What you need to know before getting a hamster

Hamsters are often referred to as “starter pets”, a detrimental label suggesting they are less valuable and have fewer needs than other animals, and can be used as a “learning experience” for children who are faced with responsibilities for the first time. This kind of thinking is an example of speciesism, the mistaken belief that one species is more important than another. Hamsters are just as worthy of respect as you, a dog or a tiger, and they have special needs just like the rest of us. There are no “beginner” pets.

If you are considering adding a hamster to your family, or have already adopted one, here are a few important things to consider:

  1. When you buy a hamster, you are supporting a cruel breeding industry.

Investigations by PETA USA and PETA Germany into breeders and wholesalers supplying “new pets” to pet stores and chain stores have revealed the brutality of the industry. Animals are kept in overcrowded cages in unsanitary conditions; rotting corpses are sometimes found among living animals.

When you support pet stores, you support places like these horrible farms that supply animals to pet stores all over Europe.

In addition, the breeding of animals for keeping as “pets” has created a real crisis of animal overpopulation: every year, millions of unwanted animals are euthanized due to the lack of suitable homes. Never shop and always adopt animals that are desperately waiting for a new life in shelters.

  1. Hamsters need a large and safe home.

Other animals may view hamsters as prey, and they are at risk of being injured or killed by other animals in the home if proper precautions are not taken. To prevent animals from harming each other, it is imperative that hamsters have a safe, spacious and durable enclosure.

The cages sold in pet stores are completely inappropriate for the specific needs of a hamster. If the enclosure is too small, the animal can develop “cage rabies,” a stress-induced condition that can lead to a variety of behavioral problems, including biting, excessive urination, and constant chewing on cage bars, which can lead to severe tooth damage. Large hamsters should have at least 2 square meters of free floor space, while dwarf hamsters should have at least 1.5 square meters. Because very few commercially available cages meet these guidelines, we encourage you to build your own hamster enclosure. If you can’t do that, you can also use a 250 liter (or larger) fish tank with a mesh lid. Hamsters love to explore, so more space will make your hamster happier and healthier.

Make sure cages with bars do not have gaps larger than 1.25 centimeters (for large hamsters) or 0.6 centimeters (for dwarf hamsters), because they can squeeze through. Hamsters also have the ability to flatten their bodies and can squeeze through very small holes and crevices. They are easy to lose and hard to find, and are often wounded or killed on the loose.

  1. It can be difficult to find a veterinarian for your hamster.

The hamster is considered an “exotic animal” and should be examined by a specialized veterinarian. Many people don’t know this, and when their hamster gets sick, they can’t find the right veterinarian in their area, delaying treatment. When an owner finally finds a veterinarian who specializes in “exotic” pets, the cost is often very high, which can also prevent some people from providing proper care for their hamster.

  1. Be careful with wheels and balls for hamsters

While hamsters should be able to play and explore, the most famous hamster toys, the hamster ball and wheel, are not designed to protect animals. Both of these toys are often too small, causing hamsters to arch their backs abnormally. Buying a wheel with a diameter of at least 30 cm (20 cm for a dwarf hamster) may mean buying a product designed for rats, but it will be better for the animal hamster’s physical well-being and can provide good mental and physical stimulation.

Unlike a hamster wheel, which provides a safe place for a hamster to exercise when it is the right size, a hamster ball is not recommended. Hamsters are easily frightened because they don’t have very good eyesight and use their whiskers to navigate. A hamster deprived of sensory information, as in one of these balloons, is a disoriented animal – and what people often perceive as pleasure is more of a panic reaction. In addition, the hamster’s legs can get stuck in the ball’s air holes, which can lead to broken bones. Instead of a ball, consider using a playpen or a private room so your hamster can exercise under your watchful eye.

  1. A lonely hamster is a happy hamster

While some animals need friends and companionship, hamsters don’t. A golden hamster may become attached to a guardian, but should not live with another hamster. They are territorial and prone to fights. Dwarf hamsters, including the Roborovsky, Russian and Chinese species, can live with a partner if introduced early enough, but fights can occur no matter how long they coexist. Instead of taking another hamster to keep him company, be your hamster’s friend: spend time with him every day, cuddle him and play outside of his cage.

  1. Hamsters need special litter

There are several affordable and safe bedding options to give your hamster the home it deserves. However, it is important to know what is safe, because even the packaging of a dangerous filler, such as pine or cedar shavings, can have a cute picture of a hamster. Cat litter, newspapers, and “fluffy” litter can also cause life-threatening illnesses in your hamster and should be avoided. Aspen shavings, paper bedding, and hemp are all acceptable choices and can even be mixed together in a hamster kennel. Your pet will also appreciate a small container of sand to bathe in.

The depth of the litter should be from 20 to 30 centimeters. Hamsters naturally urinate and defecate in a specific area, and this area should be cleaned weekly. All bedding should be replaced every six months or so, but a few used bedding should be left to keep the hamster safe.

  1. Hamsters have a sleep schedule

Hamsters are crepuscular, which means that they are active at dusk and dawn, spending the day and night hours in their nest. This can be frustrating for a person who wants to play with their companion during the day. Waking up a sleeping hamster can be stressful for him and cause nervousness or aggression. However, there are good reasons for waking up a sleeping hamster, just as there are good reasons for waking up a sleeping person, such as to administer a drug or change something potentially dangerous in the environment. Just wake them up with care and caution!

  1. Hamsters are not beginner pets.

Although hamsters are small, they still require a lot of commitment. They require daily care, exercise and attention just like other companion animals. How to help hamsters? Remember that there is no such thing as a novice animal. Do not buy never animal in the store, apply for adoption at a shelter, and tell your friends and family about it.

Learn more about the pet trade and how it treats animals as a profitable commodity that is mass-produced and sold for profit:



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