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Why not keep...Hamsters! E-mail

Why not keep Hamsters!

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There are five species of hamster commonly kept as pets in the U.K Syrian, Dwarf Russian Campbell, Dwarf Russian Winter White, Roborovski and Chinese. Average lifespan is 2 years.

syrian with cheese syrian with biscuit bone

  • Hamsters make charming pets.
  • They are most active in the evening,ideal for people at work or school.
  • They are easy to tame and handle (though Roborovski, due to their small size and speed, are not considered suitable for yound children)

Roborovski hamsters Roborovski in hand roborovski in bowl

  • The Dwarf species can live together but same sex groupings are recommended. They must be separated & housed singly if serious fighting occurs.
  • Syrians are solitary animals & must live alone
  • They are an ideal first pet for school age children to teach them the responsibility of looking after an animal (with adult supervision)
  • They will bond with their owner and respond to his voice
  • They are active, entertaining & fascinating to watch

Campbells in wheel

  • They are easy to feed
  • They are clean creatures who keep themselves & their accommodation spick and span


Getting started

First of all, you need to decide which species is right for you. Dwarf hamsters are not recommended for young children and Syrians should only be considered if there is parental or adult supervision at all times. For more information visit our page on Hamsters as Pets

Cage or Tank?

The golden rule for Syrian hamsters is ‘one hamster to a cage’. Although they are small, hamsters are very active and in the wild would wander up to 10km in a single night in their search for food. Therefore, it is vital that your hamster has enough space right from the start. Do not be tempted to purchase a ‘hamster starter kit’ as it will soon be too small for him. Instead, buy the biggest cage you can afford and preferably one that is, at least, 24 long, 15 wide and 12 high, with one upper level. Be careful when buying the tall cages. They are suitable but ensure that the floors are positioned in such a way that the hamster cannot fall from top to bottom.

There are Dwarf hamster cages available where the bars are closer together to prevent escape (a mouse cage is suitable too). However, you may like to consider housing your Dwarf hamsters in an aquarium-like tank. This is ideal for recreating their natural habitat. It is great fun to set up and the hamsters will love it. They will also need a solid wheel for exercise, some wood (preferably un-sprayed apple wood) to gnaw on, and a water bottle.For more information, visit our page on Hamster Housing


The cage will need to be thoroughly cleaned, on average, every 10 - 14 days. However, if the nesting material is not soiled leave it longer as the hamster will feel more secure sleeping in his familiar scent (undetectable to humans). Hamsters hoard food, either in their nest or a favourite place in the cage. Always throw away any fresh, uneaten food before it goes mouldy, as mould spores are harmful to the hamster. However, the hoarded dry mix can be left longer. Some owners like to have a food bowl for their pet but ‘scatter’ feeding will bring out the hamsters’ natural foraging behaviour. Never use wool or any other type of fabric for nesting material as the fibres can be ingested and become lodged in the hamsters’ gut. This will inevitably lead to death. Paper bedding, like plain white tissues, is recommended. (Avoid shredded printed paper as the ink may be toxic). For more information please visit our page on General Care.

Campbells in food bowl


Cage costs vary enormously so be guided by the ‘available space’ when making your choice. The more space available, the better.

Commercially prepared hamster food is fairly cheap to buy. He will also appreciate some small amounts of well-washed fresh food once or twice a week. Things like carrot, apple, broccoli etc.

Hamsters won’t

  • Cost a lot to house and feed
  • Need to be taken for a walk twice a day
  • Bring muddy footprints into the house
  • Leave hair all over your best armchair
  • Eat your slippers
  • Chase the paperboy
  • Catch birds
  • Burst into song when you’re on the telephone


Hamsters will

  • Take up very little space
  • Bring hours of enjoyment with their antics
  • Respond to your voice and eat out of your hand
  • Be ‘someone to come home to’ who is pleased to see you
  • Give back tenfold all the love you give them

Hamsters are

Quite simply, a joy to have in your life

They are also living creatures that will rely on you for everything. Please be absolutely sure that you can provide for its needs, for the whole of its life, before purchase.

Article written by R. Ray

The NHC promotes a high standard of hamster care and welfare. Membership of an NHC affiliated club means you automatically agree to follow your club's rules and those of the Constitution. In addition, you also agree to follow the separate NHC Code of Practice. The NHC expects ALL its members to keep their hamsters in suitable housing, with some type of enrichment. There are no exceptions. A copy of the NHC Code of Practice can be found HERE
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