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What Do Hamsters Need? (Food, Toys, & Everything In Between)

What Do Hamsters Need? (Food, Toys, & Everything In Between)

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The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care. In addition, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

If you’re considering getting a hamster or already have one, it’s crucial to understand their needs to ensure their well-being and happiness.

Like any other animal, hamsters require specific care, food, and shelter to thrive. By understanding their needs, you can create a comfortable and healthy living space for them.

In this article, we’ll cover several topics to help you take care of your hamster properly.

Let’s get started!

A Hamster’s Basic Needs

As a pet owner, it’s essential to know the basics of hamster care. Let’s talk about the five key needs that every hamster requires:

1 – Food and Water

Ensuring your hamster has access to fresh food and water is essential for their well-being.

A healthy diet for your furry friend includes a mix of fresh veggies, fruits, seeds, and high-quality pellets. You can give them commercial hamster food as a staple, but it’s essential to supplement with fresh fruits and vegetables.

As a general rule, you can feed your hamster 1-2 tablespoons of food per day, depending on their size, age, and activity level. Adult hamsters should be fed twice per day—once in the morning and once in the evening.

Further, always provide your hamster with clean, fresh water. You can use either a water bottle or a shallow bowl for this.

2 – Exercise

Hamsters are active creatures, and they should have plenty of opportunities to exercise.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by giving them a solid hamster wheel. With the wheel, they can run for hours on end.

You can also arrange their living space with toys to encourage exploration and climbing. Some of these toys could be tunnels, ladders, and climbing frames.

3 – Shelter

A hammie’s shelter needs to provide a cozy and comfortable space for them to sleep, play, and relax.

It should be large enough for the hamster to move around and stretch their legs. It should also have a nest where they can rest.

To keep them comfortable, you could line the cage with suitable bedding that can absorb urine and provide insulation.

4 – Clean Environment

It’s crucial to maintain a clean environment for your hamster. It involves cleaning the cage weekly, removing dirty bedding, and providing fresh food and water.

Hamsters also require a clean and safe exercise area outside their cage to play and explore.

5 – Sleep and Rest

Hamsters are nocturnal animals. With this, they need a consistent schedule for feeding, exercise, and sleep.

It’s crucial to provide them with a cozy hiding spot where they can sleep. It’s also essential to keep their cage in a quiet area at night to prevent disturbances to their sleep.

Housing Needs of Hamsters

Hamsters are curious animals that require a safe and comfortable living space to explore. Here’s what you need to know about the housing needs of your furry friend:

What Do Hamsters Need in Their Cage?

Hamsters require certain items in their cage to keep them healthy and stimulated. Aside from providing them with their basic needs, other essential items for your hamster’s cage include:

  • Exercise Wheel: A solid exercise wheel is important for hamsters to get their daily exercise.
  • Toys: Hamsters are curious animals that need stimulation, so provide them with toys, such as chew toys, tunnels, and hanging toys.
  • Litter Box: Consider litter box training for your hamster to keep its cage cleaner and more hygienic.

What Size Should a Hamster Cage Be?

Hamsters need plenty of room to move around and stay active.

The minimum recommended cage size for a single hamster is 450 sq. in. of floor space. Although, a larger cage is always better.

Avoid housing hamsters in cages too small, as this can lead to stress, behavioral problems, and even health problems.

If you have multiple hamsters, provide an additional 150–200 sq. in. per hamster. Moreover, give each one their own nest to avoid aggressive behavior and territorial issues.

Suitable Toys and Accessories for Hamsters

To prevent boredom and keep your hamster stimulated and happy, they need a variety of toys and accessories. Some great options include:

  • Tunnels: Hamsters love exploring and hiding, so tunnels made of plastic or cardboard can keep them entertained.
  • Hanging toys: Bells and ropes can be fun options for hamsters as they enjoy climbing and playing with hanging toys.
  • Chew toys: Hamsters’ teeth never stop growing, so wooden blocks or cardboard can help keep their teeth healthy.

A Hammie’s Bedding Needs

Bedding is an essential part of a hamster’s environment. It helps soak moisture and smells and gives space to burrow and hide.

Do Hamsters Need Hay?

Hamsters don’t necessarily need hay, but some hamsters may enjoy it as a burrowing material or for chewing. Additionally, it can provide extra insulation and comfort.

However, if you choose to give your hamster hay, ensure it’s clean and free from chemicals or pesticides. Also, some types can be high in calcium. Avoid giving it to your pet in excessive amounts.

Additionally, offer high-quality, dust-free hay to your hamster in moderation.

What Bedding Types Are Suitable for Hamsters?

When it comes to hamster bedding, there are a few safe options to choose from:

Aspen Shavings

These shavings are a popular choice for hamster bedding. This is because they are highly absorbent, non-toxic, and don’t contain any aromatic oils that can harm hamsters.

Paper-Based Bedding

Paper-based bedding is usually made from recycled paper which is very absorbent and dust-free.

Wood Pellets

Wood pellets such as pine or equine pine can be used as hamster bedding. They can neutralize odors and are eco-friendly.

Proper Lighting and Temperature for Hamsters

Hamsters are highly-sensitive to their surroundings, especially when it comes to light and temperature. As a pet owner, it’s essential to create an environment that caters to your hamster’s needs.

