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Old 09-10-2021, 06:25 AM   #1
ShadowNinjaHamster
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Default I think my hamster has some health issues? I want to confirm

Hey!
Around two weeks ago I got a dwarf hamster and it was already scratching and grooming himself at the store. I googled it and it said that hamsters groom themselves a lot and it's completely normal. I think my hamster has some health issues. For the first time ever I saw his bottom side and it's bald. I don't know what a dwarf hamster is supposed to look like and if it's normal. I just wanted to confirm. Also, please don't get mad at me.

I'm currently working nightshifts and he doesn't really do much, except eating and sleeping and scratching himself from time to time. Sometimes he does use his wheel, goes back to sleep.

I planned to clean his 'hideout aka house' and some other spots on his cage and add new bedding to it, because the last time when I did a full clean out I kind of ran out of the bedding. The last time he came out of the cage when I called him, but today he did not want to come out at all and not even with treats.

I don't have any exotic vets near me, will the regular cat and dog vets will be able to help me? I mean every website I visited in my city has cats and dogs and only one mentioned hamsters, so I don't think they're specialised with hamsters.

I took a picture of him:



He's back to his normal sleeping position and even though I want to clean the cage so bad before I go to work I don't want to wake him up.

What should I at least Google to see what a dwarf hamster looks like on his stomach? Aren't there supposed to be any hair? Are those bald spots normal? Am I worrying too much? Maybe he's just getting used to the new place and this is why he has been behaving strangely?

Hamsters are not easy pets to own at all. I feel so bad about myself. I also can't touch my hamster yet, because once when I did he jumped really high and got scared of me for a few days.

Please help.

Edit: I googled and it could've been mites. There were mites in his cage and I even asked about it on this forum. I haven't noticed any mites anymore, but I'll keep checking just to make sure.

Edit2: Showed the picture to my friend who used to have hamsters. She said it's very normal behaviour and her hamsters were the same. Then I said: "No fur on the tummy" and she told me to take him to the vet if I'm so worried.

Last edited by ShadowNinjaHamster; 09-10-2021 at 06:34 AM.
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Old 09-10-2021, 06:40 AM   #2
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Default Re: I think my hamster has some health issues? I want to confirm

I remember that worry with your first fur baby! Don't worry he looks perfectly normal. What it is, because he's a boy, is his man testicles have swollen because he's warm and comfortable They often "descend" like that when they're relaxed, asleep or cosy and warm. And they quite enjoy sitting on - what Souffle once called them - their "portacushions". There will be more skin visible in that area without much fur.

I think he maybe just needs time to fully settle in after the recent problem with the bugs and cage clean. In a couple of weeks he'll probably have got some habits and a nesting area (or two). Dwarf hamsters can sometimes sleep in funny places

I would add more substrate though. He might want to burrow down a bit or dig a tunnel - he'd enjoy that.
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Old 09-10-2021, 06:49 AM   #3
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Default Re: I think my hamster has some health issues? I want to confirm

No, i don't think that it's normal for a hamster to have a bald underside. I would definitely get him checked out by a vet.

My vet isn't an exotics vet either but she has a good knowledge of hamsters.

Why don't you phone up the vet who mentions hamsters? Maybe they have a vet with more hamster knowledge than the usual cats and dogs vet.

It's not really possible for forum members to speculate on your hamster's health and it wouldn't be right to do so.

I think that once you've given your hamster the help he needs by taking him to a vet, you will feel a lot better about yourself.
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Old 09-10-2021, 06:55 AM   #4
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Default Re: I think my hamster has some health issues? I want to confirm

I just read Serendipity's reply and realized what you were talking about when i zoomed in the photo of your hamster.

I thought his whole underside was completely bald which would have been worrying.

My apologies if i worried you unnecessarily.
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Old 09-10-2021, 07:08 AM   #5
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Default Re: I think my hamster has some health issues? I want to confirm

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Originally Posted by Ria P View Post
I just read Serendipity's reply and realized what you were talking about when i zoomed in the photo of your hamster.

I thought his whole underside was completely bald which would have been worrying.

