(part 1) by
Kraig Josiah Rice

This is my brief guide pertaining to hamsters. I bred mostly Teddy Bear (long haired) hamsters for a number of years and this is some of what I learned. I hope something that I have written here will help you.

(clicking on these links will move you down the page)

1. The Hamster cage 2. The Type of Bedding 3. The Water Bottle 4. A Hamster Wheel
5. Cleaning The Cage(s) 6. Where Should You Place Your Hamster Cage?
7. Your Hammies Life Cycle 8. Some of Your Hammies Habits 9. How Old is Your Hammie?
10. Taming Your Hammie 11. Food and Feeding 12. Biting 13. Gnawing 14.
Clipping Your Hammie's Teeth 15. Stress and Pain 16. Temperment 17. Picking Up Your Hammie
18. Is Your Hammie a Girl or a Boy? 19. Petting 20. Various Kinds of Hammies
21. General Breeding Info 22. Specific Breeding Info


For some, there is nothing cuter in the world than a young, sweet, affectionate hamster who has long hair and who smiles at you:-)
It is a delight to have one of these as a pet.

Hamsters are solitary animals who do not get lonely. However, you can condition one to enjoy being gently handled and petted.

I used to raise hampsters as a hobby and for some small profit. I raised Teddy Bear, Blue Hamsters, and Syrian short-hairs for 5 years. At the peak I would guess that I had as many as 25 single cages. I usually had between 25 to 50 baby hamsters in one cage that I took to the pet store for marketing purposes.
I briefly cover some of my experiences and problems that I had while raising my hamsters.

Whether you are having a problem with one hamster or many- then you may find your answer here.


1. The Hamster cage

I used 5, 10, and 20 gallon fish tank acquariums, wire cages (including bird cages), metal buckets, and habitrails. A cage should be at least 12 inches square. A 5 gallon fish tank for one hamster is ideal if it has a metal top. Acquariums are cheaper if you can find one or more at a garage sale or local flea market. Remember, once you place a hamster in an acquarium cage, you can never use that cage again for fish. You can buy the water bottle and metal lid at a local pet shop.

No matter what kind of a cage you have, your hammie is going to try to escape from it. If you use a wire cage use a wire twist tie or two to help hold the door shut. If you use an aquarium cage place the metal top on top of the water bottle as your hammie will try to climb up it to get out. If you don't have a metal top you can use a small sheet of plywood. Be sure you place a weight on top of it or your hammie will push it up and get out. I also used to place a small weight on top of my habitrail's metal top.

Sometimes, if you lose your hammie, he might completely escape from your house and you will never see him again, so you want to keep him safely inside of his hamster cage at night. I lost some but never a great amount.

Do you like to sleep in   wet   bedding?

2. The Type of Bedding (for your hammie to nest in)

I would sprinkle some wood chips into each cage. You can check at your local pet store on the best wood chips to buy that are safe for hammies but the cost is cheap for a large bag of it.
There is a major problem in using wood chips in an fish aquarium cage. It is a problem of wetness and bacteria. Potty liquid will spread across the bottom of the cage thus soaking the entire floor. This is not good and it can lead your hammies to get sick with wet tail. It is best to use cat litter in an aquarium cage. That way the wetness should be confined to one specific potty corner.

For a pregnant female I would add some cotton balls that she would line her nest with. I never had any trouble with any of my hammies using cotton balls.

I also used some newspaper in small amounts and small amounts of toilet paper or tissue paper. I didn't like big nests so I always just gave her the bare necessities. That way I could see the hammie and observe her, even if she were sleeping. I could also see the babies when she would get off of the nest.

3. The Water Bottle

The water bottle is a small plastic one with a ball-bearing inside the metal nozzle. You will also need a metal holder for the bottle to hold it onto the side of the aquarium cage.

Another type of bottle is simply a test tube. This has a bent glass tube going thru a rubber stopper that inserts into the test tube. It is hung upside down on a metal test tube holder.

