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Owning a hamster is rewarding and fun! Get all you need to know about feeding, housing and caring for your pet's health in The Essential Hamster. Special features include professional color photos and expert tips on how to make your guinea pig a wonderful addition to the family. Learn how to have a great relationship with your pet with The Essential Hamster.
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The Essential Hamster
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Preparing for Your Hamster
Once you have decided to share your life for the next three years or so with ahamster, it is time to take stock of what you will need to provide a safe and securehome for your pet. You will need to assemble his habitat; stock up on food; and purchasebedding, food and water receptacles, as well as a selection of toys and exerciseequipment. Then you will have to decide where to place your hamster's habitat.
Leaving the environment to which he has become accustomed can be a dangerouslystressful experience for a hamster. Ease your hamster's anxiety by taking care ofthe details long before you bring your new pet home.
If the hamster is destined for a home with children, which is the norm for thisanimal that is considered a wonderful children's pet, by all means involve the kidsin the preparation process, but remember that a hamster must never be relegated tothe sole care of a child.
Finally, enjoy the anticipation. Working together, purchasing the equipment, preparinga new pet's home, learning the ins and outs of proper care--there are few joys inlife more thrilling for kids and adults alike. Take it slow, proceed with commonsense and you are sure to m ake the arrival of your new pet a truly memorable experiencefor the entire family.
Hamsters and children are the perfect combination!
QUALITY VETERINARY SERVICES
Before you bring your new pet home, you should take the time to find a veterinarian.Ask other hamster owners for references, then visit two or three clinics to get afeel for the practice. You need to find a veterinarian who has experience, equipmentand a trained staff for small animal care. This includes a working knowledge of diseasesand responses to medications that hamsters may have, as well as dietary needs, behaviorand reproduction. Along with this level of expertise, look for the availability ofemergency or after-hours service. Your hamster will benefit from a veterinarian whois familiar and comfortable with treating the medical problems of small and exoticanimals. The first stop before you take your new hamster home should be a visit tothe veterinarian so you can get a baseline evaluation of the hamster's health.
WELCOMING YOUR NEW PET HOME
Common sense should prevail when that grand day arrives. You are ready to pickup your pet and bring him home. The habitat is clean and organized, fresh food andwater await, a layer of clean bedding sits ready to invite the attentions of a burrowinglittle creature and the toys are ready for play.
This day provides you with the ideal time to begin earning your new hamster'srespect. Work toward this ultimate goal from your first meeting, and you just mightbe rewarded with a bond between pet and owner that you find quite surprising.
When you pick up your hamster, bring a small, ventilated container with you fortransport of your n ew pet. Most stores will have these available, but again, youwant to be prepared. If the trip will be a short one, which is preferable, a heavycardboard box with holes for ventilation will suffice. But to prevent the hamsterfrom attempting an escape by chewing, a heavier plastic, also well-ventilated, containermay be superior. This latter item will also come in handy down the road as a "holdingpen" for the hamster when you are cleaning his cage.
Place some bedding material in this small travel box--if possible some beddingfrom the hamster's enclosure at the pet shop, shelter or breeding facility--to providenot only a comfortable ride, but a familiar scent, as well. Stash a couple of treatsin your pocket, too, perhaps a peanut in the shell or a sunflower seed to offer yournew pet and keep him occupied for the journey home.
After visiting the veterinarian, take the hamster directly to his new home. Don'tstop off at a party first or visit a child's classroom to show off the new pet. Keepthe animal's well-being and the alleviation of his stress in mind. Your job is toget your hamster home as soon as possible, place him in his new home and then leavehim alone for a while to get accustomed to his surroundings.
Assuming you have already wisely placed the hamster's habitat in a quiet, untraveledcorner of the house, once home, the hamster will probably explore the new enclosurea bit, check out his food, and perhaps burrow into some shavings for a little napto recover from the journey. Providing the hamster with the opportunity to partakeof these simple introductory acts is your first step toward earning your pet's lifelongrespect.
THINGS YOU NEED BEFOR E YOUR HAMSTER COMES HOME
Food and water, plus bowls or containers for each
Toys and exercise equipment
Name of a reliable veterinarian
Hamsters need time to themselves after they arrive in their new home in orderto adjust to the surroundings.
GENTLE HAMSTER HANDLING
Take your time in interacting with your new hamster. Even if he seems ready forplay, introduce yourself gradually. You will both benefit in the long run.
Hamsters navigate through their world by relying primarily on their senses ofsmell and hearing. During your first few days together, allow him to get acquaintedwith your voice and your scent. Do this by speaking softly to the hamster when youapproach his enclosure for daily feedings, water changes, toy rotations (just likechildren, hamsters thrive with an ever-changing variety of playthings) and the dailyremoval of soiled bedding.
