Hamsters are one of Singapore’s most neglected pet species. As they are inexpensive, they are often bought on impulse by owners who have not done adequate research or taken enough considerations on caring for a pet. This results in many hamsters being housed in cages that are too small, with inadequate food, bedding, hideouts and even water.
Before taking ownership of a hamster, take a look at the top five most common misconceptions that potential pet owners have:
• Hamsters Need A Big Cage
It is a misconception that small cages are okay since they’re small. This is not true. Your hamster must have a large area to roam and burrow. Hamsters in larger cages also tend to be more tame.
The absolute minimum size of a single floor space is:
Dwarf Hamsters: 70cm by 40cm
Syrian Hamsters: 80cm by 50cm
Additionally, the larger your cage, the longer it takes to get dirty and stinky. Large cages only require spot cleaning every other day, and be totally cleaned out every 6-8 weeks unlike small cages where you have to clean and wash every single week.
“How about those acrylic tiered cages? There’s multiple floors!” The answer is no. Multi-tiered cages look pretty ‒ but the various levels do not give roaming and burrowing space needed.
• Hamsters Do Not Need a Partner!
Is my hamster lonely? Ham Solo or partners? Well, hamsters are solitary animals, unlike guinea pigs and rats. They are also territorial and could fight to the death ‒ even if they do not initially.
Placing two or more hamsters together can be stress-inducing for your hamster. So just remember: One Hamster, One Cage!
• Scented Bedding & Sand Are Dangerous To Them
Go unscented everything. There are a large variety of hamster bedding and substrates commercially available, but a large portion of these items are actually dangerous and hazardous to our hamster’s health.
Avoid Pine or Cedar substrates – which are deadly to most small animals due to the natural plicatic acid which is a common allergen, even for humans. Do not use scented bedding, which is another substrate that can cause respiratory issues for your hamster.
Instead, go for unscented and minimally coloured bedding. If you fancy natural substrates, opt for approved aspen substrates. Hamsters love to burrow in thick, soft bedding.
Try to use at least 10cm - 15cm of non-scented paper-based bedding in your cage. It may sound like a lot, but contrary to popular belief, a more generous amount of bedding actually helps with odour control as well. Feel free to mix different colour paper bedding in your cage, or use some paper-based cat litter as a base layer to control any pee or poop smells.
• Hamsters Do Not Eat Only Sunflower Seeds
Most hamster owners can agree that their hamsters love sunflower seeds a lot. However, these seeds are akin to our human version of junk food. Too much of that will cause obesity and various obesity-related diseases to your hamster such as heart disease.
You may continue to give your hamster its favourite seeds as a treat but in moderation. Popular commercial seed mixes available at pet shops have too much sunflower seeds and lack much of the nutrition that hamsters need. In the wild, a hamster’s diet consists of a mix of fruits, vegetables, insects and nuts.
Read the nutrition information before you buy seed mixes! Look for food that has minimal or no sunflower seeds, pellets and fillers. As a general guide, purchase only mixes with nutritional values as close to this as possible:
Protein: 17% - 20%
Fat: max 7% - 8%
Fibre: 10% - 12%
To supplement vitamins and protein, top up your hamster’s diet with fresh vegetables, chicken (boiled, unsalted), mealworms, and more.
• Small Hamsters Do Not Equal Small Hamster Wheels!
Hamsters need wheels and it has to be of the correct size. They are energetic creatures and they need to run! So, the wheel must provide the ability to run comfortably and safely with a straight back. Else, you would risk them injuring their spine permanently, racking up a lot of vet fees down the road and of course, an unhappy and injured hamster.
If you have a Dwarf Hamster, it needs a wheel at least 21cm in diameter size. If it is a Syrian Hamster, the wheel should be at least 27cm in diameter size.
• “Hamsters are cheap pets!”
Hamsters are not cheap to own! It may cost next to nothing to acquire a hamster, but don’t forget to take into account the cost of their daily necessities and the vet funds needed if your hamster falls ill. It is prudent to set aside at least $200 per hamster for vet funds. In certain cases, it can also cost over a thousand dollars if the hamster requires multiple treatments and surgery. Don’t forget that recurring expenses like food, bedding, sand really do add up too.
• Hamsters Need To See A Vet When They Fall Sick
Contrary to popular belief, hamsters do need to see a vet when they fall ill! As with all pets, hamsters grow older and with old age comes with the risk of taking ill one day. Especially where the vast majority of hamsters in Singapore are inbred or have inherited poor genetics from previous inbreeding, the likelihood of common illnesses in hamsters are very present indeed.
As with any other pet, don’t deny your hamster of medical treatment and take them to a hamster-savvy vet as soon as possible. Never try to treat them on your own, neither will their illnesses eventually disappear with no medical intervention.
Common illnesses include: Lumps, wet tail, various infections and UTI, pyometra, kidney/renal disease, pneumonia and more.
• Hamsters May Not Make Great Starter Pets For Kids
Did you know that most hamsters sleep all day and are awake only very late at night till early in the morning? That’s right, hamsters are crepuscular creatures! If you or your child is looking for a playmate, a hamster may not be ideal as chances are, your child would be awake and looking to play when the hamster is fast asleep.
HAMSTER SOCIETY SINGAPORE
Hamster Society Singapore (HSS) is a non-profit, all-volunteer group of animal lovers. They assist, rescue, foster and rehabilitate unwanted, neglected and abused hamsters.
HSS was officially approved and registered as a society on 4 March 2019. The society is committed to end the cycle of neglect, abuse and wanton breeding by providing quality education, resources and advocacy on proper and responsible hamster care.
To adopt a hamster, visit the HSS adoption gallery.