WEATHER COMFORT TIPS
Ideal room temperatures: 19 - 24 degrees Celsius (65 - 75 deg F)
HOT WEATHER CONDITIONS (SUMMER)
Summers in South Africa can be brutal! During extreme heat when you notice your hamster taking strain (not curled up in its usual sleeping spot, sprawled flat on top of bedding, or in a plastic tube, labored breathing, lethargic, etc.) If your hamster does not appear to be recovering from prolonged heat exposure, after you have applied some of the cooling methods, please get him/her to an exotics vet quickly (See Vet Directory)
NEVER have the cage situated in direct sunlight regardless of any weather conditions! Your hamster is locked in a cage and cannot move to another area, like it would in the wild.
Keep the curtains in the room closed to keep some of the heat out, particularly when the sun is shining through that window. You can open them again to let the cool night air in once the sun sets.
A fan is good to help circulate air but be sure that it does not blow directly into the cage as the draught could make your hamster ill. Aim it to blow just past the cage, or if you cover one side of the cage with a cloth, you could set the fan on its lowest setting and aim it at the cloth.
WATER reminder: Please get into the habit of checking the spout of your water bottle every time you look at the cage. Spouts often get plugged and water flow stops! If possible, have two water bottles on the go, or an additional small water bowl (you could even place an ICE CUBE in the water during extreme heat).
MOSQUITOES can also be a nuisance in warm weather and can bite your hamster. See the Health & Medical page for repellents and remedy.
YouTube vid by Erin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzSYxi6E8JE
...and try one or two of these COOLING TIPS:
ICE BLOCK JARS with metal lids are actually safer to use than ice bricks since they cannot be gnawed. Simply place ice blocks inside, close the lid, place in the bedding against the nest and they should stay cold for quite a few hours, and the hamster can even sit on the lid if it's a wide jar. You could also place water into jars or bottles (no more than 3/4 full to allow for expansion during freezing, and leave the cap off while freezing to prevent the glass from cracking) and that block should last even longer.
Your hamster may enjoy licking on some nice cold ice blocks to help cool himself down from the inside during extremely hot weather.
A MINI AIR COOLER is ideal for placing near your hamster habitat on hot days.
Quite a variety to choose from at reasonable prices (R200-R700).
Note that they are not really air conditioners, as some advertise, but more like personal space coolers, which will be fine at your hamster zone.
Do not aim it directly at open wire/bar fronts or cages as it could be too cold.
Available from places like Game and Makro, or online via Takealot:
Read the reviews before you decide on which one will suit you. Some of them, like the Milex brand, also seem to leak quite badly.
DIY COOLING PAD #1:
DIY COOLING PAD #2: Fill a few shallow wide flat glass jars with metal lids (or stainless steel containers) 3/4 full with water, replace lids and freeze. Use jars/containers with a surface size big enough for your hamster to lie on. Place the closed frozen tub on a saucer or in a small bowl and place on a level, or work into the bedding material so that the lid is just above the surface….the saucer will catch the water condensation. Your hamster may pull out some cool figure skating moves!
DIY COOLING PAD # 3: When unglazed terracotta/clay plates and bowls are soaked in water, they tend to stay cool. In this cooling pad system, which is probably safer than #1 and #2 since there will be no actual water in the habby, a bowl shaped plant pot is filled with damp sand. A suitably sized drip tray (soaked) is then pressed into the surface of the sand to form the platform on which the furry one can recline and cool down. The tray can be lifted for the sand to be sprayed damp again, which will help keep the pad cooled. Choose a bowl/dish and tray/plate that your hamster will fit comfortably on.
CLAY PLANT POT: Unglazed terracotta/clay pots tend to stay cool too (soaked or not) and one can simply be placed on its side in the corner of the habby for your hamster to lie in.
DAMP SAND: If you don't want to make a cooling pad, a simple shallow bowl of damp (not wet) sand could also be favoured by the hamster to lie on to keep cool....and to have a nice cool dig in. As the surface dries, simply spray with fresh water to dampen again.
COLD MUGS: Keep 2 or 3 ceramic mugs in your fridge (Syrian owners will have to find beer mugs or use the plant pot method :D )
Place a cold mug, with some torn-up 1-ply toilet paper inside, somewhere in the cage and show it to your hamster. Alternate the mugs a few times a day during heatwaves.
COLD TILES: Same as with the mugs, just use ceramic tiles. Syrians may prefer this, since they can’t get their big bums into a mug!
