So you want a hamster.

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve adopted three hamsters this just past summer. It started with one, and then turned into three. I’ll get into that later though.

I’ve actually owned hamsters a long time ago when I was a wee lass, I might have been nine-ish. Certainly not old enough to own a hamster and take care of one—if you ask me—but no one educates themselves before they get pets these days.

Hamsters shouldn’t be pets for children unless the guardian is fully knowledgeable and ready to take on absolute and complete responsibility. Hamsters can certainly become “tamed” to be held or pet, but only certain hamsters, and there’s a lot to the species that the pet store or shelter you bought it from might not tell you about.

Quick background on hamsters: Hamsters are rodents that belong to a family called Cricetids, this includes those little guys such as rats, mice, lemmings, hamsters, and many more. Hamsters themselves can be categorized into different breeds of hamsters, such as Syrian, Roborovski Dwarf, Chinese, Winter Whites, and others. It’s important to understand that these breeds are all similar and yet very different in smaller ways, which means each one might require separate care or needs. Similarly, all hamsters are crepuscular which means that they are most active from dusk till dawn.

If you think your hamster’s gonna be down for playing with you when you’re probably most active/awake, then you’re wrong. I’ve heard people can train their ham to follow a routine in which they do sleep at night rather than during the day, but that’s rough on their natural instincts you have to realize that these little guys are very small, and can stress easily, which leads to bad health, they’re naturally prey for most predators in the wild, and that makes them somewhat skittish to most—not to mention it’s probably a pain in the ass to train them.

Alas, hamsters are still a joy to have, and adopting three a second time around after weeks of research, is the best decision I’ve made all year.

 

I had originally done so much research on rats, since I’ve wanted a pet rat for a few years now, and I was so sure I was gonna stop by Pet Smart and bring home my first rat. I was ready, but it turns out Pet Smart had an issue with their latest bundle of rats, a boy had bought one, brought it home and got bitten, he got sick and passed away not long after. Unfortunately the illness was obviously caused by the rat bite and some kind of sickness the rat must have passed on to the boy. Pet Smart no longer sells rats, and I’m pretty sure Petco doesn’t either. I probably could have found a rat through a breeder, but for some reason those babies are a bit more, and the adoption process is a bit longer. I was disappointed for a while and put all the research away, at least now I know a lot about rats.

Anyway, I went on a routine run to Pet Smart for my cat’s treats and a few toys. Then I took a stroll down the rodent aisle, for no reason in particular, I just wanted to look at the furry little babies. I realized, there was so many different hamsters to choose from, and even though I had no interest nor intention in ever re-buying a hamster at all, I figured a hamster was my best bet.

I went home, and did some research on Teddy Bear Hamsters, or more formally called Syrians. This is the most common type, and the kind of hamster I had when I was little. He was Gray, he was my best friend, I think he only ever bit me once, and he was amazing until his female cage mate murdered him.

 

Syrian hamsters are the largest type of hamster, and probably your best chance of getting a hamster to hold and cuddle with if you’re into that sort of thing.

I compiled a list of facts and tips, and a shopping list of things to know before I went back and adopted my new baby.

The first thing I learned, that I had done wrong the first time around, was the fact that Syrian hamsters should never—I mean never—ever—EVER be housed with another Syrian at all. Syrian’s are not social pets, they can deal with their human owners, but their territorial instincts make them very difficult to get along with other Syrian “siblings”.

IF you own two males, big mistake because they’ll fight to the death over everything, even if you got two of everything.

 

If you own two females, big ass mistake because they will still fight to the death over everything.

A female, and a male? HUGE mistake, because hamsters breed like bunny rabbits and as soon as the female gets pregnant, she becomes very protective and will kill her mate, not even quite sure why but there’s a 50% chance she’ll probably kill or abandon her litter as well. Hamsters have been known to carry cannibalistic tendencies on top of all that. It’s just a hamster thing.

 

I had a male Syrian when I was little, and a few months later, I thought he needed a friend, so my dad took me to Pet Smart and we got another, little did we know, it was a female. Another thing I learned from research is how to sex a hamster. There are different qualities for certain types, but on the Syrian it’s quite obvious whether they have balls or not since they’re giant testicles that stick out in the back and drag everywhere. Of course I didn’t know this as a kid.

 

Back to the story, other things I learned is that Hamsters have very poor eyesight so they use their sense of smell for essentially everything, and their two front teeth they use as sort of a defense, a way to feel, and move things, to hold things, and to test the world out. Their hands are very short and not very strong so they use their teeth to sort of get a grip on everything as well as move things out of the way, and if they see your finger or hand as an obstacle, they will bite. If they smell food or anything that could be a threat to them, they will bite. It’s not a trait of aggression, its just part of their nature.

 

Because they are so small, and so easily frightened, they can develop health problems very quickly. Being scared or nervous, causes heart conditions, and their life span is already very short, you want to try and make them as comfy and safe as possible. So trying to force them into being held right away is not beneficial to either you or the hamster. Especially when you first bring them home, you want to let them be on their own in their new environment for at least a week. I’d say two if possible. I’ve heard, covering their cage with a light piece of cloth with your scent on it is helpful to getting them acclimated to you.