My apologies if i worried you unnecessarily.
It's okay. I mean it's my first time seeing him from his stomach and it's also my first time owning a hamster. I've had a cat before, but I gotta say that having a cat was a lot easier for me. From cleaning to not worrying so much. He has been behaving differently ever since I deep cleaned his cage. He always sleeps in different spots, which I've read from online is very normal for a hamster. I also ordered a playpen and I'm also trying to find a bigger cage that's not delivered by DHL (I've always had horrible experiences with this company). When I look around the pet stores their cages are even smaller than my current one, which is actually worrying.

Thank you for your reply
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Old 09-10-2021, 07:18 AM   #6
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Default Re: I think my hamster has some health issues? I want to confirm

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Originally Posted by Serendipity7000 View Post
I remember that worry with your first fur baby! Don't worry he looks perfectly normal. What it is, because he's a boy, is his man testicles have swollen because he's warm and comfortable They often "descend" like that when they're relaxed, asleep or cosy and warm. And they quite enjoy sitting on - what Souffle once called them - their "portacushions". There will be more skin visible in that area without much fur.

I think he maybe just needs time to fully settle in after the recent problem with the bugs and cage clean. In a couple of weeks he'll probably have got some habits and a nesting area (or two). Dwarf hamsters can sometimes sleep in funny places

I would add more substrate though. He might want to burrow down a bit or dig a tunnel - he'd enjoy that.
Thank you so much for your reply. You made me feel better. I was so worried. I plan to start completely taming him when I'll receive my playpen. He has sniffed me and sometimes eats food out of my hand if he feels like it, but he hasn't nibbled me yet or bitten. He seems friendly and he hasn't made any noise ever since I cleaned his cage completely. I'm still freezing the bedding, hoping there wont be any eggs or any other surprises in there.

So far he has been sleeping in his house, behind the house and in his nest, but it's the first time I saw what his tummy looks like and I thought it was supposed to be all fur.

He didn't want to come out today of his cage at all and I kind of don't want to wake him up, so I might clean his cage (not everything at once, I listen to your advice) on Monday when I have a day off from work and when he's awake. I already woke him up once trying him to come out of the cage with no luck. I was thinking of trying again on Monday when I have the whole day for him and we do things according to his schedule.

Thank you so much for your reply!
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Old 09-10-2021, 07:24 AM   #7
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Default Re: I think my hamster has some health issues? I want to confirm

He'll take a bit of time to get over that deep clean - which was necessary but unfortunate, but I'm sure he'll bounce back. What can help them get over it is a bit of distraction. Eg scattering some food as well as just putting it in the food bowl. They like foraging for it and it helps them start using the cage again. Also keep talking to him gently. Hide a couple of special treats each day in different parts of the cage - eg one in his wheel, one somewhere else in the cage. It'll again help him want to use the cage and distract him from the upheaval and changes. Eg a tiny bit of cheese (smelly - he'll find it). Or his bit of daily veg in the wheel instead of the food bowl.

What cage is he in at the moment? A good option for a dwarf hamster is the hamster heaven - but without all the colourful plastic stuff (most of which isn't suitable for dwarf hamsters). But it has a nice big front opening door and that helps with taming and interaction - and less nerve wracking for them than having things coming from the top.

It's not a cheap cage but sold in a number of different places (pets at home, Amazon, Zooplus) - and you can also find second hand ones on Gumtree and ebay to save money.

It seems a shame to not use all the colourful plastic shelves, tubes and penthouse but they really do more harm than good and are just throwaway things to sell the cage! Starting with an empty cage and the tubes blocked off with blockers is the best way - and keeping existing items and adding a few more (cardboard is your friend - you can make houses, floor tunnels etc).

Zooplus is probably the cheapest place and they give you a choice of couriers to use at Checkout.

Hamster Cages | Buy the ideal cage for your hamster at zooplus

I worried myself stupid over every little thing when we had our first hamster. But don't worry - you'll start to bond over time and things will get easier. I made some big mistakes at first. Moved him cold turkey from an awful little plastic cage into a bigger one and it really stressed him. I felt so guilty. And realised in that moment that he wasn't just an item to be moved but a little thing that need nurturing and was dependent on me to be more careful and considerate. And I think at that moment I fell head over heels in love with him!
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Old 09-10-2021, 05:11 PM   #8
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Default Re: I think my hamster has some health issues? I want to confirm

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Originally Posted by Serendipity7000 View Post
He'll take a bit of time to get over that deep clean - which was necessary but unfortunate, but I'm sure he'll bounce back. What can help them get over it is a bit of distraction. Eg scattering some food as well as just putting it in the food bowl. They like foraging for it and it helps them start using the cage again. Also keep talking to him gently. Hide a couple of special treats each day in different parts of the cage - eg one in his wheel, one somewhere else in the cage. It'll again help him want to use the cage and distract him from the upheaval and changes. Eg a tiny bit of cheese (smelly - he'll find it). Or his bit of daily veg in the wheel instead of the food bowl.

