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Old 01-09-2017, 11:13 AM   #1
RubyDG
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Default Dwarf Care - Quick Beginners Tips Wanted

Hi All!

I went back to work today from being off on annual leave over Christmas and one of my coworkers asked me for some hamster advice. She purchased 2 dwarf campbell hybrid's for her 2 young daughters for Christmas. Each hamster is in their own separate cage which makes it easier I think. She has already encountered some issues so wanted to figure out what was going wrong as she had followed all the advice from the pet store . As I've only ever had a Syrian I'm really not all that up on what are important things for her to know though so I'm here for some quick advice!

I've given her general care tips like cage size and to stay away from fluffy bedding etc but what else is there aside from being aware of the sugar/diabetes for them? I don't think it would be good to overload her with too much information so if anyone can give me some quick tips/info I can pass on it would be much appreciated. Also if someone could confirm for me the appropriate wheel size for a dwarf that would be great.

I am also going to suggest her and her daughters watch the HoppingHammy youtube channel, it has good information and has fun family friendly videos. This should hopefully give them more in depth information. I think if I overdo the do's and dont's of hamster care all at once I may scare her off .
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Last edited by RubyDG; 01-09-2017 at 01:13 PM.
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Old 01-09-2017, 11:41 AM   #2
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Default Re: Dwarf Care - Quick Beginners Tips

They could do the tissue trick. Put tissue us their sleeve for a while then put it into the cage so the hamster gets used to their scent. Ready for taming.

If you didn't mention a sand bath using chinchilla sand. I would mention that as dwarfs seem to like it more than Syrians.

Erin's animals is another good you tube channel. She has a dwarf hamster at the moment and also does diy cages and diy hamster toys.
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Old 01-09-2017, 10:03 PM   #3
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Default Re: Dwarf Care - Quick Beginners Tips

Basic care really is very much the same as syrians Ruby, as CMB said a sand bath is more of a must for dwarfs, they really do love it & it keeps their coats in good condition too, the other thing she might need to be aware of is that dwarf nails tend to grow a lot quicker & longer than syrian hams if not kept in check so some good safe rough surfaces in the cage (little terracotta flower pots are good) as well as the sand can help.
The 6.5" silent spinner is a good size for most dwarf hams but they really don't work well any more but there is a newer wheel at P@H (& Amazon I think) that looks very similar (can't remember what it's called off hand) which seems to be ok, other than that I would go for 8"/20cm.
If she's following pet shop advice I guess she may be feeding a chunky syrian type mix which they often don't enjoy or struggle with, Burgess dwarf hamster harvest is readily available most places & they seem to like that, expect the grass pellets.
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Last edited by cypher; 01-10-2017 at 01:29 AM.
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Old 01-10-2017, 02:27 AM   #4
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Default Re: Dwarf Care - Quick Beginners Tips

What kind of issues has she encountered? Bar chewing? Odd behaviour?
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Old 01-10-2017, 05:14 AM   #5
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Default Re: Dwarf Care - Quick Beginners Tips

I forgot to ask that

If she's having problems with bites or nipping it may well be worth getting a hamster playpen so she/her daughters can interact with them, the wire pens sold for hams are actually fine for Russians unlike syrians, as long as no tall toys are placed near the edge they can't escape & with plenty of toys in there it could be a really fun way for them to get to know the hams better & the hams should enjoy it.
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Old 01-10-2017, 11:34 AM   #6
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Default Re: Dwarf Care - Quick Beginners Tips

Thinks for the tips guys! I really didn't know that about the dwarfs nails - I'll talk to her about that and maybe putting in a rough sanitised rock and so on to help with nails. Bathing sand/litter should help with keeping nails trim too. Is chinchilla sand a must for dwarfs or will the oven dried children's playsand be good enough (that's what I used).

I had another chat with her today and she's asked me to email her some links for cages, new wheels etc. I think she'll either go with the Barney or Alaska cages from Zooplus, going to depend on budget/space I think. I did tell her to keep the cages she has now as travel cages and in case they need taking to the Vet (cages she currently has are these: Small Plastic Dwarf Hamster and Mouse Home)

We did cover playtime but I think she's going to try making a cardboard playpen for now, mostly I think because she's already going to be buying new cages and wheels. I'll point out the metal playpens are fine for dwarfs as well if she maybe wants to get them later on - I actually hadn't thought of the fact that they're fine for dwarfs .

Main issue I think was that the water bottles leaked (they were faulty and have been replaced) and the one hammy's water bottle came apart and half flooded the cage. So she ended up cleaning out the wet cage completely plus the nest which got a bit wet not long after they got brought home. That little one is now very skittish and nippy while the other hammy is still cautious but fairly calm and already walking onto hands to get his dinner. The skittish one has now been moved to a quiet room for a week so he can settle a bit more. I have told her to keep an eye out for wet-tail, that particular pet shop branch she got them from has been known to have issues with it in the past. I'm guessing that the poor little guy is just very stressed right now. I said that she's just going to have to take it super slow with him and that hamsters have their own personalities so she'll need to take that into account when dealing with each of them.

