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Hamster Care for Beginners

February 1, 2015

Hamsters are very hard to resist. Those adorable little faces are super cute! Hamsters are quite easy to care for, which is one reason they are so popular as starter pets. Hamsters do have specific habits and needs, just like any other animal. Your local vet West Greenwich gives some basic tips on hamsters and their care in this article.

Basic Facts

Hamsters live about three years on average. These little guys do not see very well, and are actually colorblind. While there are several different varieties of hamsters, there are four that are typically sold as pets, with the Syrian hamster being arguably the most popular. Hamsters do not like roommates, so plan on one hamster per cage.

Hammie Habits

One thing people are often unaware of is that hamsters are nocturnal. Small children with early bedtimes may not get as much enjoyment out of a hamster, because Hammie might be waking up when his human buddy is going to sleep. If you’re considering getting a hamster for a young child, this is one thing to keep in mind.


Hamsters are naturally omnivores, and need a variety of food to be truly happy and healthy. Hammie can have a basic commercial food for his basic diet, but you will need to supplement it with fruits and veggies. There are quite a few things hamsters can eat, but you’ll always want to do some research before giving your pet something new, just to be sure it is safe for him. Hamsters can also enjoy bits of cooked meat, eggs, crickets, mealworms, and even a bit of peanut butter.


There are several types of cages you can use for hamsters. Ventilation is very important, so we recommend either an aquarium with a mesh or wire top, or a wire cage with a solid bottom. You’ll need to add proper substrate, toys, bedding, food and water dishes, a solid exercise wheel, and at least one hidey-hole or house. Hamsters are very sensitive to sound and temperature, so you’ll want to be sure to put the cage in a place that is quiet, out of direct sunlight, and neither too hot or too cold.


While your hamster can keep himself amused with enough toys, he will be friendlier and happier if you interact with him daily. Be very gentle with your hamster, and speak to him softly while you are petting him.

Our Advice on Hamster Care for Beginners in 2024

How do hamsters perceive the world?

Hamsters perceive the world primarily through their senses of smell, hearing, and touch due to their limited vision and colorblindness. They rely on these enhanced senses to navigate their environment, recognize food, and sense danger. Despite their poor eyesight, hamsters are adept at creating mental maps of their surroundings to locate their nest and food sources efficiently. Their keen sense of smell also helps them communicate with other hamsters and identify individual humans. This sensory adaptation allows them to thrive in their habitats, both in the wild and in domestic settings.

What is a hamster’s natural sleep cycle?

A hamster’s natural sleep cycle is nocturnal, meaning they are active at night and sleep during the day. This cycle is instinctual, allowing them in the wild to avoid daytime predators and search for food under the cover of darkness. For pet hamsters, this means they are most active and playful in the evening and nighttime hours. Understanding and respecting their natural sleep pattern is important for their well-being, ensuring they have a quiet, dark place to rest undisturbed during daylight hours.

How big should a hamster cage be?

A hamster cage should provide ample space for movement, play, and enrichment to ensure the well-being of your pet. The minimum recommended size for a hamster cage is 450 square inches of unbroken floor space, with larger sizes being preferable, especially for active species like the Syrian hamster. A multi-level cage can offer additional space for exploration, but the floor area is critical for adequate exercise. Ensure the cage is secure, well-ventilated, and equipped with appropriate bedding, an exercise wheel, hiding spots, and chew toys to mimic a natural environment.

What kind of bedding is best for hamsters?

The best bedding for hamsters is a soft, absorbent material that’s safe if ingested. Paper-based bedding or aspen shavings are excellent choices, providing comfort and promoting natural burrowing behavior while being digestible and non-toxic. Avoid cedar and pine shavings, as they contain oils that can be harmful to hamsters’ respiratory systems. The bedding should be several inches deep to allow for proper nesting and burrowing. Regular cleaning and replacement of the bedding are crucial to maintain a healthy environment for your hamster. For more detailed advice tailored to your pet’s needs, consider visiting our clinic in West Greenwich, RI.

What are signs of illness in hamsters?

Signs of illness in hamsters include changes in eating or drinking habits, lethargy, unexplained weight loss or gain, wetness around the tail (wet tail), breathing difficulties, unusual lumps or swellings, and changes in behavior such as increased aggression or hiding. Additionally, excessive scratching, hair loss, or changes in the appearance or frequency of stool can indicate health issues. Promptly noticing these signs and seeking veterinary care is crucial, as hamsters can deteriorate quickly due to their small size. If you observe any of these symptoms, it’s advisable to contact a veterinarian immediately.

If you have any questions about caring for hamsters, please contact us at any time. As your local vet clinic West Greenwich, we are happy to assist however we can. To read more pet care articles, please visit our site here.

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