Dwarf Hamster Petsitting Questions

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Dwarf Hamster Petsitting Questions

Post by stephlisa on Mon Aug 01, 2016 8:01 am

I'm going to be petsitting my nephew's Russian dwarf hamster (Spongecake) for a week and a half and I had a few questions and I figured that a few people here have dwarf hamsters and can help me out!

They say he's 'grumpy' and bites if you try and pick him up, but were hoping I might be able to start him off on the taming process. Any tips? Can I do this in a similar way to mice, letting him get used to my hand in his cage etc.?
(In my nephews words 'you're better with pets than us.'). I suspect my nephew and his parents are a bit heavy handed with Spongecake so I'm suspecting I may not get very far in a week, but I'm sure it won't hurt to try!

Also, he likes to run around the floor in his ball. Can I let him run around in his ball at the same time and place as Colin or is it safer to do it separately? Im happy to do it separately, i was just wondering! They won't have any other form of contact and won't be sharing toys so no worries there!

My final question, just in case, are the signs of illness similar to those in mice or is there anything else I should look out for?

Thanks!

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Re: Dwarf Hamster Petsitting Questions

Post by MouseLover on Mon Aug 01, 2016 9:59 am

For taming Archie, I basically did the same method as with mice. And in the beginning, if I needed to pick him up I put a cup down in front of him and he'd hop inside, so I'd pick that up. I think dwarf hams are more likely to bite than mice when they're nervous, so maybe go more slowly than you would with a mouse. Archie loves dried mealworms, and this helped in the taming process lol.

It seems like he dislikes being woken up in the daytime more than the mice (he got really grumpy at me once) so I try and only wake him up after 6pm, or I'll interact with him when I see him up. In the beginning he was startled really easily, so I gave him lots of warning before disturbing him (talking to him as I approached and then lightly tapping on the "roof of his house" to give him warning lol). Now that he's settled and tame, I don't need to be so cautious.

A word of warning if you've never had a hamster before - as I'd only had mice before, I was kinda shocked by how much more likely Archie is to just walk off of edges/things, so be careful where you let the dwarf hamster play, or when you're transporting him. I dropped Archie a couple of times in the early days because of this (oops!).

I believe the signs of illness are indeed similar to mice, so just keeping an eye on their eating/drinking, breathing, whether their eyes and nose are clear, no lumps and bumps. Can't think of anything hamster specific but I am a new hamster owner so it's possible I'm wrong.

Dwarf hamsters are so cute and fun, and if you do manage to get a cuddle, they are SUPER SOFT. Archie is so friendly now, so I can't keep my hands off him Love Have fun hamster sitting!

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Re: Dwarf Hamster Petsitting Questions

Post by Rodents rock! on Mon Aug 01, 2016 10:17 pm

Spongecake is such a cute name!!!

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Re: Dwarf Hamster Petsitting Questions

Post by scaredymouse on Tue Aug 02, 2016 3:38 am

They hate being woken up. Wash your hands well before handling. I agree, let him hop in a cup to get him out of the cage and them let him walk on your hand. Sometimes hamsters get cage aggression, they don't like intruders in their house. Usually, they don't bite once you get them out of the cage. I also want to reiterate that hams are way more clumsy than mice. Hold him over your lap or close to the ground. They are easy to drop! I have also dropped some hamsters, it's terrifying. Luckily they were okay but they could have easily been hurt or killed. Handle with care.

Don't let him run around with Colin. Since he will already be stressed out in a new environment, it would be best to let him run around alone. Hamster hate change. Sign of illness are pretty much the same... changes in behavior, decreased appetite, disinterest in treats, diarrhea, lethargy, lumps. The biggest problem that you would most likely encounter during the short time that he's with you would be diarrhea/intestinal infection. Dwarf hammies aren't as prone to wet tail like Syrians are but they can still get very serious intestinal infections that can be brought on by stress. So if he gets really smelly diarrhea, it is an emergency.

Have fun!

