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Advice please - seriously considering a hamster :)

(22 Posts)
AmericanPastoral Mon 13-Mar-17 15:01:43

Lots of questions.... After much thought we've finally come to the conclusion that we are going to get a hamster and that we will find the room in our small 2 bed flat. It will be worth it as the dds - 7 and 9 - will be so happy. Can you tell me what size cage we should get? Would you recommend a silent wheel? Where should I get these? Where should I look to buy a hamster from? I know it would cruel to get a cage which was too small but what is big enough without being unnecessarily big? A friend has a Syrian hamster and advice from another thread suggested that males are less smelly? Many thanks.

rattieofcarcassone Tue 14-Mar-17 16:57:41

I'm a rat owner rather than hamster owner so I don't know much at all, but one big thing I'll advise about all rodents is to get them from a breeder wherever possible, preferably a family breeder where the rodents have been around children and are well handled. Pet shop rodents usually come from rodent farms, which are not nice places at all!

With rodents the advice on cages is often "as big as you can afford". I do know that the cages that they advertise as suitable for hamsters are often too small, so have a good look online and find out what cage size is most suitable for the type of hamster you are thinking about as I believe that smaller hamsters don't need quite so much space. www.littlepetwarehouse.co.uk/ is great for picking up bargain cages, but check the bar sizing as some will be too big for hamsters. We've had multiple cages from there and they've all arrived quickly, been in good shape and are affordable.

Silent spinners are great wheels, they do 12inch wheels which are great for rats and I'd expect larger hamsters too. They do smaller ones too which are much more affordable.

AmericanPastoral Tue 14-Mar-17 17:58:51

Thanks very much rattie - great advice.

babyunicornvomit Tue 14-Mar-17 18:06:31

I have a hamster - a Syrian. I'd recommend getting a girl as boys do spray a scent around when they want to attract a female which is annoying.
I've had him two years so he's getting on a bit but he's lovely. Wilkinsons sell some great cages in all different shapes and sizes. And silent spinner wheels off Amazon are a lifesaver if your hammy wishes to run ALL NIGHT like mine. The good things about hamsters is they are so easy and low maintainence.
Upfront cost is the hamster itself (£8ish)
Cage and wheel (£40ish)
Food - one bag every 3 months (£2)
Bedding (I use shredded paper so free!)
Then all they need are some fresh food every so often, I usually give him ends of carrots, bits of apple core etc. aka the things I don't eat! Also clean them out every week and always change the water :-)

AmericanPastoral Wed 15-Mar-17 09:54:39

Thanks for all your advice babyunicorn.

A friend has given me a cage - it's 45cm high, 26cm deep and 35cm across. Does this sound big enough? The cage doesn't have a water bottle - would it be fairly easy to get one and fit it?

babyunicornvomit Wed 15-Mar-17 10:09:34

That sounds good to me!
Yeah, water bottles are really easy to get hold of from any pet shop or online, mine is attached with a piece of twisted wire that usually comes with it smile

AmericanPastoral Wed 15-Mar-17 10:28:21

Thank babyunicorn. it looks like this is going to happen!! I just need to work out the best place to buy one now.

rattieofcarcassone Wed 15-Mar-17 14:10:25

That is really not big enough for a hamster, as I said, most commercial cages really aren't suitable for their purpose. Please do some thorough googling as well as asking for advice. I've found a hamster forum here that suggests 70*40 for small hamsters and 80*50 for Syrians:
www.hamstercentral.com/community/housing/66458-rspca-guidelines.html

Nancy91 Wed 15-Mar-17 14:21:20

I would get the biggest cage that you reasonably can, if you don't want a very wide cage you could get a multi level one. Get a silent wheel as the squeaking can drive you insane! And use a water bottle not a dish, they tip them over within seconds. Good luck with the new hammy smile

AmericanPastoral Thu 16-Mar-17 09:29:36

Thanks rattie and Nancy. Any recommendations as to where I should get a hamster? Breeders are supposed to be better than pet shops I believe?

