Keeping a hamster is very simple. All you need to do is clean the cage at least once a week removing the wood shavings and wash the base. Every month you have to completely wash the cage including the frame, using some disinfectant that can be brought in pet shops or some bleach or Blue fairy is good. Change the water bottle once a day (Well I've forgotten now and then). Unchanged water can become contaminated with germs and make your hamster ill. Do not be worried if you see your hamsters eating their faeces, this is copraghory and is important in the digestion of celluose.(Do not try this, this was designed for hamsters). Do not bath your hamster, it could get a cold, hamsters can clean themselves and will not smell if you change the bedding and wood shavings enough. But you can if you have to wash them in luke warm water under Veterinary guidance. Remember that all Metal Wheels should be covered with card on the exterior to prevent the hamster little feet getting trapped. Everyday the food bowl must be cleaned to prevent build up of germs and fresh food should be removed after being in the food bowl for two hours regardless if your hamster has eaten any.
Choosing a Cage
There are many types of cages available on the market today. In my opinion I would say that the fancy colourful cages are not necessarilly the best type of cage. I would try to get the largest cage you can afford with your money because this will pay towards the happiness of your hamster. Always buy your hamster a wheel (a metal wheel preferably), water bottle and one or two bowls for food or water or even fresh greens. Provide fruit tree branches to gnaw on. Here is a list of all the cages and my experiences with them. Please remember this is my opinion.
Metal barred cage
The metal bar cage is the most common hamster cage. I would recommend this type of cage to first time hamster owners of Syrian Hamsters The base is easy to clean, but the metal frame of the cage is harder to clean. The door for the cage if placed sideboards can be easily pushed open as done by many hamsters in the past. In these cages it is easy to see that a hamster is stressed because it will constantly try to nibble at the bars of the cage which can be helpful. My own personal rating for this cage is 8/10. I have also noticed with smaller dwarf varieties of hamster the can squeeze out of the bars. So for smaller hamsters of the dwarf varieties it is best to purchase a plastic/glass tank.
Habitrail Tube cage
This type of cage is attracting to the eye and can be furnished to your hamster personality. They provide a lot of fun for hamster and keeps their burrowing nature with them. The cage is plastic safe to my experiences. However the tubes are too small for the full grown syrian and the cage is not gnawproof. The cage has small hole for airflow at the top. Because the cage is enclosed in this way it acts as a greenhouse to the hamster. It is known that this type of cage because it has less ventilation than the metal cage, it can be smellier. This means it has to be cleaned a more often. Also this cage is only designed for Syrian hamsters. I have also noticed with my hamster is that my hamsters use the solarium as a food burrow, This is great because it is just like a hamster burrowing. I have mixed feeling because some hamsters I have had enjoy living in the cage while some prefer glass aquariums. My personal rating is 5/10
Rotastak Tube Cage
The Rotastak cages are similar to the habitrail cage, but the units to the cage are circular. This to me is a big disadvantage to the hamster because a hamster love corners to hide in, excrete in and use them as landmarks due to their bad sight, but this cage has no corners, therefore the hamster will get very confused and stressed. After all the disadvantages, this cage is easy to clean and can be upgraded with other units. The cage is good because it has more ventilation than the habitrail cage, and can be stacked easily. I also noticed that the water bottle is very small, but adequate meaning you have to ensure you have a good routine in topping up water. My personal rating for this cage is 4/10. Circular cages are ban in most of europe so it is advised to avoid all circular cages.
Glass or Plastic tank
This cage is a popular and fairly cheap type of cage. It will provide the hamster with as much fun as the metal cage. The cage is gnaw proff and can be obtained in all sizes. I find that all my hamsters like this caging best. I think if all the cage is funished it can be just as interesting as some of the pre-designed toys. Plaforms can be made and all sorts of objects. The Hamster has quite enough ventilation from the top, and shavings can be topped up heavilly to provide more fun. Tanks are easy to clean if a tray is developed inside the actually tank. I give this cage 10/10.
