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.
It’s useful to understand the hamster anatomy. When you are choosing a hamster cage and when planning what’s inside the hamster habitat it’s helpful to know how a hamster is put together. Knowing about the hamster body also tells you something about hamster behavior and lets you know where to start looking for hamster illness.
Below is information about each part of a hamster’s body.
The hamster is a type of rodent and all rodents share one important characteristic – their front, or incisor teeth. These chisel-shaped teeth continue to grow throughout the hamster’s entire lifetime. That means hamsters must keep gnawing on things to properly file and sharpen those incisors.
When it comes to hamster cages, that means:
Watching your hamster to be sure it’s doesn’t gnaw its way out.
Providing chew toys so it can gnaw its teeth every day.
One condition to look out for is overgrown hamster teeth that can grow and cut through your hamster’s mouth. Read Look for Hamster Overgrown Teeth for more detailed information.
The word hamster comes from hamstern, a German word meaning ‘to hoard’. This is where the cheek pouches come in. Hamsters maximize the use of their cheek pouches to gather and carry food and nesting necessities from one place to another. Almost half of a hamster’s body weight can be stored in those pouches.
Food storage was essential in the wild because hamsters put their food in hidden storage until it was needed when the supply of food was at its lowest level. Even your pet hamster, which gets fed every day, will exhibit this hoarding behavior. The hamster’s check pouch lining is tough and dry to ensure that food which is stored will always be fresh and dry.
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Despite having large and protruding eyes, which you would expect from an animal that typically only comes out at night in the wild, hamster eyesight isn’t that great.
During the daytime, they are practically blind because of the brightness. They are also color blind, meaning they see only shades of black and white. And they are nearsighted, meaning they can see things very near to them, but not far away.
This can be a problem if you have a hamster cage with many different levels. Your hammy will be able to see the edge of a high platform, but can’t see the bottom of the cage below. If your hamster falls off a high platform, he or she can break its bones.
Hamsters have a very developed hearing system as a compensation for its poor eyesight. Hamster ears can hear various sounds including ultrasonic frequencies which we humans cannot hear.
You’ll notice that the ears are high up on the hamster’s head. That helps them hear any approaching danger – as well as your voice. When they hear what they think is danger, a hamster will freeze. When talking to your pet, please speak softly. And choose a quieter area of your house when locating your hamster cage.
Hamster ears are very thin and delicate so remember to handle your hamster’s head gently when holding it.
Hamsters have an acute sense of smell. They actually use discreet pheromones or scents that are from their own bodies to tell each other apart. Their keen sense of smell also helps them find food, in case you were wondering how a hamster knows and remembers where it has hidden or hoarded its food.
The hamster can also smell you. If your hands have the scent of food, this may be the reason your hamster is nibbling at your fingers. Or, if you have played with a different pet, your hamster may smell the other pet and be afraid to be held in your hands.
A good idea is to wash your hands before playing with your hamster.
Different hamsters actually have different types of fur.
There is the typical short hair which is associated with most hamsters. But some hamsters have the satin type fur that is smooth, shiny, and short.
Then you will find long-haired hamsters, such as the Teddy Bear hamster.
Hamsters are usually very good about keeping their fur clean and smooth. The bedding materials you use, however, can get caught in the long-haired fur. An occasional gentle brushing can help pull out any tangles. If your hamster’s fur looks matted, it may be an indication of illness.
A hamster can lose some fur because of seasonal changes in temperature. This is typical. Older hamsters also tend to lose some fur. And hamsters that are nursing may lose fur around the areas used for nursing.
If you notice any other hair loss on your hamster, check the hamster skin for some underlying skin problem. Also check that your hamster diet has enough vitamins and proteins to prevent premature fur loss.
It’s not easy to see the hamster skin because it’s covered in fur. But when you get to peek under the hamster fur you should see pink skin color.
Watch out for red or swollen skin which can indicate skin disease. This may be a reaction to the type of bedding you are using or the type of food your hamster eats.
Mites are another common skin disease among hamsters. Pet stores sell anti-mite spray which may help your hamster with this disease.
Hamster Feet / Paws
Your pet’s feet, also called hamster paws, are like hands to them. They are small and short, although usually in proportion to their body size. The paws have small claws that make it easier for them to use. Your hamster will use their paws for holding food, burrowing into its bedding, climbing, and running.
Hamsters can get a condition in their feet known as bumble foot. This foot infection can make the hamster paws swell up. If untreated, this disease can even spread to the hamster’s legs.
The problem could be caused by a wire floor in the cage or a cage that has not been kept clean. Keep the bedding you use in your hamster cage dry, and clean out your hamster cage weekly to help avoid this foot condition.
Last, and sometimes least, is the hamster tail. For most Syrian and dwarf hamsters, the tail is very, very short. It’s really more of a little stub than a tale. You can’t even see it unless you look very closely.
