Looking after your hamster
Hamsters are best kept in a commercially available cage made of plastic or a glass aquarium. Metal bars may be chewed as will any wood or plastic protrusions. Hamsters are very active, so plenty to do in the form of tunnels, wheels and possibly a burrowing area should be provided. Minimum floor area (which includes shelf space) should be 32 square centimetres per animal. There should be an area of sawdust or shredded paper as well as a secure nesting area containing commercial fibre, shredded paper, hay or wood shavings. Fibre beddings can become wrapped around the feet or if eaten can cause constipation so should be used with care. The cage should be cleaned every 1- 2 weeks. Hamsters require a stable, warm, draught free environment, if it gets too cold they may go into a state of hibernation. Equally they must not get too hot in summer. Hamsters are best kept singly as they will fight.
Proprietary hamster food supplemented with SMALL quantities of fruit and green vegetables. Hamsters are hoarders and store food so it is important to check that it does not go stale. Hamsters love sunflower seeds but their use should be restricted as they are high in fat and low in calcium. Fresh water should always be available.
Hamsters can bite if caught unawares so handling should be calm and confident. Picking them up in cupped hands is best although they can be scruffed. Regular handling (and bribery with food!) from young produces a pleasant tame animal. Talking to them helps them to recognise you. They should not be held too far off the floor in case they jump.
Hamsters can breed all year round and are sexually mature from about 4 weeks of age but should not be bred from until at least 12 weeks old. After mating the female should be kept alone. The gestation period is around 15-18 days and they produce about 4-12 young. After birth the nest should not be disturbed for about 2 weeks. They are weaned at around 3 weeks old.
Hamsters live for about 2 years.