FAQs About Hamsters

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Hamsters

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  • How can I tell a male apart from a female?

    With adult hamsters, the difference is very easy to see: the female has a round rear. The rear of the male, in contrast, is rather extended and ends in a point. With younger animals, the difference is not as marked. The best way to tell is to look at the distance between the anus and the vent. This distance is larger with males than with females.

    The least stressful way of determining the sex of your hamster is to place it on a clear surface, for example in a transport box made from transparent plastic or on a glass table, enabling you to check the animal from below without having to turn it on its back.

    A practiced pet supplies retailer or breeder can identify the sex of a hamster particularly quickly and reliably, so you know straight away what sort of a name you have to look for. Some Pauls will eventually be renamed Paula.

     

  • How did golden hamsters become pets?

    In 1930, a professor found a hamster warren while on an excursion with his students to Syria, as it is known today. After having dug up the hole, they found a female hamster with a number of babies in the nesting chamber, which was located 2.4m below ground. There were probably between eight and twelve of them – nobody can be sure any more.

    That's how golden hamsters made their way to the University of Jerusalem, where they were then bred. They multiplied so quickly that some of the animals were very soon passed on to other universities and research institutes, for example to the UK and America.

    Nowadays, there are millions of hamsters throughout the world. Due to targeted breeding, they can often look very different from each other. There are tabby, black, white, cream-coloured or mottled varieties, the long-haired teddy hamster and many others. As different as they all may look, they all have one thing in common: they all descend from the animals that were found in Syria in 1930.

     

  • Why do hamsters have cheek pouches?

    Because they're very practical: hamsters have two cheek pouches which are located to the left and right of the mouth as large, stretchable skin pockets.

    If the hamster finds large amounts of food, it will stuff its pouches full in order to take the food back to its home. Once there, it will empty its pouches by stroking over them from outside with its paws. This hoarding of stocks makes a lot of sense in the wild because the hamster then doesn't need to get hungry if it cannot find anything to eat outside.

    Hamsters kept as pets don't really need to hoard, as they are given their food every day. Nevertheless, they retain this behaviour – it is innate.

  • How does the hamster learn to use the exercise wheel?

    Most hamsters will learn to use the exercise wheel all by themselves. Should they not get it immediately, you can help your hamster to get started, by simply placing it repeatedly into the wheel. Eventually it will take a couple of steps and understand the point of the exercise wheel.

    If you do this, however, you should be careful and not force things in any way, for example by blocking off the exit or turning the wheel when the hamster is in it. On the one hand, the risk of injury would be too great, on the other, the hamster would get anxious. It will remember that later –  where possible by avoiding the wheel entirely in future.

    Some hamsters can't get used to a running wheel, however, despite all your best efforts. You should then provide other opportunities for them to exercise, such as a range of climbing activities for example, and, of course, you should also let them run free regularly.

     

  • Why does my hamster gnaw on the frame of the cage?

    Hamsters will occasionally gnaw on their cages, for example when insufficient other options are available to them. As rodents, hamsters are always on the look out for something hard to gnaw on – including to look after its incisors, which are constantly growing.

    Hamsters should therefore always be given something healthy on which to nibble and gnaw in their cage. Delicious Kräcker® sticks are ideal. Fresh twigs, for example from fruit trees that have not been sprayed with pesticides, are also very good for satisfying the hamster's gnawing urge. Gnawing also helps against boredom, which is another possible reason why the hamster might gnaw on its cage. Any kind of activity is important: opportunities to climb, an exercise wheel and, above all, lots of space.

     

  • Should a hamster be allowed to run free in the garden?

    We are often asked whether people should allow their hamster to run free in the garden, as you can do, for example, with rabbits and guinea pigs. It is certainly possible; however, there are some things to bear in mind if you do.

    As golden hamsters come from warm desert regions, they should naturally only be let outside in warm weather. In addition, the ground must be absolutely dry. If not, the hamster would be uncomfortable and, what's more, could also catch a cold.

