Apr 142012
 

Whether we’re 10 or 70, we find hamsters fascinating. What is it about this charming little creature that makes us love it so?

In my opinion it can be put into one word – cuteness.

Hamster by narumi-lock, on Flickr

If you want the main reason for this cuteness, just look at a hammy’s face. The eyes are large and seem to have a naturally curious expression. Then there’s that little button nose and pointy ears that stick up and move around to hear what’s going on around it. This is a totally perfect face with an expression that seems to say “Let’s have some fun.”

Another thing that contributes to hamster cuteness is its overall size. Even a “big” hamster like the Teddy Bear or Golden, still only 3 to 5 inches long, is a great size for fitting in the palm of your hand. And the smaller dwarf hamsters are a perfect fit for smaller hands. What’s more, you can get two dwarfs in one nice sized palm.

Helping the hamster stay small is the fact that, except for the Chinese hamster, they have a little nub for tails. That makes the hamster round and compact, making him or her easier to hold in your hand.
That small size makes hamsters a great pet for keeping in a small space. Even if you use a large hamster cage, this type hamster habitat fits nicely on the top of the table in even a small room. The hamster, then, is a great pet for people who live in the city.

Another reason we love hamsters is because of the fact that these little creatures like to take care of themselves. You will see them standing there constantly grooming themselves. It happens before they run, after they run, before they eat, after they eat, before they drink… Well, you get the idea.

That means you don’t have to worry about washing them or taking them to a groomer. They are quite happy to keep themselves clean.

And they are easier to take care of than some other animals. A little food and water, a few toys, and a place to run usually keep them pretty happy. This means you can come home and either play with or watch your hamster without having to plan on taking them out for a walk or chasing them around the house. Unless, of course, your little hammy escapes from its cage.

Another reason we love hamsters is that they are a fun pet to watch. Sure, they sleep a lot. But when they’re active, they really go at it. They run around their exercise wheels like little madmen. And they love to explore. They crawl around any hamster tubes you put in their hamster cage or they push around an exercise ball. Even when they’re not running they can be active. They may be chomping on a food treat or stuffing it in their cheek pouches.

If properly trained, you can also enjoy the hamster interacting with you. It will let you pet it and hold it in your hand. You can hand it a treat and let it sit in your hand while it holds its food in its paws and munches on it. And who hasn’t enjoyed little hamster’s feet tickling you as it runs up your arm.

They’re cute, they’re small, they’re easy to keep, and they’re fun. So it’s easy to see why everybody loves hamsters.

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Mar 192012
 

When your pet hamster is left alone or every time you look in on it, do you notice that your hammy is gnawing on the wires of its hamster cage? This cage bar chewing could be a problem you need to fix.

 

Hamster Gnawing

Hamster Gnawing the Bars by LuLu Witch, on Flickr

Hamsters need to gnaw because their incisors are continually growing, like human fingernails. If the incisors begin to grow too long, they can cut through your hamster’s cheek and lead to other health issues. So your hamster needs to keep gnawing to prevent overgrown teeth.

But too much gnawing can:

  • Cause hamster teeth to break
  • Get the teeth out of alignment with each other

These issues can result in your hamster having eating problems.

Another potential problem with too much gnawing is hamster brain damage. This can occur if the wire bars have paint with lead in them.

So if you see your hamster spending a lot of time biting on his or her cage bars, you should try to figure out what’s causing the extreme gnawing.

Causes

Two reasons for a hamster chewing too much on his or her cage are:

  1. Not enough to chew on
  2. Boredom

Here are some actions you can take to address these causes and help stop your hamster from cage bar chewing.

More to Chew On

It’s easy to provide your hamster with things to chew on. All different kinds of wooden chew toys are available including small houses, blocks and colorful sticks. You may also use cardboard tubes, like the kind you find under all that toilet paper or paper towels.

Some hamsters can be picky about what they chew. So if one type of chew toy doesn’t work, try a different one.

Food is also good for a hamster to chew on. Some people have found success with unflavored hard dog biscuits. Then there are treat sticks and drops that hamsters can chew on, as well as the seeds you normally feed your hamster. Be careful not to overfeed your hammy, though.

Stop Hamster Boredom

Boredom is another cause of bar chewing. Hamsters need to run and keep active, especially at night.

Every hamster cage needs an exercise wheel so your pet can get its running in. But your hamster may get bored running only in its exercise wheel. Try putting some hamster tubes inside the cage so your hamster can do some extra running. Or you can build a hamster maze out of tubes to give your hamster a fun new activity.

Another good idea is to let your hamster explore some new areas outside its cage by putting it in an exercise ball.

Your hamster may also be bored because its cage is too small. You may want to try a larger cage that has additional levels for your hamster to climb. Or you can connect two cages to give your hammy some extra room.

