endless! In fact, the number of toys available can be quite overwhelming at first.

So, if you’re a first-time hamster owner, we’ve created a quick list on some must-have toys!\

An Activity Suspension Bridge: The Rosewood Activity Suspension Bridge is perfect for both Syrian and Dwarf hamsters. This fun little toy is made from safe, non-toxic wood and rope. The activity bridge is really just a small obstacle course designed to keep your little friend fit.

Activity Suspension Bridge - Hamster & Small Animal Toy
Made from pet safe wood. Easy to assemble (with or without supplied non-toxic glue). Stimulates your pet and helps prevent boredom.
Rated 4.00/5.00 by Certapet
Buy on Amazon

Niteangel Natural Living Tunnel System: The Niteangel tunnel system is a two-story playhouse perfect for all hamsters. The playhouse consists of bridges, tunnels, and houses, which will keep your furry friend entertained.

Niteangel Natural Living Tunnel System, Small Animal House
Two stories. Tower, tunnel and various climbing opportunities. Natural wood design. Ideal house for mice and hamster. Entertainment center of small animals.
Rated 4.00/5.00 by Certapet
Buy on Amazon

So, How Much do Hamsters Cost?

The cost of purchasing a hamster is fairly reasonable. On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $30 for one hamster. Of course, the price tag will depend a lot on the breed!

Although these little rodents come cheap, owning a hamster can still get pricey. Like owning any pet, we need to consider the average cost of food, vet care, and supplies, required to keep our furry friends happy!

 5 Hamster Care Tips for First Time Owners!

Robo dwarf hamster nibbling on food

  1. They love to burrow!  Think about it! In the wild, these guys are found in hot and dry conditions. To avoid predators and to escape harsh temperature, hamsters will burrow! So, when setting up your furry friends cage, make sure you place a thick layer of bedding.
  2. Don’t be alarmed if they sleep in the winter! It is very common for a hamster to go into hibernation in winter. Often these little guys will curl up into a ball when the temperature drops below 20 degrees.
  3. Don’t keep too many together: In the wild, these little guys are quite solitary animals. They can be quite aggressive if another hamster were to enter their cage. If you do want more than one hamster, then consider getting a dwarf hamster! These guys can be kept in pairs of the same sex.
  4. Hamster teeth will always grow! To prevent dental problems occurring in your furry pal, make sure you provide your hamster with plenty of fiber, chew treats, and blocks.
  5. Hamsters don’t need baths! These little guys are quite capable of cleaning themselves. We never recommend giving a hamster a bath as they can become more susceptible to illness. If you do want to keep your hamster clean, then you can consider putting in a chinchilla sand bath.

Relive your Childhood by Adopting a Hamster!

You can never go wrong when you get a little hamster! Not only are these little rodents friendly and playful, but they are also incredibly entertaining.

Each little fur baby will have a personality unique to them! So, we guarantee that you’ll never get bored of a pet hamster.

Common Questions

Are pet hamsters friendly?

What type of hamsters are the friendliest?

Do hamsters need baths?

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