Hamster Care

Pet Lodge USA - Hamster


  • are nocturnal by nature, love to sleep during the day and play at night
  • have the word "hamster" because it derived from the German word "hamstern"
  • are mammals
  • are in same family as mice and rats
  • are native to several areas of the world
  • have five varieties, of all the variations around the world, which have become the most common as pets
  • generally live up to 3 years
  • have poor eyesight
  • rely on other senses (smell and hearing) to seek food or be alerted of danger
  • have pouches in their cheeks where they store food
  • originally lived in semi-desert conditions
  • depending on the type, can range from 2 to 6 inches in length

Some hamsters are territorial and cannot be housed together, such as the Syrian hamster. They will aggressively fight each other and inflict serious wounds.

Please look to adopt a hamster from a local animal shelter or rescue before considering to purchase one from a pet store.

Give your hamster a few days to adjust to his new home before you start picking him up or petting him. Don't let others do it, either. He needs this time to get used to his new surroundings and feel secure. Picking him up and petting him distracts him from adjusting.

A hamster should be handled gently. Any sudden movement or loud noise could frighten him.

The five types of hamsters which are predominantly available as pets include:

  1. Syrian (or Golden) Hamster (from Syria;most common pet hamster;very territorial and must be housed individually)
  2. Chinese Hamster (from China and Mangolia;keep in aquarium or solid plastic cage because they are escape artists)
  3. White Russian (Siberian) Dwarf Hamster (from southwest Siberia;keep in aquarium or solid plastic cage;turns white in winter)
  4. Roborovski Dwarf Hamster (from northern Russia and central Asia;very small;keep in aquarium or solid plastic cage)
  5. Campbell's Russian Dwarf Hamster (from northern Russia and central Asia;keep in aquarium or solid plastic cage)

Helpful hints on setting up your hamster's house:

  • Hamsters are active at night so you may want to put in a room other than your bedroom
  • Don't put in a kitchen or eating area because soiled bedding could be expelled from the enclosure and contaminate food
  • Keep away from other pets because they may see your hamster as prey
  • Have in a place where small children's interaction will be supervised and access to your hamster is controlled
  • Refrain from acquiring a very tall cage because your hamster could fall and get seriously hurt
  • Consistently use the same hamster-appropriate bedding, nesting material, and type of food
  • Use pelleted bedding, Timothy hay, aspen shavings, or shredded paper
  • Do not use cedar and/or pine shavings for bedding---they can cause health problems!
  • Have the hamster's house already in place, equipped with food and water, before going to get your hamster to put him in it
  • Options for Syrian (or Golden) hamster homes include wire cages, wire/aquarium hybrids, aquariums, and plastic modular habitats
  • Have solid ramps and platforms, or cover wire ones so they are more comfortable for small paws to walk on
  • Put in a place that is free from drafts
  • Have your hamster's house in a room where the temperature range is between 65 and 75 degrees F.
  • Keep your hamster's house away from powerful heat sources (examples: fireplaces, direct sunlight, wood stoves)
  • Wire cages are appropriate for Syrian hamsters (also known as "Golden" hamsters), but not appropriate for Dwarf hamsters
  • Make sure there is adequate ventilation
  • Find one that is easy to keep clean
  • Finding one with platforms at various heights (but not too high) offers variety to your hamster's lifestyle
  • It is especially critical that an aquarium home be cleaned on a regular basis because hamster urine odor (ammonia) can build up fast and cause health issues, such as respiratory problems. Clean thoroughly at least once a week whether it looks like it needs it or not. Some things you cannot see, such as bedding that has absorbed urine.
  • Be careful when considering tubes for your hamster to play in. Sometimes they can get stuck, and if the tube is not transparent it may prove difficult to find and remove your pet from it. Also tubes may be difficult to keep clean, and if not kept clean may promote bacterial growth. Also, some hamsters like to make nests inside tubes!
  • A long aquarium means more usable space than a tall one.
  • Please have a minimum floor space of 24 inches by 12 inches inside your hamster's house
  • Safety should be paramount when selecting the type of home for your hamster and the things you put inside the home
  • If you introduce new items to your hamster's home, do it gradually
  • Every day: Remove soiled bedding, uneaten food, and droppings
  • Every week: Remove and replace all bedding and clean the home with hot, soapy water
  • Have a solid exercise wheel (no rungs) situated in your pet's home so your hamster has that option for a good workout!
  • Have a nesting box
  • Have some toys


Readily available at pet supply stores are hamster mixes. These contain seeds, pellets, cracked corn, and grains.

Every couple of days give your hamster a very small amount of nuts, sunflower seeds, fresh vegetables such as lettuce or spinach, or fresh fruit such as apple. Always pick up any and all leftover fresh food before it spoils!

Please keep within the above guidelines and never give your hamster junk food, candy, chocolate, etc.

Fresh water should be available at all times! Use an inverted bottle with a drinking tube. The bottle and tube should be changed daily, and the water as needed.

Because your hamster's teeth continuously grow, have a twig, a non-treated and non-painted piece of wood, or perhaps a dog biscuit for him to gnaw on to keep his teeth in good condition.

After the first few days of adjusting to his new home, gently pick him up and feed him a treat! After he is accustomed to this handling after awhile, he can play on a daily basis in a secure and enclosed room or area while you keep an eye on him. Make sure this area is free from electrical cords and other things that he shouldn't be allowed to chew on or get into.


Seek immediate medical attention if you think your hamster is ill.

Watch for common signs like weight loss, diarrhea, runny nose, shaking, dull-looking eyes, and matted fur.