Your First Hamster!
So, you're gonna buy a hamster, huh? First of all, congrats! Now, let's get down to business.
Choosing a Pet Store:

Though the best place to buy your first hamster is a private breeder, most people buy them from pet shops. But how do you know if the pet shop is a good one? A clean, neatly kept shop usually means that they sell healthy animals and know what they�re doing. Avoid dirty or poor looking shops at all costs.

Another way to see if the pet shop you�re in is a good one is to test the staff. Ask them questions like, �How many Syrians can I keep in a cage?� The correct answer? One. One Syrian per cage. No exceptions. Syrians are very protective and will kill any hamster in it�s cage, no matter what. If any pet shop tells you that you can keep Syrians together, they either know nothing about hamsters or they are trying to get you to buy more than one. Also make sure that they keep the males and females in separate cages. The last thing you want is a pregnant hamster.
Choosing a Cage:

Plastic Cage- Plastic cages with tubes at attachable pieces mean lots of exploring room and secret hiding spots for your hamster. The downside is that they are very difficult to clean, since you have to take them apart and wash everything, then put it back together.

Wire Cage- The most common type of cage is a wire cage with a plastic base. These are easy to clean and easy to take the hamster out of, but your ham will usually kick bedding out through the sides, making a mess on your lovely floor.

Aquariums- Oreo lives in an aquarium, and in my opinion, these are the best kinds. They are easy to clean, prevent bedding from falling all over the floor, and provide a great view of your ham 24/7. I haven�t really had too many problems with these. Just watch out for the sharp corners when cleaning. And beware, your ham will most likely chew on the glue holding up the tank.

I�m only going to say this once, so listen up:
NEVER EVER EVER USE CEDAR OR PINE!! According to the Rat and Mouse Club of America, both cedar and pine shavings contain phenols, the oils in wood that give them their smell. Phenols are poisonous, caustic, acidic compounds present in soft woods. They are also used to make pine-Sol and Lysol. However, they irritate the nasal passages, throat, and lungs. They also affect the kidneys and liver. Long-term exposure to phenols can cause liver damage and make the animal very sensitive to anesthetics. Exposure to phenols can also depress the immune system. Even though a hamster is not a rat, or a mouse, it is still a rodent, and the above applies to all small rodents. Use Aspen, Carefresh, or Ultra Carefresh.
Food and Water:

When choosing what hamster food to give, make sure it�s something with nutrients and variety. How would you feel if you had to eat the same brown pellets every single day of your life? Exactly. You don�t have to use food bowls, you can just scatter the food on the floor of your ham�s cage. However, food bowls make it easier to see how much food your ham is eating� or hiding. The most important thing in your ham�s cage is it�s water bottle. Without fresh, clean water each day, your ham will die of dehydration. To prevent illness, change the food and water at least every other day. You can also feed your hamster small bits of carrot and lettuce, but these should be fed only occasionally to prevent diaherea.

House- Houses are another thing that isn�t necessary, but they make a great hideout, especially in the cold winters. Avoid wooden houses. I�ve had to learn this the hard way. Wood houses are IMPOSSIBLE to clean. Get hard plastic instead.

Sand Bath- Chinchilla SAND, not chincilla dust, is a great extra for your cage. Just pour some in a shallow bowl and watch your ham roll around. Since you should never give your ham a bath with water, this is a great way to keep �em smelling nice and clean. Also very cute.

Run Around Ball- I recommend you buy one of these. Once or twice every week, when you clean out your ham�s entire cage, where will you put him? It�s a great way for him to explore, but be careful. He might fall down the stairs or get stuck behind something.

Wheel- Wheels are necessary for your ham�s health. Wild hamsters travel many miles each night in search of food, and this instinct still lives in your hamster. Without a wheel, hamsters will get very bored and fat, shortening their lifespan. Make sure the wheel has a covered running surface so that his feet don�t slip through the bars. If this happens, your poor ham�s leg will break! If you have a wheel with bars, just weave some paper or cardboard through them to make a covered surface.

Gnaws- Hamster Gnaws are also important. Without something to chew on, your ham's constantly growing teeth will pierce his mouth, opening the wounds to harmful bacteria. There are a few types of gnaws. It depends on the hamster. You can get a wood gnaw from the petstore or the ones that are covered in seeds, which I personally thing work much better.
Choosing a Hamster:

At long last! Your hamster! But how do you know which one to pick? Your hamster shouldn�t be younger than 5-6 weeks old. Check that the hamster is bright eyed and alert when it is awake. It should be curious and not too nervous. Beware of any hamster that has runny or sticky eyes, runny nose, sneezing, wet or dirty bottom, matted fur, seems lethargic or does not have a firm body. All of these things can indicate a sick hamster. Hamsters in the same cage as sick hamsters are usually also sick, so be aware of this. Ask to hold the hamster so you can see how tame it is. Gently feel for broken bones. Let the staff member turn the hamster onto it�s back so you can make sure there�s no poop or signs of diarrhea around the tail/back end.
Thanks to for the info!
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