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Hamster health and welfare

Health logo © RSPCA publications and brand 2010

 

Ensure your hamster is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

Hamster being held © iStockphoto
Hamsters need:

  • Observing closely - helps you notice if they’re behaving differently and can indicate something’s wrong. Consult the vet immediately if they show signs of illness (Signs of illness in hamsters (PDF 179KB)). They can be affected by many diseases; tumours aren’t uncommon, especially along the underside of the abdomen. They can become infected by contaminated food/water/litter material
     
  • Keeping away from poisonous materials (e.g. poisonous food/plants/chemicals). Contact your vet immediately if you’re concerned.
     
  • Treating with only the medicines recommended for them by a vet. Human/other animal medicines are dangerous to hamsters. Some oral antibiotics can cause serious digestive disorders.
     
  • Calmness! Never startle/frighten them; they’re naturally timid. Loud/threatening noises can frighten causing distress.
     
  • Handling carefully/considerately in a confident but gentle manner (Handling your hamster (PDF 193KB)). Handling can be stressful, but it’s important to regularly check them for health/welfare (Checking your hamster (PDF 178KB)). Hamsters have high metabolic rates and can lose condition quickly if unwell. Hamsters don’t show outward signs of pain, so may suffer before you realise. Stressed hamsters are likely to become ill.  
     
  • Watching for developing stereotypical behaviour - seek veterinary advice if they show any repetitive behaviours, which can be caused by barren environments/stress/frustration and/or lack of mental stimulation.
     
  • Suitable gnawing material to maintain sharp teeth; preventing them growing continuously, causing health problems/pain.
     
  • Their front teeth checking regularly; ask your vet to check to ensure they’re growing properly. If the teeth become overgrown, take them to a vet. Hamsters’ teeth grow continually, they gnaw objects to keep them sharp/regularly worn down. Dental problems aren’t uncommon. If one incisor becomes damaged, the other can keep growing - eventually may stop them eating.
     
  • Regular grooming especially if they’re long-haired. For grooming advice speak to a pet care specialist.
     
  • Caring for by a responsible person when you’re away to meet their welfare needs. Keep them in their familiar cage/leave their usual food.
     
  • Constant supervision when with another animal/person who may deliberately/accidentally harm/frighten them.
     
  • Transporting carefully, reducing stress wherever possible. Don’t transport them unless absolutely necessary (Transporting your hamster (PDF 181KB)).