HAMSTERS ARE FUN
(part 2) by
Kraig Josiah Rice

This is my brief guide pertaining to hamster health. I hope something that I have written here will help you if you are looking for answers.

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


IV. HEALTH AND SOME HAMSTER PROBLEMS
23. Mites 24. Fleas 25. Colds 26. The Sewer Rat, A Predator 27. Cancer
28. Transferring Baby Hammies 29. If you lose your hammie on the floor
30. If Your Hammie Loses It's Hair 31. Mange 32. Wet Tail or Rot Tail
33. Caring For An Open Wound
V. MISCELLANEOUS
A Hamster ball; Our cats were raised with our hamsters
VI. QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS


IV. HEALTH AND SOME HAMSTER PROBLEMS

23. Mites
If your hammie comes down with mites then spray him with bird mite spray.

24. Fleas

If your hammie gets fleas then use cat flea powder. Never use anything pertaining to a dog on your hammie except feeding him dog biscuits.

25. Colds

If your hammie comes down with a cold then isolate him from the colony. Place a few drops of vitamin E oil on a small morsel of bread and feed it to him daily. I had several of my hammies come down with a cold. Each got well in a short period of time. Your hammie's own immune system usually throws it off within a week or so.

If your hammie does not improve then he may come down with distemper (animal pneumonia). This is usually fatal. If this happens be sure to disinfect the cage before you place any new hammies in that cage so they don't get it.

Hamsters can catch some human ailments. Don't cough on your hammie, or kiss him, or handle him if you are sick. You may get him sick if you do.

26. The Sewer Rat, A Predator

Rats and hamsters hate each other. Do not place a rat or mouse inside of your hamster cage with your hamster. A wild mouse carries diseases that you don't want your hammie to get. A pet store mouse might survive in a hamster cage with your hammie if they have been raised together. Otherwise, this is not a good idea.

One day I came home and checked on my hammies I had in my garage. I found one of my long haired hammies dead on the floor of the acquarium cage. The others in the cage were ok but huddled in the corner. There on a shelf in the corner of my garage I saw a wild large grey sewer rat. After he saw me he scampered away. I knew what had happened. That rat had gotten in the hamster cage to get food. One of the dominant male hamsters had attacked him to protect his cage. The rat had attacked and killed him. I thought that this might happen again so I decided to kill the wild rat. I placed rat poison in a ball of raw meat and placed it to where the rat was sure to return. The next day the raw meat was gone and I never saw the rat again.

27. Cancer

Every once in awhile I would have one of my hamsters come down with cancer. I would notice big black sores all over his body. I would instantly move him to the quarantine cage so he would not infect the rest of the colony. Cancer was always fatal and the infected hammie would be dead in 3 days or less.

One day I had a nursing mother come down with cancer. She had 8 pups under her. I let her nurse until she died so the pups would be a little older with a better chance to survive. The pups were seven days old. Then I took her pups and placed them under another nursing mother who raised them up just fine. I cannot explain cancer. All I know about it is that it showed up and it was always fatal in my hamsters. It was only a very small percentage who came down with cancer while the most never got it.

28. Transferring Baby Hammies

If you are going to place pups from one mother under another mother you must be careful. A nursing mother can suckle up to 15 young at one time. In the above case where the cancerous mother died and left 8 orphaned pups, I knew the healthy mother only had 8 pups of her own so I figured that she could handle another 8 without any problem.

However, I was concerned because the pups under the healthy mother were a little bigger being about 4 days older than the incoming pups. However, everything worked out ok.

Do not let the healthy nursing mother see you disturb her nest. Take her off of her pups and place her in a separate cage. Give her a treat. Take the incoming pups and place them in the healthy mother's nest. Then take the healthy mother's bedding and rub it all over the incoming pups. This changes the smell from the old mother to the new mother. That way, the healthy mother cannot tell her own babies from the new arrivals. If you don't do this the healthy mother will destroy the new arrivals when she smells a different scent on the pups. Then place the mother back into her cage. Hold your breath until she accepts the new arrivals and begins to nurse them.

29. If you lose your hammie on the floor

If you lose one or more of your hammies on your floor do not panic. About the only way you can permanently lose a hammie is if it gets outside of your house. (To help prevent this place towels at the bottom of all outside doors to keep him from squeezing under it and getting away.) Otherwise, they will usually come out at night and run around on the floor looking for food. You can catch them then or if you see where they run to then you can move some furniture and catch them there. My best technique in capturing lost hammies in my house was not to look for them. I would just let our regular house-hold routines go on and eventually we would see them and grab them one at a time. After you do it a few times you will see what I mean.

