The first and most important thing to remember about Syrian hamsters is
ONE HAMSTER PER CAGE. Although a hamster will
almost always be gentle and loving with you, well meaning people think they
get lonely. However, if two Syrian hamsters are caged together before long
they will begin fighting, resulting in serious injury or even death.
A useful cage and one used by many breeders, is the type compising a "cat
litter" tray with a wire top clipped to it. The NHC recomendation for syrian
hamsters cage is a minimum of 1000cm squared useable floor space x 19cm high.
If you can afford a slightly bigger cage of the same type, perhaps with two
or three levels so much better, but do ensure that any young hamsters cannot
fall the total height of the cage. A piece or cardboard slipped across any
opening will prevent this. Hamster love to climb and will get plenty of excercise
in a cage of this type.
There are also on the market the all or nearly all plastic cages, comprising
a number of compartments linked by tubes. These look attractive and will stop
draughts, although expencive to buy if a suitable size is used. These cages
do however come into their own if you also own a cat or dog as the hamster
is protected against claws.
Glass or plastic aquariums can also be used but a lid made with 1cm x 1cm
wire mess is required, as a standard lood has little or no ventilation, and
so condensation can form. The lid can be made by making a wooden frame that
fits just outside the tank and fixing the wire to this.But please ensure that
the hamster cannot climb and push the lid up if it is not secured and remember
that hamsters teeth never stop growing and need something hard to chew to
keep thire teeth the right legnth.
Setting up the cage
Once you have decided and purchased a suitable cage it will
need to be set up ready for your hamster. A good layer of sawdust or wooshavings
should be spread on the floor of the cage to absorb the urine. Sawdust is
the most absobent of the two but it's personal choice. If you are keeping
a long haired hamster then sawdust is prefered as shavings tend to tangle
the long hair. Please NEVER NEVER as suggested
in some books, put newspaper under the sawdust, as chewing this could lead
You now need to provide your hamster with a nest and for this shredded paper
bedding is much the best. There are a variety of different types on the market,
once again this is personal choice. However, some types of fluffy bedding
may cause intestinal problems if swallowed and hamsters always pouch
the material when making their beds.
The next step is to ensure your hamster has a water supply, the best way
to do this is with a conventional commercially made water bottle, although
dishes can be used they tend to get full of sawdust very quickly. The water
supply must be changed regularly.
Food dishes can be bought and used but normally the hamster will pouch it's
food and then put it inits store, so food can just be put in the sawdust.
As this does not look tidy many people prefere to use dishes. However, since
hamsters must chew, a plastic dish can gradually dissapear. A useful substitute
is the plastic top of a coffee jar, this will still be chewable but
can be replace if nessasary from the next jar of coffee. Chewing the plastic
does not appear to halm the hamster but if you want to be vert careful you
could buy stainless steel or pottery dishes.
Care should be taken when positioning the cage as this is most important.
Do not place the cage in direct sunlight and ensure it is out of drafts.
The cage can be kept in the house or in a frost free shed or garage, if it
is kept in the latter then provide the hamster with more bedding than you
would indoors. If the hamster is kept indoors do not put the cage near radiators
or fires as exrtemes of temperature are halmful. As long as ther is no sudden
change in temperature the hamster will be safe.
Wheels will always be a controversial subject when it comes to "toys" in
a hamster cage but a young hamster does enjoy a wheel. The spoked type can
lead to problems with legs slipping and breaking and the plastic spoked wheels
do tend to be chewed and then drop of the spindle. The solid plastic type
is safer, the larger and wider the better this is the type we choose to use
for our hamsters. Whels can be a problem for long haired hamsters, as the
hair can catch around the spindle and be pulled out. Keep an eye on your
hamster and it's wheel, if there is any evidence of loss of fur or the hamsters
back is really bent when running tie the wheel to prevent it moving
or remove it from the cage.
Many toys can be purchased for you hamster including seesaws, tunnels, climbing
blocks and ladders, but a lot you can make yourself. Carboard rolls can be
hung on wires in the cage or a plastic squash bottle with the top and bottom
cut off can be hung up. A wooden shelf can be put in most cages and hamsters
love to climb on these to groom themselves.
Playballs can be used for excercise or to place your hamster in while you
are cleaning the cage, but do not leave them for more than a few munites
at a time. Cages should be cleaned once a week to ensure that your hamster
is healthy and happy. In the end, whatever cage you decide on and whatever
type of toys you choose please remember to handle your hamster and above
all enjoy you pet.