SAMS Tubes Cage
At a glance I was not too impressed because of the wire floor with no regard to the fact hamsters have the practice of cophagophy. I think that it is best to remove the wire mesh floor as I have been informed you can do with this cage. I like the fact that for habitrial users the cage can be attached on because the tubes are similar. I really need to purchase the cage and try it on my hamsters to see how they like it.
Ferplasts range of cages seem an excellent choice for any hamster owner. They have cage specifically designed for dwarves which have proved a great sucess with my own hamsters. The cages are fairly cheap to buy and are fairly large which helps to keep your hamster happy. They are made mainly of plastic with metal grids for ventilation. They are simple to clean and have deep trays so that litter can be supplied genorously. My personal rating is 10/10.
Although they don't need a castle, hamsters
do need a clean, safe home. There are numerous types of cages in various
sizes, styles and prices available. Sometimes the most expensive may not
be the best. Before purchasing a home for that special hammie, check them
all out and make a determination on what will best suit the type and size
of hamster. Don't neglect to consider the site it will be located - will
it easily adapt to the household's lifestyle?
One would naturally want to put a castle on display; but select the site carefully. It should be located in an area where the temperature remains stable, with no drafts and away from direct sunlight.
Whether it's glass or plastic, a 10 gallon aquarium is suitable for one Syrian or a pair of dwarfs. Although the glass is heavy, they are easy to clean, but there is limited area for toys. Plus, a top is required. There are screen tops available at most pet shops; but the wire is much better. It doesn't take an ambitious hamster very long to chew through the screen. (A little longer if the metal screen is used.) With a good cover, aquariums are nearly escape-proof.
The old standby that's been around for years. The primary problem with most of them in the past is the lack of space; however, now with the two and three stories available, there is plenty of room to roam. Just make sure there is not a lot of space between stories in case of a fall. Most of these cages have a plastic tray bottom that is detachable and easily cleaned. These generally work well for Syrians; but most of the bars are too far apart for dwarfs. (Remember, if a hamster can get it's head through, the rest of the body follows!) There are cages made for mice that have the bars closer together that are suitable for dwarfs.
These allow the imagination to run wild. The tubes and compartments can be hooked together to increase the space, as needed. They are ideal for dwarfs. The primary concerns are the lack of doors to get the hamster for much needed personal contact and the lack of ventilation in the tubes themselves.
The imagination becomes the blueprint. Cages can be made with a combination of wood and hardware cloth (or wire) - the wood sections may have to be replaced periodically because hamsters like chewing on wood. Another effective and inexpensive cage is one made from plastic storage boxes, with a wire top. The plastic boxes are also easy to clean.
Regardless of the type of cage selected, make sure all the doors and openings are secure so that the adorable little escape artist can't open it or chew his way out! But, make sure that the doors and openings are large enough for a full grown hamster to get through. (When it is suppose to.) Also, be sure there are no spaces large enough for him to squeeze through - wherever the head goes, the tail will follow.
Also look for a cage that will be easy to dismantle and clean. It should not be constructed of any absorbent materials such as soft woods. If there is paint on the cage make sure it is lead free.
Ventilation is extremely important - there must be a flow of fresh air, but not a draft. In aquariums be cautious of a build-up of condensation, which could enhance the growth of fungus resulting in a sick hamster.
Check closely for sharp edges, which could be chewed or cause an injury.
The royal hamster family doesn't require real elaborate furnishings. They are perfectly contented with a clean carpet of wood shavings (do not use cedar shavings), some exercise equipment, a clean bowl full of food and a water bottle with fresh water. For a little added comfort, some nesting material for the bed is appreciated. Some plain toilet tissue or paper toweling makes a bed fit for a king! (Do not use Fluffy Bedding.)
Wheels are always a favorite for exercise; however, it is recommended that solid wheels be provided. Wheels should be large enough that the hamster can run with ease without arching it's back. Injuries are frequent in wheels with rungs - limbs, babies' heads, etc. are easily caught in the rungs sometimes causing fatal injury.