Be sure you pick up all mouse traps off of the floor. Pick up all the rat poison in your house so your hammie won't eat it. He will eat the same things that a mouse will eat.

One way to re-capture one is to go into an enclosed room like your bathroom. (Assuming that your hammie is on the same floor). There is only one door in (usually). That means if your hammie goes in there then he cannot get out except through that one door. You know at night time he is going to be looking for food. But it will be dark and you will probably be lightly asleep. So you need him to wake you up so you can re-capture him. Leave the bathroom door open so he can enter. Against the far wall from the door on the floor place some wadded up newspaper that is still partially flat. Place some sun flower seeds in it. He will usually crinkle the newspaper in obtaining his food. This can alert you to enter the bathroom, turn on the light, and then catch him.

We had one that eluded us for days. I was worried that it might not get any water and die of thirst so I left a few apple slices out for it and it ate them. It got it's water that way. Then one day we saw it dart under our stove and retrieved it after a frantic effort.

Here is a technique that maybe you can also use:
One time a school teacher at the local elementary school brought her hamster to school to share with her students. The kids played with it and somehow it got away and hid in the classroom for 2 days. No one could catch it, however, it did not leave the classroom but hid in a large crack in the wall. The teacher came to me for help on how to capture it without hurting it. I reassured her and caught it for her that night.

How did I do it?
I took an empty 5 gallon acquarium cage and placed it on the floor. I knew her hammie would be out that night looking for food. They love sun flower seeds and will gather as much as possible. Out of books I made a few steps that lead up to the top of the acquarium. I placed a trail of sun flower seeds that lead to the top of the acquarium. I knew the hammie would go there to gather them all. The trick was to get the hammie to fall harmlessly into the acquarium and not be able to get out. So I built a little platform out of cardboard and pencils. I made it rickety on purpose. The height of it was half the distance from the bottom. On top of it I placed a nice pile of sun flower seeds. I knew the hammie would sniff around while on top of the acquarium and discover the pile of seeds just out of his reach on the platform inside of the acquarium. As he lowered himself into the acquarium to get the seeds he landed on the platform that collapsed. Then he was trapped and that is how I caught him. The teacher was grateful.

Here is a tip. In your house you can use your bathtub to trap him in instead of a 5 gallon acquarium cage. Make a gentle ramp up to the top of the tub. Create a rickety platform inside of the tub about 7 inches from the top of the tub. Place your bait there and check your trap in the morning.

30. If Your Hammie Loses It's Hair

One time I only had red winter wheat to feed to my hammies. After a period of time the hair fell out of many of them and they were bald. I discovered that this was caused by a lack of amino acid in their diet. This amino acid is in corn. Once I put corn back into their diet again, their hair grew back.

31. Mange
None of my hamsters ever had the mange. There is no known cure for this that I know about.

32. Wet Tail or Rot Tail

I had this happen several times to different hammies over a period of time. If your hammie's tail area gets wet and turns black then he probably has rot tail. All of my hammies lived and none of them died of it. But you must catch it in time. If you delay discovering it and treating it then it could prove fatal to your hammie.

If your hammie gets it then isolate him in a quarantine cage so he can recuperate. Rot tail is a sign that there is something wrong. Clean the cage he just came out of as it is probably too wet and has too much bacteria in it. Many times my acquarium cages were wetter than I thought they were. This was when I was using wood chips on the bottom of acquarium cages. Cat litter is better in this instance.

Rot tail is a sign that your hammie has intestinal bacteria and he needs to rest. The trick I used on each of my hammies who had rot tail was to feed him a very small morsel of bread with at least 3 drops of garlic oil on it daily. Hammies hate garlic but it is good for him. Garlic fights bad bacteria and flourishes good bacteria. He may not want to eat it but if that is the only food he has then he has no choice. If he refuses to eat then he may die. You can get the garlic oil from garlic oil gelatin capsules that you can buy at the store. After he eats the garlic soaked bread then you can feed him a little bit of good food (but nothing that will give him the runs). Do not put a clove of garlic in his cage. He will not like the smell of it, won't eat it, and will probably throw it into his potty corner. If he refuses to eat the garlic soaked bread morsel then give him a vitamin E soaked bread morsel instead.

