All About Keeping Hamsters as Pets

Make sure you have a healthy, happy hamster

Are you thinking about getting a pet hamster for you or a child? Be prepared with knowing how to choose a hamster, what supplies you need, and how to feed and care for your new pet. Before you go to the pet store, learn how to provide a good home for a happy and healthy hamster.

  • 01 of 07

    Choosing a Pet Hamster

    Learn how to make a little guy like this happy
    GK Hart & Vikki Hart/The Image Bank/Getty Images

    Hamsters are popular pets for children. They are small rodents that typically live about two years and are usually best if housed alone. Hamsters come in a variety of colors and breeds. Different breeds are known for distinctive traits. Learn about the choices before picking one out to take home:

    • Chinese Hamsters: These small hamsters are not as common as other kinds of hamsters. Many people often mistake them for dwarf hamsters.
    • Dwarf Hamsters: There are several varieties of dwarf hamsters, such as Roborovskis and Russians, and they're similar to Chinese hamsters.
    • Syrian Hamsters: Syrian hamsters come in several color variations and go by different names, such as goldens and teddy bears.
  • 02 of 07

    Make Sure the Hamster You Choose Is Healthy

    Dwarf hamster. Getty Images/jade_c

    Not every hamster in the pet store is of optimal health. Moving from supplier to store to a new home can be a stressful period for baby hamsters, and they will often get sick from it. Learn how to choose a healthy hamster and what to watch for after you take it home.

    Young hamsters are best for taming since they will most likely be friendlier from the get-go. Choose an active hamster and one that doesn't look like he has a wet rear end or watery eyes. If a cage seems to have a few sick hamsters, it is probably best to avoid buying any hamster from that group since ​hamster diseases are very contagious.

  • 03 of 07

    Hamster Cages and Supplies

    A fully equipped hamster cage
    Getty Images/Cultura RM/Adrianko

    There are many hamster cage options available online and at pet stores, but some cages are better than others. Several cages, for instance, the ones with all the tubes and colors, may look cool but aren't very functional and are difficult to clean. A fish tank isn't a good choice for hamsters to live in due to a lack of appropriate ventilation. You also have to take into consideration that smaller hamster breeds have different cage needs than the larger Syrian varieties.

    Regardless of what kind of hamster you choose, it's a good idea to get your hamster cage all set up with bedding, a water bottle, a wheel, chew toys, and other necessities before bringing them home.

    Do a little research about the cage requirements of different types of hamster:

  • 04 of 07

    Hamster Diet

    Syrian Hamster. Martin Harvey/Getty Images

    Is that store-bought bag of seed mix really the best thing for your hamster? Probably not, because hamsters need a variety of other proteins, fruits, or vegetables to keep them healthy and happy. Also, your hamster may pick and choose and not eat the full variety of seeds provided, resulting in an unbalanced diet. Instead, choose a pelleted diet and supplement it with a variety of other safe foods.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Taming Hamsters

    Hamster biting cage bars
    Getty Images/retales botijero

    Does your ​hamster bite? Your child may not want to play with the hamster once bitten. You can learn how to combat biting by, for instance, not startling your hamster. Instead, entice it to climb onto your hand, and gaining its trust. Learn how to handle your hamster so both of you are happy.

  • 06 of 07

    Toys for Hamsters

    Hamsters love to run in place in hamster balls
    Oktay Ortakcioglu / Getty Images

    Hamsters need activities and enrichment to keep them happy and healthy. They also need chew toys to keep their teeth neat and trim. You can find a variety of hamster toys in pet stores, and other pet rodent toys often work great as hamster toys as well. You can even make some of your own toys.

    Research toys to make sure you get or make the most appropriate ones for the hamster you choose:

  • 07 of 07

    Hamster Breeding

    A hamster mother with her babies
    Getty Images/jade_c

    Hamster breeding is not something the casual hamster owner should do. It is best left to hamster breeders who are breeding for specific qualities and temperaments. But accidents happen and sometimes, unknowingly, you end up with baby hamsters or a pregnant hamster. Learn a bit about hamster breeding, and see what you can expect with a pregnant hamster.