    In addition, most hamsters are very agile runners. It is better therefore not to allow them to run free outside, but in a small enclosure. One practical option is simply to place the top of the cage on an even piece of land. There, the hamster can run and sniff around to its heart's content. Last but not least, a hamster should never be left unsupervised as it might dig underground burrows for itself from which it won't be so easy to get it out again.

     

  • What nesting material should I give my hamster?

    In the wild, hamsters gather all kinds of dry grass and leaves etc. together to line the sleeping chamber of their nest.

    You should also therefore make nesting material available to your pet hamster for its sleeping box. Of course, different hamsters may have different preferences. The softest and most snug is naturally the Dreamy soft bed for hamsters, which is pure cotton and preferred by most animals. Anyone wanting to be completely sure should at the same time offer their hamster Vita Verde® Alpine meadow hay and Comfort Golden straw, for example. It won't take long for the hamster to drag the material it prefers into the sleeping box. Some hamsters also happily combine and use the hay, in the first instance, and then the cotton for the inside.

     Apart from this, the hamster will need no help building and lining its nest. All you need to do is place the material in the cage – the hardworking rodent will do the rest all by itself.

     

  • What can I do about my hamster making noise at night in its cage?

    Golden hamsters are active by night and their rhythm cannot nor should it be changed. The best thing to do, therefore, is to offer the animal activities that are not too noisy, such as fresh branches for climbing.

    An old exercise wheel that is beginning to squeak a little can be quietened with a couple of drops of cooking oil. You should not remove the wheel however; if the oil is having no effect, replace it with a new one. The wheel gets the hamster moving – and that's something you shouldn't prevent it from doing. Gnawing, too, naturally leads to noise. This, however, cannot be avoided. Sensitive hamster owners should therefore remove the cage from their bedroom at night, if necessary.

     

  • What should I do when bringing home a new hamster?

    Anyone buying a small hamster should observe certain rules to make it easier for the animal to settle in.

    You can make a start by placing a little straw from the old hamster cage at the pet supplies retailer or breeder in the transport container. The familiar smell will calm the animal. Once back at home, you should put the transport container in the pre-prepared cage, so that the hamster can freely enter its new dwelling. Initially, it will naturally be rather unsure. Everything is unfamiliar: the new cage, the smells etc. In the early days, you should therefore remain very restrained. The best thing is simply to leave the animal in peace. Only once the hamster has slept, eaten in and fully inspected its new home should you start trying to get it used to you, for example by letting it sniff at your hand or offering it a treat by hand.

     

  • How can I help my teddy hamster to look after its fur?

    Hamsters are tidy animals that clean themselves regularly and thoroughly. Teddy hamsters, however, can often be a little overwhelmed with looking after their fur and need a little help. Small tangles may sometimes form in a teddy hamster's long, silky fur. These must be removed, as otherwise they could grow bigger. Gradually, the animal's entire fur would tangle and the hamster would no longer be able to clean itself alone.

    Smaller knots can usually be brushed out carefully, while larger ones need to be cut out with scissors. To prevent the hamster from being injured during this, it's important to proceed very carefully.

    Note that pelleted Farmer´s Strohstreu provides particularly practical bedding for long-haired teddy hamsters, because it doesn't stick to the fur.

     

  • Hamsters like to dig burrows. Can we let them do that too?

    In the wild, hamsters dig long underground burrows and small shelters. Burrowing is therefore in the nature of these animals. In most hamster cages, however, while the hamster may be able to scratch around a little, it cannot dig really deep. A sandbox can help in such cases, and give the hamster variety.

    In principle, with a sandbox, you just need a high box containing material in which the animal can really burrow. Sand is very suitable for this, but you can also use pet bedding, dry leaves or unprinted scraps of paper. To make things more interesting, you can even mix or layer different materials. Treats concealed within them will serve as a reward for the hardworking hamster.

    Depending on the size of the hamster cage, the sandbox can be set up inside or outside.

     

  • Do hamsters need their teeth looking after?

    Hamsters have incisors that grow permanently. To shorten and sharpen the teeth, your pet always needs something to gnaw on. Because, if the teeth grow too long, the animal may have difficulty in eating. In such cases, only a vet can help you, who will be able to shorten the teeth.

