Fact or Fiction?
With so many sources offering conflicting advice about hamsters, it’s difficult to know what’s right and wrong. Here Hamsterama aims to settle any disputes into facts and fiction.
-Dwarves can be kept in groups
This is true. Dwarf hamsters are very sociable animals, and thrive in pairs and colonies. It is however recommended that a colony/pair is made up of littermates, as dwarves that have known each other from birth are more likely to get along.
-At 28 days of age hamsters can become sexually mature
Just when you thought they were still babies themselves, they go and have their own babies. Hamsters mature at a remarkably young age, so hamsters should be separated into different sexes before this age. If you are breeding, you should wait until the female is at least 3 months old before any mating happens. An immature and inexperienced mother is likely to eat her litter and die younger due to the strains of giving birth at such a young age.
-Hamsters can be neutered
It is possible to neuter a hamster. But since they are so small, the operation can be tricky, and there’s always the risk that the anesthetic will kill them so neutering is not really recommended. It’s far better to get two same sex hamsters than getting a male and a female and neutering one of them.
-Syrian hamsters have the shortest gestation period of any mammal
Absolutely. Syrian hamsters are pregnant for only 16 days. The babies are born naked with their eyes shut, but are weaned at around only 28 days old. Dwarf hamsters are pregnant for a little longer than Syrians, with pregnancies lasting between 19-21 days. The exceptions of the dwarves are the Roborovskis, who have a gestation period of 30 days.
-All hamsters can suffer from ‘Wet tail’
‘Wet tail’ is characterized by watery diarrhea from the anus. (See the health pages for more information.) It is commonly thought that only Syrians can suffer from ‘Wet tail’, but actually dwarves are at risk too. If you suspect your hamster has ‘Wet tail’ take it to the vet immediately as an untreated hamster will usually die within 48 hours.
Wire wheels are perfectly safe
They are absolutely not safe. When running on a wheel with gaps between the spokes, your hamster’s feet could become trapped, causing it serious injury. If you have a wire wheel, weave cardboard between the spokes until you can buy a solid wheel.
Absolutely not safe.
Hamsters love having a bath
Splashing around in the water may sound like fun to you, but to a hamster, it’s a nightmare. They are aqua phobic, (scared of water) and if given a bath, they would become very cold quickly. They may also develop pneumonia as a result of the cold. If your hamster smells, it is because you are not cleaning the cage often enough. As an alternative ‘bath’ you can provide a bowl of chinchilla sand (not chinchilla dust as it causes respiratory problems) for them to roll around in.
Lettuce is good for hamsters
Lettuce may seem like a perfectly healthy and nutritional treat. However, lettuce does not have that much nutritional value. Also, it has been shown that excessive feeding of lettuce can lead to diarrhea and liver problems, For further details on lettuce, see ‘Romaine vs. Iceberg‘ by Alex a.k.a Rebel 226
A hamster chewing on the cage bars is perfectly normal and is totally safe
Although many hamsters chew on the cage bars, it is not safe. Chewing on hard metal bars can cause brain damage and misaligned teeth. Excessive bar chewing can cause the brain to become misaligned, in turn causing brain damage. Likewise, chewing the bars can cause a hamsters teeth to break, which will make them misaligned. Misaligned teeth will need regular trimming to keep them the right length. If a hamsters teeth break off, they will be different lengths. Left untreated, they will grow up into the brain, eventually killing the hamster.
Bar chewing is sometimes caused by boredom, so take plenty of time to play with your hamster, and provide plenty of toys. Swap the toys around regularly to stop your hamsters’ environment from becoming monotonous. As an alternative to chewing the bars, provide fruit tree branches (make sure they have not been treated with pesticides) or wooden chews. However, many hamsters will not want to chew on the wood. As an alternative to wooden chews, many hamsters prefer to chew on unflavoured dog biscuits. However, even after all this; if your hamster still continues to chew on the cage bars, it is in your hamsters’ best interests to move it to a barless or aquarium type cage.
All dwarves bite
If I had a penny for every time someone said ‘all dwarf hamsters bite’ I’d be a rich person. Biting varies from hamster to hamsters. Many dwarves do not bite at all, and some are even tamer than Syrians. Dwarves make just as good pets as Syrians, and with regular handling they can become very sweet little animals. (See the taming page for tips on taming your hamster)
Syrians can be kept together, so long as they are littermates
This is not true at all. Syrians, regardless of gender or whether they are littermates cannot be kept together after they reach maturity (6 weeks.) After this age, they will not tolerate the presence of any other hamster and will fight until one of the hamsters is dead. Syrians are one of the few animals who are totally solitary.
Hamsters do not need a wheel if they have a large cage and plenty of toys
All hamsters should be given a wheel, regardless of the size of the cage. It is absolutely essential to prevent them becoming obese. Make sure the hamster does not have to arch its back on the wheel. (If the hamster has to arch its back when it runs, the wheel is too small and should be replaced with a larger one.)
If a hamster gets wet, put it in a microwave or dry it with a hairdryer
A hamster should never get wet anyway, since they are aqua phobic and should never be given a bath. However, if the water bottle has leaked etc, dry the hamster with a towel and keep it warm. Hamsters can get pneumonia very easily.