What cage is he in at the moment? A good option for a dwarf hamster is the hamster heaven - but without all the colourful plastic stuff (most of which isn't suitable for dwarf hamsters). But it has a nice big front opening door and that helps with taming and interaction - and less nerve wracking for them than having things coming from the top.

It's not a cheap cage but sold in a number of different places (pets at home, Amazon, Zooplus) - and you can also find second hand ones on Gumtree and ebay to save money.

It seems a shame to not use all the colourful plastic shelves, tubes and penthouse but they really do more harm than good and are just throwaway things to sell the cage! Starting with an empty cage and the tubes blocked off with blockers is the best way - and keeping existing items and adding a few more (cardboard is your friend - you can make houses, floor tunnels etc).

Zooplus is probably the cheapest place and they give you a choice of couriers to use at Checkout.

Hamster Cages | Buy the ideal cage for your hamster at zooplus

I worried myself stupid over every little thing when we had our first hamster. But don't worry - you'll start to bond over time and things will get easier. I made some big mistakes at first. Moved him cold turkey from an awful little plastic cage into a bigger one and it really stressed him. I felt so guilty. And realised in that moment that he wasn't just an item to be moved but a little thing that need nurturing and was dependent on me to be more careful and considerate. And I think at that moment I fell head over heels in love with him!
Yes, that's probably it, but today I cleaned his house too, which he did not seem to like. When I tried to move his house he jumped onto it and he was probably trying to stop me from moving it, but I'm glad I cleaned his house, because as soon as I moved the house I felt the smell of urine. I didn't deep clean the house, but I was digging around in the bedding as well to see if I notice any bugs ( I did not ) and he probably did not like it. He didn't attack me or bite me, but he was either curious or trying to stop me. I do speak to him a lot and I do it very calmly.

My cage is small. It doesn't even meet the minimum requirements, but it's the biggest one I saw at the store and I've been looking cages at my local pet shop and their cages are a lot smaller than my current one. My hamster does not chew on the bars yet and doesn't run around in circles, but he does other weird things, like knocking over the food dish. I can even hear him doing that because it takes some effort to knock it over.

I took all of the colourful stuff out and I bought a bigger wheel and a wooden house and I have given him unscented toilet paper, which I rubbed on myself first.

He's also rolling on his back a lot, but tonight he did something weird as I was looking at him. He squeezed himself between the house and the cage's wall and was lying there for good 15 minutes eyes opened. I even took a picture of him to ask if there's something wrong with him:


(Apologies for using an external site. I have no idea how to upload / insert images here properly)

I was trying to Google to figure out what's wrong with him and I read everything from such behaviour being a hamster behaviour to his dying or just hibernated, because he's too hot or cold / the room temperature has stayed the same ever since I got him and this is the first time ever I've seen him doing that. I didn't want to turn the lights on to check on his breathing, because I've read somewhere that turning the lights on in the middle of the night can confuse hamsters. I'd also like to point out that I've changed water today three times and he has food and even ate a cucumber today. When I got back to the living room (where my hamster is at) he was already eating and he's in his house now, but yeah I worried a lot, because to be honest with you, I don't know his past or even how old he is. There were way skinnier and way smaller dwarf hamsters at the store, but I picked him, because my gut feeling told me that we'd get along great and so far he hasn't attacked me or bitten me or hissed at me, because I've read many forum posts of hamsters biting their owners, but so far he hasn't bitten me. I do let him sniff me when he wants to, but I feel like after doing the full clean to his cage we are pretty much back to day 1 and I think I also stressed him out today with cleaning his house. He seemed to protect it.