The Chinese hamster is the only type of hamster that has a tail you can actually see. It doesn’t have hair and grows to be about an inch long.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hamster tube mazes can help your pet maintain a healthy weight, fight boredom, and are fun to build. Your hamster will spend many hours inside its hamster cage; and while this may guarantee it is safe, it is not very fun. A hamster will be happier if you provide a maze of tubes or attach tubes that travel both inside and outside of the cage.
Whether you are shopping online or locally there are many varieties of hamster tubes available. These include connectors, straight tubes, T-tubes and U turns just to name a few. With the right amount of cleaning and care, connecting tubes can last many years.
A very cheerful hamster habitat can be created by mixing or matching any of the bright, eye-catching colors. Hamsters love to burrow and are naturally attracted to tubes.
By creating tunnel mazes you can help your pet lead an active and interesting life. Hamster tube mazes can be interlinked, overlapping, and go in many different directions – this provides the “maze” effect. There is no end to the twists and turns these tubes can take. For example, you can create:
Slopes that go up
Slopes that go down
What else can you do with your maze?
Tube roadways can go up over a desk and even under the bed.
Try adding a dead-end or two to make it more interesting.
Water, food and even look-out stations can be added to attract the hamster to different parts of the maze.
You can construct mazes that are distinct and unconnected. Each maze can be a separate area just for hamsters to play and exercise within.
Additional tubes can be added over time making distinct pathways for hamsters to travel.
A petting station that has a hinged lid will allow ample opportunity to play with your hamsters when they take a break from their maze running.
Hamsters like to roost, so you can add a sleeping dome with enough bedding to snuggle into. This can provide your pet a safe place to sleep.
Since your hamster spends a lot of its entire life in a cage; that cage should be as interesting as possible to help keep your hamster stable, healthy and happy. And children will love planning the layout of the cages and tube maze.
Some hamster cages already come with tubes as part of their design.
Even if you are using an aquarium for a hamster home, you can add a connecting tube maze that goes around the bottom of the fish tank.
Hamster tubes can be used to connect two or more cages together. One cage may be placed low and the other up higher with tubes connecting the two cages together. This is like a mini-maze for your hamster. When a hamster is required to climb up or down it will be even more fun to watch.
Prices are quite affordable with tubes being sold for about $10 to $15 for a package of four or more. When shopping online numerous brands, prices, and styles can been seen in a matter of only a few minutes time. The best part may be that you can order everything you need without ever having to leave the comfort of your home.
A hamster that is active can live longer and hamster tube mazes will ensure your pet is entertained and healthy. And it’s also great fun to watch hamsters as they navigate through their hamster maze.
Hamster behaviors are appealing and building a hamster habitat with connecting tubes only make those antics more fascinating. In their natural environment hamsters live in burrows with winding tunnels connecting to small chambers.
Hamster connecting tubes are plastic or acrylic passageways that emulate this environment by linking together different parts of the hamster habitat into an integrated living space. Hamsters love to scramble through these simulated tunnels that cater to their natural instincts.
Extending the living environment
Your hamster’s basic living environment can be boring, both for the animal to live in and for you to watch. Adding hamster tubes gives your pet more room to explore. The running and climbing involved provides your pet with exercise and intellectual stimulation. You as the owner get not only the satisfaction of knowing you have provided a better life for your pet but the amusement of watching it interact with its enhanced environment.
Before you design your hamster’s home, put yourself in the animal’s place. You are just a few inches tall, and if you stand on your hind legs you can reach perhaps four or five inches from the floor. If you add a ladder, elevated platforms, and climbing tubes to its home, your hamster can now move in all different directions.
Design the hamster connecting tubes
Plan to connect the tubes at an angle that the animal can negotiate. Short stretches can be nearly vertical, but tunnels of any length should be only a little above horizontal. Keep in mind that dwarf hamsters may have trouble climbing up tall vertical tubes.
The tunnels can be U or lollipop shapes off a single enclosure, or they can connect two or more hamster cages. They should not be short enough that your pet gets bored, or so long that they get lost or tired.
While the tubes need not lead anywhere other than back to the hamster’s living quarters, they can be connected to different and additional living areas for your pet to enjoy. In fact, some hamster cages have holes that let you connect tubes so you hammy can run back and forth between cages.
Like the tubes, these additional running areas should be cleaned whenever they require it. One advantage of the interconnecting environments is that they usually come with plugs, permitting you to shut your hamster in one part of the habitat while you clean a different part.
Think about your pet’s safety, too. To a hamster, connecting tubes can be a trap, particularly if the animal is rotund and the passage is small. Make sure the tunnels are of a large enough diameter for your hamster to negotiate at a run, not a wriggle.
Connecting the system
Hamster tubes come in segments, either straight or bent, that twist together. Most hamster environments can be created by snapping the tubes together with no tools. Some hamster cages come with holes to which the tubes can connect. Be careful not to twist too hard when connecting the tubes to the holes or the plastic can break.
Like any pet, a hamster depends on its owner to provide it with a suitable environment. Hamster tubes can be an inexpensive and visually appealing option to accomplish that. They represent very good value for the money because they keep you entertained while exercising your hamsters.