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Old 01-09-2019, 04:42 AM  
Hamsters University
Serendipity7000's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: North of England
Posts: 18,913
Default Re: Newbie just joined in

Hello and welcome - they are all very different kind of pets Chinchillas live for a very long time - 12-20 years, so need a big commitment to care for them throughout their life and also a very very big cage!

Gerbils need a similar sized cage to hamsters although they are good with height and climbing (to a degree) which hamsters aren't. Gerbils do need a tank style with deep bedding though and a particular kind of set up. They are very fast and can live in 2's and 3's. I think they have specific dietary requirements as well so you'd need a species specific food mix. Gerbils shouldn't have wheels. They need deep bedding and tunnels buried in the bedding and a branch or something to climb I believe - they are very much burrowing pets. They can jump quite high and be fast so not sure how easy to handle, but they are awake during the day.

Rats also need very large cages - taller cages and at least 80cm x 50 or 100cm x 50 floor space - they can also live in groups and in fact must have company in their cage or they get depressed. I have not owned rats but they are supposed to be very affectionate pets. They are prone to respiratory diseases - chest problems. Their cages are probably easier to set up than hamsters as they can cope with height and like hammocks, whereas hamsters chew things and material is best avoided. I am not sure how much waking time rats have - maybe google it.

Hamsters - there are a few species. The most commonly known pet is the larger Syrian hamster - they are good for children or a first time owner, as once tamed they tend to be more holdable for a new owner. Their personalities vary considerably - some are more lazy and do their own thing - some are maverick and highly active and always wanting to be out. Their waking times are usually between 5pm and 5am although they do have naps during the evening and night sometimes. They can be a very easy pet if you're working and you can spend time with them in the evenings or have breakfast with them

Because their most active time is at night, they do need a good sized cage with plenty of enrichment and activity. They also need out of cage time regularly. Once hand tame they can really bond with an owner. They need at least a 75 x 45 or 80x 50cm cage and the sweet spot, in my opinion, is a 100cm by 50cm cage which gives a lot of scope for enrichment and filling with toys and a large wheel etc. Although for some syrians no cage will be big enough! And some people make large diy cages. It isn't just the size of cage though, it is the way it is set up and the amount of enrichment and the amount of out of cage time. But as a general rule I wouldn't go smaller than an 80 x 50 cage for a Syrian.

Syrian hamsters must ALWAYS live ALONE! This is crucial - they will fight to the death and they need a solitary lifestyle. However they need a human friend and will bond with you.

Dwarf hamsters come in 4 (5?) species. The russian dwarf hamsters are two species plus hybrids of both species. Winter Whites and Campbells. Just about all dwarf hamsters sold in pet shops will be hybrids of those two species - they may look like a Winter White or look like a Campbells, but genetically will be a mix of both. The hybrids make lovely pets but can be prone to diabetes and generally may have a slightly shortened life (but not necessarily). They need a specific diet to help avoid diabetes, usually sugar free. You can get pure bred Winter Whites and Campbells from breeders but there is usually a waiting list. Dwarf hamsters are still very active and need a good sized cage - about the same size as a syrian cage - although their personalities vary and some are more shy and retiring - best thing is to start with a good sized cage and then see if they need more space/upgrading. Their toys, wheels and houses are smaller than syrians so you can fit more in a cage. They have a reputation for being harder to tame and handle (although most experienced dwarf hamster owners on here would disagree!).

Dwarf hamsters can be kept in pairs or groups - if they are siblings from the same litter and have always lived together - but this is not recommended unless you are an experienced owner and it is better to just have one to begin with. Pairs and groups invariably need separating when fighting breaks out (and they will fight to the death) and then they need a cage each. A cage set up for a pair or dwarf is also a bit complicated and limiting - to avoid territorial behaviours leading to fall outs.

The smallest breed is the Roborovski dwarf hamster - these are tiny - about the size of your thumb - very fast, cute and entertaining. They are known more as watching pets than handling pets, but they can be tamed (with a lot of patience!).

They can also live singly or in sibling pairs/groups - but see above -the same applies - not recommended except for experienced owners.

A single dwarf hamster will be fine living alone and will also bond with their owner.

Despite being the smallest species, roborovski's are very very active and may need more space than some syrian hamsters - but again it depends on their personality - some of their personality is genetic, some is formed by their experiences before you get them - so some hamsters may be more nervous or hide away more if they have had rough handling in the past. So some Robos will be highly entertaining and active - some may be more shy. But at night they still need plenty of space to roam around, dig etc. So I wouldn't put a robo in anything smaller than an 80 x 50cm cage personally - or a 75 x 45cm tank. Our robo is in an 80 x 50 cage and it's fine but I would have preferred to give him a 100cm cage with a lot more stuff in the cage and more variety of things to do and places to go!

Hamsters live generally between about 18 months and 3 years - it's unusual for them to live longer than that. The average for a syrian hamster is probably about 2 years. Our last syrian lived to 2 years 8 months. Roborovski hamsters can live a bit longer and average about 3 years I think.

Then there is the Chinese Dwarf hamster which has a little tail - these are quite hard to find - cage set ups etc similar to other hamsters.

I believe the average life of rats is about the same - 2 to 3 years. Gerbils a bit longer - 3 to 4 years (unless they escape or have an accident!).

Hope that helps.

Obviously, on here, we all love Hamsters! Although some members have other pets as well. Personally Hamsters are my favourite pets - I'm allergic to cats and dogs. And I have got to know how fascinating hamsters are. They are a bit pernickety sometimes but they do communicate and have a range of expressions (from love to black looks) and can be funny and make you laugh. They have the softest fur and although they may not sit still for a stroke for very long, they are very therapeutic to stroke. They get to know your voice and smell and make it very clear if they're not happy about something. Their raison D'etre is foraging and nesting - foraging for food and bedding, and making a big cosy nest with a hoard under it and snacking in bed.

They are quite clever and clean little things, but will also do stupid things - like climb too high (they can't get down easily) then drop and they can get injured - so tall cages aren't good. And they will try eating or chewing just about anything so materials in their cage need to be safe - and they shouldn't be allowed near chocolate or apple pips. There are hamster safe chocolate drops but I prefer healthy treats like pumpkin seeds

Hamsters can give you the most adorable looks that melt your heart and be very very cute and sweet - it is very easy to fall in love with them.

Last edited by Serendipity7000; 01-09-2019 at 04:51 AM.
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