Don’t let your hamster come into direct contact with these – it’ll freeze those little fingers in a flash; and if they chew and puncture the thawed out brick, that oozy inner gel stuff will pose a health threat. You could wrap it tightly in a towel, but then we worry about the towel being chewed and the threads posing a danger. Sigh. It is therefore safer to pack the ice bricks on the outside of the cage around the base or next to/under an external tube to cool the area.
Hopefully one of these ideas will help to keep your hamster from melting this summer!
NOTE: Don't leave wet stuff (cooling methods that contain water) in the habitat overnight, and do check regularly to see that the ham isn't chewing it broken, particularly plastic containers....you don't want any leaks that will cause the cage to get wet.
Sand coolers should also be removed overnight when the temperatures drop to a more comfortable level, and to let the sand dry out and not become a manky bacteria trap. If you want to reuse the sand several times but worry about bacteria, you could
re-wash and re-sterilize in the oven or freezer every now and then (obviously if your ham has pee-ed in it, toss the whole lot out).
COLD WEATHER CONDITIONS (WINTER)
On the flipside of summer, winters are also brutal in some parts of SA and your hamster will be inclined to stay snuggled
in his nest more than usual in order to avoid the cold.
Note that your hamsters’ fur may turn lighter in winter. Some dwarfs will turn almost white either all over or from the lower stripes down. This is normal and he will darken again in summer.
Do not be tempted to put clothing on your hamster! Not only could you hurt him in the process, but it will stress him out.
STATE OF TORPOR: If the room gets too cold (below 15degC), the hamster can go into torpor (similar to hibernation). This is a fairly natural reaction, which allows the hamster to raise it's body temperature and the state can last for an hour or longer, with the hamster bringing itself out of it once he is warm again. However, if the state of torpor lasts too long they can pass away unless they are brought out of it in time so, ideally, you should prevent this from happening at all, and bring him out of it asap if you suspect this is happening. Do not wait to see if he comes out of it on his own!
Some people find their hamsters in a state of torpor and assume they have crossed over the Rainbow Bridge and bury them. Please make sure that your hamster is officially dead before you bury him/her! If you find him/her seemingly dead during a cold spell, check:
Is he still breathing slightly? Hold the back of a metal teaspoon close to his nose and mouth. A little spot of "mist" may appear, indicating breath.
Is there a heartbeat (although this may be so slowed down that you can’t detect it)?
The whiskers may also twitch a little.
Is he still limp? A dead hamster will develop rigor mortis within half an hour of passing and become stiff. However, they can become a little "hard" from being cold, and will be cold to the touch, so do try to warm him up before declaring him as passed away.
He will be unresponsive to your calling and touching, and may feel cool to the touch, but you will need to bring him out of torpor gently and slowly by warming him up:
Hold him against your chest and gently cup him (your own body heat is probably the safest temperature), or place him on a blanket on top of a warm bottle (not boiling) or heating pad.
Rub his back gently until he starts responding.
Keep him warm until he’s fully responsive and then ensure that his cage/room stays warmer. This procedure could take an hour or longer and he may seem quite drowsy for a while afterwards.
Offer him some warm (not hot) food and/or water to help him warm up from the inside too.
By Victoria Raechel - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzEIPphVvYU
and Erin's Animals - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o66s2INAAGI
TIPS TO ENSURE THAT YOUR HAMSTER STAYS WARM during the cold months:
Make sure the cage is not in a draughty zone. If possible, move the cage to the warmest room in the house.
Keep curtains closed when the sun starts setting.
Provide a little bedroom if he doesn't have one already (a cardboard box, or Pringles tube with the foil lining ripped out, will do).
Supply extra nesting material (shredded 1-PLY toilet paper and Carefresh).
Sand can get very cold in winter. You could consider swapping the sand in a large sandpit for coco peat instead, which is much warmer.
Wire cages: Cover 3 x sides and the top of your open wire cage.
Since many hamsters will chew a blanket or towel, you may want to cut up a cardboard box to fit the sides and top instead. (However, covering the sides and back of an open wire cage does make the hamster feel more secure than being exposed 360deg all the way around anyway.)
A hamster that is used to a fully open cage may be alarmed by the sudden enclosure, in which case you should start by covering one side at a time until he gets accustomed to the covering.
Alternatively, you can simply cut a piece of cardboard to fit slightly larger over the top of the cage and drape a warm blanket over it.
Glass tanks can also be surrounded with cardboard at the back and sides or a blanket can be attached with double sided tape for extra warmth.
You may even want to consider lining the back and sides on the inside with cork or thin cardboard, since glass can be extremely cold, but it is not necessary to make such linings go all the way to the top...just the main activity height.
A bin cage can be partially covered or wrapped with a blanket.