A habitrail water bottle is a small one that has a little steel cap that fits over the plasic end. Then it is turned upside down and dropped down into a slot specially made for it. The metal cap protects the plastic end from being chewed on by the hamster(s).

Go down to the drug store and buy a little bottle of liquid human baby vitamins. Also buy an eye dropper if necessary. Every time you fill up your hammie's water bottle place one drop of the liquid vitamins in his water bottle and then fill it up with water. Do not give him more than one drop lest he get vitamin poisoning. This should give one or more of your hammies their proper amount of vitamins needed for good health.

4. A Hamster Wheel

A large hamster wheel made of metal is good for an acquarium cage. The problem with this is that it usually turns over when several hammies are hanging on it at the same time. You need to mount a base to the bottom of it. You can use your ingenuity for this. I found a suitable large piece of flat cast-iron plate and glued the 4 metal feet to the cast-iron base. (This was one of those kitchen objects where you can put it on your table or counter top and then place a real hot cooking dish on it. Maybe it is called a table protector.) The glue I used was bondo, car body filler. This unit fit nicely into the acquarium cage and the cast-iron base kept it from turning over any more. Many hammies could play on it at once and have a lot of fun.

Each habitrail should come with a big plastic wheel that inserts into the main large plastic cage. Many times you can purchase one of these nice cages along with it's accessories at a garage sale to save money. I believe most pet shops carry extra habitrail parts if you want them.

Do you like a clean cage?

5. Cleaning The Cage(s)

Clean each cage at least once a week. Take the hamster out of his cage and place him in a holding cage by himself. Remove any good food and bedding that is in good shape so it can be replaced in the same cage after cleaning. I always quit feeding the hamster(s) a day or two before cleaning the cage as that gave them a chance to eat down most of their food so there was a smaller amount for me to sort through.

On the bottom of each of the cages I would sprinkle cat litter. This litter is made of clay. Clay is ok because the hammie's predecessors used to live in the earth (made of clay?) in the wild before he was domesticated and tamed. I would sprinkle it until the thickness was about one half of an inch deep. This is really efficient in many ways: it is cheap to purchase, it absorbs a lot of potty moisture, and some of it is odorized to help the cage smell better. On aquarium bottoms the hammies like to scratch around in it. About once a day I would add a little extra litter on top of the wetness in their potty corner for extra absorbency. And about twice a week I would shovel the wet cat litter (in the potty corner) out of the cage and replace it with dry litter. You want to do this as the smell can become quite bad if you don't. I would use a small piece of thin cardboard (from a cereal box) for this to shovel with (and then throw it away). Some folks like to use a metal pancake turner which is also ok. You also want to do this to keep the bacteria level down inside of the cage and also keep the moisture level down inside of the cage.

The cat litter may contain little green flakes for odor control. Your hammie may dig thru the litter and pick these out and eat them. It is ok- this never hurt any of my hammies.

One time I ran out of cat litter. Across the street from my house was a park and play ground so I went over there and got a bucket of sand. After I cleaned all of the cages I sprinkled this sand on the bottom of their cages and it worked just fine for one week. You can also substitute dirt if the occasion so arises.

The habitrail tower has a vertical tube going to it. I always liked to see my hammie crawl thru the tube with bedding to build his nest there. However, sometimes a hammie would use the tower to go potty in. When that happened I would place the hammie in a wire cage- it would lose it's habitrail privileges. I would clean the tower with soap and water and disinfectant, dry it real good, and then place it back in the habitrail and try another hamster. Once I found a hamster who would sleep in it and not potty in it, then it got to stay there. The tower is also a good place to sprinkle a little cat litter.

6. Where Should You Place Your Hamster Cage?

I placed all of mine in my garage because I did not want to listen to all of the noise nor smell any of the smells. Hamsters make noise at night gnawing on steel bars, running in the hamster wheel, or trying to climb up the water bottle in order to escape, and sometimes the urine smell can become pungent if you let it.