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Re: Dwarf Hamster Petsitting Questions

Post by stephlisa on Tue Aug 02, 2016 10:13 am

Thanks for all the advice! I've never looked after a dwarf hamster before so I'm very excited but nervous - the advice makes me feel more ready!

I never knew they were clumsier than mice. I will definitely make sure I only hold him close to the ground or my lap!

Thanks for the signs of illness too, I know its unlikely, but I like to be prepared just in case.

Thanks!

And RodentsRock - I agree Spongecake is a cute name, I believe my nephew named him!

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Re: Dwarf Hamster Petsitting Questions

Post by stephlisa on Fri Aug 05, 2016 11:37 am

He's here and I'm excited but he's scared and nervous so I'm letting him settle in and have minimal contact for a few days (at least).

From where I'm sitting I have a view of two cages - Colin's and Spongecake's. Now Spongecake is a little bigger than Colin, but Colin has a larger cage with a large amount of toys (ok, so I spoil him with toys...who doesn't like to spoil their mice!?).
I'm worried that Spongecake's cage is too small for him, although the best I will be able to do is to tell my sister and nephew this and hope she listens - does anyone know what minimum cage dimensions are for a single dwarf hamster, or can point me to a helpful website that has good information about them?

Also, its not very interesting and has barely anything in it. I remember that hamsters need space to run around in...but this seems very minimalist and I worry he might be bored. It has a house where he sleeps, a food bowl, a water bottle and a wheel as standard. But until I gave him a toilet roll tube, all he had to play with were some wooden chews and a tube system attached to the cage. My question to you is this: is this enough for him, or would he appreciate a lolly stick creation? (Are hamsters climbers? He seems a bit too clumsy to be a climber really :S ).

Am I just worrying too much because I'm used to a mouse cage? I realise they are very different animals so feel free to tell me I'm worrying too much and that he's probably fine! I just want to look out for the wellbeing of Spongecake and give him a good time while he's here Smile. Its also partly research to help me decide if I do actually want a dwarf hamster myself or whether I just like cute fluffy things but should stick with mice (and maybe a little fish tank in the future!).

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Re: Dwarf Hamster Petsitting Questions

Post by scaredymouse on Fri Aug 05, 2016 2:25 pm

The minimun tank size for any sized hamster is 20 gallon or a bin with 360 square inches of floor space.  
http://thepipsqueakery.org/cages


This is the same size that is also recommended by the humane society.  If you scroll down to cage types, they talk about specific sizes.
http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/hamsters/tips/hamster_housing.html


here is a link to everything you could ever want to know about hamsters:
http://thepipsqueakery.org/hamsterproducts

Yeah, he should have some toys.  A hanging kabob, wood chews, tunnels.  I've never given them popsicle stick toys, i always seem to buy stuff for them because they don't pee/poop on everything, so things last a lot longer.  Also, if his cage/tank is too small that could definitely be why he bites.  Like i said, hamsters can get cage aggression which is much worse if their territory is already too small.  They feel like they need to defend it more aggressively.

edit to add: dwarf hammies should also have a sand bath available to them in their tanks. they won't die without it... but it's good for their fur and they really enjoy it.
http://russiandwarfhamster.org/sand-bath-for-dwarf-hamster/

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Re: Dwarf Hamster Petsitting Questions

Post by stephlisa on Fri Aug 05, 2016 5:01 pm

**sighs** This makes me sad. The poor little fella.
Yes. By that standard, his cage is definitely too small Sad its smaller than Colin's cage and that's the equivalent of a 10gal!

Thank you for all the info scaredy - so helpful! I'm going to point my sister and nephew in the right direction and hope they listen. Not sure what to do for his stay with me though Sad

I think he was trying to get our attention earlier and my sister mentioned that he liked to run on the floor in his ball, so I put it in his cage for him to hop into and he just got so excited and sparked (popcorned?) in and out of it until he let me put the lid on. Then he went nuts running in probably the biggest floor he's ever seen!

