Hamster Guide

Buying & equipment

As archetypal loners, hamsters feel no need for company of their own kind. It is much more important to provide plenty of opportunities for exercise to keep these small rodents active. You should therefore set up a large cage with a wheel and plenty of obstacles to climb before your new hamster moves in. 

Checklist for initial equipment:

  • Large cage with horizontal bars for climbing. Note: The bars should not be spaced too far apart, otherwise the hamster may escape! 
  • Food bowl for seeds and grains 
  • Rack for holding greens and hay 
  • Water bottle with fresh drinking water or VITA Fit® Aqua drink
  • A salt lick to provide important minerals 
  • A wheel for your hamster's nightly exercise regime 
  • A sleeping box where your hamster can rest during the day 
  • For building a nest: Hay and natural cotton material, such as Vita Verde® and Dreamy soft bedding for hamsters
  • Soft, absorbent litter e.g. Comfort classic from Vitakraft
  • Main food, e.g. Vitakraft Menu Vital
  • Vitakraft Kräcker® sticks, to keep your pet busy and wear down its teeth

Tips for buying a hamster

Hamsters can be found in almost every pet shop or bought directly from breeders. Animal rescue centres also often have hamsters looking for a new home. Since these small rodents become active at dusk, it's best to go looking for one in the late afternoon or early evening hours. At this time, hamsters will be awake and you can observe them more easily. When buying a hamster, make sure that it is at least 4-5 weeks old.
Tip: It's a good idea to ask the pet shop assistant to let you have some used nesting material from the sleeping box. You can put this in the hamster cage you have set up at home and the familiar smell will help your new pet to settle in. 

Signs of a healthy hamster: 

  • A smooth, glossy coat 
  • Lively behaviour 
  • Clear eyes 
  • A dry nose 
  • A clean behind

The right spot for your hamster's cage

Hamsters sleep for almost the entire day and their cage should therefore be placed in a quiet spot away from draughts and direct sunlight. Hamsters must also be protected against large fluctuations in temperature.

An adventure playground for hamsters

Hamsters are expert climbers with almost acrobatic abilities. You should therefore give your imagination free rein when kitting out your hamster's cage – the most important thing is to satisfy you pet's urge to climb. In addition to the bars of the cage itself, hamsters love clambering over untreated branches or running up and down wooden ladders. However, you must also keep your pet's safety in mind: if the hamster suddenly lets go – which hamsters tend to do – it needs to be able to fall onto something soft.

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Caring for your pet

Creating a natural environment

As archetypal loners, hamsters feel no need for company of their own kind. Although they can sometimes be kept together without problems, even hamsters of the opposite sex will not usually be interested in each other outside of the mating season and will prefer to go their own ways. If you do keep more than one hamster, you should at least provide a safe area where the animals can be kept separately if disputes occur.

Golden hamsters in particular are usually kept individually because they do not tolerate others of the same species. Dwarf hamsters have a more easy-going attitude and it is often possible to keep several animals in one cage.

Grooming

Short-haired hamsters do not need any help in caring for their fur. The fur of long-haired hamsters should be checked at regular intervals for dirt and tangles and can be groomed using a soft brush. Important: Hamsters come from a dry desert environment and must not be bathed!

Cleaning the hamster cage

You should clean in and around the hamster's cage on an evening when your pet is awake. Rinse out the drinking bottle and food bowl using warm, clear water. Wipe clean the floor of the cage once each week using a damp cloth and fully replace the sawdust. The cage also needs a thorough clean once every month: rinse the entire cage and grille in the bath using warm water. However, you must never use strong household detergents!

Diet

The perfect diet

Hamsters originate from desert and steppe environments where food tends to be in scarce supply. They often have to search throughout the entire night to find enough suitable food and their diet is made up of plants, seeds, fruit and insects. It is particularly important for hamsters to have a certain amount of animal and vegetable proteins in their diet as these proteins provide the small "long-distance runners" with the energy they need.

Our domestic hamsters are also particularly active animals who need a lot of energy for running, climbing etc. To ensure that they stay fit and healthy, hamsters therefore need a specially tailored diet rich in high-quality proteins and vegetable fats. Vitakraft's perfect diet concept is designed to meet the specific needs of hamsters and ensure their diet includes everything they need for a long and healthy life.

Food types:

Main food: 
A main food such as Menu Vital covers your hamster's basic nutritional requirements

Roughage: 
Roughage is high in fibre. Since fibre requires a great deal of chewing, it also cares for teeth and keeps your pet occupied. Roughage foods include for example Vita Verde® Alpine meadow hay or Vita Verde® Nature plus hay mixes with dandelion or chamomile

Kräcker®: 
These tasty nibble sticks have a number of different functions. Hamsters have to work to get food just like in the wild, which keeps them busy and is good for preventing boredom. Nibbling on the hard Kräcker® sticks also wears down the constantly growing teeth and helps keep them healthy.

Treats: 
Snacks such as Drops are primarily a form of reward, although they also help to tame your pet and create a bond

Nutritional supplements: 
Pet food supplements, such as VITA Fit® Vitamin C drops or VITA Fit® C-forte help to keep your pet strong and healthy. They meet the specific nutritional needs that can arise during certain stages of life, e.g. during periods of growth or after illness. They may also be beneficial for particularly active animals. 

Feeding tips: 

  • Provide a varied diet
  • Provide succulent food such as fruit or freshly planted Green-fresh on a daily basis 
  • Watch out for mould: regularly clear out the food that your hamster has hoarded, remove wilted greens on a daily basis
  • Make sure that your pet has access to fresh water or VITA Fit® Aqua drink at all times
  • To wear down their teeth, hamsters need something to gnaw on, such as Kräcker® sticks 
  • To provide the vital minerals and trace elements that your hamster needs, hang a salt lick in your hamster's cage, such as VITA Fit® Sel-plus

Behaviour & familiarisation

Behaviour

Golden hamsters tend to prefer a solitary life and are therefore best kept alone. In contrast, dwarf hamsters have a more easy-going attitude and it is often possible to keep several animals in one cage.

Hamsters: nature's hoarders

Hamsters are the master hoarders of the natural world: anything edible will be pushed into their pouches and taken back to their store chamber. This behaviour is vital for survival in the desert wastelands in which hamsters originate. In a domestic environment, however, you will need to check your hamster's storage area for perishable food, such as fruit, on a regular basis.

Hamsters are also nocturnal by nature and do not crawl out of bed until dusk. They therefore require absolute peace and quiet during the day. Once awake, hamsters are extremely active and spend their time running around, climbing and searching for food. They will also enjoy playing with you and are a great deal of fun.

A new member of your family

During the first few days, you should disturb your hamster as little as possible so that it can get used to its new surroundings in peace. Its cage should therefore be properly set up before the hamster moves in. Once your new pet has recovered from the stressful ride home, it will start to explore its new surroundings and begin busily collecting material to build a nest.

Making friends with your hamster 

Once your hamster has settled in a little, you can start to get it used to your presence. The best time for this is in the evening, when the hamster is at its most wide awake. The quickest way to gain your pet's trust is to hold out a small treat, such as a Kräcker® stick, in its cage. Your hamster will soon be nibbling away and will become used to the smell of a human hand. Soon afterwards, you will be able to give it a few gentle strokes.

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