I think most families keep a single cage in their son or daughter's bedroom which is good. Keep curtains away from the hamster cage. Don't put the cage on top of a floor furnace or under an air conditioning vent as drafts may cause your hammie to get sick.

It may not be advisable to keep your hammie outside due to predators or extremes in weather conditions. If a predator knocks down your habitrail off of an outside shelf then your hammie might escape.

In the United States a temperature range of from 50 to 80 degrees Farenheit is ok. On extra hot summer days we had to bring the cages inside of the house where the air conditioning would help keep the temperature satisfactory. On extra cold days I would throw extra bedding into the cages and the hammies would bury themselves in it in order to stay warm enough. I never had any hamsters go into hibernation.


7. Your Hammies Life Cycle

A hammie has a 2 to 3 year life cycle-

that means that your hamster is going to die of old age when it gets to be 2 to 3 years old. Then you will have to get another one to love and cherish.

Please help me. My head got stuck while I was playing

8. Some of Your Hammies Habits

Don't pick up your hamster after he first wakes up because (many times) he may be cranky. He usually needs to visit his potty corner right immediately after he gets awake. If you pick him up and put him in your shirt pocket immediately, then he may go potty in your shirt pocket. Don't be mad at him. He can't help it.

If you grab him while he is sleeping he may bite you. He might think it is some kind of snake or bird grabbing him instead of you. So let him wake up first before you grab him. You might want to poke him gently with the eraser end of a pencil in order to wake him up during the day time. That way you won't get bit. Then you can pick him up after he visits his potty corner. And don't pick him up until after he visits it.

Hammies are members of the rodent family. That means that your hammie likes to sleep during the day and play at night.

Hamsters do not like other hamsters, are very territorial, and will battle another hamster or two.

9. How Old is Your Hammie?

Sometimes this is difficult. The general rule is to look at the general condition of the hammie. You should be able to tell a full grown hammie from a teen age hammie by it's size. If not, then look at it's ears. If there are white hairs inside of it's ears then it is a younger hammie. However, if the ears don't have white hairs then it is an older one.

One day I found a short haired golden hamster running across our front lawn. I usually like to put on gloves before I grab ahold of a strange hammie. This day I did not have time to do this as it was headed for the street gutter and a large pipe. If it got in there I knew that I would never be able to capture it. So I reached out with my hand and captured it and it did not bite me. I petted it and spoke kindly to it and placed it in an empty cage in my garage. It drank and ate a little.

Then I picked it up and examined it's sex. It was a female.

Then I examined it to determine it's age. She was large and full grown so I knew she was an adult and not a teen-ager. The condition of the ears showed me that she was an adult but I did not know how old. I was hoping she was not too old to breed. There was only one way to find out.

She was really tame and a sweet-heart. I knew what had happened. She had been somebody's pet and had escaped. I figured somebody must really be heart sick over losing a quality pet like this one was. I mated her with a teddy bear male and she had a wonderful litter of short haired gentle pups. She was an excellent mother. But because I really did not want to breed short hairs I sold her to the pet store along with her litter. Then I am sure she made a nice pet for some nice girl or boy.

10. Taming Your Hammie

Some hamsters are calm and some are nervous. I raised both kinds. Some are more prone to anxiety than others for some reason. My rule was to always handle each of my hamsters as much as possible. This was good for my breeders and also for the babies that were going to the pet store. This helped make them tame.

My children were small at the time and they helped me out a lot. One time my five year old daughter got out her pink convertible Barbie car and loaded it up with small hammies. She put them in her car and gave them a ride on our living room floor. This kind of activity teaches the hammies that they can be handled without being hurt. Maybe you can invent some activities that you can include your hamster in that might be fun for you and for your hammie.

11. Food and Feeding

Give your hammy special treats so that he will get to know and trust you. You are starting a relationship that will pay off with a lot of unconditional love to you.

