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How To Care For a Pet Hamster

Since the first hamster was tamed in the 1930s, these adorable animals have been popular pets around the world. Here’s how to keep your hammie happy.


  • TIP: Make sure that your hamster’s cage isn’t near your bedroom—he will probably run on his wheel all night long!
  • Step 1: Hamsters crave nightly runs on their exercise wheels. Put an exercise wheel in your hamster’s cage and make sure he can use it easily. Get one made from solid plastic, not wire.
  • TIP: Hamsters are nocturnal—they sleep during the day and are awake at night. To avoid nips, don’t wake your hamster suddenly, and try to play with him on his hours.
  • Step 2: Get your hamster used to handling by holding and stroking him for a few minutes each day. Once he’s tame, you can let him play in a safe, enclosed area outside the cage. When you put him back, make sure his cage is securely closed—hamsters are fabulous escape artists!
  • Step 3: Call a small-animal vet if your hamster has dull or runny eyes, matted fur, respiratory problems, or diarrhea.
  • FACT: Hamsters like to eat crickets.
  • Step 4: With his bright eyes and bustling ways, your new pocket pet will be a great friend once he gets to know you. Have fun with your hamster!
  • Step 5: Hamsters love lots of hiding places to play and to sleep in. Try empty coffee cans, shoeboxes with doors cut in, overturned flowerpots, and cardboard tubes. Give him clean paper towels to shred for a nest.
  • Step 6: Give your hamster clean, fresh water every day. Hamsters don’t drink a ton of water, but it should always be available.
  • Step 7: Line your hamster’s cage with plenty of hay, shredded paper, or “pellet-type” bedding.
  • TIP: Not all hamsters like to live in groups. Syrian hamsters (including golden and teddy bear hamsters) must live alone. Dwarf hamsters, on the other hand, enjoy living together.
  • TIP: Don’t use cedar or pine shavings, which contain chemicals that can be harmful to small animals.
  • Step 8: Feed your hamster store-bought hamster food, which contains various types of seeds and cracked corn, and offer him small amounts of fresh greens and vegetables each day. Don’t be scared if he stuffs his face—hamsters use their cheeks to carry food and bedding.
  • Step 9: Hamsters’ teeth grow continuously throughout their lives. Make sure they have plenty of untreated wood to chew, and offer a dog biscuit periodically as a treat.
  • TIP: Remove uneaten fresh food daily or it will spoil.
  • Step 10: Before you bring your hamster home, do your homework! There are many types of hamsters; some friendlier than others. Hamster books and magazines are available at most pet stores, and there are many online sites, too.

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