    Products such as delicious Kräcker®sticks that the animal really has to gnaw on to get its food are ideal for the dental care of your pet. In addition to allowing the hamster to look after its teeth, it is also kept appropriately entertained.

    Hamsters will also happily nibble on wood. To prevent them from nibbling on their cage, from time to time you can give them fresh twigs, for example from fruit trees. But remember: do not use twigs from trees that may have been sprayed with pesticides or are located at the side of the road. The chemicals and pollutants would not be healthy.

    And what's more, there is also nibbling wood inside Kräcker® . You can therefore leave the gnawed off Kräcker® in the hamster cage – your pet will happily sharpen its teeth on it.

     

  • How do I keep my hamster entertained?

    Golden hamsters are intelligent and skilful little animals that use these abilities in the wild to look for food.

    If a hamster being kept as a pet is not to get bored, it needs some things of interest to keep it entertained. The hamster cage, for example, should be equipped with lots of opportunities for climbing. Suitable options include branches and twigs from deciduous trees. An exercise wheel also allows your pet to keep active.

    And all hamsters like a sandbox: in the wild, hamsters can dig burrows which are several metres long! A small tray or case filled with straw or sand will enable it to really get to work.

    Looking for food, too, can offer the hamster variety: to help with this, you can spread the food around the cage and, on an exceptional basis, not use the food bowl. Or you can place a treat so that the hamster has to stretch for it, such as in the upper branches of the climbing tree.

     

  • Will a golden hamster kept alone get lonely?

    Golden hamsters are solitary by nature. When two unfamiliar hamsters meet each other, they will in most cases immediately start to fight, in order to drive the rival off their territory. It is sometimes possible to keep two female hamsters – two sisters, or a mother and daughter – together in a single cage. In such cases, however, you will need a lot of space and, ideally, two sleeping boxes and food bowls.

    Golden hamsters, however, are most settled if they don't have to share their home.

    Hamsters, therefore, are unlikely to suffer from loneliness, but they can become bored. Having something to do to keep them entertained is very important for the small rodents. The hamster cage should therefore be equipped with lots of opportunities to climb and an exercise wheel. This includes a daily run and something delicious to gnaw on, for example a Kräcker®stick.

     

  • How does the hamster cage stay clean?

    Compared to other pets, hamsters create very little mess or soiling. But even if the hamster cage is looking really clean, you should clean it thoroughly once a week because in a dirty hamster cage, bacteria might multiply. If the hamster uses a rodent litter tray, you just need to clean that and can wait for a few more days for the rest of the cage. Uneaten succulent foods should, however, be removed on a daily basis.

    To clean the hamster cage and tray properly, you should use soapy water. Inside the clean hamster cage, you can then apply a thick layer of Comfort classic bedding. A natural product made from untreated soft wood, it absorbs odours and moisture. Pelleted Farmer´s straw litter provides particularly practical bedding for long-haired teddy hamsters. It does not stick to the fur, making it easier for the hamster to clean itself.

     

  • How do you pick up a hamster correctly?

    Lifting up a hamster is actually quite simple. To ensure you don't hurt your delicate animal, however, or stress it unnecessarily, you need to know how to do it properly.

    Until a hamster is tame, the best way to lift it up is with a aid of a small container or cardboard roll. Out of curiosity, it will willingly go in or let itself be pushed in. A tame hamster will mostly even climb on to the hand of its owner by itself, as it knows that it's now time to play or have a run. Once the hamster is sitting on the surface of your hand, you can secure it with your other hand, holding it over him like a shelter.

    You can also lift a hamster up by its neck fur. This will not cause it physical damage, as its skin is very stretchy. However, this will often cause hamsters to fret or become rather angry. If you don't want to lose the trust of the hamster, you should not use this method.

     

  • Can hamsters be washed?

    In the wild, golden hamsters live in a dry location and never bathe there. The animal’s silky fur would become completely soaked and only slowly dry out again. And after all, you can't simply dry off or a delicate hamster with a towel or hair dryer. Plus: when a hamster is wet, it gets cold very quickly. Hamsters should therefore never be washed.

    Incidentally, there is also no reason to groom a hamster, as it can take care of its fur completely without any help. Teddy hamsters can be brushed carefully from time to time with a very soft brush.

