The National Hamster Council F.A.Q.
We list below some of the questions we have frequently been asked at Hamster Shows or Displays. If you have a question that is not included please forward it to us, so that we can include it on our page.
If you have a specific question about your hamster or about hamsters in general we will be only too happy to answer it if we can
Q. Can I keep two hamsters together?
A. You should never keep more than one Syrian (Golden) Hamster in a single cage, however big it is. In our experience Syrian hamsters will start to fight seriously from the age of about 5 to 6 weeks old. Leave any longer and serious damage or even death will result. Dwarf Hamsters (Russian or Chinese) can be kept together either in two's, pairs or colonies. Occasionally even with these hamsters fights might happen and in some cases these will result in injury and they may need separating.
Q. How long do hamsters live?
A. In general we would say about 2 years. Like humans some may die a little earlier (say 18 months) and some may go on and on and on. We have had three hamsters live until they were 3 years old and we have heard of a few living longer again. Each hamster is an individual.
Q. My hamsters has two scabs on its back. What should I do?
A. Nothing. All hamsters have these. They are called 'hip spots' and they are a scent gland. Sometimes these can be very prominent and look like scabs. You may often see your hamster rubbing its side along the side of the cage, it is marking its territory.
Q. My hamster has a swelling underneath by its tail. Should I take it to the Vet?
A. Not necessarily. It is most probable that you have a male hamster and it has matured. These swellings are almost certainly his testicles and in warm environment or when he has just woken up they could look like a growth. If you definitely know your hamster is a female then this could be serious, but it is advisable to check the sex of your hamster first.
Q. How do I tell the sex of my hamster?
A. If you carefully turn your hamster on to its back, you will notice between the back legs two openings. If these are very close together and almost look like one then you have a female. You may also be able to see two rows of teats. If the two openings are about 5 to 10 mm apart, your hamster is a male. On the males you may also be able to see a swelling, especially in warm weather. For more indepth detail and photos please see our page on Hamster Sexing.
Q. Do hamsters make noises?
A. Sometimes you will hear a single small squeak. We believe that the hamster is calling to another hamster in the hamstery, but a lone hamster is still know to make this noise. Also you may hear a 'terrible squealing when you put your hand in to handle a new hamster. This means that the hamster is afraid. It will not usually bite while it is making this noise. Pick up the hamster gently and cup it in your hands. It will gradually stop. It may take several days to stop it making this noise when you go into its cage but it will stop as it gets used to its cage and you. Some colours are renown for making this squealing noise, particularly YELLOW.
Q. Can I give my hamster a bath in warm water?
A .Yes you can give a hamster a bath. BUT I would only do so if they were extremely dirty or had something sticky on their fur. Test the water first to make sure it is not too hot or too cold. Use a very mild shampoo (in the UK I would recommend Johnson's Baby shampoo) try to keep it away from the eyes. Then rinse and then using clean water (tested for temperature) rinse again. Then dry carefully in a towel and finish drying using a hair dryer. When using the hair dryer leave one hand between hamster and dryer to ensure that it does not get too hot. You may need to comb the fur as it dries. If the fur is not bad I would not bathe a hamster they don't usually need it.
Q. Can hamsters swim?
A. Yes. If you try to bathe a hamster you will soon find that they swim straight across the bowl and out the other side.
Q. Can I give my hamsters cheese?
A .Yes you can give a hamster cheese, I don't myself but I know several people that do. As with all new foods give a very small quantity first in case it doesn't agree with the hamster. I would only give this as a sort of treat maybe once a week. To find out more about what to feed a hamster, see our General Care page.