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. chew toy

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. hamster exercise ball

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 hard plastic cages because of ventilation issues, but you can try a bin cage in which you have drilled plenty of ventilation holes. These cages mean your hammy will have no wires to chew on. plastic bin cage

Or you can switch to an aquarium that doesn’t use any wire bars. aquarium

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 062012
 

So you’re thinking about bringing home a new pet hamster. Congratulations! Hamsters make great pets. They are absolutely the cutest and cuddliest little animals around. They are clean, they like to play and run, and they have very short tales, so you won’t mistake them for a rat or mouse.

For adults, they are an easy to care for and inexpensive pet to have around. For children, being a hamster owner can be a great learning experience. (Just don’t forget that an adult is ultimately responsible.)
Hamster

 

Below are the most important things you should know to be sure you’re going to be a great hamster owner.

Know a Few Hamster Facts

You need to know there is more than one type of hamster. There are Syrians, which are the most common, and dwarves. There are different kinds of Syrians such as Teddy Bears and Goldens. For dwarves, there are Roborovskis and Russians. Read Types of Hamsters for more information. You’ll want to pick a type of hamster that most appeals to you.

Another key fact that people don’t think about is that hamsters are nocturnal. That is, they like to play in the evening and will sometimes run in their cages in the middle of the night. If the new hamster owner is a light sleeper, this could be a problem. Some light sleepers get around this issue by moving the hamster to a different location when they go to bed. But it’s certainly something to think about.

Finally, the typical hamster lifespan is about 2 to 3 years. That means that eventually the hamster is going to pass away. Whoever owns the hamster needs to know this so they can be prepared to deal with their hamster dying.

Know About Creating a Great Hamster Habitat

Can you make your hammy happy? To do that, you’ll have to know about the environment in which it’s going to live.

Cage Types: As there are different types of hamsters, there are also different types of hamster cages. There are wire cages, plastic cages, and combination wire and plastic cages. You can even use an aquarium as a hamster cage. To choose a hamster cage, you need to consider the pluses and minuses of the different types of cages before you even buy your hamster. For more information about choosing hamster cages read Consider These When Buying Hamster Cages: Size, Security, Sanitation. hamster cage

Cage Sizes: Your Syrian or pair of dwarf hamsters need room to exercise and play. Hamster cages come in different sizes from small to large. Know the different sizes so you can plan on a cage that’s going to be large enough for your hamster and everything you’re going to put in the cage.

Hamster bedding, food, and water: All hamster cages will require bedding, food, and water. It’s best to learn about the different types of bedding available because choosing the wrong type can harm your hamster. For example, pine or cedar wood shavings are not recommended, but Aspen wood shavings are OK. hamster bedding

You also need to look into the makeup of the different types of hamster food. Feeding your hamster treats all the time can make them ill. Hamster food will also include fresh vegetables to keep your hamster healthy.

And you’ve always got to provide your hamster with water which means you’ll have to be sure a water bottle is always within reach of your hamster.

Hamster exercise: Hamsters need to run and be active. An exercise wheel is a necessity in any hamster cage. Buy the type that’s large enough for your hamster and won’t hurt his or her feet. Hamster tubes also let hamsters get exercise. Think about where you can place these colorful plastic tubes – either inside the cage or create a maze outside the cage. hamster tubes

Cleaning: The most important thing you have to know about the hamster habitat is that you’re going to have to clean it, probably weekly. This is an important job because a dirty cage can give your hamster different infections. So keeping a clean hamster cage is a big responsibility that any hamster owner must sign up for.

Know About Hamster Health Issues

One part of keeping your hamster healthy is watching out for illness. Hamsters can be prone to different types of infections. The most common is wet tail, but they can also get respiratory or skin infections. You should know a little about each of these so that you know what signs to look for to know if your hamster is getting sick.

Another part of having a healthy hamster is playing with it. Although your hamster will be a little frightened when you first bring him or her home, you can learn to tame your hamster so that it enjoys playing in your hands as well as with exercise balls. But taming your hamster may take time, so you must learn patience to be a good hamster owner.

Key Questions

Bringing home a hamster means you are making a commitment to care of your pet. You want to learn as much as possible before hand so that you can be prepared to be a good pet owner. In return your hamster will give you hours of fun and put a lot of smiles on your face.

Here is a summary of the key question you should ask to be sure you’re going to be a responsible hamster owner.

  • What type of hamster is right for me?
  • What type of cage is right for my hamster?
  • Is the cage large enough for my hamster?
  • Have I gotten bedding, food, and water for my hamster?
  • Have I gotten exercise wheels, tubes, or toys to keep my hamster active?
  • Am I prepared to keep my hamster’s cage clean?
  • Am I familiar with hamster health issues?
  • Am I prepared to check on my hamster’s health?
  • Will I put time aside to play with my hamster?

