Unit # 1
This course explores the care and welfare of hamsters, discussing behaviour, environment, enrichment and health. By the end of this course, the student will have the knowledge to correctly identify the species of hamster, correct environment, diet and handling. Also, the student will understand how to observe signs of illness and identify correct cages and equipment for your pet.
Hamster care and welfare
Hamsters are one of the most popular and most widely available rodents in the pet trade.
They can make an excellent choice as a family pet, making engaging, interesting and lovely animal companions with the right care.
Hamsters are very clean animals, with a simple diet who have unfortunately often been kept in less than ideal situations due to
misinformation about their needs.
This course aims to update the knowledge of these animals, ensuring they are kept in line with modern pet practices – with an awareness that animal care guidelines are something that is constantly being reviewed and updated as more information comes to light.
The word Hamster comes from the german word ‘’hamstern’ – to hoard. This is a key trait of all hamsters, a behaviour caused by the land each species is endemic to.
Hamsters do store food against future weather conditions, and this behaviour persists in pet animals. Pet owners must make sure they keep an eye on food storing, both to prevent selective feeding, but also to ensure that fresh fruit does not go rotten.
Most hamsters have a short tail, with the exception of the Chinese hamster which has a longer tail and is the most mouse-like in appearance of pet hamsters. Although hamsters do like burrowing, in the wild they would spend a lot of time foraging above ground for food.
Their environment in captivity needs to be a reflection of that, giving plenty of unbroken floor space but also a decent depth of substrate to allow for burrowing.
Hamster enthusiasts have founded various clubs to promote healthy animals and breeding, leading to availability of a variety of colours, as well as albino and melanistic, and can have different coat types.
Ethical breeders should be aiming to increase health and longevity as their first priority.
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There are five main species of hamster within the pet trade, with the Syrian hamster being the largest and most common of these. This course will explore the care and welfare across all five species of hamsters, with the differences to each listed.
Hamsters are excellent pets for the right owners.
They have big personalities and can be very active and curious, as this course has covered it is vital to ensure they have enough space, diet and enrichment to thrive. A hamster should be allowed to exhibit as large a range of natural, healthy behaviours as it is possible to replicate in a captive environment.
Remember that an ethical rescue or breeder should require details of your setup and provide lifetime backup.
Be wary of backyard rescues or breeders who home animals without behavioural checks – you don’t want to end up supporting a pet peddler or dealing with an unexpected litter!
Once you are spending regular time with your hamster, they will begin to adapt to your routine and you can also become used to what is normal for them and so pick up on any issues quickly.
As prey animals, hamsters do conceal signs of illness or injury rather well and health can deteriorate very quickly. It is essential to have access to a vet who is knowledgeable and willing to treat small animals. With the right care, your hamster can be happy, healthy and make a wonderful companion pet.
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