IMPORTANT INFO TO CONSIDER - TOPICS:

 

IS A HAMSTER THE RIGHT PET FOR YOU?       ARE YOU READY FOR A HAMSTER?

ARE YOU CARING FOR YOUR HAMSTER CORRECTLY?

Hamsters can be incredibly rewarding pets and some even assist the human with depression and anxiety (often referred to as "Heart Hamsters")                                                               

HOWEVER, please make sure that you are indeed ready for the commitment required to have a hamster as a pet.

  • They are NOT the low-maintenance or “starter” pets that they are often perceived to be.

  • It can be quite EXPENSIVE to set them up properly with the correct equipment, but relatively inexpensive once you have the most important items.

  • DO YOU HAVE THE SPACE for the correct sized setup? You cannot keep a hamster, no matter which species you have, in a cage that is too small or you will end up with a hamster so frustrated that s/he will be chewing on the bars, and some are even known to chew through the tray to escape to bigger pastures. If you cannot afford the correct housing, save up for it! If you are not going to be bothered with finding the correct housing, think about whether or not you have the necessary dedication for such a pet.

  • Regular spot-cleaning and proper daily feeding will also be required to keep them healthy, so you need to consider your available time for this.

  • MEDICAL TREATMENT by an exotics veterinarian may be necessary at some stage during the hamster's life. Will you have time and funds to do this?

  • NIGHTLY playtime and interaction will also be required in order to keep your hamster happy, as well as using the opportunity to give little health checks.. Once again, do you have the time.

We suggest that you read all the main topics BEFORE you get the hamster (or before you make adjustments for the little one you already have)

so that you don’t waste your hard-earned money on the incorrect items. 

HOWEVER, BEFORE YOU GET OVERWHELMED WITH SO MUCH INFORMATION,

REFER TO THE IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS BELOW AND THEN

BEGIN WITH THE STARTER LIST PAGE FOR THE BASIC ESSENTIALS.

While not all pet shops are completely bad, please be very weary of outdated advice from most!

It may  also be handy for you to print our BASIC CARE SHEET to take with you when out shopping for the little one,

to remind you of the do's and don'ts.

DOWNLOADABLE BASIC CARE SHEET:

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If, after viewing all the criteria, you are certain that a hamster is the right pet for you, please ask your local rescue organisations, shelters, and adoption groups first when it comes to getting the actual hamster.

Rather adopt than support the trade of selling hamsters and small animals out of pet shops. 

We have provided links on the ADOPTIONS page to some of the groups and organisations.

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~ Picture by Jasi Ting Ting Ho

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HOUSING HAMSTERS TOGETHER? NEVER!!!!!!

WARNING: NEVER KEEP MORE THAN ONE HAMSTER PER CAGE! !!!

Our species of hamsters in SA are very solitary and territorial once they reach adulthood and NEED to live alone.

And if you have a male and female together, THEY WILL BREED (from as young as 4 weeks old)! 

If you currently have more than one hamster in the same cage, please separate them immediately!

BOTH SPECIES OF HAMSTER AVAILABLE IN SA NEED TO LIVE ON THEIR OWN (Syrians and Hybrid Dwarfs). Any pairing/grouping will most likely end up in fighting resulting in injuries that will require expensive veterinary attention, or even death. Syrians are notoriously solitary, and all of our dwarfs in SA are Hybrids (cross-bred) and can therefore also NOT be kept in groups of pairs!  

Even if your pair/group appears to YOU to be companionable, the situation will undoubtedly be causing one or all to live with extreme stress, resulting in health issues and misery. Our hamster species are solitary and territorial once they reach adulthood. Furthermore, pairing a male and female together will result in multiple pregnancies - THE FEMALE CAN FALL PREGNANT AGAIN WITHIN MINUTES OF GIVING BIRTH TO ONE LITTER, and this is not good for her health nor to the subsequent litters!

Do not feel bad about them being on their own…they prefer solitude.

If you want three hamsters, get three separate setups!