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Jun 242011
 

Two particular problems that even normally healthy hamsters can get are overgrown teeth and overgrown nails. These are hamster health problems that you can help prevent by carefully observing your hamster.

Here’s what to look for and what to do about these hamster health issues.

Overgrown teeth causes

If you look inside your hamster’s mouth, you’ll see two incisor teeth in their upper and lower jaws. Throughout the hamster’s life, these teeth continue to grow. A hamster must gnaw these down or face serious health problems.

If these teeth grow too long, they can begin to cut into his or her cheeks. This can result in your hamster getting mouth sores and being unable to eat properly.

There are other signs of tooth problems including a loss of appetite, drooling, or your hamster having trouble breathing.

Another reason for overgrown teeth could be a broken tooth. This can cause the hamster’s other tooth to grow too fast because it doesn’t have another tooth to help with the gnawing process. If you have an older hamster, this is something to look out for.

Hamster food could also be a cause. If your hamster is concentrating on just eating sunflower seeds, this can result in a calcium deficiency. Lack of calcium can also result in a hamster tooth breaking.

What to do about overgrown teeth

Your first line of defense against an overgrown tooth is making sure your hamster has plenty to gnaw on. That would include:

  • Hard foods, including fresh vegetables
  • Treat blocks
  • Chew toys (Made of wood that’s not too soft)
  • Small dog biscuits
  • Wire cage bars

All of these will help wear down your hamster’s teeth.

You should be regularly checking your hamster’s teeth since they grow so fast. If you see overgrowth or a sore mouth, you should get your hamster to a vet. A vet can also show you how to trim a tooth that’s too long. This can be tricky, so don’t try it by yourself until the vet has shown you how.

Overgrown Nails

Some hamster breeds, such as Dwarf Campbell’s Russians have long nails, but many other breeds do not. So if you notice your hamster’s nails getting very long and even curling under their toes, it means it is time to trim the nails. nail trimmer

Three ways to do this are:

1. Taking your hamster to the vet. You may want to do this the first time you see your hamster’s nails getting too long just so you can see how it’s done. But if you do this every time you want to trim your hamster’s nails, it can get expensive.

2. Using sandpaper so your hamster trims its own nails. With this method, you line either a part of the hamster cage or a separate box with fine sandpaper. You then let the hamster play in that part of the cage or the separate box for a while. This may or may not work depending on how active your hamster is.

People also try putting the fine sandpaper in the hamster exercise wheel. This may work for some hamsters, but others may then refuse to run in their wheels.

3. Do it yourself. If you try to clip your hamster’s nails yourself, there’s a good chance your hamster will bite you. This is really a two-person job. styptic powder

Here’s how to trim your hamster’s nails:

  • Wrap the hamster is a small towel with feet and paws exposed.
  • Your partner should tightly hold the hamster and distract him or her with some treats.
  • You cut the nails, VERY CAREFULLY, with nail clippers (small pet clippers are preferred)
  • Trim only the tips of the nails.
  • Have some styptic powder available. If you cut too much and see some red, you can use the powder to quickly help stop the bleeding.

Again, for the first time you may want to bring your hamster to the vet to see how it’s done.


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Mar 212011
 

A critical question to ask when you’re getting a new hamster is “What size cage should I buy for my hamster?”

Size is important because hamsters are active pets – especially at night. They like to run, climb, play with their toys, and burrow. All this activity means they have to have space in their cages.

The two key questions to ask about space are “What’s inside the cage?” and “What type hamster do you have?

What’s inside the cage?

Everything you put inside your hamster cage takes up space. So what goes inside the typical cage? hamster cage

Exercise wheel: Because a typical hamster can run about 6 miles (9 km) in one night you need to have an exercise wheel for your cage. This can be a freestanding exercise wheel or one of the kind that attaches to the metal bars on the cage. The freestanding wheel takes up space on the floor of the cage. But even the kind that attaches to the wire walls takes up space inside the cage.
hamster tubes

Tubes: Another way for your hamster to get exercise is to run through hamster tubes. People even connect a lot of tubes so the hamster has a big maze to climb through. Some tubes go outside the cage so they don’t take up any space inside the cage, but some climbing tubes may go inside the cage and take up space.

Water: Hamsters need water. You can attach a water bottle to the outside of the hamster cage, but its tip still takes up room in the cage. If you don’t use a water bottle you have to have space for a water bowl on the bottom of the cage.

Food bowl: What you feed your hamster goes inside a hamster food bowl. These can be large or small depending on how much food your hamster eats.

Toys: There are all kinds of chew toys and play toys for hamsters. You can also get a hamster house or some people even use the cardboard toilet paper holder. Depending on their sizes, these toys use space in the hamster habitat.

So before you buy your hamster cage, think about all of these items and how much room they will take up in the bottom and along the side of the cage you want. Remember you still need plenty of space for bedding so your hamster has spots to burrow, play, and use as a bathroom.

What type hamster do you have?

