Hamsters became very popular pets due to their availability and ease of keep. In any pet shop you will find a variety of little creatures with different coat textures and colors. You might have heard of the Syrian hamster, but did you know that there are more than twenty different species of hamsters in the world?
Although choosing a species of hamster is important, what can be really hard is picking a healthy hamster pet. You can spend hours researching health problems, behavior patterns and temper. What you really want to do is just to walk into a pet shop and pick a healthy hamster under 30 mins.
In this blog post we will provide you with 10 easy tips that you need to know when choosing your new hamster. If you follow these steps, you are guaranteed to choose an active and interested in its surroundings pet. This hamster will be a joy to own!
How To Pick A Healthy Hamster In 10 Easy Steps?
Once you decided that you found ‘the one’ and are all ready to bring a hammy home, you need to examine the small animal’s body. To pick a healthy hamster you need to check its mouth, eyes, ears, teeth, tail, paws, nose and hair. Then you need to pay attention to its behavior and attitude.
1. Mouth – no signs of dribbling or scabbing
Look at the potential pet closely. A healthy mouth shouldn’t show signs of dribbling or scabbing at the corners of the mouth. If you notice any of these sings it can indicate infection caused by fighting, poor health or teeth problems.
Does the area around the hamster’s mouth bleed? Does it show any signs of having bled recently? If it does, most likely a hamster has dental problems (we will talk about teeth later). Then, you need to check the cutest hamster’s part – cheeks.
Cheek pouches can have some problems. The most common ones are infections and cheek pouch eversion. That is when cheeks get turned inside out. You can notice a pink bulge in the corner of the mouth when eversion occurs.
Hamster with mouth or cheek problems will have difficulty eating. It is extremely hard to spot these problems when choosing a pet. Most of the time problems are caused by overgrown teeth. It happens when hamster’s teeth were not filed down by chewing properly.
2. Eyes – bright and alert
Hamster’s eyes should be bright and alert with no sing of discharge or cloudiness. If the eyes look dull, it can be a sing of an illness. Also, eyes should be clean without discharge. A healthy pet should be able to open eyes properly.
There should be no sing of watering, crust or foreign bodies in the eyes. Does one eye protrude from the head? All the breeds apart from albinos with red eyes, hamsters have very dark eye color. If a hamster has grey areas in the eye, these are most likely cataracts.
3. Ears – a small amount of wax inside is normal
Hamsters have excellent hearing which is much better than humans! The ears are hairless and held upright and alert. When hamsters go to sleep, they actually fold their ears. So, it is totally normal that ears are folded and flat when a ham just woke up.
If you noticed a small amount of wax inside the ear when picking a pet, it is absolutely normal. However, if a ham has a richly colored wax in the ears, it can be a sing of ear mites. The skin on the ears will look crusty too. A hamster with mites will rub its body on things in the cage to ease the itching.
4. Teeth – well-aligned with a yellow tinge
Hamsters have 16 teeth in total – 4 incisors (2 upper and 2 lower incisors) and 12 molars (3 molars on each jaw, upper and lower quadrant). Healthy teeth should be well-aligned and of relatively even length to the one next to them.
Hamster’s teeth are open rooted meaning that they continue to grow throughout its life. A hamster with healthy teeth shouldn’t show signs of chipping or bleeding. If you noticed that fur on the chin is wet or area around the mouth has blood, these are the sings of tooth breakages and overgrown teeth.
A pet with any of these problems will have troubles eating. Nevertheless, yellow hamster’s teeth are totally normal and show that a pet is in a good health. Older hamsters can have bright white teeth which indicate on health issues like poor diet.
5. Tail – short and sticking straight out
Hamsters have a short tail that should stick straight out when moving. A healthy tail shows no signs of breaking or wetness around the base. If you want to purchase a long haired hamster, its hair can cover the tail. All breeds have short tail apart from Chinese dwarf (its tail is almost as long as the body).
The most common tail problem especially among Syrian hamsters is bacterial infection known as wet tail. It is a painful condition that can lead to death. A hamster suffering from wet tail will have diarrhea, wet tail and a strange posture or can walk hunched up.
6. Paws – straight, supple toes and short nails
Hamsters have hairless paws. Front paws have four toes and back paws have five toes. A healthy pet should have straight and supple individual toes. Excessive running in exercise wheels or walking on abrasive surfaces can cause paw pads or toes lesions.
When pet’s feet have tiny cuts and scrapes it can lead to a condition called Pododermatitis or Bubmblefoot. A hamster with this problem will have red or swollen feet. It will also refuse to move around the cage and will look lethargic.
7. Hair – glossy coat with no bald patches
A healthy hamster should have a clean well-groomed coat with no bald patches. If you notice matted hair around the hamster’s rump. It can indicate that a pet is suffering from diarrhea or wet tail. Loss of fur can also be a result of fighting.
However, it is normal for hamsters to lose hair during summer months. Adding water soluble vitamins can easily fix the problem with hair loss. If you noticed that a hamster is scratching a lot, it can be a sing of an infection or a parasite.
8. Nose – clean with no mucus
To pick a healthy hamster you need to have a look at its nose. A hamster should have clean nose and no signs of wetness, staining or crusts. There should be no mucus in or around the nose. Any of the above sings can indicate infection or suffering from parasites.
Hamsters have a really good sense of smell. They rely on it to find food and to run away from predators. Hamsters have a set of whiskers that help to sense and locate food. Their nose is very sensitive and has a lot of nerve endings with plenty of blood-flow.
9. Hiding – burrowing and hiding is normal
Hamsters are prey animals, so it is a natural behavior to hide when they see a possible predator. When a hamster just wakes up, it will be a little grumpy which is totally normal. Once fully awake a healthy pet will want to know what is going on in its surrounding.
However, it is OK that a hamster can hide in the cage or burrow in the bedding. It is a normal behavior meaning that a hamster is fit and healthy. There should be no signs of lameness, stiffness and unwillingness to move around.
10. Personality – sharp and lively reactions
Although physical examination is vital when choosing a new pet, to pick a healthy hamster you also need to assess its attitude and personality. Once a hamster is awake it should stand in a normal and be interested in what is going on. There should be no sign of hunched or curled posture. A healthy hamster should have a healthy appetite and be bright and curious in attitude.
If a hamster is lethargic, it can be unhealthy or unhappy. If you try to pick up a potential pet, it is okay for it to be skittish at first. Keep in mind that a hamster can jump out of your hands. Jumping straight up in the air is a typical display of joy. You can find more information on why hamsters can be so jumpy here.
If you consider all of the things above, you will choose a perfect hamster pet for you! Let me know in the comments section down below how did you choose your pet 🙂
Omlet, ‘Hamster Health Check’ – https://www.omlet.co.uk/guide/hamsters/hamster_health_care/health_check/
Caring Pets, ‘Hamster Anatomy & Body Parts’ – https://www.caringpets.org/how-to-take-care-of-a-hamster/anatomy/#ears-nose-mouth