PLEASE REFER TO THE PAIRING/GROUPING TOPIC FOR MORE DETAILS

 

You may see babies together in a pet shop, but this is because they are still babies and will hopefully be separated into gender-specific groups at 4 weeks old to prevent breeding and inbreeding. By the time they are 8 weeks old, all should have been separated into their own individual habitats.  Unfortunately, pet shops are not always very accurate in identifying genders and age (or they don’t bother) so, if you see older hamsters housed together, be warned, you may end up taking home a pregnant hamster and will need to accept the responsibility of ensuring their health and re-homing (or sufficient individual housing if you intend to keep all).

For further explanation, please read about the different Species of Hamster.

 

NEVER EVER INTRODUCE SEPARATED / UNFAMILIAR HAMSTERS TO EACH OTHER!

They will NOT become friends and the fight will result in SERIOUS INJURIES OR DEATH!

 
 

DO NOT BREED YOUR HAMSTERS!

A reputable breeder will have a lot of knowledge, experience, time, equipment and space to breed responsibly and properly. Besides the fact that there is very little profit in selling hamsters, it is blatantly irresponsible to purposefully allow two hamsters to have babies without such in-depth experience and setup, since the resulting babies usually suffer health issues as they grow, as well as shortened lives.

Breeding hamsters without knowledge is extremely dangerous since you will need to know how to identify certain lethal gene carriers in order to prevent eyeless/blind/deaf offspring, and other deformities and fatalities. 

We currently do not know of any experienced responsible hamster breeders in SA.

Aside from the above cautions, animal rescue groups are always inundated with hamsters looking for good homes after they have become unwanted and abandoned or neglected because the owners lost interest after realising that they actually require a fair amount of maintenance and care, or they cannot take care of the babies that are the result of ignorance.

 

It is therefore utterly unnecessary and irresponsible for more "backyard" breeding in this country!

PLEASE REFER TO THE BREEDING TOPIC FOR FURTHER DETAILS

If you land up with an “OOPSIE” litter, please ask for further advice on our Facebook group , and please separate males and females at 4 weeks old to prevent more litters and inbred babies.

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CHILDREN AND HAMSTERS

We do not recommend them as pets for children younger than about 10 years old since they can be too excitable, causing the hamster to be stressed, or not yet understanding of how to be gentle enough with these little creatures. Even at that age, there has to be a really interested parent who is willing to supervise that the hamster is being carefully handled and correctly looked after. You also need to be aware that hamsters are NOCTURNAL so not always suitable for young children who will mostly be asleep while hammy is awake. Furthermore, children more often than not lose interest in such a pet that cannot always be played with and should be returned to its habitat after only 20 minutes per play session, or they may get nipped by the hamster and then be put off giving attention and taking care of it. And then what if the hamster turns out to be a "Ghost Hamster"? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmfCN0zicOk) Your child will for sure get bored, or be bitterly disappointed.

- In such situations where interest is lost, the adult who initially purchased the hamster will need to accept responsibility for the health and happiness of the animal for the remainder of its life.

However, each child is different so you can weigh up the considerations about getting one for the specific child.

Furthermore, because children under 5 years of age do not have fully developed immunity systems, they are at risk of contracting the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (also called LCMV) from a hamster (or other rodents). Anyone can contract LCMV, particularly from dodgy pet shops where a hamster has become infected, but young children and immune-deficient adults are particularly susceptible.  Although the risk is quite low in SA we still advise that, if you insist on getting your young child a hamster/rodent, you make sure an adult watches them closely when they’re around or playing with pet rodents; don’t let them kiss pet rodents or hold them close to their face; and make sure they wash their hands with soap and water after touching pet rodents.   https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/lcm/index.html

 

Hamsters are ultimately not ideal pets for young children, and we recommend that parents rather consider 2 or more rats (of the same sex, of course), since these are a lot more sociable and interactive at any time of day or night. Furthermore, they do not run away and disappear like hamsters will during free-roaming playtimes. 

