There are several different breeds and varieties of hamster, varying in size and temperament. Typically, hamsters live between two and four years, although some may live for longer.

Hamster Fact File

There are five different hamster species often kept as pets: Roborovski, Syrian, Campbell’s Dwarf, Chinese and Winter White Russian Dwarf hamsters.

Syrian hamsters should be kept alone as adults will fight, however Dwarf hamsters can be kept in female-only pairs or groups.

TIP: Hamsters are “crepuscular” which means they are most active during the twilight hours.

Hamsters enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables, and they like to bury their food. Give them smaller portions to minimise the amount left to decompose and remove uneaten food daily.

Hamster pens should be cleaned every week to maintain a healthy environment.

Did you know? Hamsters can have up to 24 babies at a time!

Settling in a new hamster

1. Let them get used to the cage

When you first take your hamster home, give him a day or two to get used to the new surroundings without being disturbed, but check regularly to make sure he/she is behaving normally and has everything he needs. 

2. Help the hamster get used to you

Start talking quietly to your animal so that he gets used to your voice. The next step is to introduce your hand into the cage and perhaps offer a treat. In time, your animal may climb onto your hand, but be patient.

It’s important that you handle your hamster regularly to build his/her confidence and maintain your relationship with him, but do this for only a few minutes at first. If your hamster is clearly distressed, do not handle him as he could bite.

3. Handling your new hamster

Never wake your hamster up abruptly to handle him – this could frighten your animal and he may react by biting you. It’s best to handle your hamster in the early evening when he is naturally awake. 

Handle your hamster over a table or close to the floor in case he falls out of your hands. Children should be closely supervised by an adult when handling a hamster. Your hamster should always be handled gently and patiently so he learns that you are not a threat.

Hamster shopping list 

Hamsters need ample space to run and play, and the actual floor space of the cage is important for this. In general, many cages marketed for hamsters are too small. Aim for a minimum of 24 inches by 12 inches, and at least 12 inches tall.

Other things will include:

- Toys
- Tunnels
- Sawdust
- Water bowl
- Food bowl
- Water bottle
- Pellet based food
- Bedding
- Nesting bedding
- Hamster ball or wheel

What is it like to have a pet hamster?

Hamsters are excellent escape artists, so it is worth checking for holes in walls and floorboards if you are going to let your hamster roam at any point.

Tunnels, hamster balls and wheels are great for hamster enrichment. These items can be bought online or at your local pet store.

SEE MORE: Caring for your Guinea pig