Helen's Hamster Pages and Hamster Pictures

FAQ's for Syrian / Golden Hamsters

Some common questions that people e-mail to me are:

Why does my hamster bury its house/nest in sawdust?

Sometimes they might bury their house if it is cold. The sawdust around the house acts as insulation, so provide more sawdust in cold weather. Also you could check to see if there is a draft, this is something which they particularly do not like, and position the cage away from any drafts. So check for both cold and drafts. When it is warm in summer they are less likely to bury their nests.

Moving sawdust can be regarded as one of those 'cute' things that hamster occasionally like to do. Hamster enjoy digging and building big nests. It is possible that he is burying his house just for the fun of it.

You could do various things to let him play with making a nest. Try leaving some of the bedding outside so that he has to collect it or give him some cardboard to chew up. Also you could try giving him a larger house with more bedding in it as hamster love to have a large nest.

To prevent him moving all the sawdust from the floor of the cage add a few obstacles such as tops from egg boxes or solid pieces of cardboard or a chunk of pine wood. The objects should stop him moving the sawdust on the other side. Also hamsters much prefer to walk and sit on solid objects and will jump from one to the other to avoid the sawdust.

While sorting out a buried house takes a bit of work it is not as bad as when they decide to move the nest.

Where can I buy good hamster cages?

I prefer the cages with a plastic base and a wire frame. I find that they are easy to keep clean, only the bottom plastic section requires occasional washing. I do not have much experience of the plastic cages with tubes but I have noticed that the tubes can be too small for large hamsters and also all those tubes require washing every week as dirt sticks on to them when the hamster squeezes through.

Very few pet shops stock large plastic based wire cages, maybe because they take up a lot of room! But I have seen that people prefer to buy smaller and colourful cages that are not even big enough for a large wheel. Nearly every cage comes complete with a wheel that is too small for a fully grown hamster. Large cages just come with two small wheels! I do not understand why suppliers do this. A hamster wheel needs to be at least 8 inches in diameter and solid. The pet shop will normally sell you an appropriate wheel separately, so you need to check that it will fit in the cage. Small cages may appeal to the human owners but your hamster will be much happier in a cage with plenty of room and a large wheel.

I have purchased my last couple of cages from the internet at Pets Direct UK. I buy the biggest hamster cage available, presently the Ginny White Bar.

However you may still be able to pruchase a large cage through your local indepdent pet shop. I discovered a while ago that pet shops receive brochures from cage suppliers and that these contain large practical cages as well as the small colourful ones. If the pet shop is friendly then they can ordered a cage for you to include in their next delivery.

My hamster has escaped, how do I find him?

During the day, you could try looking behind and inside all the furniture, inside cupboards, and under freezers or cookers where the hamster may have decided to sleep for the day. Try not to leave doors open and let it into more rooms. Ask people to help so that watches can be kept in multiple rooms. The hamster will be easier to find at the time of day or night when he is normally active as you may spot him running around the rooms, or he may just run over your foot. Hamsters are curious and if he hears movement he may come to you to investigate what is happening, so watch were you stand.

I have written more about escaping hamster on the page Escape techniques of Houdini the hamster

Can hamsters see anything?

Yes they can see something. I think that they can make out details for a couple of inches and beyond that they only seem to see big objects. One of my hamsters was able to follow my hand when I moved it several inches away from his ball. They can watch a human from across the room and will wait until the human is out of sight before running out of the room. But I have also seen hamsters sprint towards a wall or door and not see it in time to stop before hitting it.

How do you tell whether a hamster is male or female?

The easiest way to tell is that the male hamster has a kind of extra bulge around the tail. But you can also turn them onto their back to check. You can see the difference between a male and female at

Why does my male hamster have a big bum?

In warm conditions or when he is asleep, a male hamster will let his balls drop out. These can look very big and sometimes alarm a hamster owner. He will pull them back when he is active, or if you lightly touch one. As a hamster becomes old, he is less active and you are more likely to see this.

Should I breed my hamsters?

This is a very big question and you really should consider what you are dong carefully. For more information go to

My hamster looks fat and she is building a big nest, is she pregnant?

The female syrian hamster can become pregnant as early as 3 weeks old. The gestation period is only 16 days. So if she is old enough and has been with a male within the last 16 days, she may be pregnant. For more information go to

What are hamster babies called?

They are often called pups.

What should I do for my pregnant hamster or a hamster with pups?

Leave her alone, provide her with more bedding and extra food. When she has pups, do not touch or disturb the pups for a couple of weeks. So avoid cage cleaning and do not vac around the cage. You do need to clean the toilet area of the cage and you can provide fresh bedding for the mother to exchange for old bedding.

