Hamster care

Do hamsters need annual vaccinations? 

No, hamsters don't need annual vaccinations but you should take your hamster to the vet for regular health check-ups, as well as conducting your own checks at home.

Do older hamsters need special care?

As your hamster ages his nails may become longer and can become painful. Add plenty of enrichment items to your hamster's environment that will help to keep his nails short. If you are concerned about the length of your hamster's nails, visit your vet for advice. 

How often should a hamster's cage be cleaned out? 

Your hamster's environment should be spot cleaned every day to remove any faeces and uneaten food. The cage should be thoroughly cleaned out once a week. When you conduct your clean out, remove all the bedding and cage furniture, then use a mild pet-friendly disinfectant to wash any surfaces that can be cleaned. Remember to wash the cage furniture too. Once the cage has dried fully, replace all the cage furniture and add clean bedding — remember to add some new enrichment too. 

Do hamsters need company? 

Whether or not your hamster needs company depends on the breed of hamster you have. The Syrian hamster should be kept alone as they do not enjoy the company of other hamsters. The dwarf breeds (Campbell’s, Winter White, Chinese and Roborovski hamsters) like to be kept in pairs or small groups. Your hamsters should be kept in same-sex groups to avoid unwanted litters, ideally be purchased at the same time and be a similar age so they are more likely to get along well. 

Handling a hamster

How happy your hamster will be when handled depends on the breed you choose. Marie Channer, head of small animal welfare at Wood Green, says: “The Roborovski breed of hamster are very small and exceptionally fast so are not suitable for handling. They are more a breed of hamster for watching and for creating a fun environment for them to live in. The Syrian, Winter White and Chinese breeds are quite comfortable with being handled and, if socialised regularly, they can become really bonded and happy to be handled by their owner. You must handle them carefully and allow them time to get used to you.” 

How do you pick up a hamster? 

First of all, make sure your hamster is awake, alert and that they have chosen to wake up themselves. As hamsters are nocturnal, you should not disturb your hamster's normal sleep pattern just to handle him, this is not good for his health. A sleepy hamster can be quite grumpy and may bite. When handling you hamster it's important that: 

  • When you first bring your hamster home allow him a couple of days to settle in before starting your handling sessions.
  • Hamsters can be quite nervous at first so keep your hamster handling sessions to a minimum
  • Keep your movements slow around your hamster to avoid scaring him. 

How to pick up a hamster

Firstly, it's important to ensure that you hamster is fully aware of your presence before attempting to pick him up. Make sure he is fully awake and if he is, stroke him gently along his back before gently cupping your hands beneath him — hamsters may find a hand hovering above them stressful and threatening. Gently lift your hands towards your body so your hamster feels secure.

Once out of his cage, sit on the floor to handle your hamster and allow him to explore your lap. You may need to use your hands to keep him in the area you would like him to be but try not to hold him in a fixed place as he is likely to find this stressful. 

When handling the smaller dwarf breeds of hamster you may find using a short length of tube easier. Coax your hamster into the tube then pick this up and transfer him to your lap, he might find this less stressful than being picked straight up. Remember, the smallest breed of hamster, the Roborovski, is not suitable for regular handling due to its size and speed.

Pet care advice