All the family members can introduce themselves this way, but try to keep yourbrief interactions to a minimum. Do your hamster a favor and reserve these interactionsonly for the animal's family members in the beginning. The kids may be tempted toinvite everyone in the neighborhood over to meet the family's new hamster, but explainthat it's better to wait a few days to let him get adjusted to his immediate family.Once you build that important foundation of respect, the hamster should be amenableto meeting outsiders, and probably friendly in doing so, as well.
When you believe the hamster is ready for a more personal introduction, gentlyreach your hand into his habitat, an act that will invite the animal to approachand sniff your skin. If treated gently, most hamsters are not biters by nature. Ifyour new pet tries to take a little nip of your finger while exploring your hand,either he isn't ready for such an intrusion or he may have caught a whiff of yourlunch lingering on your fingertips.
You will further earn your hamster's esteem by reserving these initial interactionsto the late afternoon and early evening when this nocturnal creature shakes off hisdaytime sleepiness and emerges energetic and ready for activity. If you awaken theanimal constantly during the day when he is trying to sleep, the hamster will likelybecome frustrated with this new, and rather inconsiderate, human in his life. Wakinga soundly sleeping hamster, even one known for a docile disposition, could incitea bite that must not be blamed on hamster nastiness but owner negligence and disrespect.
Introduce yourself gradually to your hamster by familiarizing him with thesound of your voice and your scent.
Holding Your Hamster
After those first few days of quiet introductions, your hamster is ready for thenext step--being handled. Proceed gradually. Before lifting the hamster out of hisenclosure, speak softly to alert him to your presence. Next, gently place your handinto his enclosure as he has become accustomed to your doing.
When approaching your hamster, there are several things to keep in mind for yourown safety. Leave your hamster alone if he rolls over on his back and bares his teeth.This is a signal that he is feeling defensive or threatened. You should also respecthis space if he runs from your hand or makes a squealing or guttural sound. Alsoremember to leave a sleeping hamster to his nap instead of waking him. Most of all,never squeeze, pinch or roughly handle your hamster.
Hamsters can be lifted by the excess skin at the napes of their necks, but someowners believe it is better to simply wrap your fingers gently yet firmly aroundhis barrel-shaped body and lift him. Use your other hand to offer extra support atthe hamster's rear end and hold the animal close to your body.
Handling your hamster with respect and a quiet demeanor will instill in the animala sense of security and positive association with being handled and, as an offshoot,toward his new human family members. Your pet will recognize when he is being treatedwith respect and will learn quickly whom he may trust. Introduce yourself graduallyand gently, observe those preliminary safety precautions when handling the animaland you will earn a trustworthy reputation.
Gently wrapping your fingers around your hamster's body will make him feelsecure when being handled.
This hamster is being lifted by the excess skin at the nape of his neck calledthe scruff.
Watch your hamster regularly and you will soon realize that this little animalgrooms himself constantly. Before eating, after eating, before a nap, after a nap,before a spin in the hamster ball, after a spin in the hamster ball--the hamsterstops, straightens any displaced hairs and washes his face for the seventeenth timethat day. Indeed this is a meticulously clean little pet, so diligent about cleanliness,both his own and his habitat's, that he could be christened the Felix Unger of therodent world.
Hamsters groom themselves incessantly.
Though some owners may view such habits as a sign that the hamster requires groomingby his owners, that is an incorrect notion. The hamster is perfectly capable of takingcare of his own grooming, no doubt a skill sculpted by his solitary life in the wildwhere, in the absence of other hamsters to join in sessions of mutual grooming, thehamster learned to groom on his own. This has more to do with survival than withvanity, as a healthy coat is critical to protecting the hamster from climatic extremes.
As a rule, hamsters should not be bathed. Because their grooming routines serveto cleanse them naturally--and because they are essentially odorless by nature--thereis no need for a human-style bath.
If you still feel inclined to assist your hamster in her grooming regimen, youcan do so by brushing the animal gently with a soft toothbrush. Most hamsters areamenable to short brushing sessions that can also help remove bedding dust or otherhabitat residue that may cling to the hair.
While not critical to hamster health and beauty, short brushing sessions do offeryou a chance to share some "quality time" enjoying your hamster. At thesame time, they provide you with the opportunity to observe your pet more closelyfor any new or developing physical changes that could indicate illness or injury.
Hamsters often appear to have a coat full of cage bedding or litter. They are, after all, little balls of nocturnal energy. In order to remove the debris, hamsters can be combed with a soft brush or you can "pet" off the particles. Cage bedding should be changed twice a week and bathroom material at least every other day. Disinfect and carefully rinse all washable toys, as well as food and water receptacles, weekly.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Getting to Know Your Hamster.
Chapter Two: Choosing a Hamster.
Chapter Three: Preparing for Your Hamster.
Chapter Four: Homecoming.
Chapter Five: To Good Health.
Chapter Six: Positively Nutritious.
Chapter Seven: A Matter of Fact.
Chapter Eight: What Makes Your Hamster Tick?
Chapter Nine: Fun with Your Hamster.
Chapter Ten: Resources.