Hammies like to hoard food. They will fill their cheek pouches with food and bring it to their nest where they will store it. Sometimes they will sleep on top of it. This is security to them. You might make one upset if you daily disturb his hoard of food.

Hamsters will eat just about anything, but you don't want to feed them just anything unless you run out of food for them. They eat a lot. A hamster can eat one half ounce of food per day. It's best to try to stick to what they eat naturally. I used to feed my hammies red winter wheat and a lot of feed corn. Table scraps should be screened- left over broccoli or other vegetables can be fed in moderation. Don't let surplus food get spoiled in hammie's cage. Seed mix and hamster food purchased at the store is good.

Hammies like lettuce but not too much lest they get the runs. Nuts, grains, wheat, rice, corn, bird food, and rabbit food are ok. Dried cat food and dog biscuits are ok if the protein level in them is over 20%. I don't recommend any kind of citrus fruit. I don't recommend any kind of meat, raw or cooked. I don't recommend onions, garlic, pine needles or tree vegetation. Hammies will eat some good clean lawn grass. Apple slices in small amounts are good.


Potato seeds, raw beans, hemlock, laburnum, meadow saffron, and the green parts off of the tops of carrots, tomatoes, and potato tubers are poisonous.

Give your hammies plenty to eat- a hammie will not over eat. They need a little extra food to horde away. If a hammie goes potty on any of his stored food then throw that food away. Don't allow your hammie to horde away any perishable food for an extended period of time lest he get sick.

Pregnant and nursing mothers need milk. Baby hammies need milk also. This is necessary for making strong bones. I used to feed my hammies powdered milk balls that I made myself. I would get a box of powdered milk and pour some in a bowl. Then I would add a few drops of water at a time mixing the water with the milk. Lumps formed that I would remove and set aside to dry. After they would dry they would get hard. Then I would drop these milk balls in the cage and let the hammies eat as much of it as they wanted.

I recommend placing a weighted feeding dish in the cage. It should be weighted because any other kind is likely to get turned over.

If you catch a potato bug or garden insect- save it for evening when your hammie is awake and active. Then throw the vicim into your hammie's cage. Your hammie will probably eat it immediately because they eat these kinds of things in the wild.

12. Biting

A sweet natured hamster will rarely bite you under normal conditions. However, if your hammie feels threatened or scared, he will bite you to protect himself. If you turn your cat loose on him or put his cage next to your snake cage then there will be problems. Cats, rats, snakes, and owls are just some of it's natural enemies. So be careful if you have any of these...

13. Gnawing

You hammie will like to gnaw or chew on just about everything. You can expect this. Just don't place anything inside of his cage that can harm him if he chews on it. You can place a little piece of plain soft wood in his cage for him to gnaw on if you wish.

14. Clipping Your Hammie's Teeth

Hammies don't like other hammies. They are loners and territorial and will battle to the death in some cases. Their primary weapon is their teeth. I always made it a good practice to clip each hammie's teeth about once a week. This reduced gnawing, injury, and death when two or more hammies decided to battle to the death. It is something to see two of them locked in a death grip rolling around on the bottom of their cage.

If you want to clip your hammie's teeth just take regular fingernail clippers and hold your hammie by the scruff of his neck. Start with the bottom teeth first. However long they are, cut them to half the distance. So if the bottom teeth are 1/4 inch long, cut them to 1/8 inch long. Don't let the top teeth get over 1/8 inch long. Cut the bottom teeth shorter if there is danger of two hammies battling to the death. With the teeth short enough (but not too short because your hammie needs them to eat his food) two hammies can fight without breaking skin. They might bruise each other and slobber all over each other but won't be able to draw blood.

You can expect your hammie to cry and squirm around in your hand the first time you clip it's teeth. It does not like it, however, it can become accustomed to it as time goes on. After you clip it's teeth be sure you pet it and speak kindly to it and give it a little food treat (like a tiny slice of fresh apple) and then things should be ok. You will have to experiment with this technique until you master it- it takes a little practice on your part.

