Considering a hamster?
Hamsters can be the ideal pet for the older child or adult who is looking for a friendly pet that is fairly hardy, does not require a long-term commitment (sadly, hamsters have a lifespan of only three years or so), needs no daily walks and does not take up a great deal of room. It is not unusual to find adoptable hamsters at the Humane Society of Greater Dayton. There are a number of things you should be aware of before adopting your hamster, however.
Up all night, sleep all day
Hamsters are nocturnal, meaning they are active mostly at night, sleeping during the day. You can work with your hamster to somewhat acclimate him to an early evening routine (get him used to “getting up earlier”) but this will take patience and a regular schedule of working with him. In the meantime, he will play, chew and rearrange his furniture all night long, and sleep during the day.
Syrian hamsters (aka “teddy bear hamsters”) are not sociable with one another – they live solitary lives both in the wild and in captivity. Dwarf Siberian hamsters, on the other hand, are more social with other Siberian hamsters and can live in small groups.
Hamsters can become very sweet and friendly if you are patient and work with them on a daily basis. A hamster who has not been handled enough while young may not be friendly, may not wish to be held and may even bite; hamsters who have been well socialized from a young age are docile and will rarely, if ever, bite. A well-socialized hamster can be picked up with one or both hands and secured by holding it against your body. Even a hamster with a friendly, calm temperament may bite if you suddenly grab it or startle it. Move slowly and handle the hamster gently. The more frequently a hamster is (properly and gently) handled on a regular basis, the tamer it will become.
If you are working with a hamster whose personality is unknown, or who has a history of biting, you can wear gloves or gently wrap them in a small towel to pick them up.You can also encourage them into a small box or plastic container to remove them from their cage.
Adopt, don’t shop for hamsters
Black Bear and Golden Hamsters are the easiest to tame, but hamster temperaments vary from breed to breed and individual to individual. Much depends upon where you acquire the hamster;in many cases, pet store hamsters are mass produced without any thought to genetics or resulting temperament or health. Adopting a hamster through Petfinder or your local shelter allows you to verify the pet’s personality.
Let him settle in
When you first bring a hamster home, let him alone in his cage for at LEAST one or two days before beginning to work with him. This will allow him to acclimate to his new living quarters and become used to the new sounds, smells and surroundings that he finds himself in. Hamsters have poor vision and rely on their keen sense of smell and hearing.
After a few days, offer your hamster a treat of sunflower seeds, a raisin or tiny bit of carrot. Open the cage door and offer the treat on your extended finger. The hamster will smell your hand, grab the treat and run off, but he will begin to associate your smell with a treat. Do this several times a day for a few days.
Next, place the treat on your palm; it may take the hamster several tries before he is brave enough to walk onto your palm to retrieve the treat. Let him get used to this over several days or weeks (depends on the hamster) and eventually, you will be able to move your hand without the hamster running off.
Once he is used to you, the hamster will see or hear you and run to the doors of his cage (if he’s awake!), looking for a treat and some socialization (or at least just the treat).
Not for small children
Please watch young children around hamsters. Young children have been known to drop hamsters, throw the hamster’s ball with him inside, squeeze them, or worse. My paralyzed hamster Lucky was adopted from just such a situation. These are not pets for small children.
Check the adoptable pets page at the Humane Society of Greater Dayton website or give them a call at (937) 268-7387 to inquire about any available hamsters.
The cute pie in the photo is in Amelia, Ohio, and is adoptable through Petfinder.
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