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Hamster health and welfare

To give your hamster a happy, healthy life, here's what to do to give them the care and attention they need.

hamster in a hamster tunnel held by a human hand © RSPCA

Hamster grooming and dental care

Your hamster will need regular grooming to stay happy and healthy, especially if they're long-haired. If you're unsure about grooming and want some advice, speak to a pet care specialist.

Hamsters' teeth grow continually, and they gnaw objects to keep them sharp and regularly worn down. You'll need to give your hamster suitable gnawing material to maintain their sharp teeth and stop them getting too long, which causes health problems and pain. 

Dental problems aren't uncommon in hamsters, so check their front teeth regularly and ask your vet to make sure they're growing properly. If their teeth become overgrown, take them to a vet. If one incisor becomes damaged, the other can keep growing, and this may eventually stop them eating.

Hamster health checks

Hamsters have high metabolic rates and can lose condition quickly if they're unwell. They don't show outward signs of pain, so may suffer before you realise. Stressed hamsters are likely to become ill, so keep a close eye on them and look out for them behaving differently - such as developing repetitive behaviour - as this can show that something's wrong. 

Hamsters can be affected by many diseases, and tumours aren't uncommon, especially along the underside of the abdomen. They can become infected by contaminated food, water and litter material, and you should also keep them away from poisonous materials such as poisonous food, plants and chemicals. Consult the vet immediately if your hamster shows signs of illness or poisoning. 

Remember, only treat your hamster with the medicines recommended for them by a vet. Human or other animal medicines are dangerous to hamsters and some oral antibiotics can cause serious digestive disorders.

Treating your hamster with kindness

Hamsters are naturally timid and don't like loud or threatening noises, so be calm around them and never startle or frighten them. Keep a constant eye on them when they're with another animal or person who may deliberately or accidentally harm or frighten them.

Handling can be stressful for hamsters, but they can get used to it and it's important for regularly checking their health and welfare. Handle them carefully and considerately, in a confident but gentle manner, and read more about it in our guide to handling your hamster

If you go away

Make sure you have a responsible person to look after your hamster if you're off on holiday. Keep your pet in their familiar cage and leave their usual food, and try not to transport them unless absolutely necessary. If you do need to move them, read our advice on transporting your hamster.

Finally, it's a good idea to take out pet insurance to cover the cost of any unforeseen vet bills.

Follow the links below to find out more about caring for your hamster.

Find out more