15. Stress and Pain

Your hammy is fragile. You can't rough house with him as you would a cat or a dog. You have to give him gentle pets and not drop him or be mean to him. If you hurt him he may get upset or cranky and not feel good for awhile. If he gets a head concussion or broken bones, he could die.

You want to remove as many stress factors in your hammies life that you can. By and large, a hammie is much like an otter. They like a stress free life and they like to play a lot. Hamsters are fun.

Don't give him a bath in the bath tub with you. A hammie is much like a kitty cat and will lick himself clean. That is his way of giving himself a bath.

If your hammie gets wounded so that there is blood on him, don't put him back into the colony cage. If you do the other hamsters will kill him and eat him. Put him in his own separate cage until he is well.

16. Temperment

Each hammie has it's own temperment or disposition. Most of the teddy bear hamsters (with long hair) are sweet natured and gentle. I have observed this from dealing with hundreds of subjects. They are (on the whole) not only gentle but prettier. That is why I got more money for them.

The Blue hamsters I used to breed were more tempermental and somewhat hard to breed. Most had long hair and were unique. Have a lot of patience if you try to breed these.

The short haired golden hamsters were common and I got less money for them so I did not breed them that much. Their temperament (on the whole) was gentle and friendly.

However, I did find that once in awhile there would be a baby hammie (long haired or short haired) born out of a litter of 8 or so who would turn out to be vicious. The rest in the litter would be sweet natured. The vicious one would bite me every time I picked it up and I would find that I could not tame him down or condition him in any way. I could never explain why he turned out that way- the environment was the same but there must have been something in the genetics that made it turn out vicious. I never sold a vicious one to the pet store.

A good breeder would be wise not to sell one of these vicious biting hamster babies to the pet store. That is a good way to turn a good reputation into a bad one on your part. No pet store owner wants to get bitten by one of your hammies. And no pet store owner wants to listen to customer complaints about an unsatisfactory pet that was purchased at his store. I always had a good product and maintained an excellent reputation with pet store owners who bought my hammies to sell to the public. I did not have a hard time selling my hammies and got a good price for each of them.

I know some breeders will sell a vicious one to the pet store to get an extra dollar or two. I think it should be a matter of integrity not to do this. Too many trusting folks buy a hamster and take it home looking for a good experience only to have the experience turn into a disaster. Buying and having a hammie should be a pleasurable experience. If you are a customer who has happened to have bought a vicious biting hamster then do not get discouraged. Try again and this time be more selective and more careful.

17. Picking Up Your Hammie

You can pick him up in your hand(s). You can pick him up by the scruff of his neck. Do not pick him up by the tail as you would a mouse. This may make him upset.

18. Is Your Hammie a Girl or a Boy?

Check to see if your hammie is a girl or a boy. To do this just hold your hammie by the scruff of the neck and look at the stomach area. In females, the nipples will be easily seen. Not so in a male. In an older male you will easily be able to see his testes. Not so in a female.

19. Petting

The best time to pet your hamster is toward night time. Hammies are nocturnal which means that they like the night time better than the daytime to run around and be active.

Scratch your hammie gently behind his ears. He likes that.

Scratch his back gently with your fingers. He loves that too. If you keep this up you will have a friend for life.

20. Various Kinds of Hammies

Hamsters are rodents- that means that they are similar to gerbils, rats, and mice.

Most hamsters are Syrian or Golden Hamsters.

I raised variations called Teddy Bears because they had long hair, and I also raised Blue Hamsters because they have a blue color to them.

I did not raise dwarf hamsters, the large German hamsters in Europe, or any chinchillas so I cannot give you any advice about them.

21. General Breeding Info

Any hamster male and female pair will breed. You can breed a son back with the mother once. Some say twice but I don't recommend this. Do not breed a brother and a sister. If you do, you are likely to get genetic deformities. If you are trying to get mutations of different color patterns or color variants you need to try a different way. A hamster mother will eat any deformed babies that result from genetic misbreeding.