Isn't it bad for hamsters to have multiple floor cage? I read somewhere that it is, since hamsters are almost blind. The good thing is that I found the cage in my country's store as well. I haven't given cheese to my hamster yet, but thanks for the tip. He absolutely loves cucumbers. I've also tried to offer him an apple, but every time I've offered it he has just sniffed it and not eaten it at all. I've also noticed that he's a 'picky eater' and doesn't eat everything.

I'll probably keep the bath, since I've been trying to find a bath for my hamster for awhile now and in pet shops there's no sand for hamsters. I saw sand for mice, rats, degus, but not hamsters. On Monday my playpen should arrive and I'll try to start the taming process. I hope he'll come out of the cage, because today he didn't no matter how hard I tried and what treats I tried. Probably remembers that coming out of the cage means full blown cleanup.

If I were to buy a new cage how should I move him? I think I would've moved him cold Turkey as well and currently I am probably over worrying about everything. Like him laying on his side, eyes fully open. I'll keep a very close eye on him and on his cage.
I want him to be happy. That is the most important thing to me and I know he's new and has been through a lot (mites in his cage etc) and today I cleaned his house and added more bedding. I hope he's fine and happy though.

Edit: I was told that my hamster might be 'shy' and not confident around me. Now that I think about it he has been more active when I'm in bed and sleep. One person had a hamster that was sleeping 24/7 as well but then after 4 months he started being very active around 9pm. I might worry too much and my hamster probably just needs time to get adjust to everything.

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Old 09-11-2021, 03:29 AM   #9
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Default Re: I think my hamster has some health issues? I want to confirm

He is just frightened and a bit lost. I don't think there is anything wrong with him other than fear and stress and not being settled in yet. They are VERY precious about their nest so yes he will have been very anxious about that (good that you talked to him) especially after the cage clean. Sounds like he was trying to guard it. At the moment he just feels invaded and unsafe and is reacting accordingly (plus dwarf hammies do sometimes sleep in some strange places).

Glad there were no bugs! Looks like you're on top of that now. Assume you had to remove his nest if it was pee'd in? If that happens again, try and leave at least a little bit of the old nest behind - a dry bit - even if it's slightly whiffy. That really helps to leave something a bit familiar smelling. Then put new nesting material in the cage, but not actually inside the house - let them forage for it and rebuild the nest. I usually put the pile somewhere near the house.

Anyway once this has happened (nest removed because pee'd in) they often learn not to pee in the nest again. If he has a sand bath or litter tray he may start using it as a toilet.

So the solution at the moment is time. I wouldn't try and start taming yet - you need to give him more time since the cage clean. I'd give him two weeks without disturbing anything else. Even if it gets smelly. So it's time and patience. If, during that two weeks, he shows signs of wanting to come out - eg coming to the door and looking like he wants to come out, then maybe let him walk into a tube to come out but I wouldn't put your hands in the cage to pick him up yet as he still needs to adjust to his cage and yes will see your hands as negative at the moment. He'll get over that in time.

What you can do, if necessary, is add the odd new thing - eg a few more handfuls of substrate a bit at a time - resist the temptation to mix it all up too much just add a few handfuls a bit at a time. And adding a new item is usually accepted ok (Ie not a threat), providing you don't have to move anything else to add it and don't take anything else out.

He needs the time to settle in now to avoid anxiety and let some trust build. It's hard just leaving them alone, but once he feels it's his cage, he will seem happier and doing a bit more and then be more interested in you.

It's the same for everyone after a big cage clean - there's a need to start from scratch with the two week settling in period again.

There is an awful lot of rubbish on the internet! All kinds of weird and wonderful things - so there's a need to be discerning about sources. Social media can be particularly maverick and harsh in advice.

I'd just keep asking questions on here instead. Some members are official breeders and very experienced owners and you'll get sound advice on here.

So cages. Levels aren't a problem except with pairs (pairs are a problem anyway). Height is a problem and tall cages do tend to have multiple levels. So really it's about the height of the cage rather than the number of levels with a single hamster. And that's due to safety. They can climb bars but as you said, don't see well, and can't get down easily, so they tend to just let go and drop and can then get injured. So ideally the cage for a dwarf hamster shouldn't be taller than about 36cm. 38 to 40cm max - and then you need deeper bedding to effectively reduce the height and cushion any falls. Any hard or pointy/sharp items/floor toys should be underneath something - eg underneath a shelf - in case they're landed on. So shelves can be helpful in that way.