HEATING PADS work best to take the edge off the cold within the habitat and bedding substrate. These are used UNDER a cage/tank/bin for a few hours every evening or the whole night, depending on the wattage of your pad and what your habby base is made of.
A 25W pad is the best recommended and usually fine to leave on throughout the night with tanks and wood habbies (even 24/7 during the coldest months), but you can test how long you can/want to leave it on with your particular habby.
Never cover the entire span of the habitat - your hamster should be able to move to a cooler spot if necessary. A small 350x200mm pad is usually sufficient for a section in many cases but, if you have a particularly large habitat, the 350x350 would work better.
Do not put the pad directly underneath the bedroom box/nest area as this could make the hamster too hot, forcing him to move and then possibly get cold outside.
Never put the pad inside the cage.
For flat bottomed habitats that don't have "feet" or a gap underneath, simply place/glue 1.5-2cm high blocks/strips of wood or polystyrene to create the space to slide the heating pad under.
Foil heating pads for reptiles are relatively inexpensive and available at most pet shops that supply for exotic reptiles, and even hydroponics shops ("seedling heaters"), or available online:
Obviously a HEATER in the room works well.
To ensure that the air does not dry out too badly from these devices, we suggest placing a bowl of water near the hamster's habitat.
Reasonably priced heaters (under R400 in 2021) with thermostatic controls, and not too heavy on electricity, are available from places like Game and Takelot, e.g.:
The Milex Nanotec Wall Plug Heater is ideal for small rooms (4x5m), or to place near the habitat, but not directly blasting against it.
The Mellerware Swiss 2000W Floor Fan Heater is excellent for larger rooms, and heats the space quickly.
A HOT WATER BOTTLE (“electric” or water) can also be placed on top of the cage, under the blanket to create warmth within the cage/tank/bin, but do make sure the hamster cannot reach it to nibble broken.
Fresh food that is slightly warm will be more comforting than icy cold food directly from the fridge. Warm oats porridge, scrambled egg, baby food, etc., and some pellets from the dry food mix soaked in warm water, will be welcomed.
STORM & FESTIVITY NOISE
Please note that, like your cats and dogs, your hamster can also become frightened by loud bangs and flashes during thunder & lightning storms or firework festivities. High stress and anxiety can lead to severe health issues faster than you can imagine, the most common of which is wet tail and, sadly, most hamsters die from this ailment. If you are in a zone that is prone to such storms or a neighbourhood that is prone letting off fireworks (Guy Fawkes, Diwali, New Year’s Eve, etc.), or near to the "legal" let-off sites, here are a few
TIPS TO MAKE SURE YOUR HAM FEELS SAFER:
Shut the windows and draw the curtains in the room.
Make sure the ham has a good hidey spot to make him feel more secure.
A simple little cardboard box with just one entrance hole is perfect but the thicker the walls, the better. Wooden boxes work well too.
Put a good amount of stripped 1-ply toilet paper inside.
A spoonful of hamster mix and a piece of cucumber inside will ensure he won’t be hungry or thirsty in case he becomes too frightened to leave during the noisy time.
Place the box in a corner and cover with as much bedding substrate as possible to dull the loud bangs.
During firework times, move your cage to a quieter side of the house if you can.
Cover the cage with a thick blanket that will also help to dull out the loud bangs, but remember to leave a space open for ventilation.
Check in on him regularly to see that he’s still OK, but don’t disturb him until the noise is over. Speak calmly and stroke him gently if he is out of the hideaway and looking anxious, but don’t take him out of his safe cage in case he gets startled and flees to even more terror.
Please report any illegal firework activity to your local SAPS or Law Enforcement Office. Take care!
HAMSTER BONDING BAGS are available in different patterns from Jadi's Pet Haven:
083 894 4476 firstname.lastname@example.org
A BONDING SCARF/SNOOD/BAG can be very useful to comfort your anxious hamster, or when it is ailing or cold.
Also useful in the taming process to allow your hamster to become accustomed to being close to you without too much initial handling
Unfortunately, there is no longer a known maker of the SCARF/SNOOD, but you could attempt to make similar yourself out of a snood or hood from an old sweater. Get creative!
Some pet shops are stocking this herbal mixture for cats and dogs as a calming remedy.
It contains HIGH quantities of Valerian and is therefore not deemed safe for smaller animals.
~ Per the supplier's response to queries:
"Truthfully, we have not conducted any test for our product on small pets. It is safe for cats and dogs as long their vets approve.
We have not heard of any clients asking about Happy Cat for Hamsters, Guinea Pigs or Chinchillas. For safety purposes, I would not recommend it's use for small animals."