There are several different breeds and varieties of hamster, varying in size and temperament. Typically, hamsters live for up to 2 years, although some may live for longer.
Hamsters are often a child’s first pet. However, their needs are actually very complex and they can be easily injured by incautious handling.
Your duty of care
Owning and caring for a hamster can be very rewarding, but it is also a big responsibility and a long-term commitment in terms of care. If you own or are responsible for a hamster, even on a temporary basis, you are required under the Animal Welfare Act to care for them properly.
Understanding hamsters needs
There is no one 'perfect' way to care for all hamsters because every hamster and every situation is different. It is up to you how you look after your hamster but you must take reasonable steps to ensure that you meet all their needs.
Read our expert reviewed pet care information to find out more about the needs of hamsters: Environment, Diet, Behaviour, Company, and Health and welfare.
You can also look at our information booklet How to take care of your hamster (PDF 1.36MB).
Clarification of terminology
Bedding material is used to describe the material or substrate that is used to cover the bottom of the cage.
Nesting material is used to describe the material provided in addition to bedding material, which is given to the hamsters for nest building and nesting behaviour.
Hamsters belong to the family Cricetidae and there are 24 different species. Among the most popular kept as pets are the Syrian, the Russian dwarf Campbell and the Roborovski. Why not view our full Hamster factfile (PDF 48KB).
Hamsters enjoy exploring
- Hamsters use their whiskers ,or vibrissae, to aid detection of objects to explore their environment.
A hamster’s teeth never stop growing!
- Hamsters’ incisors never stop growing and they have a ‘self-sharpening’ system where the incisors grind against each other while gnawing, which wears the teeth down.
Hamsters are nocturnal
- Hamsters have large eyes and a retina dominated by rods- the part of the eye that can function in less intense light.
Not all hamsters are sociable
- In the wild, Syrian hamster adults generally inhabit lone burrows. Other species, such as the Russian dwarf, naturally live in groups.