Many hamsters are injured from falls when cages are too tall - and also from unsuitable cage items (chains are a big no no - they can get their feet caught in them and end up hanging by a broken leg). Runged ladders are a similar hazard, so ramps and ladders need to be solid.

You're getting there! You just had a setback with the bugs. At the moment he doesn't quite trust you and needs time to build up his confidence and get some trust back.

Stress can make them act a bit strange but it should wear off. They are most active at night when we're asleep and he could be busying himself and wheel running at night.

The key to a happy hamster is - minimum cage disruption (ongoing), and plenty of enrichment. Enrichment is the key word. It basically means plenty to do and variety in the cage. So plenty of substrate is one of the first things. If he had more he would probably have dug down and buried himself when scared rather than sitting beside his house - he's trying to hide, to feel safe probably (maybe doesn't feel his house is safe yet).

So enrichment is - substrate, variety - eg cardboard tubes as floor toys (kitchen roll inner tubes or toilet roll tubes), plenty of little hidey places about the cage (a cardboard egg box with an entrance cut in or small tissue box is fine), a level or shelf - I think one shelf is important - they like to sit under it and also it's somewhere to go - a shelf is also a good place to put heavier items like a food bowl or any ceramic items (if they're on the substrate they can tunnel under them and get squashed!)

They do some funny things! Tipping over the food bowl is one - but also sometimes they're trying to tell you something! It's a way of getting attention and communicating. Maybe he's trying to get your attention because something isn't right (eg wheel stuck, water bottle not letting water out or drained dry) so checking those things daily is good.

Sometimes it could be to say they don't like where you've put the food bowl - eg if it's in the way of something like his route from a to b. Unlikely. Sometimes it's because they're a bit annoyed. Sometimes it's just a game! He tips it over, you sort it out again, he tips it over again.

So we need to watch their behaviours and see what they're saying. Maybe it's a bit high for him to climb into? So he's just getting the food out.

Anyway - it's hard but I think you need to wait longer before starting hand taming. Taming can start slowly by building up trust and familiarity meanwhile. Eg keep talking to him. Offer him the odd treat through the bars (but not on your hand as he still won't accept a hand in the cage right now probably). Some hamsters never like a hand in the cage with a treat on.

Then wait till he seems more confident in his cage. When you do start hand taming, a good way to get them out at first is in a tube. Just put a tube near his house entrance (or wherever he is) on the substrate with a smelly treat at the far end. He should just walk in and you then pick up the tube with your hands over both ends and lift the tube out. To do that you need to have somewhere to put it down right next to the cage - eg a box - put the tube down in that so he can get out and then carry the box to where you want to do some taming - eg over to a playpen. Getting him out of the box again, you don't want to freak him out trying to catch him so maybe use a mug or something - see if he'll walk into that and lift him out in that with your hand over.

Maybe where gloves the first few times in case it makes you jump if he pushes at your hand when in the tube, or if you feel nervous he might bite - so you don't drop the tube with him in it!

Over time they get used to things like that - being carried out of the cage.

Over time they get used to your hand doing a bit of spot cleaning (although may follow your hand around keeping an eye on it!).

The cage is now his home and territory so he is guarding it against invaders and predators. The thing to remember is they are tiny and they are prey species, so until they build confidence, they think everything is a possible predator going to get them. When they have trust in you they are less scared.

Hamsters don't usually bite or hiss unless they are frightened, in pain or being handled or treated roughly. So it isn't normal behaviour for them. Your hamster may be the type to just go blank rather than hiss if he's stressed.

If you want to see him at night and have a peek at what he's up to then maybe just turn on a small lamp so it's not too dark (not all night - just when you go in the room). Although he may just disappear when the light comes on so you won't see him do much anyway! Or sometimes they just freeze (prey instinct again). It's true it's not good to disturb their dark patterns by turning lights on. Can upset their biorhythms. But as a one off now and then probably ok.

Things will be different when he's tamer and more bonded with you and you can then get into a routine of waking him for feeding around early evening etc. By just making a bit of cage noise when putting food and water out. They get to learn what time you do that and wake up to get the food. That's the time you can start getting them out for taming, when he's ready.