You might also want to remove the wheel to prevent the pups being injured if they are playing around the wheel when the mother runs on it.

When should the pups be separated from the mother?

You need to separate the males from the females after about 3 to 4 weeks. By 4 weeks the males can breed with the females, including the mother. So put the male hamsters into a separate cage. The mother will probably tolerate the female hamsters for a few more weeks.

Adult hamsters prefer to live alone. So by the time they are about 2 months old you should have them all in separate cages.

Unfortunately when a lot of inbreeding happens this can produce weak or disfigured hamsters. Also a female hamster should not be breed until she is fully adult at about 2 months.

Can two hamsters live in the same cage?

You really should not keep two Syrian hamsters in the same cage. Even if a pet shop tells you that you can, they are wrong. I must point out that this applies to the large Syrian hamsters who live as individuals and are very territorial. Dwarf hamsters are communal and do live together.

However, yes, in some cases it is possible to keep two same-sex hamsters together. They would need to be introduced as pups. For instance 2 brothers, 2 sisters, or mother and daughter. As pups the hamsters do not have their own scent and therefore they can live together. When they become older they might accept each other's scent and can live together. If they show signs of stress such as fighting, or one dominating the other, they should be separated. You would need to watch them to make sure that they are happy together.

There is one big problem with keeping two hamsters together. At any time, for no reason and with no warning, one hamster might attack the other hamster. The hamster might just be injured but it is very likely that the hamster will be killed and possibly eaten. It is much better to avoid this, I would not like to check on my hamsters in the morning and find one has been killed by the other. Sadly this does happen, I have read warnings from people who were wrongly advised and this happened to their hamsters.

You should never keep a male and female together as the female will drive the male away when she has pups. The stress of having a male hamster nearby will possible cause her to destroy the pups.

Can my hamster be introduced to my pet mouse or rat?

I would advise against this. Hamsters are very territorial. I have heard stories of hamsters who immediately attacked a mouse or rat when they met.

Can I bath my hamster?

Hamsters do not like being wet and will try desperately to avoid water if, for instance, in a bath tub with a puddle of water. A hamster can survive being wet unless he is cold, then he may become ill with flu and possibly die. Finally, hamsters have their own natural oils to maintain the condition of their fur and will spend a long time grooming. So I would not recommend bathing as they will not enjoy it and it may make the fur look worse. If you are still curious: a hamster will look really pathetic with wet fur, and someone once discovered that hamsters can swim when his hamster accidently fell into a fish tank.

How much exercise does a hamster need?

A hamster can run for a distance of several kilometres or more in a night. So that is a lot of exercise. It is best to find a large solid plastic exercise wheel. Hamsters love to come out of their cage and run around a room in the late evening or early morning. If the cage has an easy access side opening then you can leave it open on the floor. The hamster will learn to come out and run around and then climb back into the cage on his own whenever he needs a rest.

Are hamster balls cruel?

A hamster ball is a very good way of allowing your hamster to exercise in a area that may have holes or gaps which you do not want him to disappear down. You should start off by putting the hamster in the ball for just 10 minutes and then put him back into the cage. This way he should learn that the ball is just temporary and he can wait until he is back in the cage before going to the toilet. You can expand the length of time that he stays in the ball for as long as he is happy. But if you leave it too long he might curl up and go to sleep, or go to the toilet, or just keep bumping into your feet until you let him out. The maximum time that a hamster will normally spend in a ball is 30 minutes when they are at their most active as hamster like to have short rests in their cages.

Some hamsters do not like being in a ball. In this case it is cruel to put them in the ball. You can tell they do not like it because they will not run anywhere and might try to dig out of the bottom.

What are the dark patches on the hips of my hamster?

These are the hamster's scent glads. He will rub them against furniture and walls to mark his territory. If your hamster is trying to smell something on your hands, or even testing your fingers for potential food, you can rub you hands along his sides so that you smell like something belonging to him and he will ignore your hands. Stroking your hamster so that his scent is on your hands is a good way to stop him biting you if he is nervous or young.

The scent is a very faint smell which I can not smell because it is so faint. However this smell must be very obvious to hamsters. Recently I handled a female hamster for a few minutes and when I had Fred out a few hours later he spent a long time sniffing all over my hands and clothes.

Why does my hamster eat his poo?

Sometimes food might not be completely digested by going through the hamster once. So the hamster will eat it again. I have noticed that the lighter, brown coloured poos might be re-eaten but the black ones are left.

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