Despite saying I would have minimal contact for a few days, I decided to make the most of his good mood by seeing if he would consider coming out of his ball onto my lap for a little walk around. It was going to be completely his choice, the ball and a little loo roll hide were always there for him to run into. Turns out this was a good idea. Despite the warnings, he didn't bite, didn't mind me stroking his back very gently and generally actually seemed happy to see me and go exploring over my lap and up my arms. I didn't push it, we only had a few minutes and he got a few treats as reward Smile But I was so happy he let me hold him and play with him briefly!

Hopefully I can use this as a good experience for him and also to help my sister learn how to play with him (and care for him properly...**mutters: people who wander into pet stores and go "that looks cute" and take him home without stopping to research thoroughly first. grumble grumble grumble**! This evening filled me with hope for the little guy!

I now understand the clumsy nature of hamsters as well! No dropping him today, but he has no sense of edges or even holding onto things with his feet!!! After handling a mouse, he was like "a clumsy teddy bear."

Next aim, photos!

(Urgh...yeah, sorry for the long messages...its really got me frustrated today!)

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Re: Dwarf Hamster Petsitting Questions

Post by scaredymouse on Fri Aug 05, 2016 6:33 pm

Yeah, that's the worst. I'm no better, though. That's how I got my first ham as an adult. One day I just thought, I need a hamster...Today! I put her in a 10g tank at first. It didn't take me long though to realize (on my own) that it wasn't big enough. That's when i started doing research and realizing that pet stores don't know anything.

Anyway, hopefully you can just tell your sister you were reading up on how to take care of him and share what you learned. Dwarfies are my favorite kind of hams... So goofy. Have fun!

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Re: Dwarf Hamster Petsitting Questions

Post by River on Fri Aug 05, 2016 8:55 pm

I'm pretty sure the minimum for a dwarf is 288 square inches, and Syrians have a 360 square inch rule, actually! Could be wrong.

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Re: Dwarf Hamster Petsitting Questions

Post by Rodents rock! on Fri Aug 05, 2016 9:40 pm

I used to have a Chinese hamster, they are small but technically not a true dwarf. He was in a 20 gal long tank and he loved all the room to run around and explore. I miss him, he was such a nice little guy. His name was Sweet Pea. Very Happy

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Re: Dwarf Hamster Petsitting Questions

Post by scaredymouse on Fri Aug 05, 2016 11:55 pm

All hamsters, even robos, should have 360 square inches of floor space.

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Re: Dwarf Hamster Petsitting Questions

Post by AnonONIagent on Sat Aug 06, 2016 11:39 am

Honestly, hamsters are not the best pets for kids. So it's rather unfortunate that they have a reputation as childrens' pets. Of course the pet store that probably knows better won't warn potential customers of this; they're more concerned with trying to make a sale than looking out for the welfare of the animal they're trying to sell. I'd definitely try to (respectfully) educate your nephew and his parents about proper hamster care so that little Spongecake can live a much happier life going forward.


Last edited by AnonONIagent on Sat Aug 06, 2016 1:21 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Dwarf Hamster Petsitting Questions

Post by stephlisa on Sat Aug 06, 2016 12:24 pm

Yes...sadly my sister has never been the greatest with pets (excepting her cats which get the best possible care and attention).

I'm going to try and get them to at least get Spongecake a bigger home. Also teach them not to pick him up straight from the cage until he's gotten used to being handled - although he's been doing great with me today. He was awake this morning so I decided to see if he'd hop into a tp tube (which he did) and then he had a climb on me before running madly around the floor in his ball ending with another a play on my lap.
He got rewarded with plenty of treats Smile.

I do feel sorry for the little guy which is why I'm trying to give him plenty of love and attention while he's here. I got a few photos earlier but I'm trying to get a super cute one Smile

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Re: Dwarf Hamster Petsitting Questions

Post by River on Sat Aug 06, 2016 6:07 pm

Ball? Sorry, but aren't balls like completely hazardous?

Sounds like your doing great with him, though!

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