You mentioned changing the water bottle a few times a day. That's too much really and will freak him out more as well. Daily is fine. And again have a routine - do it around the same time every day - early evening - and put his food out at the same time. And any bit of veg or treat.
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Old 09-11-2021, 03:36 AM   #10
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Default Re: I think my hamster has some health issues? I want to confirm

Cagewise - for a dwarf hamster you want to be looking at an enclosure that is at least 70cm by 40cm in dimension (length and width) and no taller than about 38cm. For set up - one shelf across the cage is good, a wheel, house, plenty of substrate and floor toys - cardboard tubes, hidey places etc. And food and water. So starting with an empty cage can be good.

Are you finding it ok to find substrate where you are? Paper based ones are good if you can find them. Any wood shavings need to be kiln dried and dust extracted (if it doesn't say that on the bag, don't get them). Non kiln dried pine can be harmful as it gives off chemicals that are toxic to hamsters. Hardwoods are fine. Cedar is a big no no (so you need to know what kind of wood the shavings are made from).

Chinchilla bathing sand is the safest for hamsters, or if you can get childrens play sand you can bake it in the oven to sterilise it. He might enjoy a sand bath. Just any old receptacle with some sand in. And will get into good cleaning habits himself then - they often bathe and toilet in the sand bath - but toilet in a separate bit of it usually. They nearly always poop in it, but may pee anywhere! Luckily they are such small amounts that if you can't find where it is, don't worry about it - but just spot clean any wet patches of substrate once a week maybe.

If his current cage is too small then the best thing you can do meanwhile is enrich it - add more substrate and a couple of floor toys - cardboard is your friend! Have a look at erin's hamsters videos on making toilet roll toys!

10 Toilet Roll Toys For Small Pets - YouTube

I think your hammy needs some positive distraction to help come out of himself and to balance out the negative distraction he's had with the cage clean etc. A food parcel in a toilet roll tube is one - they have to get into the toilet roll parcel to get at the food (not his main food - something extra).

When moving cages the way to do it is don't clean anything at all in the old cage - resist! Doesn't matter if it smells for two weeks but it's really important to just move everything over from the old cage to the new without cleaning anything. And try and set it up in the same layout as before. To keep everything smelling and feeling familiar. So for example if the house was back right and the wheel back left - keep that same layout. As much as possible (as you'll maybe have a new shelf or something in a new cage).

The new cage will be bigger so will take more substrate. So add some new substrate but move all the old substrate across and spread it on top - so it smells familar.

The way I do it is to give them an adjustment day - and this really helps. It can mean the difference between a hamster settling in in a few days or being severely stressed for two weeks (ie cold turkey).

So an adjustment day is. You set up the new cage with substrate and one or two toys (maybe new things) - and put one familiar toy in from his old cage. Then move the hamster in there for a play session, to explore it. If he freaks out and wants to come out again then put him back in his old cage and try again later in the day. He may just enjoy it and explore first time, but second time he will be fine.

So let him have some time in there exploring (he will sniff and check everything out and be scent marking it a bit. He may look happy and perky! Good sign.

But then put him back in his old cage for the night.

Next day move everything over. He's had a bit of familiarisation in the new cage so will settle much quicker.

When moving everything over you need to find somewhere to put the hamster. If you have a pet carrier you could pop him in there. If not then a play box maybe (high sided so he can't get out) with a bit of substrate and a tube and some food scattered.

This is another psychological thing, but what I find really helps the process is - put the hamster in another room in the box/pet carrier. So they can't hear/smell/see what you're doing! They KNOW when you're messing with their cage and get quite stressed. In another room, where it's quiet he can't smell and hear the upheaval.

But only do that if you know he's in something secure. Or if there's someone else in the room to keep an eye on him in case he does try to escape.

So with hamster out of the way, move all the old substrate out of the old cage into the new, on top of the new substrate - just press it down a bit if it ends up being too much,

Move over house, wheel, toys etc, get everything set up safely, add any new items. Keep his old nest and move that across too, inside his house and most of his hoard as well. Even if they smell! And put his hoard back in the same place.

Don't wash or clean anything - food bowl, water bottle etc. They'll be fine for a couple of weeks.

Technically they need another two weeks settling in period after a cage move, but if you do everything like that it may only need a few days and the hamster is a lot less stressed.

He'll probably go awol for a few days and hide away but then start coming out more.
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Last edited by Serendipity7000; 09-11-2021 at 03:49 AM.
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