Mistakes I Made as a New Hamster Owner

a small hamster in a bowl on top of shredded paper

My hubby brought Bao Bao, the hamster, home on 18 October 2023. I was apprehensive as I thought hamsters were challenging and smelly pets with noisy wheels. To my delight, Bao Bao is an adorable and gentle hamster.

Campbell dwarf yellow hamster baby

Getting a hamster as a pet made sense for my family because of our work schedules and a small home. We are mostly home in the evening when Bao Bao is awake as Hamsters are crepuscular, which means they are most active during dusk and dawn. Bigger pets such as dogs, cats or rabbits require more space, attention, and significant commitment to wellbeing.

We have since upgraded the cage and wheels; looking back, I realise the many mistakes we made in caring for Bao Bao as first-time owners.

Hamsters are solitary and territorial creatures, so keeping them separate is best. The first cage we owned was given to us by a friend. It was a Lilliphut Dome Cage with 2 Ovo Hamster baths, carrier accessories, and a Wild Sanko hamster wheel. Which I now know is not suitable for a dwarf hamster.

The Best Cage for different types of Hamsters

After being notified by the Hamster Society in Singapore, Bao Bao’s cage was too small when sharing a video I made with them. I referred to their website for a hamster starter kit.

I must admit that my response was defensive at first because I allowed Bao Bao to have playpen time, where he roams and plays outside his cage, after reading the hamster society articles and researching on Youtube. I realised that everything we provided for Bao Bao was inadequate.

There are four commonly found hamster species in Singapore, Syrian, Dwarf, Robo and Chinese hamster. Syrian and Chinese are bigger species of hamsters, while Dward and Robo are smaller. All of which require big cages. Sadly the pet shops where these hamsters are sold usually have tiny cages which are unsuitable for hamsters.

The Hamster Society Singapore recommends the 90x50x50cm size for all species of hamsters.

Bucastate Cage vs tiny cage for hamster

Preferably unbroken space, linking tiny cages, as I did previously, won’t do. I noticed a change in the health and personality of BaoBao after shifting Bao Bao to a large cage. He is fitter, energetic, and playful instead of sleeping the days and nights away. Small cages can cause hamsters stress, and the limited items you can place inside give them stress. In some cases, they suffer from boredom, making them depressed.

Do I need a bigger hamster wheel?

We got Bao Bao 3 wheels, the first given to us by a friend, commonly found in pet shops and online stores but too small for any hamster! Sanko Wild Silent Wheel – 15cm. The second wheel we bought for Bao Bao came with the Lilliphut Hamster Dome with a 17cm wheel. It was slightly better for Bao Bao, but as he grew, his nose would keep bumping to the front of the wheel, poor fella.

The recommended size for a Hamster wheel is 27cm, at least for a Syrian/ Chinese Hamster. 21cm, at least for Robo/ Dwarf Hamsters.

proper sized wheels for hamsters

Bao Bao’s Eyes sparkled when he first tried his new wheel; as a baby, he would always check if we were watching him run. Now that he is a big boy, he still loves to impress us by running on the wheel. He usually hardly runs during the day, but he gave us a little show as a thank-you.

The third wheel we got for Bao Bao is the Bucatstate Hamster running wheel 21cm, which is lightweight and perfect for him. He runs and plays on it at around 4 am each day.

Hamsters Hideouts and the Benefits of Having One

We didn’t know hamsters needed a hideout. The tiny cage didn’t have one. Clever baby Bao Bao showed us by sleeping in a water bottle holder. Hideouts keep hamsters cool and provide them security, a place to call home and feel safe.

Strictly No Mesh or Wire Wheels for Hamster

I don’t understand why these are still on sale; sadly, sometimes, items are sold for their novelty rather than for the benefit of an animal. A hamster’s foot can get trapped in the gaps of the bars and torn off. Ouch! The bars and meshes also hurt their little feet, giving them bumblefoot, which is like getting blisters from new shoes.

Please spare these cute furry friends the unneeded agony of these cheap but horrible wheels.

What should I use for my hamster’s sand bath?

We bought Bao Bao lavender-scented sand; as first-time hamster owners, we were afraid the smell of Bao Bao’s pee would fill our home, so we bought scented sand. Little did we know that the overpowering smell is terrible for hamsters because they have sensitive noses and may irritate their respiratory tract. Bao Bao didn’t pee in the sand and spent minimal time with it.

 WitteMolen Chinchilla bathing sand

I purchased a pack after reading up and learning about WitteMolen Chinchilla bathing sand. It was an instant hit with Bao Bao. He loved it. It is scentless, has reasonable odour control and clumps well. Cleaning up is easy, too, in the areas your hammy pees at, making it easy for you to throw away “affected” areas and keep the rest of the sand in good condition.

Different ways of storing bathing sand

Bao Bao’s first bathing sand container was given to us by a friend. The Liliphut Mini Bathhouse was a tiny plastic rectangle container with an entrance. I liked that it kept most of the sand in as Bao Bao cleaned himself, but I felt it was ridiculously tiny. Poor Bao Bao could not roll in it, only doing half turns.

I bought a Marukan Clean & Clear Corner Bath next; it was slightly better, and Bao Bao preferred it but could not do a full roll.

After researching, I found that an A5 paper-sized holder would be best for a Dwarf Hamster. I have seen many YouTubers use Ikea Serving dishes and cookie jars without the covers, but those would suit a Syrian or Chinese Hamster better.

sand holders for hamster

I got my hands on an Ababixa Hamster Bathroom, which I found was perfect. I removed the wooden cover because Bao Bao could not climb out, and I didn’t want him to hunch over. Occasionally, he does push some sand out and into the cage, but I sweep it up and place it back in. He is one happy hamster now. He loves to pee in it, which saves me time cleaning up his cage during the weekend.

If you plan to get a pet hamster, I hope you learn from my mistake and give your Hammy Pal the best life. I am glad I was corrected while Bao Bao is still a young hamster, so I may learn from my mistakes and give my furry companion a comfy and loving home. Do check back on my blog for more hamster tips and tricks as I learn through experience how to be a good hamster owner.

4 Comments

  1. avatar

    I learned so much from this post! I’m happy that Bao Bao has such a comfortable and loving home! Thanks for sharing!

  2. avatar

    I’ve had various pets over the years, but I never had a hamster. It was interesting reading about your experiences of owning a hamster and, and I learned a lot. Also, Bao Bao is so cute!

    1. avatar

      Thank you 🙂

  3. avatar

    Your hamster is so cute, and this post is full of invaluable tips for hamster owners! Thank you for sharing
    Julia x
    https://www.thevelvetrunway.com/

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