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Tips For Keeping Hammies Safe!

macro hamster by Meaikoh

Dwarf variety

Once you’ve chosen a hamster cage, you still need some tips on considerations to stop your hamster becoming ill, injured or even dying accidentally. Hamsters are tiny, delicate little souls who have often come to harm or died through inappropriate keeping. This article explains whether to keep one or two, safety for exercise wheels, and the dangers of chewing.

One Hamster Or Two?
The general consensus seems to a be Syrian hamster especially must live alone in their own cage (1, 2, 3, 4) and all the larger breeds too. This is because hamsters fight each other – although some experts advocate the ‘dwarf’ hamster species enjoying living in pairs (2) but they may still fight (5). Even so DO NOT put boys and girls in together, even if they’re related – they will breed, leaving you with greater care issues and many new hammies to home. Sexing hamsters is difficult – from experience of a seemingly endless ‘supply’ of gerbils from parents we swore were all boys or girls – ask you vet.  Having decided how many and using the ‘Hamriettas’ from the ‘Hamrys’, move onto how they’ll exercise.

Syrian hamster

Syrian hamster

Exercise Wheels
Wild hamsters run 11 – 12 kilometres daily. Domestic hamsters also need to have at least an exercise wheel (plus a bigger safe play pen are to run in daily outside the cage is also great). DON’T BUY old fashioned wheels with rungs – these have been known to cause horrific injury. Only choose solid wheels, where no little hamster body parts can get trapped. Don’t waste your money – before you buy ask your vet about size – your hamster simply won’t be able to exercise properly in it if it’s too small or too big. Think you’ve found a solid, correctly sized wheel? Move onto considerations of chewing.

Epic FAIL - open runged wheels can cause injury

Epic FAIL - open runged wheels can cause injury

Chewing Their Way To Danger
One basic of hamster care is, like many small pets, they are fanatical chewers. They do it to keep their teeth in check apart from anything else – rodent’s teeth constantly grow and chewing wears them down to comfortable lengths. If small pieces become detached through chewing – say splinters, or slivers of plastic- they can cause injury in a number of ways. They may injure the eyes, nose, tail or other body part by ‘poking in’; or the hamster’s pouches and/or insides if swallowed and cause poisoning if they’re made of materials toxic to hamsters. Check anything going near your hammy is incredibly robust, made of untreated wood, non–toxic plastic, etc, and of course IS NOT ELECTRONIC IN ANY WAY – no matter what someone trying to sell you any gadget says! It’s better to hesitate and not give them any toys you’re unsure of until you’ve checked with your vet.

hardware 13 by mrgoose

Jo Boyd

IMPORTANT : Please read this as a general introduction to the topics only – it can’t replace a vets advice-  their needs absolutely vary by breed, age, temperament, health status, etc.


1. RSPCA. Pet care – Hamsters [online] available from:

2. ASPCA. Hamster Care [online] available from:

3. ASPCA.  Hamster Care The 411 [online] available from:
http://www2.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=kids_pc_hamster_411_Syrian Hamster

4. National Hamster Society. Getting started [online] available from:


5. California Hamster Association. FAQs [online] available from:

Photo Credits

Dwarf hamster http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Meaikoh Syrian hamster http://www.sxc.hu/profile/jaaro Wiring http://www.sxc.hu/profile/mrgoose

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Avoid Malnutrition, Poisonous Foods And Unsafe Carriers

No discussion on hamster cages would be comlete without mentioning some of the foods that you should and should not feed them. Hamsters like all pets need specialist feeding to stop them getting unhealthy or even dying prematurely. They also need to be carried about safely to prevent escape, or injury, when they’re not in their cages. This article explains a good hamster diet, some tips for harmful foods and carriers. This should give you tips on avoiding injury through malnutrition and poor handling in transit to and from the vets or to your  pet-sitters while you’re away.
The Hamster 3 by abilio
What to feed
Hamsters need a varied diet. They are herbivores by nature and require grains, nuts and seeds. Buy this from a pet store as some can harm you hamster (see Stuff That Harms Hammies). They also need fresh, washed fruits and vegetables and constant access to fresh water. Hamster treat products can be given in moderation. You may want to consider organic food to avoid chemicals as hamsters weight little compares to ingestion intakes of other animals per grams of bodyweight. Considering hamster food, it’s also useful to know what to avoid.
What Not To Feed
Not all seeds, nuts, fruit and veggies are safe for hamsters. Known foods which can poison them include apple seeds avocado, cherry pits, eggplant, elderberries, grapes, horse chestnuts, mushrooms, onions, garlic, chives, peach pits, potatoes raisins, rhubarb and tomatoes (1, 2). NEVER try to improvise with human foods or plants from the home or garden. The safest way is to have your vet to provide a diet sheet of safe foods. Establishing a good diet is vital, as is having a good carrier for trips outside your home.



Hamster Carriers
You need one in case your hamster needs vet care or for when you go away on holiday to take him or her to a friends or professional pet-sitters.  Don’t be tempted to skip getting one – hamsters can easily escape from cardboard boxes and there may not be enough ventilation in one or another ‘DIY’ carrier. They range in price from a few $ or £ to more fancy versions but remember, your hamster won’t care what style it is, so long as its comfy and safe.