Other possible furnishings are ladders, see saws, tunnels made out of toilet tissue tubes, houses, nest boxes, a block of wood to both climb on and chew, ropes to swing on, etc. There is a never-ending list of ideas for furnishings and toys to keep that special hammie happy.
CLEANING THE CASTLE:
Basically, hamsters are clean animals and do appreciate a clean house. (Any odors being emitted from a cage are generally from dirty bedding - not the hamster!) Once a week the cage should be thoroughly cleaned. Dismantle the cage and remove the old bedding. If there are urine build-ups, they should be scraped off. All parts should be washed with an antibacterial soap, rinsed good with warm water and dried. If the hamster has been sick, do a second clean with diluted household bleach (5 to 10% bleach/water mix) and rinse until all bleach odors have dissipated. And, don't forget the outside bottom of the cage especially if it is sitting on a solid shelf with no air circulation under it - this is a good breeding ground for bacteria.
Another method for a quick sterilization is to wash with the antibacterial soap and rinse thoroughly. Shake as much remaining water out as possible, pour in a small amount of Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol, cover the entire surface with it and dry with a clean towel. As with the bleach, make sure there are no remaining alcohol odors before reassembling the cage and putting the hamster back in.
It's also a good idea to clean the water bottle, food dish, wheel and toys at the same time. Add fresh bedding, the remainder of the furnishings, put the hamster back in and watch a happy contented hammie!!
WET CAGES AND NEW PUPS DON'T MIX!!
Occasionally a water bottle leaks, or some other disaster occurs, which leaves a cage unhealthy for both Mama hamster and new pups. Although the rule of thumb is not to disturb the nest for at least the first ten days, there are exceptions to every rule. Since hamsters, by nature, are clean animals they do appreciate a clean dry house.
When changing a cage with new pups, move slowly and talk to mama and daddy in a soft reassuring voice.
Dwarfs are generally quite tolerant. The most effective method of completing the task of providing a dry cage is as follows. Put a small amount of fresh bedding in a bucket or container for Mom and Dad. Gently remove them from the cage - they may be a little agitated because they are feeling the need to protect their newborn pups.
If necessary, scoop them up with a coffee mug and place them in the bucket or container. Now, a soup bowl works great for the pups. With both hands, gather up as much of the nest as possible along with the pups. (Make sure none of the bedding in the nest is wet.) Place the nest and pups in the soup bowl and proceed to clean the cage.
Clean bedding, lots of toilet tissue for new nesting material, fresh water and food and a treat for Mom and Dad, such as a slice of apple, will prepare the cage for the return of the family. First put the nest and pups back into the cage - in approximately the same location Mom had them in. Then put Mom and Dad back in near the food and apple slice, which should keep them preoccupied while the pups are getting resettled.
Mama may carry the pups around and generally will relocate the nest. Don't disturb them any more - give them time to determine that all is well on the home front and they can settle down in their now clean dry house and care for their pups.
Not quite as tolerant as Dwarfs, Mama Syrian is more reluctant to leave her pups. With a wet soiled cage, she has probably already found the driest place for the nest and pups. If she doesn't want to get off the nest, just leave her for the time being. Take all the equipment out of the cage and start scooping out the wet bedding. Start in a place farthest from the nest. Some Moms will get curious and leave the nest to come investigate. If she does, gently scoop her up and put her in a bucket.
If she refuses to leave the nest, work around her as much as possible. As long as the nest is dry, don't disturb it but remove all the soiled bedding around it. (If the nest is wet, it will be necessary to remove both Mom and pups. The same applies as with the Dwarfs. Put Mom in a bucket and the pups in a soup bowl.) After the bedding is removed, dry the cage thoroughly with a clean towel and add fresh bedding, food, water, toilet tissue for additional nesting material and a treat for Mom.
If Mom is waiting impatiently in a bucket, return her to the cage. Put her in near the treat. (If it has been necessary to remove both Mom and the pups, put them back in the cage first in approximately the same location.) Go away and don't disturb her. Let her investigate and make sure everything has been done properly and her pups are safe and sound.