    If the hamster gets dirty, there's nothing to worry about: it will wash itself and quickly be clean again. In the worst of cases, the dirty hair has to grow out. With long-haired animals, you can carefully cut out dirty or knotted hair.

    If the hamster's rear becomes dirty, this will mostly be a sign of diarrhoea. In such cases, you should certainly seek the advice of a vet.

     

  • Can I wake my hamster during the day?

    Hamsters are by nature animals which become active at dusk, only waking up in the evening to leave their hideaway. Our hamsters may no longer be wild animals, but they still retain many of their original characteristics. As every hamster has its very own character, however, some of them will start to wake in the late afternoon, others not until the evening.

    The best thing is to respect the natural rhythm of the animal. If you continually awaken a hamster prematurely, this will cause it stress, which is very unhealthy and can even shorten the animal's life. The hamster cage should therefore be placed in a peaceful location during the day.

     

  • How much food does a hamster need?

    Just like with people or other pets, the amount of food a hamster needs depends on a range of factors: large, strong animals eat a little more than smaller, more delicate ones. Likewise, an active hamster that, for example, spends a lot of time running in its wheel, needs more food than a more sedentary animal. Older hamsters too may start to require less food.

    In principle, we recommend around 10 to 15g of main food, such as Menu Vital for hamsters, as well as hay and fresh water. Besides this, you can treat your hamster with snacks such as Mini Carotties. These are not just a delicious reward, but also provide the hamster with vitamins. The popular Kräcker® sticks are also very practical, as the hamster has to work harder to get its food, as it would in the wild.

     

  • Why do hamsters hoard?

    Hoarding is in the nature of hamsters. In the wild, this behaviour ensures that the animal has something to eat, even in hard times. Hamsters kept as pets demonstrate the same behaviour, although of course it is not necessary.

    When gathering food, hamsters make no great differentiation. Anything edible is carried back to their hideout in their practical pouches. Should this be fruit or vegetables, after time this can begin to rot or get mouldy. With this in mind, the hamster's cage should be "searched" daily for old stocks. Greens should be removed, while dry food can remain in the den. You should also regularly check the sleeping box, as many hamsters like to hide their stocks there.

     

  • Why doesn't my hamster like fruit and vegetables?

    In the arid native habitat of the golden hamster, there is very little fruit. Its diet there consists predominantly of grains and maybe the occasional insect. Hamsters do not therefore need to eat large quantities of fruit or vegetables. These foods do however provide variety and supplementary vitamins to the hamster’s diet. Fresh fruit and vegetables also have a high water content and therefore provide a good, healthy alternative for hamsters that do not drink much water.

    You don't need to worry about a hamster that doesn't like to eat fruit. All you need to do is make sure your pet always has enough water to drink. If necessary, you can feed your pet vitamin supplements.

    And what's more, each hamster has its own very special preferences. Before giving up, therefore, you can easily try out different kinds of fruit and vegetables. Eventually, you're sure to find what every hamster likes to eat.

     

  • What does a healthy diet consist of?

    Healthy food created specifically for hamsters is the key to giving your hamster a long, healthy life.

    Like all pets, hamsters are descended from wild animals. Over time, wild golden hamsters have evolved a certain way of eating and living. Nature should therefore always be the model when feeding pet hamsters.  

    A balanced mix like Vitakraft Menu Vital caters to the natural needs of the hamster, providing all the essential nutrients it requires. Besides this, hamsters also need hay, for example VitaVerde® Alpine hay, as well as succulent foods such as apples, pears, cucumber, carrots or potatoes. Because hamsters are, by nature, used to investing a lot of time, strength and energy into finding their food, when kept as pets they need something to substitute for this; otherwise, they may become bored and lethargic! Original Vitakraft Kräcker® sticks are ideal for this purpose because chewing on these delicious sticks makes the pets work harder to get their food.

     

  • Can hamsters eat chocolate?

    Chocolate is not the right thing for a hamster to eat. It can make them fat and lethargic. In addition, it can be dangerous if the hamster hides a piece of chocolate in its cheek pouch – there, the chocolate will become soft and stick to the pouch.