Nancy91 Thu 16-Mar-17 18:46:30

I have heard that pet shop hamsters don't live as long as the ones from breeders. However all of the ones I have adopted over the years started off in pet shops and they all lived mega long lives so I think the most important things are feeding and exercising them properly and making sure you clean them out frequently. Which type of hammy are you going for? Syrian?

crazycatgal Thu 16-Mar-17 19:46:16

Get the hamster heaven cage (available online) it's one of the cages which is actually a good size

rightsaidfrederickII Fri 17-Mar-17 23:18:58

I'm afraid that cage is dreadfully tiny - so tiny that it's far below minimum welfare standards sad.

Zooplus do some absolutely excellent cages which are fab value for money - specifically, the Alaska, Barney and Alexander models (currently £33/£45/£99, free P&P). I have the Alexander (bought when it was on sale at £70, which it frequently is) and it's a fab cage. It's about the size of my coffee table - but we have it in our tiny tiny flat without any issues! Our hammy has clearly enjoyed the upgrade in space too www.zooplus.co.uk/shop/small_pets/hutches_cages/hamster_cages

With regards to wheels, the first thing to know is that the wheel MUST be large enough so that the hamster doesn't have to bend its neck / back to run. If it does have to, then the hamster will develop painful spinal problems. For most Syrians, this means a wheel that is approximately 12" diameter. Karlie Wonderland, Trixie and Silent Runner (not Silent Spinner, which used to be good but aren't any more) are all good choices. When my hamster is running on her Karlie wheel, all I can hear is the pitter patter of feet on wood!

Have you seen Hamster Central? It's a really useful forum with lots of great, specialist advice on hamster care smile

AmericanPastoral Sat 18-Mar-17 17:55:01

Thanks all smile Shame about the cage being too small. rightsaid - a cage about the size of your coffee table sounds very big. I haven't seen Hamster Central bu will have a link - thanks for the tip.

We're thinking of getting a Syrian one - I believe they are the most common? A friend's daughter had one and it didn't look too rodent like...

iloveredwine Sat 18-Mar-17 18:00:41

We have the hamster heaven but don't use the tubes as our boy hamster hides up there and they are a nightmare to get out. Sawdust for the floor and some bedding to make a nest from. He likes some veg most days.

Joffmognum Sat 18-Mar-17 18:17:30

If you can't afford a very big cage, get yourself a large plastic box (as big as a coffee table again), and its also a good idea to fill it with a big chunk of bedding. Some people just sprinkle a dusting of bedding on the newspaper to save money. DO NOT DO THIS :O . Some hamsters are less bothered, but most need somewhere to hide when they are stressed. It also means you'll have to clean out your hamster a lot less, as it will take longer to smell, which will also make your hamster happier, as frequent cleaning seem to stress them out too. I'd recommend keeping a quarter of their dirty bedding when you give them fresh bedding. The wheels need to be bug enough for them not to bend their back, this will also mean they're less likely to fly off. If they dig at the bottom of their cage, they don't have enough bedding. The number one factor for a happy hamster though is cage size.

Joffmognum Sat 18-Mar-17 18:25:39

Also, Id recommend against getting them a ball if you can help it. They're unhygeinic and stress inducing: your hamster can't see very well and bumping into things isn't deliberate sad . What I used to do is every few days I lade some plastic sheeting down, blocked off access to the door and behind cupboards etc with large books and placed the cage in the middle with a way to get in and out. They seem to love exploring and having a sniff about. Getting them back is easy with one, you just wait til they go back in their cage of their own accord, or just chase them into it. Their cage is their safe space, they should go into it if you nudge them. If you can't be bothered to do this, the bath makes a good change of scenery. Just give them a good bolthole for if they're scared.

Joffmognum Sat 18-Mar-17 18:31:50

(Apologies for typos.)