Another option is to change the type of cage you use. I don’t recommend all plastic cages because of ventilation issues, but you can try a plastic cage that has only a small area with metal bars. These will give your hamster fewer wires to chew on. Or you can switch to an aquarium or a bin cage that doesn’t use any wire bars.

Finally, if you have a dwarf hamster, you may want to add another hamster to the habitat so your hammy can have a friend to play with.

Experiment with new activities or new chew toys to get your hamster to stop gnawing too much on its wire cage bars.

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Jan 122012
 

A bored hamster is a boring hamster. If you want to keep your hamster active and healthy you need to make sure he or she has some fun things to play with. Three of the most common things you can add to your hamster habitat to keep your hamster busy are hamster tubes, hamster toys, and hamster balls.

Hamster Tubes

These colorful and round plastic tubes are an inexpensive way to get your hamster moving. Individual pieces or sets usually cost under $10. You can put together a few tube pieces that can fit inside a large hamster cage, or you can go crazy and build extensive mazes outside the cage for your hamster to crawl through. Once you get to the stage where you’re building mazes, the costs can add up.

These funnels as they are called, can also go straight up so your hamster can have some climbing fun. There also tubes with resting places on the top. If you put some bedding at the top, your hamster can get some exercise climbing up then take a little nap when he reaches the top. Some of the tops of hamster tubes open up so you can actually take your hamster out and hold him or her.

Two tips for using hamster tubes. One, make sure you get the right size for the size of your hamster. A dwarf hamster may have some trouble climbing straight up a large tube. Number two is to make sure there are some ventilation holes in the tubes. You want to be sure your hammy has enough air to breathe as he or she is running around its tubes.

For more information, read Hamster Tube Tips.

Hamster Toys

The first kind is the type that the hamster needs to chew on. As you know a healthy hamster needs to keep gnawing so it won’t get overgrown teeth. A good soft wood toy helps your hamster keep his or her teeth in shape.

Then there are hamster fun toys you place around your hamster cage. These are toys that hamsters like to crawl around in.

Hamster Balls and Cars

You will probably have an exercise wheel inside your cage. Your hamster needs this wheel to get in his or her daily running and stay healthy. But for fun you can put your hamster in an exercise ball and let it run around outside the cage.

The balls have vents so your hamster can get air as it runs around. Hamsters love to push the ball around and explore new spaces in your house.

There are even circular tracks, called a hamtrac, that you can put the ball in so you can control where your hamster runs.

Naturally, you should keep your other pets away from your hamster while it’s in its roll around ball. And remember to keep any staircases you have blocked so that your hammy can’t fall down them.

Also available are plastic hamster wheels that fit inside hamster-sized racing cars.

When your hamster starts rolling the wheel, it looks like he or she is driving a racing car around. You and your friends can even hold hamster drag races. However, it only goes forward and backward, unlike a hamster ball that can go in all directions.

Summary

Giving your hamster fun accessories such as tubes, toys, or cars lets your pet get the activity and exercise it needs and keeps it from getting bored. You can also get pleasure just by watching your hammy play in its toys.

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Feb 182011
 

There are some steps you should take when you want to let your hamster loose to play inside hamster tubes.

Plan

Plan the layout of your tubes before you start to build them. If you build first, you may find you don’t have enough space for the tubes. The tube layout will depend on how you’re going to use your tubes.

One option is to have a large hamster cage and keep all the tube pieces inside. You can have small pieces that go horizontally across the cage. Or others that twist and turn in a circle inside the cage. Or make a design that lets your hamster climb from the bottom to the top level of the cage. hamster tubes

Another way to go is to start with a hamster cage that has some tubes as part of its design. They usually go outside the cage. You can then plan on adding on more tubes to the ones outside the cage. In this way you can keep building until you have a large maze of tubes that are outside the cage.

Some people use two cages and use the tubes to connect the cages and let their hamster run between the cages.

Another simple option is to put together some tubes that the hamster uses just for exercise, like a hamster exercise ball. You put the hamster in the tube maze you’ve built when you know you’ll be there to watch him play.

When planning your layout, do leave some space in the cage for the hamster to rest. Inside the hamster cage you should still have bedding in an area where your hammy can get some rest and sleep, a bathroom area, a water bottle, running wheel, and of course, a food dish.

Build

Attach all the tube pieces carefully according to your plan. Read the instructions and work slowly. Some tube pieces are harder to get together than others and you don’t want to break any pieces. Be especially careful if you are attaching tubes to a cage opening. You don’t want to leave space that your hamster can escape through.

Getting your hamster to use the tube

Syrians and Teddy Bear hamsters usually take to climbing through the tubes pretty easily. But dwarf hamsters may take some coaxing.

Don’t go crazy when you first set up the tubes. Try a few at a time. Give your hamster some time to sniff around the new tubes. Your hamster may be used to burrowing, but plastic tubes are probably a new experience for him. One trick is to put some treats inside the tubes. Your hamster will then climb inside the tube to get the treat. Do this a few times until your hamster gets used to the tubes.