    Of course, however, hamsters should still have treats. The Vitakraft range contains lots of products that are both delicious and healthy, including Mini Carotties, Lofty´s and Drops. You can use such treats to reward or attract your hamster. Timid animals, for example, will get used to humans a lot more easily if given treats. In addition, even a hamster likes a little variety in its diet. Succulent foods such as apples, pears, bell pepper and cucumber are also good treats.

     

  • Does a hamster need water?

    Hamsters, too, need to drink regularly. A drinking container therefore forms part of the basic equipment of any hamster cage. You can use a small, stable water dish, for example. As this will very quickly get dirty, however, and the water may need to be changed several times a day, it makes more sense to place the dish in a somewhat raised position, for example on the sleeping compartment.

    More practical is to use a special hamster drinking bottle, in which the water will remain clean and the hamster's cage dry. Hamsters master how to use this drinking bottle quite instinctively.

    In such a bottle, the water can last for several days. However, its contents should be changed daily or, at the latest, every second or third day, because bacteria and algae can multiply in stagnant water. Another drink that we recommend for hamsters is the Vitakraft Aqua drink.

     

  • My hamster is overweight, what should I do?

    A mature golden hamster will weigh between 140 and 180g. You can weigh your hamster simply and safely using postal or kitchen scales – provided you make sure it doesn't jump off them! The safest way is to weigh your hamster in a transport or cardboard box: first of all, weigh the animal in the box and, after that, just the box. The difference between the two weights will then give you the weight of the hamster.

    If the hamster really is overweight, you can reduce the amount of food you give it – but only slowly and by a little, to avoid digestive problems. About 10g of Menu Vital, for example, is a normal daily portion. Besides this, the animal still needs succulent food and hay, even if it's on a diet.

    The most important thing, however, is that the hamster gets plenty of exercise. It needs to run freely, have sufficient opportunities to climb and "fitness equipment", such as a running wheel.

     

  • Why does the information on the packaging sometimes differ to that given on the website?

    We may occasionally change the recipe of our products for example, to comply with legally prescribed changes, or to make the food even more tasty for the animals. Such changes in composition naturally mean that the packaging in question needs to be revised. It can also be the case that new provisions in the laws governing pet food apply only to the food declaration, while the recipe remains unchanged. The product packaging will be changed in this case too.

    While we are able to update online information very quickly, including changing pictures where necessary, it takes longer with retail stores, and for a time, you will often find both the old and new recipes, as well as the old and new packaging, available in stores.

  • Sugar in hamster food? Is that allowed?

     

    Did you know that most Vitakraft products for rodents are manufactured using sugar-free recipes? In fact, 95% of our main foods contain no added sugar!

    To be able to consider sugar and its importance objectively, however, it is first important to be aware that there are many different types of sugar. Those generally known include fructose, dextrose and lactose. In addition to having different origins, they also have different chemical structures. Sugar is naturally present in virtually all foods, as it is the natural product of the photosynthesis of plants and is required as a source of energy by all living creatures. The sugar is either consumed directly or released by other carbohydrates during metabolism. The hamster's natural food also contains a certain proportion of sugar, for example in plant roots, herbs, vegetables and fruits.

    If, for reasons of principle, you would like to use only food with a sugar-free recipe, Vitakraft offers an enormous selection! No sugar is added to most Vitakraft products, particularly those fed in larger quantities; the main foods in other words.

    If sugar is used – which may sometimes be necessary, for example for technical reasons – we pay very close attention to ensuring that the sugar content/overall amount consumed is kept low and appropriate. In addition, our recipes and the raw materials and types of sugar we use guarantee easy digestibility.

     

  • How big should a hamster cage be?

    As big as possible! Hamsters like to move around a lot. In the wild, they may cover large distances in search of food. It is therefore vital they are given plenty of opportunity to exercise. The bigger the space available to do this in, the better.

    The floor space of the hamster cage should therefore offer plenty of scope to run. The equipment, too, needs to be suitable for a hamster, so that the animal has a secure home. Climbing branches, a second level and a running wheel, for example, can all provide the necessary variety and exercise opportunities.