Hamster's make wonderful first pets for kids. They are low-maintenance, have a mild temperament, and are inherently clean animals. Here's what you need to know about keeping hamsters as pets.
Choosing a Hamster
Syrian or Dwarf hamsters are the most popular pet choices. Syrian hamsters are bigger (about 8 inches) than Dwarf hamsters (4 inches), come in a wide variety of colours (golden-beige, black, cream and sable), and also have a milder temperament. No matter what variety you want, it is important that you choose a healthy hamster at the pet store.
Here's what to look out for:
Age: Hamsters are best adopted when they're 5-6 weeks old.
Movement: The hamster should move well, with no limps or stiffness.
Temperament: The hamster should not shy away when approached and should be energetic and curious.
Health: Don't choose a hamster if it has discharge from its ears, eyes, or nose.
Coat: The hamster's coat should be fluffy and soft, with no bumps or bare patches.
Caring For Your Hamster
Hamsters lick themselves clean so you'll never have to worry about grooming. But make sure to buy good quality hamster food from a pet store containing a mix of grains, veggies, fruits, pellets, and seeds. About one tablespoon of hamster food per day is enough; you should not overfeed your hamster.
Wire or stainless steel cages (one to four storeys) are commonly used for hamsters. Clean out the cage every week or else it starts to stink and make sure your hamster's bedding is digestible (chipped litter/shredded paper). You should also give your hamster some nesting material (paper tissue or hay), plenty of water, and a small ceramic bowl for food.
Hamsters are active creatures and so it is important to provide an exercise wheel in the cage. Lastly, don't keep the hamster cage in the bedroom or you will be up all night thanks to all the scurrying, burrowing and chewing.
How to Handle Your Hamster
Hamsters bite if you startle them, so it is important to handle them gently. Put your hands in the cage slowly and let the hamster sniff you. Give your hamster a little treat (corn/pumpkin seeds) and as it starts to nibble, stroke its back (not head) and let it get used to you. After a few days, it's okay to scoop up the hamster gently (never grab by the neck) and cradle it in your palms. If you're nervous around your hamster and grab hard or startle it, it is more likely to bite.
Hamsters live for about 2-3 years but in that short period of time, these affectionate little creatures will become a part of your family!
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