The other thing you have to consider when you’re thinking about the size of your cage is the type of hamster you have. The typical Syrian hamster, also called a teddy bear or Golden hamster, is about 5 to 7 inches (13 to 17 cm) long.

Having this type hamster may mean some of the items in your cage will have to be larger. For example, your hammy should not have to bend its back when it’s in its exercise wheel. So you may need a larger exercise wheel in your cage if you have a Syrian hamster. You also have to make sure the climbing tubes you get are large enough for this type hamster to fit through. That means more space for your hamster tubes. Also, because of the Syrians size you have to make sure there’s lots of bedding in the cage so it can burrow.

The typical dwarf hamster such as a Roborovski is smaller, being about 2 to 4 inches (5 to 20 cm) long. But many people keep two dwarf hamsters together in one cage because they get along with each other. That means providing enough space in your cage for two hamsters to run around in.

If you want to breed hamsters you’re also going to need a much bigger hamster cage.

The right size hamster cagehamster cage

Most people recommend getting a wire hamster cage that is at least 24 inches wide by 12 inches deep by about 10 inches tall (61 X 31 X 25 cm).

If you’re planning on using an aquarium, you will need at least a 10 gallon fish tank, but 20 gallons would be even better.
hamster cage
Smaller cages, that are usually 8 inches long by 12 ½ inches wide by 7-1/2-inches high (20 X 32 x 19 cm) may be adequate for a smaller dwarf hamster. It is too small for the Syrian hamster.

Available larger cages are about 16 inches long by 24 inches wide by 12 inches high (40 X 61 x 31 cm). This size will give your hamster plenty of room to exercise and burrow around inside its cage.

 


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Mar 102011
 

If you’re thinking about buying a wire cage for your hamster consider some of the following: wire cage size, height, cleaning, and security. For a discussion of the wire bars themselves and their pluses and minuses read The Good And The Bad About Wire Hamster Cages.

Size

Hamsters need a lot of room to run around and exercise in. If you’re cage is too small your hamster won’t get the exercise it needs and will get bored. Your wire hamster cage should be at least 24 inches long by about 12 inches deep (61 by 30.5 cm). Different heights are available. Read the next section for discussion of wire cage heights. wire hamster cage

Remember, along with your hamster, your wire cage will also need space for an exercise wheel, a water bottle, some hamster toys, and a food bowl. Then your hamster needs plenty of bedding space for digging around, sleeping, and using the bathroom. So keep your hamster happy by giving him or her enough space to move around in.

Some people use two small wire cages and use an adapter kit to connect them with tubes. This gives your hamster the chance to get more exercise by running between the cages. Cutting holes in wire cages to connect them is not recommended.

Height

Hamsters like to climb around their wire cages. They can get their little feet around the wires and climb all around the bars. Some will try to climb to the top of the cage, even if it two or even three stories. But hamsters can slip and fall. If they fall from a great enough height, your hamster can get hurt. wire hamster cage

Because of the danger of falling, if you use a tall hamster cage, be sure you have ladders and ramps so your hamster can climb up more easily. You can also use hamster climbing tubes so your hamster can get around its tall wire cage.

Cleaning

Cleaning this type of hamster cage is usually pretty easy. The bars are lightweight and usually just snap out of the sides of the plastic bottom. You can then just rinse the bars off to get them clean. You will still have to do some more serious cleaning for the bedding in the plastic base. See the article called Easy Steps to Clean Your Hamster Cage for more detailed information about how to do that.

After you have replaced the bedding, you reattach the wheel and the water bottle, put the wire cage back on and attach it back to the plastic base. You are then ready to put your hamster back in its clean cage.

When you’re putting the cage back together is a good time to decide if you want to move things around. You may want to change the way things are hooked up or where the hamster toys are located. Sometimes your hamster can get bored if he or she has the same layout all the time in its cage. So move some tubes around or put new tubes in or change the location of different toys in the cage. This will give your hamster something new to explore and keep him or her from getting bored. wire hamster cage starter kit

Plastic base depth

The plastic at the bottom of the cage is for holding the bedding and any hamster toys you want to put in. Make sure the plastic bottom is deep enough to hold about 2 inches of bedding. This will let your hamster have room to burrow and sleep and make a place to go to a bathroom.

However, because the cage has spaces between the wires, when your hamster starts kicking up his or her bedding or throwing around their food, some of it is likely to get through the bars and onto the space around the cage. Plan on leaving some room around the cage for this bedding. You’ll have to keep that area clean if you have this type of cage.

Security

The metal door on the wire cage should also be looked at carefully when you’re buying this type cage. You want to be sure it’s snaps tightly to the wires of the cage because if it’s loose your hamster will figure a way to pry it open and escape. Some people even use an extra piece of wire to tie the door to the wire bars so the door stays well sealed.

Consider all these things before you buy your hammy a new wire cage. As an alternative, you may want to think about using an aquarium for a hamster cage.


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