3 March 2021

Caring For Your Hamster

By Theresa Cooper

Hamsters are solitary animals belonging to the cicatricine subfamily Cricetinae which has 19 recognized species in seven genera worldwide. They are now becoming established as popular pets worldwide. Perhaps the most familiar species of hamster in the US is the red or Syrian hamster, which is a more flamboyant kind usually kept as household pets. A number of different colored hamsters, including yellow and black, have also become popular worldwide. In North America, they are widely distributed in the southern states and are particularly abundant in the southeastern corner of the Great Lakes region.

Like most small animals, hamsters require a large home space with a substantial amount of space for exercise and play. For this reason, many keepers prefer to keep only one or two hamsters in a cage as a couple because it limits the potential for reproduction of both genders. Caring for hamsters, like most small animals, requires time and commitment from the owner, and it is best to establish early on in a hamster’s care what you want your hamster to be used for (i.e., a pet or show animal). Hamsters that are intended as show animals need special handling and nutrition, while small pets such as cockatiels can be given dry food and fresh water as long as the cage is well-enclosed and the hamsters do not come into contact with raw food.

Hamsters have short lifespans in the wild, with the average age at one to two years. Some hamsters live up to three years in captivity. Hamsters have a high rate of reproduction in the wild, so they grow quickly in pet stores and in the wild, so they are quite expensive. Hamsters also eat several kinds of food, so feeding a hamster a combination of commercially available foods could be disastrous. It is best to buy a few select foods for your hamsters’ diet, since hamsters have different preferences and require different things in order to thrive.