Healthy Hamster Basics

Nutrition: Feeding seed mixes is not recommended as they do not provide adequate nutrition for Hamsters instead there are pellets provide complete and balanced nutrition. I personally feed my hamster, Alby, Oxbows healthy handfuls and only provide seeds as a treat occasionally. 

Hamsters, unlike guinea pigs and rabbits, do not require much if any fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, they should only get ½ teaspoon of greens per 24 hours or a very small portion of apple as to not upset the stomach. My concern with my hamster with fresh foods is that he likes to hide things away and I do not want it rotting in his cage. Instead, I buy freeze dried fruit pieces that will not rot.

Husbandry: there are various products out there to use for bedding. From recycled paper products to wood shavings to synthetic. Most people favour other types of bedding over wood shavings as they often are more deodorizing, dust free, softer and more absorbent. If using wood shavings it is important to make sure that they are not treated with any harmful chemicals.

Nesting materials come in a lot of the same ways as the bedding. I use a recycled paper product that is cut into thin crinkly strips; this is what Alby uses to make a nest/burrow. You can purchase “fluff” bedding but there have been reports of the synthetic fibres wrapping around a limb and acting as a tourniquet.  So be cautious if choosing that variety.

Enrichment: alternating the layout of your hamster’s cage as well as switching out toys/activities can help to reduce boredom.   If letting your hamster run around in a hamster ball ensure access to stairs and other pets are blocked off. Handling your hamster is important, especially when they are young so they get used to being handled. Before you adopt your hamster trying holding it to see how it handles being held as some are naturally cuddlier.

Dentistry: it is important to provide things for your hamster to chew on to help ensure their teeth do not over grow. A lot of hideouts are completely edible if they feel the need to chew on something. If their teeth do over grow the can cause a lot of problems and pain. If you do notice your hamster’s teeth are overgrown contact your local exotics veterinary clinic to have the teeth looked at.

Written by Leah Sandberg, RVT