A female falls into her mating cycle or goes into heet every four days. Going into heet is when the female gets attracted to the male for mating purposes. A female should be put in the male's cage only when the female is in heet. If they fight she is not in heet- take the female out of the male's cage and put her back into her own cage and try again the next night. Do this until the male mates with her successfully. After mating, remove the female to her own cage again. And write the date of mating on your personal calendar so you know when to expect the babies.

When my small children used to watch the mating they were curious about it and asked me and my wife what the hammies were doing. I just told them that the male was giving "baby seeds" to the female so they could have babies. My children were satisfied with that and looked forward to seeing the baby hamsters later on.

I had a teddy bear banded calico male I used for breeding. We named him Romeo and he lived up to his name. He fathered a lot of hamster babies and the differing color variations we got were exciting.

The pregnant hamster will have a huge stomach on her before the pups are to be born. Clean her cage real good about 2 days before she is due to give birth. You do this because you do not want an excessive amount of bacteria to be in the cage with the baby hamsters for a two week period of time.

She will be pregnant for 16 days.

I would write off automatically (from a breeder's perspective) any first litters from 8 week old females. It's best to wait for 16 weeks to breed your female hammie.

Stop breeding one female after 7 litters (one year old).

If you don't have a tame mother, she may bite you if you stick your hand into her cage where she has her babies.

The actual birthing experience takes about 3 hours for the mother to actually give birth to all of the pups.

The pregnant mother's diet is important. Cheese is high in protein but also fattening. Sun flower seeds, dog biscuits, and fresh vegetables are good. Kibbled dog food is also good.

How she is treated is important. You must outlaw any stress in her life. Make sure she has her vitamins, milk balls, soft bedding material, some high protein food, and some wheat germ. The wheat germ is high in vitamin E which is good at fighting infection and for general health.

Put her cage up on a high shelf somewhere that is isolated. Do not handle the mother or look inside of the cage for at least 3 days after the pups are born lest you stress the mother out. Many other kinds of disturbances will stress her. She can get stressed from poor diet, mean handling, loud noises, and over-crowding. If the mother gets stressed out (and this is true especially for first time mothers or extra young mothers who should not be pregnant) she will usually do one of three things:

1. She will stuff the babies into her cheek pouches and attempt to move her nest to where she feels less stressed out. This does not usually hurt the babies.
2. She will eat the heads off of the babies. Or she will eat the babies one at a time over a period of time until they are all gone.
3. She will abandon her pups and let them die.

However, normal litters are a lot of fun. The little babies start crawling around the cage at 8 days but they are blind. However, they can smell and like to eat bird seed that is small enough for them. Their eyes will open at 16 days of age. They will reach sexual maturity in 5 weeks.

The mother hammie can have from two to fifteen pups. Most of the ones who had litters for me had about 8 pups per litter.

The pups are weaned at 4 weeks. One day I was in the garage and I was observing a mother with her 8 pups in a 10 gallon acquarium cage. The mother was in the far corner away from her pups. One pup came over to her to nurse off of her. She bent down and gave him a severe and long and painful bite. The pup screamed in pain and went limping back over to the nest. The skin was not broken on purpose. This was that mother's way of weaning her pups. At first, it seemed cruel to me but then I understood that's how things are.

I gave that mother a week's rest from her pups and then bred her again. She was a good mother and she made good babies.

22. Specific Breeding Info

The Golden Hamster color is dominant.

Cream, albino, and pie-bald characteristics are recessive (mutations). In order to reproduce these, both parents have to be of like kind.

The white band mutation seems to be dominant.

Mating a white banded hamster with another white banded hamster will usually produce a large number of white banded off-spring.

One time I discovered two runts in a litter. They lived ok with their brothers and sisters for awhile. I sold the brothers and sisters and had to hold the runts back until they got big enough to sell. Runts were not the mutations that I was looking for.


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