Hamsters are small rodents that make excellent starter pets, known both for their docile temperament and easy care. Male short-haired hamsters are also known as male "fancy" hamsters, as opposed to long-haired or dwarf hamsters. Fancy hamsters are small, growing only to 3 to 5 inches in size. It is best to keep male hamsters housed separately from other hamsters due to their aggression with other males of their species.
Hamsters have rather poor eyesight but an excellent sense of smell. This can lead to pet hamsters biting fingers that poke inside their cages, mistaking them for food. In truth, hamsters that have been handled since being born are quite docile and can easily be picked up and held. Hamsters are nocturnal, so they will be up in the evening and sleeping during the day.
Hamsters can be housed in cages or aquariums, although the former is preferred due to airflow and the ability for interaction. Cages available for male short-haired hamsters can include extras such as wheels, tunnels, swings and cage furniture. Cages without bars on the bottom are better, as they prevent bumblefoot and foot infections. Bedding should be thick, clean, nontoxic and relatively dust-free, and changed often. Avoid pine or cedar shavings, as the oils in the woods can cause health problems.
In additional to commercially available hamster foods, hamsters can eat homemade mixes of whole-wheat pastas and grains, fresh veggies and seeds. Try not to feed too many seeds at one time, as they can be fattening. Treats of dog biscuits, cheeses and breakfast cereals can be given in moderation. It is important to keep fresh and clean water available at all times. Sipper bottles are better at keeping water clean than dishes or bowls.
Hamsters can be frightened easily, and they may bite if surprised. Once they are used to you, however, they can become quite comfortable and cuddly. In the beginning, simply stroke your hamster softly, and let him run over you, perhaps on a bed or chair. Move slowly, and be certain to wash your hands before handling him. Never let a hamster run about the house without supervision; they can crawl into small crevices and become lost.
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