THE 5 WORST, AND 3 BEST, PETS FOR SMALL KIDS (that aren't cats or dogs): 

https://www.babycenter.com/609_the-5-worst-and-3-best-pets-for-small-kids-that-arent-cats-o.....

 

SPACE & COST!

  • Consider your space. You will see on the CAGES & HOUSING page that the kinds of cages sold in 99% of our pet shops in South Africa are totally inadequate and are only suitable for travel purposes. It is incredibly cruel to keep a hamster permanently in these cages!

  • Do you have the space and a suitable spot to place a 4000 to 6000 cm2 habitat? Do you have the funds to purchase a suitable habitat, or the means/skills to customise something else as a suitable habitat?

  • And, since you cannot keep hamsters together in one habitat, do you have even more space for a large habitat for EACH of them if you want/have more than one?

  • SETTING UP IS EXPENSIVE and can cost you anything from R1000 to R3000 per hamster! However, once this is done, it is relatively inexpensive to maintain a hamster (approx. R200 to R350 per month, excluding veterinary costs when/if necessary). Note that hamstering can become addictive, so you could be spending lots more on treats and other delights, but our DIY Stuff page has plenty of things you can make yourself, including treats under the Recipes section, that can save you lots.

 

LIFE SPAN

We still hear of people being very upset when their beloved hamster passes away after having it for “only 2 years”. Sadly, the reality is that this IS the average life span, so you should be prepared.

The lifespan of hamsters is getting shorter and shorter. In the previous century and early 2000’s, hamsters were living to an average of 3-4, and even 5 years. However, since they have become such popular pets, many people and most pet shops continue to ignore updated advice and, with bad breeding situations occurring at an alarming rate, the lifespan has reduced to 18m to 2 years over the course of the last decade in South Africa! Sadly, this statistic will only continue to get worse.

Please refer to the Breeding and Pairing/Grouping topics. 

We can only suggest that you enjoy every precious moment with the little one that you do get, and anticipate the average 2 years (for now).

Hamsters that reach old age will need special care and nutrition (See the Life Stages topic)

 

MEDICAL PROVISION FOR YOUR HAMSTER

If you are still of the mind-set who say they won’t bother taking a hamster to a vet, PLEASE DO NOT GET A HAMSTER! Just because they are small, does not mean they don’t suffer like your dog or cat would!

 

Hamsters do not require vaccinations or regular vet trips but they are prone to certain illnesses and ailments that are not treatable at home. Being fairly delicate, any sign of illness will mean a trip to an exotics vet for treatment IMMEDIATELY.

As prey animals they do not show symptoms of illness until they are very ill. Therefore, as soon as symptoms show it is classed as serious and hamsters can die within just days of you noticing an ailment or injury. Allowing them to suffer to the end without assistance by way of veterinary treatment or euthanasia is extremely cruel.

 

An Exotics Pet Vet will be required if your hamster ever has an ailment. Find out who your nearest recommended such vet is, and keep the contact details on hand.

Unfortunately, most regular vets only get very basic training on how to diagnose and treat small exotic animals, even though rodents have become increasingly popular as family pets over the past decade!

See our Vet Directory page that lists some exotics vets around the country that have been recommended to us.

 

Exotic vets are NOT CHEAP, so be sure to build up and set aside some kind of a ‘fund’ to ensure that you will be able to afford treatment fast!

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “WAITING UNTIL PAYDAY” IF YOUR HAMSTER GETS ILL OR INJURED!

 

If you are living in a small town where no such vet is available, you may need to be prepared to travel further afield, or find the contact details of an exotics vet and ask your regular vet to refer to this specialist for advice. In the case of an emergency, please make sure you have transport to get to your nearest city, even after hours. If you do not have transport, or budget for a long-distance Uber ride, perhaps you need to reconsider getting a hamster at this stage.    

If, after reading the above, you are confident that a hamster is the right pet for you,

proceed to the STARTER LIST page to get an idea of the essential basic items you will need.

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