I had called a few shelters closest to me, in hopes that they were carrying a hamster, but no luck. So I went to Pet Smart, shopping list in hand, and I found the first Syrian I looked at was the one I was ready to take home. He’s a little ginger baby, and if you knew me well enough you’d know I’m quite enamored with ginger animals. He was sleeping of course, as they all were anyway, but I knew he was the one.

I called an employee over and he boxed him up for me. I spent the rest of that shopping visit to gather all the things I would need including a cage, and some other things like toys, food, bedding, and a little hidey home as well. I paid for everything, and took my little baby home. Fortunately (unfortunately for my wallet) I live really close to the pet store, both Pet Smart and Petco, so the ride home wouldn’t be too stressful for him, He was very quiet on the way home, and I was almost afraid that he died of suffocation in the sad little cardboard box so I checked at every stop light. I tossed a few names in the air thinking about what sounded right.

I had a list written down of good names I liked, but one that I didn’t have written down just felt right to me, it sounded good coming out of my mouth and I kept it. I named him Gatsby and he’s about eight/nine months old now. I never told anyone that I planned to get a hamster, particularly my mom and that might sound silly coming out of a 21 year old, but I still respect my parents wishes and they’re still my parents—I live with them, etc. I quietly set up the cage—which took forever considering how ridiculously small it was.

I later realized that it was no easy task trying to get everything that I had bought for him to squeeze into this small little starter kit. It was a pink cage and I loved it but it was so small. My mom eventually came over to my set up and discovered that I bought a hamster, she was pretty mad—to say the least– for a while, mostly because I never told her I was getting one, but she loves him now.

I put up the cage and then I opened the little cardboard box to get Gatsby out, who whined at me nonstop until I finally got him in the cage. Now, he only makes noise if I wake him up from beauty sleep to cuddle.

Looking at the ratio of my new hamster to the size of the cage, including the tiny tube I attached to it for the second “level”, I knew it wasn’t going to work out. It was just way too small. The cage was 17×11 inches, and I knew that most of the cages that pet stores sell are usually too small for the pet they’re intended, but I never realized how small. My poor baby couldn’t even lie anywhere. It was just too stressful for him, especially after being transported from his previous home at the store. He couldn’t even relax.

I went back, and I picked up a bigger sized cage, this one was just about the same price without any fun tubes or wheel, but it was much bigger, at 24 x 12 inches. With this cage, I had more room to scatter his toys and items about, and he still had room to run around. About a week later, I ended up getting a duplicate of the same cage so that I could combine the two with some tubes, and he’d have even more room.

The tubes they make unfortunately are very small for Syrians and I had to order some special ones called Habitrail Ovo Tubes online, which are way thicker, he’s able to go up and down those just fine. I couldn’t tell you why the hamster accessories they make in retail pet stores just aren’t meant for Syrians even though Syrians are the most commonly bought, but it’s a challenge finding items big enough for the lel bebe. I just do a lot of online shopping/DIY crafting and spoil him anyway.

Eventually, after a few weeks Gatsby came out of his shell and showed off his gluttonous, adorably, selfish, spoiled, and personality. I tamed him, and he’s okay with being held, though he prefers to run around or chill out either on my bed or in his ball. He wants for nothing (like all my pets), and he’s a happy little ham.

            Gatsby had so many toys and houses, and accessories that he literally never even touched. He’s a minimalist and that’s okay, because about a month or two after adopting Gatsby, I brought home two female Roborovski Dwarf Hamsters from a food run. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what possessed me to get more hamsters other than that I had a lot of collected knowledge in my brain from the Syrian research, that I felt more or less inclined to add to my small family of animals, with confidence that I could give them a better life than the one they would have at Petco.

 

Also, they were really stinking cute.

I got them a cage—should have kept Gatsby’s old one—a cage that was actually made for a dwarf sized ham, and some bedding, food, and toys. I named them Chicha and Nani, after Disney characters in The Emperor’s New Groove and Lilo and Stitch, and brought them home. I didn’t say anything to anyone, and nobody noticed until I was getting ready for bed.

 

I learned very quickly that dwarf hamsters, specifically Robos are super skittish and extremely fast. They’re fun to watch though, and they do love to play with toys and whatnot, so I essentially handed down most of Gatsby’s unwanted objects and let the girls use them—which fortunately they do, and enjoy it.

Their cage seemed to be too small, and I mostly hated it because there wasn’t enough room for me to modify the layout, so I got them a bigger cage—a reptile tank—to be exact. It’s got a mesh lid to protect from my demon felines, and allows them to breathe just fine. Which also makes it easier to watch them run around their little playground. I put them in their balls every once in a while, but they honestly prefer the safety of their four glass walls.

That is pretty much all that I have, I could go more into depth about their cage themes, what they eat, their toys, etc. but I’d rather not bore you. Alas, it is time for me to sign off and think of my next post.

Happy October, until next time!

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