Feb 2 2010

Hamsters

One of the hamsters brought in by animal control.

One of the hamsters brought in by animal control.

Hamsters have remained a popular companion animal for many years in the United States.  I can still remember my first hamsters, Gizmo and Teddy and all the fun I had taking care of them.  As much fun as they can be, without proper care, things can get out of hand very quickly. 

On Monday, animal control brought us 15 hamsters from an apartment after the owner was evicted.  Many times, hamster litters are accidental as people think they have two hamsters of the same sex.  Most people also don’t realize that the litters need to be separated early or they will start to breed, too.  Depending on the breed of hamster, they can become sexually mature anywhere between four weeks and three months of age.  Before you know it, you can have dozens of hamsters on your hands after starting with just two hamsters.

Just like with any animal, if you are thinking about adopting a hamster, do your research.  Hamsters will need an adequate cage, bedding, food, water and toys.  There are lots and lots of choices for all of these out there, but with a little research, either in books or on the Internet, you should be able to narrow down your search and find exactly what you like and what you think your hamster will like.  Here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Cages- There are a lot of different style and sizes of cages on the market and you will need to choose them based on the hamster you are going to get.  Hamsters come in many different sizes and you will want to get an appropriate sized cage.  The bigger the hamster, the bigger the cage.  You will also want one that has good ventilation and will be fairly easy to clean.  Some hamsters can chew through plastic very quickly.

2. Bedding- There is lots of different types of bedding out there.  I would recommend paper of fiber based bedding and would stay away from wood shavings.  You can also use shredded paper as bedding material.

3.  Food- Many foods on the market are very similar.  Check to see what you are getting and make sure it is specifically designed for hamsters.  You can also supplement their diet with some fresh grains, vegetables and fruit, but limit this to treats and not whole meals. 

Teddy Bear/Mix Hamster

Teddy Bear/Mix Hamster

You also want to make sure you know what you are getting into in regards to how often to clean their cages, change their water, change their food, handle them, etc.  Being informed will make you a much better companion for the little guy or gal you pick out.   If you Google “Hamsters as Pets”, you will find tons of websites with more information that you could ever need.  Make sure you research different sites as there are some things the experts may disagree about. 

As always, check your local shelter before purchasing a hamster from a pet store.  Saving a life is always better than buying one.  Once Wayside veterinarians evaluate the 15 hamsters, they will be available for adoption.  Swing by Wayside Waifs to meet them and pick your new companion.  They just want a loving home to call their own.

Written by Joe Hinkle
Manager of Behavior and Admissions at Wayside Waifs


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