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Old 12-01-2018, 06:36 PM   #1
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Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: United States
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Default I feel like I'm not spending enough time with my hamsters or enriching their lives

I have 7 hamsters, 7 rats, 6 mice, 2 parakeets (budgies), and a dog. Plus I'm in high school. I feel like i spend more time with my shoulder pets (mice, rats, birds) and dog than my hamsters. I absolutely love my boys so so much. But their cages are bare and i never hold them because they run rather than sit like my other animals. I sould really like to change this. 2 of my boys are a year old. Their dad is somewhat over a year maybe 1 or 2 moss over and the rest were born early in 2018. Well anyway i was really close to my 2 boys and their dad. I bred the 2 boys (and everyone else under a year) but not the dad. My boys will let me kiss their tiny cheeks and things. Since they are middle aged i want to spoil them as much as possible. Wheels have been out for so long bc my grandma hated them but I'm putting them back in. Any other cheap as possible but entertaining toys? They hate chews they only like whimzees. I need to get them hideaways. I've delayed making them full bin cages because of homework but I'm doing it now so they can have water bottles and hideaways. I feel like a horrible hamster owner and somewhat of a hoarder. I've tried rehoming a few and it never worked because no one wanted them and i couldn't take them to the pet store and just leave them there... Any advice welcome.
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Old 12-01-2018, 07:04 PM   #2
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Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: UK
Posts: 6,991
Default Re: I feel like I'm not spending enough time with my hamsters or enriching their live

Hamsters really don't need human interaction at all so I wouldn't worry too much about that. They're perfectly fine just doing their own thing. Maybe try and get them out for a bit of out of cage time, if you can get a playpen set up. No good letting hamsters take over your life when you're in school though, so I'd just focus on making their cages the best you can and just give them attention when you have time.
They do need a wheel in the cage 24/7 so if it becomes a problem again you might have to think about investing in new & silent wheels. I know they can be expensive though.
Toys don't have to be expensive honestly, it's surprising what you can do with shoe/cereal/tissue boxes, toilet roll tubes, lollipop sticks (loads of DIY tutorials online), even pringles tubes.
Large mugs make a nice hideaway. You could give them a section of different substrate like sand or eco earth just in a container. Eco earth is great for digging in. DIY treats are also easy to make, you can give them the odd nut in a shell (walnuts, hazelnuts, monkey nuts) as they're more of a challenge to get into. You can also layer soft hay into the bedding, and put as much bedding in as you can. That'll help hold burrows and they do enjoy digging around in it. Different types of substrate/bedding can make all the difference in making setups more enriching.
They don't need water bottles, if they're using a bowl now then best stick to that and just make sure it's on a shelf where it can't tip or anything.
I don't know if they have a house to sleep in or not, if not then make that a priority. Any kind of cardboard box without a base will do, it just needs to be big enough.
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Old 12-02-2018, 03:41 AM   #3
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Location: Hampshire
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Default Re: I feel like I'm not spending enough time with my hamsters or enriching their live

Honestly my 3 hamsters are usually asleep so I dont see them every day. None of them are keen on being handled.

Loo roll inners with food inside can be fun for them as can egg boxes. Youtube has some lovely enrichment ideas. Erins animals and hppoing hammy are two of my fave channels.

Good luck with your cage plans.
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Old 12-06-2018, 03:36 AM   #4
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Default Re: I feel like I'm not spending enough time with my hamsters or enriching their live

Cypher has said it all really. The most important thing is to make sure their cages have enough enrichment so they can enjoy their environment. No wheel and no out of cage time will cause them pent up energy - they do need exercise. The other thing is syrians need a wheel big enough.

As they others say, they live solitary lives, and unless they show signs of wanting to come out, are often quite happy in their cages. But bare cages could lead to stress and depression in a hamster.

Main thing is that they have enough space (eg at least 70cm by 40cm floorspace and ideally 80 x 50 or more). At least 4 inches depth of substrate - more in some areas. A shelf or platform they can climb onto or sit under. Somewhere dark to retreat to - eg a house or hide that is dark inside. A house big enough to build a large nest in (or a shelf for them to build a nest under). And variety/enrichment - eg toys like tunnels or hidey places. Scattering food enables them to have normal behaviours such as foraging.

Also not cleaning them out too often as this makes them feel homeless and invaded! And removes all their familiar scent. They are often happiest building mountains out of substrate or pushing it around.

Their basic natural behaviours are nesting, hoarding and foraging. If they can do that successfully they will be happy- providing they have somewhere to retreat to and feel safe (why dark houses and tunnels are popular and shelves).

If you have enough substrate in and a litter tray they are low maintenance. The more substrate you have in, the less often they need a clean out and even then it's best not to clean everything at once. eg - do a substrate change one week (with 5" or more you only need to change 1/3 to a half of it and replace the clean dry substrate and mix it in with the new). Do the wheel a different week, and any toys a different week again.

Try to always leave their nest and hoards alone, they get very stressed by those being taken away. If the nest or hoard is pee'd on then you need to remove it but usually they have a particular pee spot and only tend to pee in the house if it is too small or cleaned out too often. It's a kind of itch scratch thing - if you take things away they pee on them to scent mark them and deter people stealing things! If you do have to remove the hoard then replace it with new food in exactly the same place. Also try and leave a bit of the old nest behind and put a big pile of torn up strips of plain white toilet paper out in the cage somewhere (not in the house) so they can forage for it and rebuild the nest.

When you have that many hamsters it is difficult to find time for them all to have out of cage time as they have to have it separately. I do think they need a change of environment now and then but it doesn't have to be every day or even every week.

A playpen is a good idea - you can just put them in there with a few toys and a few treats dotted about for them to find and a wheel maybe. Usually they just want to escape from the playpen after a few minutes. If you have a hamster safe area - eg an area of hallway you can block off - that they can just run around and explore they would probably enjoy that. But they do need supervision. And if you have floorboards rather than solid floors it can be a bit risky with the odd little gap at the skirting board etc.

If you want some suggestions to make the cages more hamster friendly, post some photos on here and we can advise on layout etc. Sometimes something as simple as good access or a bit of overhead cover can make it nicer for them. Cardboard boxes like tissue boxes and shoe boxes make good houses and hides so it doesn't have to cost a lot, and some people use cleaned out pringles tubes for tunnels. Rat sized toys and tunnels are best for syrians.

Hamsters may not be as interactive and are a bit more independent but they do know you - your scent, the sound of your voice etc so just a little chat and hello when you put food out can help And telling them they are beautiful and good - they pick up tone of voice etc.

Main thing is give them plenty of enrichment - I do think they can get depressed if ignored too much but it doesn't mean they need to be out a lot if their cage environment is good.

A wheel is a must though.
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Old 12-06-2018, 03:38 AM   #5
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Default Re: I feel like I'm not spending enough time with my hamsters or enriching their live

Also - if you think you have too many to devote enough time to, you could always think about putting one or two up for adoption - there are often people looking for a hamster on places like Gumtree who will only want the one and be able to devote themselves to one
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