Expandexpansion kit

Once you see your hamster easily moving around the few tubes, you can start adding some interesting twists and turns.

Make a circle around the cage, make a maze, or go from one level to another. Add a lookout. Make sure your put the tubes where you can see them so you can enjoy watching your hammy run through them. If you are running tubes horizontally on the floor, leave some space for people to walk around them. You don’t want anyone stepping on the tubes and breaking them!

Also consider these hamster tube tips.


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Aug 162010
 

If you can smell the bedding in your hamster cage, it’s definitely time to clean it. But really, you should do the cleaning before it starts to smell. The typical hamster cage should be cleaned about once a week. If it’s a larger cage, you may be able to wait about 10 days. If you are breeding hamsters, however, you may have to clean more often.

Cleaning your hamster cage can be a fairly easy event. Here are the steps.

Move your hamster out of its cage

You need to keep your hamster in something safe and secure while cleaning its cage. A clean carrying cage with bedding, water, some food, and maybe a small toy will do. As with any hamster cage, make sure there are no small spaces where the hamster can escape.

Another option is a hamster ball. But since you’ll be busy cleaning, make sure you keep the exercise ball is in an enclosed area. Otherwise, let someone else keep an eye on your hamster. A hamster should only be kept in its exercise ball about 20 minutes, which should be plenty of time for you to finish cleaning its cage.

Take apart the cage and its contents

Carefully separate all the pieces of the cage. Be careful separating any plastic tubes as you don’t want them to crack.

If the pieces fit, put them in a bucket or sink with soapy water or a large sink. If not, put them aside as you will have to wash them by hand. For more information about cleaning supplies, read What Supplies To Use for Cleaning Your Hamster Cage.

Next, remove all the other items in the cage. This includes the water bottle or water dish, food bowl, exercise wheel, and toys. Put these aside as you will want to wash them by hand.

Dump the bedding

Although you can clean the cage and its contents next, I prefer to take care of the bedding first, as it may have a strong odor.

Dump the bedding in a plastic garbage bag or a paper grocery bag. Sometimes, when it’s very wet, the bedding can stick to the bottom. In this case you can use paper towels or some type of scrapper (e.g. toothbrush, putty knife) to get that part of the bedding off.

Put the bag in the garbage. Some of the bedding will be wet, so do this immediately or your paper bag can leak.

DO NOT dump the bedding down the toilet or sink. This will likely cause a back up in your plumbing.

Clean the cage bottom

Using warm, soapy water, wash off the cage bottom. Since this usually is the part with the most urine, you should spend the most amount of time scrubbing this part of the cage. You can use a sponge or cloth to do this.

Then thoroughly rinse this part of the cage. If you live in a house with a back yard, you can take this part to the back of your home and wash it down with water from a hose. Make sure you rinse off all the soap and/or disinfectant. Then either let the part air dry or wipe it dry off with a paper towel, cloth, or old towel.

Clean the rest of the cage and its contents

Now it’s time to clean the cage parts that were in the bucket or sink with soapy water. This means all wire and plastic pieces. You can also use the soapy water to hand wash the exercise wheel, water bowl, food bowl, and plastic toys. Wood toys can start to rot if washed in water too often so just wipe them off.

You may want to use disinfectant wipes for some places you think are especially dirty or were used as a bathroom by your hamster. Some people also use a small brush (like a toothbrush) that they use only for cleaning their hamster cage.

Rinse each piece off using clean, hot water. Again, make sure you remove all soap or disinfectant. Then dry each piece using a paper towel, cloth, or old towel.

Your water bottle is the only piece that usually doesn’t need to be cleaned weekly. You may want to clean the water bottle every other week. You can use a bottle brush to clean inside it.

Put the cage back together

Reassemble all the parts of the cage. Be especially careful with plastic tubing. If you use too much pressure putting plastic pieces together they can crack.

Make sure all the pieces fit together snugly so there are no gaps that might allow your hamster to escape.

Put in new bedding

Drop in a new layer of bedding. To learn more about the different types of bedding, read Types of Hamster Bedding Material.

Some people put in a few bits of the bedding they saved from the cage before cleaning it. They say having something with the scent of the previous cage helps the hamster feel comfortable when he or she first gets back in its cage.

Put in all the cage accessories

Reattach the water bottle. Put the other accessories, including exercise wheel, food bowl, toys, and hiding places back in. Try to put them back in the same place as they were before. This will help your hamster quickly feel at home when you put it back in the cage.

Put some new food in the food bowl. This might be a good time to add a small treat.

Return your hamster to its cage

Gently place your hamster back in his now clean cage. Watch him or her scamper around making sure that everything is in its place.

You might also be interested in reading What Supplies to Use to Clean Your Hamster Cage.

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