Small animal carriers and food are not always interchangeable – food stuffs must be nutritionally species appropriate and carriers the right size. It’s also not necessary to buy a flashy product with a hefty price tag, many supplies are inexpensive.  With some tips for a healthy diet and safe transportation, your hamster is more likely to live longer and avoid injuries.


Jonathon Boyd

1. The Hamster Society. Husbandry – List of Poisonous Plants [onine]. Available from:

2. ASPCA. People Foods To Avoid Feeding Your Pets [online]. Available from:

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Harmful Stuff For Hammies

All animals special care and the environment your hamster cage needs to carefully checked. Are many plants and ordinary everyday products can seriously poison hamsters. This article gives some top tips on household hazards, plants and poisons to eliminate the hamster cage and other hamster care environments. This can give you checklist as starter checklist for keeping your hamster safe.

Another Word About Chewing Hazards
All rodents chew and hamsters will chew anything as they like to keep their ever growing teeth in check. All electrical wires must be moved right out of the way for this reason. Chewing toys and gnaw blocks must be made of materials which are not treated with chemicals nor contain any toxic components. Also don’t give anything that could create sharp parts through chewing as these can seriously injure both outside of body and in. This point can’t emphasised enough, although there are of course, other household dangers that deserve special attention.

Household Hazards & Poison
If you allow your hamster out of cage, make sure its play area is enclosed so it can’t escape – the oddest spaces and you may have job getting them out again unharmed. Other pets may also show a menacing interest, even if ‘playing’ this extremely frightening and dangerous. Make sure are no medications, plants or household products such as cleaners that could reach. Don’t smoke tobacco near your hamster as pets suffer from secondary smoke.

Some Common Dangerous Human Medicines, Foods, Household & Garden Plants
Most advice on human medicines that harm pets is based on responses in cats and dogs, but to safe side, the list includes (1):

  • Non-steroidal-anit-inflammatories, or NSAIDs as they’re known, often given to control pain in humans
  • Antidepressants
  • Acetaminophen
  • Methylphenidate (often prescribed for ADHD in humans)
  • Fluorouracil (prescribed for skin cancers in humans)
  • Isoniazid (used for respiratory conditions such as TB)
  • Pseudoephedrine (found in decongestant remedies)
  • Anti-diabetics
  • Vitamin D derivatives
  • Baclofen (a muscle relaxant drug for humans)

Human food and garden plants can be harmful, here is just a snapshot of some more common ones (1, 2). This list is simply some of the more common ones in the home or garden –there are more (references given below):

  • Alcohol
  • Alfalfa
  • Almond pits
  • Amaryllis
  • Apple seeds
  • Avocado – for hamsters (and other rodents) this can be fatal if ingested
  • Azaleas
  • Autumn crocuses
  • Buttercups – the yellow flowers in the garden
  • Cactus/candelabra
  • Cherry pits and cherry laurel
  • Chocolate Coffee, Caffeine
  • Christmas rose
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Clematis
  • Cornflower
  • Cyclamen
  • Common privet
  • Daffodil (or jonquil)
  • Deadly nightshade
  • Easter lily
  • Eggplant
  • Elderberry
  • English ivy  Evergreens
  • Ferns
  • Foxgloves
  • Grapes & Raisins – known to have especially harmed pets with kidney problems
  • Holly
  • Honeysuckle
  • Horse chestnuts
  • Hyacinth
  • Hydrangea
  • Irises
  • Laurels
  • Lilies
  • Marigold
  • Milk – is known to cause digestive upsets in many animals
  • Mistletoe  Mushrooms
  • Nightshade plants varieties
  • Onions, Garlic, Chives – are known to harm cats and dogs in higher quantities, we suggest avoidance for hamsters
  • Peach pits
  • Peonies
  • Philodendrons
  • Poinciana
  • Poison ivy / oak
  • Poppies
  • Potatoes
  • Rhododendrons
  • Rhubarb
  • Rubber plants
  • Salt – can cause extreme thirst and passing too much urine – one common source is chips (UK: crisps). Simply do not feed salty foods from any source.
  • Sweet pea plants
  • Tobacco
  • Tomatoes
  • Tulips
  • Wisteria yews
  • Yeast Dough – because it can rise inside the hamster, causing pain even intestinal rupture
  • Xylitol – for most animals, this sweetener is harmful if ingested

IF YOU SUSPECT YOUR HAMSTER HAS EATEN SOMETHING HARMFUL OR IS HARMED IN ANY WAY, TAKE IT TO THE VETS IMMEDIATELY, DO NOT TRY TO DIAGNOSE BY USING THIS ARTICLE. This list does not contain every substance or situation dangerous to hamsters – please research carefully for local plants, food specialities, products and drugs and ask your vet for advice.

Jonathon Boyd

References – useful resources on things that poison hamsters/other pets:
1. ASPCA. Top 10 Human Medications That Poison Our Pets [online]. Available from:

2. ASPCA. People Foods To Avoid Feeding Your Pets [online]. Available from:

3. The Hamster Society. Husbandry – List of Poisonous Plants [onine]. Available from:

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