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INFORMATION SHEET No. I

HAMSTERS AS PETS

There are three types of hamsters commonly kept as pets:

THE SYRIAN HAMSTER

This is the animal that most people associate with the word 'hamster, and was originally known as the 'Golden' hamster. This animal is solitary by nature and the golden rule is one Syrian hamster to one cage.

The animals only meet to mate, after which the female drives the male away. After a pregnancy of only sixteen days the babies are born blind and naked. However, they grow very quickly, and by four weeks old are usually fully weaned. Many different colours and coat types of Syrian hamsters are now kept.

THE RUSSIAN HAMSTER

This animal is usually known as a dwarf hamster, growing up to 8 cms in length. These hamsters like to live together - either two of the same sex or as a pair. A pair can produce a lifter of babies every eighteen days, so think carefully before deciding on a pair. The babies are looked after by both parents. Although they are also born blind and naked they develop faster than Syrian babies and are fully weaned by three weeks.

There are two species of Russian hamsters commonly kept as pets. The more common and generally larger animal is the Campbell, and the other is the Winter White. Both species have several colour variations.

THE CHINESE HAMSTER

These animals also like to live in pairs or small groups. They are slightly longer and thinner than Russian hamsters, growing up to 9 cms in length. A pair may have babies every twenty one days but are not as prolific as Russians. The babies develop at about the same rate as Russian hamsters. There are already two or three colour variations available.

GENERAL CARE

All three types of hamsters make good pets. They are very easy to look after and everything you need can bought at any pet shop. A wide selection of cages are available, from the simple plastic tray and wire top to the totally enclosed plastic type complete with tubes.

Syrian hamsters must be kept singly whereas the Russian and Chinese hamsters will live together with others of their own species. If you intend keeping the 'Dwarf' varieties in a wire top cage the bars must not be more than 6 mm apart as these animals can get through very small gaps. Glass or plastic aquariums can also be used.

Sawdust (or wood shavings) should be spread on the base of the cage and a handful of bedding put in a corner. The bedding can be of the shredded paper variety or of the cellulose based fluffy type (look for NHC Approval logo). It is recommended that a water bottle be used, with the spout fitted to the cage at the right height for your hamster to reach. (A dish containing water is easily fouled). About an egg-cupful of dry 'Hamster Mi)e per day should be given (this does vary from hamster to hamster) and 'greens' introduced very gradually and in small quantities.

Most hamsters do not smell if they are cleaned regularly, say once a week. As they normally use one corner of the cage to wet in the sawdust in this corner can be changed more often if you wish. When cleaning, the sawdust and old food should be thrown away and the cage base washed and dried. Place fresh sawdust in the cage, along with new bedding if necessary. Rinse the water bottle and fill with fresh water. Then give your hamster its daily helping of food plus a little extra for its store.

When choosing a hamster check that it is bright eyed and holds its ears erect. It should be free from open or healing cuts and should not bite when picked up. Ideally, a hamster should be between four and eight weeks old when bought and you should be able to handle it. At this age they may be fast, like kittens or puppies, so care must be taken in the first few days. Always handle only a few inches above a secure surface in case the young animal should be scared and jump.

The address of your nearest breeder or local Club Secretary can be obtained by e-mailing us (see above).

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