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Old 03-01-2019, 01:29 PM   #1
Join Date: Mar 2019
Posts: 1
Default Hi, giving Syrians another try after a long time.

Hi, I'm HammyHavoc and I haven't had rodents in my life in a very long time. I'm going to get a Syrian hamster as soon as I get my bin cage put together. There were a lot of things that I apparently did wrong the last time around (cage size was the biggest offender.)

My biggest priority right now is getting a friendly, chill hamster. I've only had boys before this and probably will get a male this time as well.

What are some good tips that you might not find in a FAQ or introductory articles?
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Old 03-03-2019, 03:01 AM   #2
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Location: North of England
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Default Re: Hi, giving Syrians another try after a long time.

Hello and welcome. I think a Syrian is a great choice. We have one and also a Roborovski dwarf hamster. I get much more interaction and handling with the Syrian and he is such a character!

In my experience, when they are babies they are very active and get scared easily, but taming can progress quite quickly in a playpen area and once they are tame they are easy to handle and will walk all over you. However as they are so active (like all hamsters) and fast in the first 6 to 9 months particularly, then out of cage time may be best in a playpen area - unless you can completely hamster proof a room.

By the time our current syrian hamster was hand tame and used to me, he just used to have sofa time - crawl all over the sofa which he quite liked as there were cushions and throws to climb under and over and he was too nervous to jump off the edge. But some will just jump!

Once they get to a year it is a very nice time - they are older and more confident and less "whizzy". And by then know you very well and have a good bond. Our current Syrian is almost two and in good health, and has become much more adventurous - climbs off the sofa and runs round the room (which has been hamsterproof) - he is really enjoying his old age.

Their personalities vary. It's true boys can be more laid back generally - our last Syrian was very lazy and quite a home bod - had difficulty getting him out of his cage at all and when out he would go to sleep on my knee sometimes under a blanket. Depending what time of night it was - later in the evening he'd become very active out of the cage.

Our current one is an avid digger and always rummaging and wanting to dig holes and tunnels. Whereas the last one wasn't the slightest bit interested in digging tunnels.

They will all be friendly once tamed and used to you. Initially they may be scared and anxious, but that's normal.

Are you thinking of getting a baby hamster or an older rescue hamster? A slightly older hamster may be more chilled, but also may be harder to tame, if not tame already. But then it can be nice to "bring up" a baby hamster from very young.

For good tips - I would say - get a cage set up right for them before bringing the hamster home - they don't do well with things changing and being moved, especially at first.

The first two weeks, don't do any cleaning or changes, other than empty a litter tray or spot clean the pee if needed.

My biggest tip would be - use a litter tray. They will use it if you put it in the right place (which is usually a corner of the cage where they choose to have a toilet). If you put it in their chosen pee place they will use it. If you put it anywhere else, they won't! The hamster decides!

I find these good

With Chinchilla bathing sand in, which soaks up the pee. Our boys tend to pee in the very back corner (where it's higher so doesn't splash) and sit in the front part for a dig or a wash. The open ones are better as they can get in and out easily.

Then the rest of the cage tends to stay clean and dry and you empty the litter tray every few days and replace the sand. Both our syrians have been so clean and tidy they will even cover the litter tray with substrate sometimes, after peeing in it.

The main tips are to do with cleaning. It's best not to overclean them which causes them stress and can lead to abnormal behaviours. Partial cleans are better. Eg don't clean everything at the same time. So when you do a substrate change, don't clean anything else. You can do the wheel a different week (or as and when needed), and any toys a different week again - toys often don't need cleaning that often.

If you have a good depth of substrate - about 5 to 6" - you can just spot clean mainly and not have to do substrate changes so often - especially if they use a litter tray. eg taking out the odd handful of substrate and replacing it with a new handful - then mix it in a bit so it still smells familiar. The key is so something always smells familiar so they still feel at home.

Some people use the "German method" of only replacing half the substrate or two thirds, each time - that works best when you have deeper substrate. The bottom half is generally clean and dry when a litter tray is used. Then mixing the old third or half in with the new so it still smells familiar. Sometimes I do this, sometimes if I've left it a bit longer, I replace all the substrate, but keep some old clean substrate back and sprinkle it on top so it smells familiar to the hamster. So they don't feel like they've been evicted or invaded!

They are very territorial about their cage area and some of it is respect for their personal space - balanced wth the need to care for them and keep them in a suitable clean environment.

Their most precious things though are their nest and their hoard. I always leave the nest alone - unless it has been peed in (baby hamsters sometimes do this until they've got into better habits). Then you have to remove it if it's pee'd on, but try and leave a bit of the old nest behind that's clean and dry so they don't feel completely robbed. And they'll then rebuild it with the new nesting material you put out in the cage. Plain white toilet paper torn into strips is best for nesting material and they like to forage for it, pouch it and take it back to the nest.

Our hamsters have always refurbished their own nests as and when necessary , taking old bits out and dumping them and taking new bits in. So if you find a pile of substrate or nesting material in front of the house or the cage door, that'sa hint to take it away. Although sometimes they will pile new substrate round the house or door to keep warm.

Sorry that is a bit long and rambly. So briefly.

1) Cage big enough - it can be hard to find a bin cage a suitable size for a Syrian. The best bin cage size is this one really.