Do Hamsters Need Light at Night?

Hamsters are nocturnal creatures and are mostly active at night. They don’t need light during these hours and may actually prefer darker environments more.

Exposure to too much light might mess up their sleep and natural rhythms. It’s best to give them a quiet and dark environment to rest and play during their active hours.

How Much Light Do Hamsters Need During the Day?

Like humans, hamsters also benefit from a natural day/night cycle.

Even though they are more active at night, they still need exposure to natural light during the day. This helps regulate their sleep-wake cycle and maintain good health.

You can give them access to natural light by placing their cage near a window or using a full-spectrum light bulb. It’s best to give them 12 hours of light during the day and 12 hours of darkness at night.

Do Hamsters Need Heat Lamps?

While heat lamps aren’t necessary, it’s important to keep hamsters in a comfortable environment.

Avoid exposing your hamster to extreme changes in temperature, and always keep their cage in a room with stable temperatures.

Optimal Temperature for Hamsters

Hamsters prefer temperatures between 65–75°F (18–24°C). If it’s too hot or cold, it can make them feel stressed and could lead to health problems.

It’s best to keep their cage away from direct sunlight, heating or air conditioning vents, or any other places where the temperature can change quickly.

It’s also important to keep their cages away from drafty areas. You can use a thermometer to monitor the temperatures in their cage.

Health Needs and Common Health Issues of Hamsters

To ensure that your hamster stays healthy, here are some things you should know about their health needs:

Do Hamsters Need Shots?

Hamsters don’t need regular vaccinations or shots like dogs and cats do.

However, you should keep an eye on their health and seek medical attention from a veterinarian if you notice any signs of illness or injury.

Regular check-ups can also ensure your pet is healthy and can detect any potential health issues.

Common Health Issues in Hamsters and How to Prevent Them

Hamsters can sometimes experience health issues, which may include:

Dental Problems

Hamsters’ teeth grow throughout their life. This can lead to dental problems if they don’t have enough opportunities to wear them down.

You can prevent this by giving them chew toys, fresh veggies, and high-quality pellet food.

Digestive Problems

Hamsters can have tummy troubles if they eat something they shouldn’t or if their diet isn’t balanced.

Feed your pet a balanced diet of pellets, veggies, and treats in moderation.

Skin Issues

Always keep your hamster’s cage clean and provide suitable bedding and food. Otherwise, it might develop skin problems or allergic reactions.

Respiratory Infections

Hamsters can develop respiratory infections if they’re continuously exposed to cold or damp environments.

To prevent this, keep their cage in a warm, dry area and provide good bedding.

Proper Grooming of Hamsters

Hamsters like to keep themselves clean, but they still need some help from their owners to stay hygienic. Here’s what you need to know about the grooming needs of hamsters:

Why Do Hamsters Need Grooming?

Hamsters bathe themselves by licking their fur and paws. This helps them remove dirt and excess oils from their coat.

However, sometimes they may not be able to groom themselves. This is more common in hamsters with long fur or as they get older.

This can cause matted fur and can trap moisture or dirt close to the skin, creating an environment ideal for bacteria and parasites to thrive. This leads to itching, irritation, and inflammation, which can cause skin infections and other health problems.

Do Hamsters Need Baths?

Hamsters don’t need to bathe like other pets, as it can be stressful for them. Bathing them can result in dry skin or fur loss.

However, if your hamster’s fur is particularly dirty or greasy, you can use a damp cloth or unscented baby wipes to clean them gently.

Remember to dry them completely after to prevent them from getting cold.

Do Hamsters Need Sand Baths?

Hamsters enjoy taking sand baths, which is an essential part of their grooming routine. It helps them get rid of extra oils, prevents tangled hair, and stimulates blood circulation.

You can provide them with bathing sand from pet shops. Place it in a shallow dish or a bathhouse.

Make sure to clean and replace the sand regularly to prevent bacterial buildup.

Other Aspects of Hamster Care

Apart from the essential needs like grooming, health, and housing, there are a few other things you should consider when taking care of hamsters:

Do Hamsters Need Salt Licks?

Hamsters don’t need salt licks as part of their diet. They can get too much salt if given a salt lick, which can lead to health problems.

Just make sure they have a balanced diet and a supply of fresh water, and these are sufficient to meet their nutritional needs.

Other Factors of Hamster Care

Taking care of a hamster involves more than just meeting its basic needs. There are other aspects of hamster care that you need to keep in mind.

First, although hamsters are typically kept as solitary pets, it’s still essential for owners to spend time and interact with them to prevent loneliness and boredom.

Additionally, handling your pet regularly can help them get used to being around humans and avoid becoming aggressive. Just remember to handle them gently and with utmost care to avoid causing any harm or stress.

Final Thoughts

Hamsters are adorable and engaging pets that require specific care to thrive. They need a balanced diet, access to clean water, and a safe and comfortable living environment.

They also require grooming and regular veterinary check-ups. Plus, hamsters need socialization to prevent boredom and loneliness.

It’s important to provide the ideal temperature and lighting conditions and avoid salt licks or heat lamps.

With proper care and attention, hamsters can make wonderful and healthy pets that bring joy to your home.

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