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Old 06-08-2019, 09:52 AM   #1
Newborn Pup
Join Date: Jun 2019
Location: Ireland
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Default Hamster care queries

Hi guys, I'm pretty new in the hamster community as I've only been doing some research in preparation for my first hamster, which I'm probably going to get in the coming week. I just have a few questions with regard to the bedding situation.

I know that it's safest to freeze them beforehand so that any bugs/eggs that might have gotten in there during production would be dead and not infest the house. However, I'm wondering what sort of arrangement people have for that? The packages all seem to be quite big so I don't think I can fit the entire unopened bag in my freezer. Would it cause problem if I break them up into smaller bags or would that end up making the substrates wet when they eventually defrost? Or maybe I should put them in boxes when freezing?

Also, I think I'd like to use aspen bedding but so far I have yet to find any wood shavings in pet stores that specify what kind of wood they use. They always just say soft wood which probably aren't safe for hamsters. I think my only for sure safe options so far are the wood pellets cat litter or the greyish paper pellet ones, but I really would like the type of bedding that would be good for burrowing.

For reference, I live in Ireland so I'd really appreciate options that are more accessible here. Thank you
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Old 06-08-2019, 07:46 PM   #2
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Default Re: Hamster care queries

Cat litter pellets arent a good choice since they’re quite hard on hamster paws and dont allow for burrowing.

Paper bedding like Kaytee Clean and Cosy or Carefresh is the safest option as theres not risk of splinters and it holds burrows well but if you want to go for aspen its usually found in the reptile section of pet shops.
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Old 06-09-2019, 02:45 AM   #3
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Default Re: Hamster care queries

Hello. I'm aware it can be difficult to get a good range of hamsters supplies over the internet in Ireland, but I believe Zooplus do deliver to Ireland

Softwood shavings aren't safe unless they are pine and kiln dried and dust extracted, and it says so on the back. Cedar isn't safe. I personally would also be cautious about using them if it doesn't specify what softwood it is, and also as different countries have different regulations on kiln drying. In the Uk all wood shavings have to be kiln dried by law, and German regulations on kiln drying are supposed to be good.

As alpa says there are a lot of alternatives and I also wouldn't use cat litter. It just depends what alternatives are available to you. I have tried Aspen and wasn't keen as it was dusty and scratchy and I found it hard to find a brand that wasn't. But it is an option if there is nothing else.

If you can find a paper based bedding that is probably best. Hamsters like it, it's nice and soft, good to burrow in and they can use bits of it to add to their nest as well, plus it's safe. Some people use Carefresh if that's available, although it doesn't work out cheap when you have a large cage for example. I actually found that a bit dusty too, and Kaytee Clean and Cosy is better - but may not be easily available.

Zooplus sell Carefresh and also Chipsi pine shavings from Germany - the Chipsi shavings are part pine and part spruce - spruce is also a softwood but has minimal phenols and is equivalent to hardwood in that respect, so that brand is a better option than any old pine shavings, plus they are kiln dried and dust extracted. Although be careful to avoid any scented versions of any bedding as that is bad for the hamster too.

I'll check out what's available on Zooplus. As for freezing bedding - I don't bother. I did have an outbreak of moths once which was a nightmare, and came from a bag of hamster food - and this is the more likely risk. And some depends on which bedding you get.

I have never had a problem using paper based bedding without freezing first. But I would definitely freeze all hamster food for a week before using. I keep a bag in the freezer ready to get out when the current bag is finished, and even then I keep the current bag in an airtight lock and lock box - so if anything did escape freezing and start hatching, I could see before opening the box! Since freezing food I have never had an issue.

But food moths are a known problem with pet foods. The eggs are so tiny you can't see them and it is the moth eggs that are in the food. I believe they can also in normal flour as well. But the eggs only hatch out in the right conditions (eg nice and warm under a hamster's nest! Or in particularly warm weather).

Freezing for a week will kill moth eggs and larvae if there are any. I also freeze anything with hay (I worry about mites in hay), and any bark wood items or cork items - although apparently baking is better for killing any microscopic bugs in wood and cork (bugs other than moth eggs).

I still freeze them anyway as a belt and braces approach and have never had a problem since doing that. If you did want to freeze bedding, I have just put some in smaller bags and frozen a few smaller bags but that is a real rigmarole and I don't think bedding is an issue, depending on what bedding it is and where you get it.

Zooplus also sell hemp bedding which is also popular. The Hugro hemp I found better than the other one. I don't use it as I found I was allergic to it. And actually hamsters can be allergic to wood bedding - any type of wood, whether it is softwood or hardwood. So even a safe wood bedding could be an allergic issue for a hamster - but you would know that if it happened and then have to look at changing to something else.

