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A hamster how-to: caregiver tips for adoption

Let's face it: hamsters are adorable and for that reason have become popular pets for kids of all ages. They are relatively low maintenance and needed supplies are inexpensive. With frequent handling and attention, hamsters can become rather fond of being held or petted.

A hamster's lifespan can range from about a year to three and a half years. They require fresh water and food at all times. Hamsters have large cheek pouches and will stuff food into them to carry to their "stash", which is often in a corner.

There are two main types of housing: aquariums or wire cages. Dwarf hamsters are so tiny they can squeeze between the bars of wire cages. For this reason, use an aquarium to house the smaller dwarf hamsters. Larger hamsters would do well in an aquarium or wire cage. When buying housing, be sure to double check the cage is for small rodents. Other types of cages can have larger spacing between bars leading to potential problems. Hamsters love to climb and explore, but squeezing through the small spaces between bars risks getting stuck and suffocating.

Simply put: plastic cages will be eaten. Hamsters are rodents, which means their teeth are continually growing, and they need to chew to keep them at a proper length. Plastic is an easy material for hamsters to gnaw, and sharp pieces can be ingested causing internal damage.

Bedding should be changed once per week. Aspen is popular because it contains a minimal amount of dust. Hamsters need to build a nest to sleep in, and while they do use some of their bedding shavings, they enjoy other material as well. Recycle those paper towel or toilet paper tubes to use as tunnels for your pet. They might also chew bits off to line their nest with. Kleenexes make good nest liners and are easy for your hamster to shred.

Exercise wheels should be available for the hamster's entertainment. However, these wheels and water bottles are great ladders for their little paws. Hamsters are incredibly agile and can find a way to ascend most anything. It is important to weigh down the top of their cage, especially if it's an aquarium style, so they cannot lift the lid and escape.

Vision Hills Sanctuary in Austin has a female Teddy Bear Hamster, Indigo, up for adoption. Interested in adopting her? Go to her petfinder.com page: http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/16044526

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