Hamsters are cute and adorable, and they make appropriate pets for older children who have been taught to care for them. To ensure the longevity of your furball, have a read of the following:

* As a guide, do not offer your hamster items or toys that you cannot be sure will be good for their overall well-being. If in doubt, simply throw it out.

* Just like other animals, a hamster needs a variety of food to keep them in the pink of health. Sticky foods and sweet treats should be offered at a minimum due to health reasons.

* Not all greens are good for hamsters, neither are all fruits and vegetables. Stick to broccoli, parsley, apple, pear, carrot, and turnips while avoiding onions, garlic, chives, leeks, lettuce, raw potatoes, and oranges. As hamsters can be prone to diabetes, you’ll want to give them fruit (which is laden with sugar) sparingly.

* Chew toys are great and make for content hamsters. But buy only those at pet stores that offer special chew toys and blocks made just for hamsters. Don't just put in wood or twigs from unknown sources.  These wood, twigs, and even wood shavings may have been treated with chemicals that could prove deadly to the little fellas. 

By the way, a hamster without anything to keep its teeth occupied may choose to chew on her cage or enclosure.

* Old bedding: Get rid of old bedding when cleaning the cage. Just throw it away and start afresh. Hamsters tend to hoard their food, so a change of bedding every time you clean will help keep away any nasties.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

This article first appeared in Pets Magazine, Oct 2015.