This is the Chipsi Classic (unscented)

Hugro hemp bedding

I can't see Carefresh on Zooplus now but it may be available locally.

However the cheapest option there is probably hemp bedding as that is sold in a large quantity so will work out much cheaper. You do need a lot of bedding for say 100cm cage, but with large cages, although you use a lot initially, you use less in the long run as you can "spot clean" mostly, especially if a hamster uses a litter tray - which a syrian hamster will - and then you only need to change the substrate every 6 to 8 weeks or much longer even.

With a 100cm cage and a litter tray with chinchilla sand in, I only need to do the occasional spot clean and go 2 to 3 months without needing to change the substrate, and even then it's a good idea to replace some of the old clean substrate so it smells familiar - either a third or a half and mix it in, or sprinkle the old on top of the new.

Chinchilla bathing sand is a good option for the litter tray - it soaks up the pee - and then you just empty the litter tray every few days. That works well for me. And it's good for the hamster as too much cleaning out stresses them a lot, especially if all their familiar scent is removed. So the other tip is to not clean everything at the same time. If you do the substrate, don't clean anything else at the same time. You can do the wheel a different time, or as and when needed, and any toys etc a different time again.

I leave the nest and hoard alone until I do a substrate change, unless they are pee'd in. Then any hoard that's removed (try to leave a bit of old dry hoard) replace with new food in exactly the same place or they can develop strange behaviours if they think someone has stolen their hoard! Likewise with the nest - if it has to be removed if pee'd in, try and leave a little bit of dry old nest behind, and then put out a big pile of torn up strips of plain white toilet paper - not inside the house but somewhere else in the cage so the hamster can forage for it and take it back to the nest to rebuild it.

Their nest and hoard are their two most precious things! And it can really upset them to have those messed with. Sometimes it does need to be done though.

Do you have your cage all sorted? Sometimes people get sold an unsuitable cage (there is no regulation on what pet shops can sell!) and then it's more expense and upheaval for the hamster having to upgrade them. If you're thinking about cages as well then Zooplus also have good cages - the Alaska, Barney and Alexander are popular for Syrians.

Back to bedding

If you like the idea of hemp then check out any local suppliers of horse bedding as they may sell Aubiose, which is also hemp bedding.
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Old 06-09-2019, 02:49 AM   #4
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Default Re: Hamster care queries

This Ireland pet store sells Carefresh. It can work out expensive if you need a lot, but you can also use a mix of two different beddings if you wanted to use some as well. Either mixed together (which can help hold any tunnels they dig in shape) or a separate area with a different bedding, for texture variety to keep things interesting.

They don't sell Kaytee Clean and Cozy (which has only recently become fairly easily available in the Uk anyway).
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Old 06-10-2019, 05:55 PM   #5
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Join Date: Jun 2019
Location: Ireland
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Default Re: Hamster care queries


Thank you for the very detailed reply!! I do realize that cat litter wouldn't be the best since it doesn't hold any burrows. My initial thought was just to use it in the beginning while I figure out what other bedding to use since they're the only ones I know that are safe so far (other than the carefresh one which I feel are too expensive). I actually found that hemp bedding as well but I wasn't sure if they would be safe for hamsters but now I know so that's probably what I'd want to try now

I have already started freezing the food in preparation for the hamster so that's sorted for me hehe

I currently have the Alaska cage and luckily I found a pet store that actually has the minimum size policy where they will only let you get hamsters from them if they are of a suitable size so if you don't get a cage from them you'll have to show them a picture of your setup

How much sand do you normally go through? I'm wondering if there's a way to have a sand bath area separate to their litter area coz it seems a bit counter-productive to me to let them roll around in a place where they also toilet in XD I did hear that they tend to like doing their business in the sand bath though. What are your experience with commercial hamster litter pearls? Are they actually safe? Also, I saw that hamsters can actually use play sand which would work out cheaper but is there anything I need to do to sanitize it?

Also, thank you for the extra tips, especially with regard to their food hoard/nesting materials. I heard that too but couldn't really empathize with why they'd get that stressed out about it but the way you put it helped me understand. I will make sure my future fur baby won't think a mystery entity stole their food and messed with their home D:
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Old 06-11-2019, 05:04 AM   #6
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Default Re: Hamster care queries

Thank you Serendipity7000 for the advise on freezing your hamster food. Will pop it into the freezer a week before.
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wood, bedding, hamster, safe, options, shavings, find, aspen, care, put, substrates, wet, making, end, bags, queries, eventually, boxes, freezing, pet, defrost, live, ireland, reference, burrowing

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