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Hamsters are rodents and cuddly pets
A zoologist discovered a family of rodents that we call hamsters, in the Syrian desert about 70 years ago and brought them to the marketplace.
Today, hamsters' friendly nature has made them one of America's most popular small pets. It's important to learn how to fulfill the special needs of these cuddly creatures. By learning about their native habitat, you can mimic those living conditions, just like you would enjoy some of the comforts of home if you traveled to the other side of the world! Here are a few tips, and some sources for more information of how to care for your cuddly companion animal -- the hamster.
Set up HouseWhen putting together a hamster's home, consider the hamster's natural habitat. In the wild, hamsters live underground, and search in the darkness of night for food. Domestic hamsters still prefer the "night shift," so it's best to house them in a quiet, dimly lit room away from drafts, direct sunlight, and noisy animals. Avoid the colorful plastic rodent homes sold in pet supply stores, as they are difficult to clean and offer easy escape routes. A 10 gallon aquarium is a good starter home for your hamster. Line the bottom of the tank with plain white paper, and add dry hay or shredded white paper for burrowing and nest-building. Avoid using cedar shavings, which can cause respiratory problems.
Give Hamsters PrivacyAlthough hamsters enjoy your company, they are less friendly to their own kind. They are solitary creatures who must be kept in separate quarters. In their native habitats, they come together only to mate and will most likely fight if they are forced to share space. Even hamsters housed in quiet rooms still need hiding places to feel secure. Empty tissue boxes and cereal containers can perform double duty as both gnawing toys and hiding places. Hamsters may harm their internal systems if they eat soft plastics.
Stock the Hamster PantryHamsters have high metabolisms and should have constant supplies of food and water. To avoid spills and maintain a clean drinking supply, attach a water bottle with a metal sipping tube to the side of the aquarium.
Keep Hamsters OccupiedIn their native habitat, hamsters have to travel great distances to find food, so they need lots of exercise. Exercise wheels provide hamsters with activity, but they should not be the only source of physical activity. Provide the hamster with chewables such as a dog biscuit or pesticide-free twigs from beech trees, maples, willows, hazelnut bushes, or fruit trees; these will also help keep the animal's front teeth worn down.
Practice Clean HousekeepingHamsters can be cranky if disturbed during their daytime sleeping hours, so it helps to clean, feed, and hande your hamster in the late afternoon or evening. Be sure to clean the hamster's bathroom space every day. Hamsters like to collect stockpiles of perishable food, so check and clean these out, as well
The Humane Society has great information on how to care for hamsters and other pets: www.hsus.org
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