General Information

All information in this area is taken directly from literature provided freely by THE NATIONAL HAMSTER COUNCIL







The National Hamster Council and affiliated clubs

The National Hamster Council is a governing body of the hamster fancy in the United Kingdom, representing the interests of all concerned with the keeping, exhibiting and /or breeding of all species of hamsters.

Established in 1949, the National Hamster Council is the oldest such organisation in the world, and it's member clubs cover the whole of the United Kingdom, with members throughout the world.

With an established network of experienced and knowledgeable officers and advisors, the National Hamster Council and it's affiliated clubs offer benefits to everyone interested in all breeds of hamsters. The clubs organise regular shows in all areas of the country, where everyone is welcome.

The National Hamster Council has a wealth of experience and expertise within the organisation, with many members having kept, bread and exhibited hamsters for over thirty years. This unique pool of knowledge is made available to every member, through the monthly journal, information sheets and by personal contact.

Affiliated clubs:-
                          Midland Hamster Club

                      Club Secretary  Mrs Sue Carter

                          Northern Hamster Club
                    Club Secretary  Mrs Sue Kilburn.
                          Southern Hamster Club

                     Club Secretary  Wendy Barry


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 comprising a "cat litter" tray with a wire top clipped to it. The NHC recommendation for syrian hamsters cage is a minimum of 1000 cm squared usable floor space x 19 cm 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 of cardboard slipped across any opening will prevent this. Hamster love to climb and will get plenty of exercise 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 expensive 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 1 cm x 1 cm wire mess is required, as a standard lid 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 their teeth the right length.

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 woodshavings should be spread on the floor of the cage to absorb the urine. Sawdust is the most absorbent of the two but it's personal choice. If you are keeping a long haired hamster then sawdust is preferred 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 to poisoning.

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 in it's store, so food can just be put in the sawdust. As this does not look tidy many people prefer to use dishes. However, since hamsters must chew, a plastic dish can gradually disappear. A useful substitute is the plastic top of a coffee jar, this will still be chewable  but can be replaced if necessary from the next jar of coffee. Chewing the plastic does not appear to harm the hamster but if you want to be very 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 extremes of temperature are harmful. As long as there 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  types with spokes can lead to problems with legs slipping and breaking and the plastic spoked wheels do tend to be chewed and then drop off the spindle. The solid plastic type is safer, the larger and wider the better (this is the type we at Golden Hams choose to use for our hamsters). Wheels 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. Cardboard 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.

Play balls can be used for exercise or to place your hamster in while you are cleaning the cage, but do not leave them for more than a few minutes 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.


A hamster that is fed a well-balanced diet is usually a healthy hamster.Having acquired a hamster it is up to you to feed it a diet that gives a little variety and keeps your pet healthy.Ask, when you buy, what the hamster has been fed on as, although hamsters like a variety of foods, introducing to many new foods at one time can cause tummy upsets.  ALWAYS introduce greens and any new foods gradually and in very small amounts if you are not sure what your hamster has been fed on before.

The basic and major part of the diet should be a proprietary dry hamster mix which can be bought from a pet shop.  This will be a mixture of seeds, crushed oats, flaked maize, sunflower seeds, locust beans, peanuts etc.  With some hard dry buicuit. All these are " hard" and good for the hamsters teeth, and a small handfull should be given each day.  As a treat, dry biscuit
s can be given, such as" all in one " dry cat rings or a small Bonio, again good for the hamsters teeth.

Hamsters are hoarders - they store their food behind or under their beds so uneaten greens and soft foods must only be given in moderation, otherwise any uneaten will spoil.  

As hamsters put food into their cheek pouches " sticky " and " sharp " foods should be avoided. Chocolate (which can melt in pouches) and cornflakes (which can scrach the pouches) are two such foods.

The greens that can be given to a hamster are carrots, cabbage, califlower, a small sprout, broccoli, broad beans, peas, runner beans, apple, bean sprouts,sweet corn, cooked potatoand cucumber these foods all have to be given in small quantities,E.G a slice of appleOR the core, OR a small floret of cauliflower, OR two broad beans would be enough at any one time.You will soon discover what your hamster enjoys and how much your hamster can eat without having tummy upset.  A very special treat would be a raisin or a sultana. These are greatly enjoyed, as is lettice but too much lettice is not good for the hamster.

Wild Greens
Hamsters really enjoy dandelions and groundsel but you have to be especially careful about these - picked by the roadside they could have been sprayed or coverd with car fumes ect.  So unless you can be certain that they are really SAFE don't give them to your hamster.  All greens should be fresh and washed.
To help your hamster grow strong bones and teeth some milky foods can be given.  Some will enjoy milk on its own, others a little cold porrige, a few rice krispies with milk or even bread and milk, all without sugar of course.  Any of these should be removed before the milk sours if uneaten.
Fresh water, preferably in a bottle, should always be avalible.
All species of hamsters may be fed as above, but dwarf hamsters (Russian, Chinese ect) will appreciate the smaller type of seed - millet, budgie seed, foreign finch seed - in addition.   

When you purchase a hamster always make sure that whoever is selling it, handles it.  Never buy a hamster that has been chased into a box or has been caught by wearing gloves so that you are the first person to touch it.  When you get your newly acquired hamster home, place the cage in its intended position, avoiding drafts and direct sunlight.  Leave overnight for the hamster  to settle down and get used to its new surrooundings.  Talking to your hamster will help it get used to your voice.  
Always approach the hamster gently with no sudden moves, so as not to scare it.  If it is asleep, gently tap cage or nest to wake it up, and let it walk out of its nest.  Never just grab the hamster while it is asleep.  You will startle it and it may bite you in fear.  

For the first few times it might be better to removethe first few times it might be better to remove the top part of the cage, if possible, so you can pick up your hamster more easily without having to chase it around the cage.  It is a good idea to place the cage in a large box for the first few times, so that when  you lift the top off the cage the hamster cannot run away.

You can pick up your hamster by placing one hand firmly but gently around its body, with its head pointing towards your wrist and placing it immidiately into the palm of your other hand or you may wish to cup both hands together and lift the hamster up.  Either way is suitible, use whichever you find the easyi
Lift the hamster gently just a few inches from the cage, then if it should jump out of your hands it will not hurt itself.  Speak gently and quietly as you handle your hamster and stroke it gently,  avoid touching its head.  If it struggles to escape your grasp, never tighten your grip as you may hurt it and again it may bite.  Therefore, if it struggles place it back down and a few seconds later try and pick it up again.  Repeat this process until it feels more secure in your hand.  Once it knows you are not going to hurt it and you both become more confident you will find your hamster waiting to come out and be handled.

They also like to sit on your arm held close to your body and cupped with the other hand it makes them feel safe and secure.
It is a good idea not to give your hamster a house for the first few weeks as this can make encouraging the hamster out more difficult.  Once the hamster comes to your voice the house can be introduced should you so wish.
One rule to remember is always makeing sure your hands are clean before handling your hamster.  They cannot see very well so they rely on their sence of smell, so if you have been eating anything nice such as sweets, crisps ect, it may take a nibble on your finger thinking it is something nice to eat!

Finally as a matter of  hygiene always wash your hands again once you have finished handling your hamster.