You might wonder why pet shops stock unsuitable cages - I used to frequent petcare forums when researching how to care for hamsters and the thinking is that many people would like a hamster, but are not prepared to buy or allow space for massive cages. Pet shops would rather sell small cages at the expense of the hamster to these people than sell them none at all.

monkeyfacegrace Sat 18-Mar-17 18:35:45

That cage needs putting in a skip. In fact I've been known to buy small cages from car boots and skipping them grin

My hammie is currently in a Savic Hamster Heaven. Anything smaller makes me want to cry.

I've had 18 of the little fuckers and they are loud, smelly and annoying but I couldn't be without them.

PippaH74 Sat 18-Mar-17 18:50:42

We got a hamster for our 7 year old, and got it all set up in his room... just be aware they make A LOT of noise at night, and we had to move the hamster as far away from bedrooms as possible. We hadn't factored this in and was a bit of a shock!

rightsaidfrederickII Sun 19-Mar-17 01:02:51

With regards to cage size - the minimum size usually recommended in the UK is 360 square inches - about 2320 square cm. So, 60 x 40cm is the absolute minimum you should even look at. Note: this is footprint, and doesn't include shelf space. The Americans tend to recommend 450 square inches minimum. In Germany, by law, pet shops must inform hamster owners that the government recommendation is a minimum of 100cm x 50cm www.hamstercentral.com/community/705035-post7.html

Personally I find that hamsters do tend to appreciate having more space, and are much less likely to exhibit stress behaviours (e.g. bar chewing) when they have more space. There are also reports of hamsters that have shown aggression while in a smaller cage and have been perfectly tame once they've been moved to a larger cage where they're less stressed. While a cage the size of a coffee table sounds large, there are few homes that genuinely don't have the space to hold such a cage (our flat is tiny and we manage it....) and the hamster will always benefit more from a bit of extra space than you will...

If cost is an issue, then you can consider making a 'bin cage' - essentially a converted large storage box www.hamstercentral.com/community/diy-do-yourself-hamster-projects/36025-photo-guide-making-bin-cage.html

Hamsters do require more space than people tend to think - for reference, bear in mind that they have been recorded running up to 5 miles in a single night! They're active little creatures, and it's very sad that so many of them are neglected through ignorance and cages that are too small.

There's a good run-down of what a hamster needs from a specialist rescue here hamsterhavenhamsterrescue.weebly.com/hamster-care.html

With regards to species - Syrians are the largest hamsters, and are very common. They're what people often think of as standard hamsters. Ours is 150g and about 5" long. There are also some dwarf species readily available - mainly Roborovskis (small, very fast and difficult to handle but cute) and hybrid Russians (hybrid between winter whites and Campbells) (small, fast, and so prone to diabetes they need a totally sugar-free diet to reduce the chance of their pancreas packing up prematurely). I'd recommend a Syrian if you have children - they're certainly the easiest to handle. We've only ever had females, but some people do say that males are less active and easier to handle than the females.

Syrians are always solitary creatures. If you are looking at dwarves, same sex pairs can be kept, be aware that they do have some specialist housing requirements to avoid territorial fighting (no shelves, two of everything, no tubes, houses with multiple entrances etc. etc.) and can still need to be separated permanently if they start fighting. They also need specialist food - about the best food out there for Syrians is Harry Hamster, but dwarves need Burgess Dwarf Hamster mix (sugar free and easier for little mouths)

Cwtchythings Sun 19-Mar-17 01:13:43

We have a hamster heaven cage too, and it fits on my daughter's desk. We got our Syrian for £10 from a lovely local breeder via Facebook, we got to go and see all of them and have a play and my daughter picked her favourite. I'd maybe hang on to the tiny cage for transport home/to the vets, but agree it would be way too small to live in. We feed Harry Hamster food, with some fruit/veg every other day and the occasional treat of porridge or scrambled egg smile

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