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June 11, 2010

Welcoming Your New Hamster

Here's how to make your hamster's transition to her new home as stress-free as possible.

Where should you look for a hamster companion?

Instead of creating more demand for hamsters by purchasing one from a pet store, we suggest you adopt one from a local animal shelter. Hamsters and other small animals are frequently brought to shelters so that they can be placed in other homes.

When you first bring your new hamster home, she's likely to feel stressed by the transition to an unfamiliar environment. She may be away from her littermates for the first time and will be inundated with strange sounds and smells.

Make the transition stress-free

You can ease your hamster's stress by following a few simple steps.

  • Set up your hamster's cage with appropriate accessories and food before you bring her home.
  • Use the same type of food, bedding, and nesting materials she's used to (unless they're inappropriate for hamsters), and introduce new products slowly. Note that shavings of cedar and pine are not appropriate bedding materials, and can cause health problems. Use paper products for bedding.
  • Cover the cage with a light cloth for the first day or two to allow your hamster to explore her new home with greater privacy and fewer distractions.
  • Don't rush to handle your new hamster; provide fresh food and water every day, but give her a few days to acclimate to her new home before you start petting her or picking her up.
  • Discourage friends and visitors from handling your new hamster during this adjustment period.
  • If you've acquired a new hamster as a companion for another (dwarf hamsters only; Syrians prefer solitary living), you shouldn't introduce them right away; a two-week quarantine period is needed to ensure that your new hamster is healthy and won't transmit any diseases to your resident hamster. Introducing dwarf hamsters by placing their cages side by side for two weeks will help things go more smoothly when they finally come face to face.

Reviewed by Linda J. Siperstein DVM, staff veterinarian at the VCA Wakefield Animal Hospital in Wakefield, Mass.

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