33. Caring For An Open Wound

Most open wounds occur when two hamsters fight each other when their teeth are not clipped. If your hammie gets an open wound and it is not life threatening then place him in his own personal cage. Apply vitamin E oil to this open wound daily. Vitamin E fights infection and promotes healing. His wound should scab over and heal up in a couple of weeks. This is what I did for my hammies and it worked fine. It does not matter if your hammie licks the oil or not- either way is beneficial to him.

A Hamster ball that he can run around inside of is great. He will roll it all over your living room floor. But don't leave him inside of it for too long of a period of time (usually 20 minutes or so is ok) as he may go potty inside of it and then you will have to clean it all up.

Our cats were raised with our hamsters. I think our cats were more annoyed with them than anything else. They just kind of ignored the hamsters. The only problem we had was one day I came home and found one of our cats inside of our 20 gallon acquarium hamster cage. Our cat was going potty in the hamster cage. After all, it did have cat litter on it's floor. Don't ask me why it did this. Maybe the hamster cage smelled better than the cat box...


a litter of baby hamsters about two weeks old

VI. QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Question:
Why do hamsters fight each other?
Answer:
A hamster is very territorial. A hamster is also a very solitary little animal. He or she does not get lonely when by themselves so it is best to keep them that way. A fight will occur when one hamster is placed in the territory of another one. A male will allow a female hamster to be placed in his cage when she is in heet. Otherwise, a fight may occur. Sometimes, for some reason, hamsters don't like each other. I have observed this but can't explain it.
If you have two or more male adult hamsters in the same cage and there is a female hamster in heet somewhere in the same room then the males will sence this. God made them to mate by instinct and if they cannot get out to find this female to mate with then they may get sexually frustrated and fight with one another. Be sure to clip their teeth to at least 1/8 inch long at least once a week to prevent them from killing or damaging one another.

Question:
My favorite hamster got hurt in a fight with another one. What should I do?
Answer:
Take your favorite hamster and place it in his own cage. Treat it with vitamin E oil topically on it's open wounds. Surface wounds will usually heal in a couple of weeks, however, deep wounds that extend to it's vitals are different. Your hammie may die from these. You may have to exercise a mercy killing to keep it from suffering (while it is dying over a period of several days).
Do not place a wounded baby hamster back into the cage with the rest of it's brothers and sisters. Hamsters are meat eaters but it is not good to feed them any meat. They will probably eat the wounded baby hamster.

Question:
How do I disinfect my hamster cage?
Answer:
I always used Lysol or a strong chemical disinfectant that kills lots of bacteria. You might pick one that has a more pleasant odor to it. Clean your hamster's cage at least once a week. More if necessary. Do not let any bacteria build up or excessive wetness acculumate in your hammie's cage. If you do your hammie may get sick.
When I had 12 or more "teen age" hammies in a 10 gallon acquarium cage they would wet their potty corner a lot. Nearly once a day I would scoop out this corner with a small scooper. Then I would pour a moderate amount of dry clay cat litter in their potty corner. This kind of litter is very absorbent and soaks up a lot of liquid. This helped keep their cage dry and the hammies healthy.

Then once a week I would place the hammies in a holding cage while I took their 10 gallon acquarium outside and dumped out all of the contents on our lawn. This is a great way to fertilize your lawn if you are so inclined. I would squirt some disinfectant into the cage and then put water into the cage and let it soak for 10 minutes or so. Then I would hose it out with water and then dry it thoroughly with a cloth rag. I would then pour clay cat litter into this cage- about one inch deep all across the bottom of the cage. I had a wire hamster wheel that I had glued onto a piece of flat steel so they could play on it without turning it over. I placed this back into the dry cage.

I gave them fresh drinking water (with one drop of liquid human baby vitamins in it). I always liked using a store bought water bottle that had a metal ball inside of the drinking tube. I had to make a special hanger for it so it would hang deeper so the small hamsters could easily reach it. Then I placed the hammies back into the cage. Then I put food in their cage- also a little piece of apple to give them some added vitamins and to aid their digestion. I placed a metal lid on top of the acquarium cage with a metal weight on it. I did this to make sure the hammies would not escape because they are escape artists. They would climb up the water bottle, climb up on top of the hamster wheel, or whatever else I placed in there.

I would use a small piece of wire to wire the door shut on a hamster cage with metal bars. A "twist tie" from a bread wrapper will help keep your hammie from opening this kind of door.

