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Ask the Vet … about Hamsters

Russian Dwarf hamster

Russian Dwarf hamster*

You asked: What should I know about adopting a hamster?

Answer: Dwarf hamsters are solitary or social; Syrian hamsters are solitary 

Syrian hamsters and Chinese hamsters, unlike chinchillas, are solitary pets. Syrian hamsters include:

  • golden hamsters
  • teddy bear hamsters
  • black bear hamsters
  • panda bear hamsters
  • polar bear hamsters

Except for mating or raising young, these hamsters should not share a cage as they will fight and can cause serious injuries to each other.

Dwarf hamsters, on the other hand, can be kept in same sex pairs or small groups, but make sure you allow enough space if you have several hamsters in one enclosure. If you see any signs of aggression in these same sex pairs or small groups, be prepared to separate them permanently.

Hamsters are most active in the evening and nighttime. They may not appreciate being handled in the daytime hours and can possibly bite. Poor vision paired with the disorienting and scary experience of getting scooped up by an owner during the daytime (when previously asleep) can lead to the potential for a hamster bite. We recommend that you go slow with your new pet and allow him or her to adjust to you. Spending a moderate amount of time with your pet is key to having a friendly and well-adjusted hamster. 

Have more questions about hamsters? Leave it in a comment below.


Welcome to Ask the Vet, a regular feature on The Animal Store Blog. We have teamed up with the great veterinarians at Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital, who will answer your most pressing pet questions right here! Do you want to see your question answered on the blog? Leave a comment below or submit it on our contact form.
*Photo credit: Russian Dwarf hamster by cdrussorusso via a Creative Commons license.
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Wordless Wednesday #13: Casey and a Teddy Bear Hamster

A little, living teddy bear — disguised as a hamster.

FAQ Friday #5: Why does my small animal need something to chew on?

Bunny chews come in many sizes and varieties.

I guess even fish are never too old to learn something new. Today I learned that many small animals have special teeth (called open-rooted teeth) that grow continuously. Some pets with teeth that never stop growing include:

  • all rodents (degus, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, jirds, mice, and rats)
  • rabbits
  • chinchillas

The teeth of these animals have evolved over time to help the break down the tough, fibrous foods they eat. All that chewing also promotes good digestion. If their teeth stopped growing, they would soon be worn to nubs, so the open-rooted system works for them.

But, this means these pets also need hard items to chew on to grind and shape their teeth. If they don’t have proper chews, their teeth can grow misshapen or get sharp edges that can cause small cuts and mouth infections (ouch!).

The Animal Store carries a wide selection of chews that will help keep your pet’s teeth healthy. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Keeping a variety of chews on hand and switching them out occasionally will keep your pet interested in chewing on the right things. This is important, especially for larger animals, like rabbits, which may decide to chew on your furniture or toys instead of an appropriate chew toy or treat.

As Kenn says: “Give them something you want them to chew on, or they’ll find things you don’t want them to chew on.”

Chews come in many different material, shapes, and flavors. Ask us which ones are best for your pet. Hope you learned something new today, too. School’s out.

FAQ Friday 2: What kind of hamsters do you carry?

There are so many furry, friendly hamsters at The Animal Store that it’s hard to keep them straight, so I asked the staff for some info. They wanted me to tell you that our stock varies, but here are the varieties we usually carry.

Dwarf Hamsters

Roborovski hamsters

Roborovski(i) Hamsters (Phodopus roborovskii)

  • aka Desert Hamster
  • smallest of the dwarf hamsters (about 2 inches long)

Siberian Winter White Hamster

Siberian Hamsters (Phodopus sungorus)

  • aka Winter White Russian Hamster, Djungarian Hamster, Dzungarian dwarf hamster, Sapphire Winter White Russian Dwarf hamster,
  • size (about 3-4 inches long)

Note: We do not carry Chinese Hamsters (Cricetulus griseus) (recognizable by their long tails)

Standard (Syrian) Hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus)

Syrian Hamster

  • aka Golden hamsters (common tan and white); Fancy hamsters (any color other than golden); Teddy Bear or Longhair hamsters (any hamster with long hair, any color).
  • size (about 6-7 inches long)

Black Bear Hamsters

Black Bear Hamster

  • aka European Black Bear hamsters, Black Syrian hamsters
  • a variety of Syrian hamster, with black fur and white masks and paws; tend to be a bit larger than other Syrian hamsters.

Come visit our hamsters (and me, Ernie, the Giant Gourami) soon.

photo credits: Roborovski Dwarf Hamster by cdrussorussoDwarf Russian White Hamster Winter White by cdrussorussoSyrian Hamster by zixii; Black Bear Haster by The Animal Store