Otherwise she was concerned because she felt once they were home and the cages set up that the cages seemed too small, which they are. She was also worried about the little plastic houses that came with the cage as she said when she opened it up there was condensation and it seemed musty. She also wasn't happy with the wheel which also came with the cage, said it was squeaky and she could hear it at night from her bedroom. Basically just not happy with what she was told would be suitable for the hamsters. Aside from that it was just the taming and being concerned about the skittish one, I covered the basic's like the tissue trick but I'll look for some links to some videos - if anyone can reccomend a really good video about taming please let me know!
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Old 01-10-2017, 12:53 PM   #7
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Default Re: Dwarf Care - Quick Beginners Tips

Hi Ruby! Happy New Year. If your friend wants to make do with a cardboard playpen, then how about using the box the new cage comes in? I did that with Mocho. Plenty of space for early taming. In fact I never needed anything bigger because he could be out on me and the box only needed to pop him in.
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Old 01-10-2017, 01:03 PM   #8
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Default Re: Dwarf Care - Quick Beginners Tips

Russian hams don't get wet tail Ruby so one less thing to worry about.

It does sound as though the skittish one got off to a bit of a bad start with the flood but I'm sure it will calm down soon enough.
Cardboard boxes will be fine for playing in.
Once she has the cages & houses sorted things should go better too. Most hybrids take very easily to litter training btw so a small sand tray close to the nest (or in the house if she gets big ones) should work well.
I don't think I've ever actually watched a taming vid so no idea there!
If she just goes slow & steady with the skittish one it shouldn't be too hard, some quiet time & the tissue trick, gently talking while he settles in for now then offering treats, they do tend to find sunflower seeds & mealworms almost impossible to resist & he'll probably soon be coming to her hand.
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Old 01-10-2017, 06:15 PM   #9
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Default Re: Dwarf Care - Quick Beginners Tips

This is a good taming video. I have also basically written out the video with some minor changes here:

"The important thing is to remember to keep rewarding your hamsters when they make progress with taming.

Something I recommend you do is the tissue trick. Take some unscented, white toilet paper and keep it up your sleeve for a few hours, then place it in the cage. The hamsters should use it for nesting. It will help them get used to your natural scent. Don't give up with taming, it can take some hamsters a long time to be tamed, but the result is worth it. It can range from a week to several months. Always wash your hands with unscented soap before handling a hamster and between hamsters.

Firstly, make sure your hamster is in an adequately sized cage and species appropriate wheel (10-12 inch for Syrians and 6.5-8 inch for Chinese, Winter Whites, Campbells and Hybrids/Russians and 6 inch for Roborovskis as a standard). Secondly, if the cages have tubes, remove them. Hamsters are very difficult to get out of tubes and a nervous will often retreat to them. Tubes can also pose a risk to health if the hamsters pee in them (ammonia build up). Hamster poop is perfectly fine as they do reingest some poop.

Barred cages are easier for taming but the option is up to you. Make sure to find a well loved treat, that won't go mouldy but isn't ridiculously unhealthy. I use a combination of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and freeze-dried chicken (Thrive Chicken available from Pets At Home). If the hamster isn't too nervous, you can offer the treat in front of the nest/house. If the hamster doesn't come out to accept the treat within a couple of minutes, place it in front of the nest and leave it. This can be done with barred cages too, if the hamster is comfortable with you around. You poke the treat through the bars and wait for the hamster to take it from you.

Once the hamster is comfortable enough with this, you can move onto the next stage. Put the treats onto the palm of your hand so the hamster has to put its paws on your palm. When the hamster is consistently comfortable with putting its paws on your palm to take the treat and sitting there to eat it, you can move onto the next stage.

The next step would be to get the hamster used to stroking. You can start with something other than your hand if you aren't confident enough. Whimzee or Greenies dog dental toothbrush chews work well. These can be found in the dog treat aisle. While the hamster is on your palm, stroke it with the toothbrush and as they get more comfortable, you can switch to stroking with your finger. Keep doing this and rewarding the hamster when they tolerate stroking.

Afterwards, you should be ready to try handling. Take a good sized tube, where your hands can cover both ends if necessary. Cover one end of the tube and place treats at the end that is covered. Wait for the hamster to jump in to eat the treats and cover the other end. You can then lift the tube out and put it in a play pen or play bin, depending on your confidence and the hamster's confidence. Have a hand under each end of the tube so they have to walk over your palm to get out. Practice stroking the hamster again in the new environment. As they get more confident, you can put the tube on your lap, so they get used to climbing on you and you stroking them. You can then try picking them up off your lap, when you feel they are happy enough.

At this stage, I would consider them tamed."

Silent Spinners are still alright in 6.5 inch versions, provided you test it out before purchasing. Jasper has one for his travel cage and it is a little tough to spin, but I've noticed he runs better on it because he can stop better. In his regular wheel, he goes flying off every time he stops. 8 inch Comfort Wheel is also a good wheel (Jasper's main wheel). You can buy it from Amazon or Viovet.

I would delay cage upgrades until the hamsters' have settled in well as you don't want to over stress them. Thankfully, dwarfs don't get wet tail or it is very rare.

Definitely suggest a sugar free diet. Burgess dwarf hamster harvest is the best dwarf food and is easy to buy in the UK. Suggest sunflower and pumpkin seeds and linseed/flaxseed as taming treats. They can give the hamsters a small piece of veg each day, but should avoid fruit and feed pepper and carrots sparingly.
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Old 01-10-2017, 11:33 PM   #10
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Default Re: Dwarf Care - Quick Beginners Tips

I would probably do pretty much the same as chesca suggested, one thing that may (or may not?) be different to syrians is that they can get a bit spooked if you try stroking them too soon, I've found that they quite quickly get comfortable with sitting on your hand & hardly notice being lifted a little, at that stage they seem to be fine if stroked but if you try to stroke them before they sit in your hand it can scare them.
I forgot to say about the sand, I've only ever used chinchilla sand so I don't know about play sand, the texture is different so it may not be so effective for coat & nails but really not sure.
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