Bringing Home Your First Dwarf Hamster – 6 Essential Supplies for a Healthy Start
Dwarf hamster keeping is a fun and rewarding experience. Bringing home your very first dwarf hamster can be very exciting for you but, for your new pet, the stress of moving from a familiar environment to one that is completely foreign can be actually life-threatening.
The most important thing that you can do in order to ensure a healthy transition from pet store or breeder to his new home is to minimize the amount of stress your tiny furry friend experiences. The best way to do this is to take the time to purchase supplies and set up his cage prior to his arrival.
Here are some simple tips on what you should get and the best way to set up your dwarf hamster's new home.
Choosing the Right Cage
Of course, the first thing that you will want to consider is the cage. There are three basic choices: an aquarium, a wire cage, or a plastic "habitat" type. While a wire cage may be the least expensive route, it is not always a good choice for dwarf hamsters. These little guys are just that – little -and their fur adds volume, not mass, so they are even smaller than they might appear. This means that they can squeeze through seemingly impossible openings.
So, if you absolutely must get a wire cage, be sure that the wire is of the smallest possible gauge.
Give Him Plenty of Room
Besides the type of cage, you also need to consider how much room your hamster will need. Hamsters are very active creatures and require ample space to maintain good health and a friendly disposition. This becomes increasingly important if you have more than one hamster. Over-crowding can lead to cranky, sickly hamsters and frequent squabbles. Allow at least three square feet for one hamster and add on another square foot at additional "roomie".
Think vertical as well as horizontal when estimating the amount of space you'll need. You can gain a lot of extra room without increasing the amount of floor or counter-space necessary by adding more levels. Additionally, multiple levels give each individual hamster more privacy – something hamsters covet.
Although more expensive, the plastic cages that have connecting tubes and some smaller rooms attached are really your best choice when lodging several hamsters in one cage. Also be aware that there are two sizes available. You'll want to purchase the kind that was originally designed to house mice as the tunnels for the larger ones are too big for dwarf hamsters to navigate easily.
Once you have chosen a cage that both you and your new pet will be happy with, you'll need to decide what type of bedding to provide. For the most part this is a matter of personal preference, but be sure whatever you chose is as dust-free as possible. Pelleted litter or aspen shavings are the most popular choices. You should avoid purchasing litter made from cedar, pine, or corn cobs. These products have been known to cause various health problems in hamsters. Place at least a two-inch layer of bedding over the entire cage floor.
A litter box is optional, but it does facilitate a cleaner, drier cage. Hamsters establish an area or two that they will habitually use as a bathroom. Locate these spots and place a hamster litter box, available at most pet stores, in each location. Fill with material that is naturally absorbent and easy to replace, but do not use clay cat litter. The dust can cause respiratory or digestive difficulties for your pet. Usually, the same material that you used to cover the cage floor works fine. Or you could use pelleted newspaper or hay.
Fresh Water is Essential
Your hamster will also need a constant supply of fresh water. Water bowls are okay, but will often become soiled with bedding and food. Plus they can tip over and dampen the cage bedding. For this reason, a water bottle that hangs on the side of the cage is preferred. Be sure to get one with a metal drinking spout. Hamsters chew – a lot – and a plastic spout will unduly become damaged, creating rough edges that could injure your pet.
Change the water daily and be sure to wash the water bottle thoroughly at least once a week.
Accommodate your Hamster's Need for Seclusion
As mentioned earlier, hamsters need privacy. So it's a good idea to provide a nesting box or other suitable enclosure and some clean paper toweling, tissue or cotton cloth for nesting material. Your hamster will craft a nice cozy bedroom to which he will retreat when tired or in need of some time to himself.
It's very important to be conscientious about respecting your hamster's "alone time". He'll be happier and healthier and, surely, a friendlier and more energetic companion when it's time to play.
Indulge His Urge to Chew
Your hamster's seemingly incessant need to gnaw is not a nervous habit. It is an instinctual behavior designed to keep his teeth trimmed and healthy. That's because his teeth never stop growing. Not providing your pet with some safe chew toys will absolutely lead to his teeth growing into his mouth tissues or will prevent him from closing his mouth properly. Both conditions would affect his ability to eat and eventually lead to starvation.
There are many types of safe wooden chew toys available at your local pet store. Additionally, there are spheres made of flavored, ground calcium. These are useful because they provide a good medium for filming his tea while simultaneously giving him something to play with.
An Exercise Wheel is Not Optional Equipment
Hamsters have an innate need to run. In fact, research shows that hamsters may run as much as 5 miles nightly. That's a lot of laps around the cage floor.
So be sure to provide your furry friend with an exercise wheel. If possible, choose one with a solid running surface. If you must opt for one with rungs, make sure they are very narrowly spaced. Wire wheels with spacious spaced rungs may cause your pet to slip and possibly injure himself.
Consider the fact that your hamster is most active at night and try to find a wheel that is as quiet as possible. Give them a good spin at the store and pay close attention for any squeaks or rattles. If you get it home and find that it is a bit squeaky, try lubricating the axle with a small amount of vegetable oil. Never use petroleum-based lubricants. And never opt for "peace and quiet" by removing the wheel at night. This is when your pet is most active. If a noisy wheel is keeping you awake, consider buying a different wheel or moving the location of your hamster's cage.
Providing a safe and interesting environment is the key to having a pet that is both healthy and playful. But there is no reason to spend a small fortune. Following the simple and affordable hints provided in this article will get you well on your way to raising a vibrant and playful dwarf hamster that you will enjoy for years to come.
Source by Nancianne Beetleman