Go Shopping - Really Useful Boxes - 145 litre Really Useful Box

It's not cheap and you wouldn't want anything smaller for a Syrian as their stuff is quite large - they do better with rat sized toys - and it needs to fit plenty of substrate and an 11" wheel is usual. Minimum 3 to 4 " substrate. The more you have, the less often you have to do "big" cleans and can spot clean more.

That bin isn't the cheapest, but is good quality, stackable and apparently easier to cut than most cages without cracking. But you can actually buy a cage a bit cheaper than that. If you like the idea of cages (I prefer them for the ventilation and ease of access and interaction- I like front doors), then Zooplus do very good, inexpensive cages for hamsters.

The Alaska cage is cheaper than the RUB bin - but although it's a good size for a Syrian, a lot of people then find the need to upgrade from it. The Barney and Alexander cages are a bit bigger and ideal for a Syrian hamster.

The Barney is cheaper than the Alexander, but a bit bulkier being 54cm deep. Most Syrian hamsters are more than happy in a Barney or Alexander cage.

The Alexander is great as it has virtually another whole level and comes with 3 houses - including one long built in one at floor level which hamsters seem to like and you can also fit a litter tray inside it at one end. When they have a large house they will often choose a corner of the house for a toilet and putting a litter tray in works well.

Our Syrian has the Barney cage with a large labyrinth house inside with "rooms" - he uses the litter tray inside the house.

So generally you don't want anything smaller than 80cm x 50cm floor area approx for a Syrian - and 100cm by 50cm is popular and I find better for being able to add a lot of enrichment and larger toys etc.

The Barney cage actually works out better value than the Alaska. Although it costs a bit more, it comes with everything you need except a few toys. It has a good sized house for a Syrian and a shelf and even has an 8" wheel (usually wheels are tiny) which is a bit flimsy but ok as a starter wheel. Most people then get an 11" wheel for a Syrian.

The Alaska is cheaper but doesn't come with a house (the little white house on the shelf is useless for nesting and the holes are a bit small for a syrian - a larger syrian could get stuck in them). It's best removed and just use the shelf.

Anyway these are the cages on Zooplus - the Barney, Alexander and Barney are Syrian sized cages on there. Delivery is free when you buy a cage so some people get a wheel at the same time and any other items, to get free delivery on everything when getting the cage.

Another good cage is the Savic Hamster Plaza - about the same size as the Alexander cage and about the same price. It also needs a house and a wheel though but has a nice big front opening door which is good for interacting with a hamster and for access.

It is a bit on the tall side so definitely needs the base filling with substrate to cushion any falls and reduce the effective height.

The Hamster Heaven cage on the Zooplus is sometimes popular as well. I found that size a bit cramped and ended up needing to upgrade and wished I had bought a bigger cage to start with. It is a bit lower than most so harder to fit an 11" wheel in - it does fit but limits the set up. Also all the plastic tubes and penthouse are no good for hamsters really and best removed and just one shelf used. They do much better with a house that is open underneath and sat on top of substrate, so they can burrow down and bury hoards under their nest.

Hope that helps for now!
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Old 03-03-2019, 03:05 AM   #3
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Default Re: Hi, giving Syrians another try after a long time.

Final tip - after mentioning nests and hoards. It's best to not remove all their hoard or they get very anxious and start peeing on it. Again if a hoard is pee'd on it needs removing, but I try and leave a bit of dry hoard that's clean behind, then always add new food to replace what's been removed (less maybe) in exactly the same place. They accept that then. I tend to "prune" the hoard when changing the substrate as it can get quite large and older food can go a bit stale but dry hoard does last surprisingly a long time when hoarded. Ours have always eaten any fresh food or veg straight away rather than hoard it, so that hasn't been issue but you'll find your hamster's habits soon enough!
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Old 03-03-2019, 12:11 PM   #4
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Join Date: Feb 2019
Location: Yorkshire, England
Posts: 3
Default Re: Hi, giving Syrians another try after a long time.

Hi HammyHavoc
Like you I've gone back to a Syrian hamster - that's after years of rats, guinea pigs, gerbils, a rabbit and dwarf hamsters. This is mainly because my house is now too tiny for lots of animals! I have a lovely Syrian boy called Mooch who's been with me six weeks now, and I still can't believe how clean and tidy he is - he has weed in a jar of chinchilla sand every day since the day he moved in so the cage stays pretty spotless! I have only cleaned his cage out (washed) once every 3 weeks as he makes no mess. He is still quite young but is very laid back so far. I've not had to tame an animal for years as all my pets in the last 15 years have been unwanted adult pets. I've found the best way to handle Mooch has been to let him walk into a pot in his cage and then lift this out onto the sofa so he can explore (and climb over me) without the stress of being picked up yet. He does tend to dive off the sofa every now and then but if I put my hands underneath he climbs down onto them quite happily and it's a good way to get him used to being held. He's now at the stage where he climbs back out of his cage onto my hands when I put him back, so he's getting used to me.
I keep him in an Alaska cage which I ordered from Zooplus, he loves it and there's plenty of room for a big wheel, platform and lots of toys. I love the cage because I can watch him from the side when he gets up, and also it's easy to hang ladders etc from the bars.
I had lots of Syrians as a kid and from my experience would stick to males, they have always seemed much more placid and friendly then females (though I am sure this isn't the rule) and I noticed females have a strong smell when they are in season which can take much washing to remove from your hands... my little Mooch has a lovely clean hamster smell and he's gorgeous.
Good luck with your new pal!
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