The bottom of a metal cage or habitrail cage is cleaned the same way. Dump it, disinfect it, hose it off, and dry it real good. Remove any wet bedding from the cage. A hamster will probably get upset when you remove any of it's wet bedding but this has to be done to keep it healthy. Remove any wet food also from the cage.

If your hammie wets in your habitrail tower then you can place some dry clay cat litter there or you can just remove the tower altogether.

Never clean a hamster cage that has a mother nursing babies that are two weeks of age and under. Make sure that you clean her cage at least two days before she gives birth so she can nest in a clean cage relatively free of bacteria. You don't want her to get sick while she is nursing her pups.

Question:
Can my hamster eat bird seed?
Answer:
Yes. A hamster likes to eat bird seed, but you must not feed it only bird seed. You have to feed it a diet that also contains corn so it doesn't lose it's hair. Also a tidbit of apple once a day is good so it doesn't get constipated. Some folks like to keep their hamster in the same cage with their pet bird. This is ok except that a hamster is active at night and may keep the bird awake at night. It's not good to have a cranky bird instead of one that sings.

Question:
How often do I feed my hamster?
Answer:
A hamster will not overeat, therefore you can leave a certain amount of food continually in it's cage. Just give it a little bit of food on a daily basis. Otherwise, it may drag it into the potty corner and get it contaminated with bacteria. Remove any wet food from the cage on a daily basis.

The exception to this is for a nursing mother. She is to have a plentiful amount of food and is to be left entirely alone until her pups are about eight days old. It is wise not to even look into her cage until this time.


a hamster eating lettuce- give it some but not too much lest it get a runny stool...

Question:
If I lose my hamster will it return to it's cage?
Answer:
No. A hamster is not a trained dog or cat. Once it is lose it is going to keep on going. Try not to let it get out of your house or garage (if you can) so you can recapture it. I have lost a lot of hammies- some I have recaptured and some I have not.

If it is lose in your house for over two days it may eat food that you leave it on the floor, however, it will not have any water to drink. To keep it alive leave a part of an apple on the floor so it can get it's water from that source. Then recapture it as soon as possible.

Question:
What do I feed baby hamsters?
Answer:
When baby hammies are about 8 days old they will start wandering around their cage. They have no hair and their eyes are closed. But they have a great sence of smell. They can eat something small like birdseed. And I always liked to give them a small piece of apple and a milk ball.

A milk ball you can make from dry powdered milk. Place some dry milk in a bowl. Add a few drops of water on top of one another and let this water get soaked up and surrounded by the powdered milk. Remove this wet ball from the dry bowl and let it dry. Then place it into the cage after the pups are 8 days old but not before. They may not like it at first but the mother may eat it to get a source of calcium for her own milk supply. But usually the pups will nibble on it later on- this is good for their health while they are growing up.

Don't feed baby hamsters any meat. They can usually eat what big hamsters eat. Don't feed them any cheese because constipation at this stage could cause them to die.

Question:
How can I pick up my hamster without hurting it?
Answer:
I usually picked it up by the scruff of the neck. This is the same way that a mother cat picks up a kitten. It does not hurt the hammie to pick it up this way. This is the proper way to hold it when you clip it's teeth.

Clip the top teeth with one clip and then clip the bottom teeth with one clip. Leave the teeth about 1/8 inch long so it can chew it's food. This should prevent it from having to chew on it's cage bars all night long in order to wear them down. Bottom teeth that are too long can break off exposing the nerve and be more painful than if you clipped them.

A hammie will not like having it's teeth clipped. It will wiggle around and make noises and maybe even squeel like it is dying while you are holding it by the scruff of it's neck. But don't let that fool you. Just keep at it until you succeed at your task. The first time is the worst. After that, the hammie kind of gets used to it so it's not as traumatic thereafter. Clip the teeth whenever it needs it- check the teeth once a week and do this as is necessary.

Some hamsters get along with others really well. However, to be safe, if you are putting more than one hamster together then clipping the teeth are mandantory and not optional. I put two males together one time. I hoped they would get along, but, instead, they hated each other and tried to kill each other. The only weapon a hamster has is it's teeth. They locked in deadly combat and rolled around the cage not letting go, each with a death grip on the other. I had their teeth clipped so all they did was to slobber on each other. There was no break in the skin on the opposing hamster. I had to immediately separate them to individual cages.

CONCLUSION

Hamsters are fun. A cute little hammie can give you unconditional love. They are cuddly. They are cute. They are furry. They are warm. I enjoyed my hammies. I have written this so you can enjoy yours too.

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