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The Adventures of Othello...
Member Name: norton501
Date: 09/05/10, updated on 02/01/13 (264 review reads)
Advantages: Sweet, soft fur, good natured, clean animals
Disadvantages: noise, nocturnal- NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN UNDER 12.
We have recently bought another male Syrian hamster- called Othello. You may know from reading my other reviews that our previous Syrian hamster "Hamlet" sadly passed away in July 2009. It has taken us quite a while to get over Hamlet but when we went into the pet shop a few months ago and saw Othello we knew we had to buy him. Othello was the first to dive to the front of the cage with that "Buy Me!" look on his face!
You can buy a hamster from most pet shops for around £6-7. A cage will set you back £20-50 and the only other things you will need are: hamster food, a food bowl, a water bottle, sawdust and bedding. Often pet stores will have a "hamster plus cage" for £30 offer or other multi-buy deal.
I read you must use the shredded tissue bedding rather than the coloured cotton wool style bedding for young hamsters as apparently they can get fibres from the cotton wool type bedding stuck in their pouches.
We had a Rotastak cage from when I had my last hamster so made sure I disinfected this then got it all ready with 2 inches of sawdust in the bottom, a generous handful of the shredded tissue bedding, filled the food bowl with hamster food (around 99p for a large food bag full from the pet shop) and put fresh water into the water bottle in anticipation of bringing Othello home.
The pet shop sells you your hamster in a cardboard box with breathing holes. The pet will be pretty terrified on the way home and will scratch and try to run around inside the box on the way home. I got a taxi straight home to reduce the amount of time Othello had to spend in this dark box wondering what was happening to him. Once home, I opened the porta-pet box and let him crawl into his cage then left him alone to settle in.
He spent about three hours sat inside an empty card tube from the inside of a toilet roll then, and after sniffing around the cage and finding his food bowl he set about moving food and bedding around his cage until he had it how he wanted it.
For the first few days I just put my hand into the cage to let Othello sniff my hand and gently tried to pick him up by putting a hand around his waist and just lifting him an inch off the sawdust then putting him down again. After a few days of doing this, Othello was used to being picked up and he let me lift him out of the cage.
My last hamster, Hamlet was 9 weeks old when I bought him and he never let me pick him up as he would bolt out of my hands- he was very nervous and jumpy. Othello was only 3 weeks old when I got him- it is VERY important to buy your hamsters when they are only 3-6 weeks old otherwise they will be very anxious and may not take to being handled.
Othello soon doubled in weight within a few months and soon weighed a healthy 200g. He grew to around 7.5 inches long with a 5 inch waist. He had his own little personality. He spent hours running in his wheel. With 9pm to 3am being his optimum awake/ "working" hours. He developed an annoying habit of putting some of his favourite peanuts into his wheel then running so the nuts clang around making all sorts of noise. He also had a phase of SLEEPING in his wheel and pulled all of his bedding INTO his wheel along with his favourite nuts.
Hamsters eat nuts, seeds and hamster food as well as vegetables - carrotts, lettuce etc., You must NOT give a hamster any citrus fruits. So no oranges. Hamsters are NOT vegetarian and you can give them a small piece of cooked chicken occasionally. They drink only water and you have to change their water every day and clean the cage out once a week.
When I was younger (12-17) and we had a hamster at home, my mum used to clean the cages in Dettol and all of my hamsters lived for 2.5-3 years so I now swear by Dettol.
I pay particular attention to the part of the cage he uses as a toilet. You can buy "small animal disinfectant" but we bought this for Hamlet and he got Wet Tail disease so I do not trust the "small pet cage disinfectants" any more.
Hamsters select one part of their cage to use as a toilet. To keep them in this habit, you should keep a small amount of soiled sawdust and old bedding to one side when you clean the cage out and put some of the old bedding in with the new bedding so they feel at home and put some of the soiled sawdust on top of the fresh sawdust in the toilet area so they know where to go.
The negatives of having a hamster are: they are nocturnal so they are not suitable for children in general- although lots of children have hamsters- as the hamster does not get up until 9pm or later and will stay up until 2-3am or later making a noise, chewing on the bars of its cage or throwing peanuts around in it's wheel and running in the wheel making the entire cage rattle.... I have read lots of stories about people dumping hamsters or "letting them loose"- (which is just barbaric as a local cat would just torture and kill them) as the children don't like the noise through night and the hamster sleeping all day. It is best to keep a hamster in a spare room or somewhere that is not an occupied bedroom as they do make a lot of noise through night.
Hamsters smell lovely. They ALWAYS smell fresh and clean. They are very clean animals and have VERY soft fur. They like being gently stroked and are VERY playful. If you sit them on your shoulder when you are sat on the sofa, they will just sit there and be stroked. Othello comes out around 9pm and just runs around on the sofa or just sits there eating a bit of carrot. They are very laid back animals but if you disturb them when they are asleep or are rough with them when you handle them they WILL bite you.
I get the impression they cannot be bothered to bite except if they have no other choice-- Othello never bit anyone- they are not naturally violent but if you terrorise them, like anyone they will bite as it is their only form of defense. Hamsters are generally mute animals but some of them can make a squealing noise occasionally.
Hamster's teeth continually grows so they must be given things to chew on to keep their teeth worn down. Ideal things are seed sticks that you can hang up in the cage - this is good exercise for the hamster as it is like a punch bag made out of edible seeds so the hamster has to reach up and hold the stick as it chews the seeds off it. These bars cost around £1. You can also buy wooden chew toys to put in the cage and even a shaped hollow log that is made from an edible substance but feels hard to the touch.
If you buy a ball for your hamster to put the hamster in when you clean the cage or for some extra exercise, they should not be left in the wheel for more than 10-15 minutes as some hamsters can die of exhaustion if they are left in there for too long away from water etc., Also hamsters have poor eyesight and dislike bright lights as they are nocturnal so you should make sure you keep the cage OUT of direct sunlight.
Overall, I adore hamsters as pets. They are clean, adorable, independent, amusing and just make lovely pets. BUT- they need respect, not to be poked and prodded by children when they are sleeping and they need to be left to their own devices but talked to and played with when they are active (optimum hours are midnight to 2am!). I think they are better for teens or adults than pets for children but I know a lot of people who have toddlers and have bought them a hamster that endures all sorts of poking and prodding from sticky fingers, bites the child then gets vilified for it.
I think if you are thinking about buying a hamster you have to think if you will be able to accomodate it's natural habits- being noisy, nocturnal and needing its own independence and a lot of respect when handling. I would not buy a hamster for anyone under 12 years old. Also Syrian hamsters HAVE to be kept ALONE as they would fight with another hamster. So there is a lot to take into account- also they live for 1.5 to 3 years.
I hope this review has been helpful and interesting and I hope it helps either save atleast one hamster from a lot of stress and anxiety or helps someone home a hamster that has a lot of love and attention to give to it. I have read RSPCA or animal shelters often have hamsters for rehoming.
Summary: Pointers about deciding to buy a hamster...
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