IamA person that runs a hamster rescue and sanctuary. Ask me anything!
I'm a 25-year-old that founded and runs (with the help of my partner) a "full service" hamster rescue in Pittsburgh, PA called Ham-Ham House. The rescue was established two years ago and is entirely funded out of pocket and on donations.
At this time we have not turned away any hamster brought to us. Our policy is generally that hamsters of very advanced age or with chronic illness are generally kept here by us as sanctuary hamsters, and any hamster of reasonable age and health is put up for adoption. We also spend time educating people about proper hamster care, undoing hamster myths (such as "hamsters are all mean and bite!"), and providing basic veterinary care for all hamsters that are currently in or have passed through our doors.
Some additional links added due to frequent request:
We accept donations toward the rescue's veterinary bills through Paypal sent to [email protected]
Our Amazon wishlist is here: http://amzn.com/w/XRIMGS0375HR
The YouCaring page started for us: https://www.youcaring.com/ham-ham-house-465453
I didn't get my first hamster until age 20, and I was really flabbergasted after getting him and researching basic hamster care that there just wasn't a lot of good reliable information out there -- and worse, that the products marketed toward hamsters and the information taught to pet store employees and even animal shelters about proper hamster care was severely lacking.
I loved him (his name was Hamlet) and I was frustrated that it was so hard to provide for him the way that I felt he deserved, and he wound up passing away due to an illness that was almost certainly the result of poor breeding practices which really solidified for me the necessity of rescue over supporting pet stores. A few years later my partner and I moved to the city and I felt strongly that a good resource for hamsters should exist here.
Hamlet: http://imgur.com/OGBuH3Z I love you and miss you little guy.
Hamlet was adorable; I'm in Aus so hamsters are not a thing here, but if they were I'd be keen to keep a couple. Despite the lack of hamsters here I'd like to say thank you for the work you're doing and I hope you can continue to give support for many years to come.
Are there any hamsters that have come into your care that you've insisted on keeping, be it their personality or back story, rather than putting them up for adoption?
Yes. We get hamsters often that I feel should remain here for specialized care. Usually due to chronic illness or advanced age, but we got a rex hamster last year that looks exactly like a curly little polar bear and I couldn't bear to give her up.
I just lost my "favorite" hamster last week, actually. He was an owner surrender named Waffle, who they did not want anymore due to "aggression". He was the sweetest, gentlest little hamster I've ever met. I'm feeling emotional again just typing about him right now. :( http://imgur.com/G5UsRqk
I once got a hamster that had lived in a crack house and was vicious. Well, that's what I was told. It would bite at anything that entered that cage. I swear that hamster had never been handled, and never been outside a cage. I tried to treat it like the other four hamsters I had at the time. I was careful with that hamster for awhile, trying to get it used to gentle human contact.
Once it was comfortable enough with being handled, I brought it out and let it run around. I did something to frighten it and it bit me--hard. I've never seen that much blood come from my finger, and I was a little more mindful with that hamster after that. I still have that scar, 20 years later.
People who think hamsters are aggressive are most likely people who got a hamster from a pet store, or someone else, that never, or very rarely, handled the hamsters. The hamster has lived in a cage it's entire life and suddenly this big animal comes out of nowhere to snatch it up. The hamster is in a cage, it's cornered, it's not familiar with a human so it's going to bite. They're prey creatures with teeth as their only defense. Let them get used to humans and they can be gentle little critters that will crawl all over you, leaving little pellet poops, and even fall asleep in your hands.
Now I want a hamster again.
Good on you for caring for that hamster and being understanding of the vulnerable position they are often in, and having patience with them. Knowing there are others out there willing to put in the time and work to make hamsters feel safe and comfortable encourages us here!
IS THAT A WODENT WHEEL? HOW DO YOU CLEAN THAT?
Take it apart, soap and water, dry. :)
How noisy does it get when they are all using their exercise wheels at the same time? And how do you decide their names?
INTENSELY noisy. We have a room in our home that is basically our hamster room, and during their "awake" period -- usually evening through to early morning -- it is a cacophony. If their room was near our bedroom we'd never sleep.
I choose names arbitrarily mostly, sometimes based on their personality. I have a habit of often naming hamsters after food for whatever reason. We've had Waffle, Udon, Soba...
I hope you include Teriyaki, Mochi, Yakitori, OmuRaisu, Miso, Hanbagu, FuraidoPoteto, Dango, Azuki, Sake, Tako, Unagi, Biru and Ocha.
Thanks for the answer! Very cool thing you guys are doing!
Our list of potential names is ever-growing. Thanks for the ideas. ;)
Is hamster abuse very prevalent in western Pennsylvania?
Hamster abuse seems to be very prevalent everywhere unfortunately, but I think this is mainly due to lack of education. It is no better here than anywhere else. Hamsters are routinely kept on bedding that is potentially hazardous, in wildly small cages, given exercise wheels (if they are lucky to have one at all) that are so small they cause spinal cord deformation, etc.
How do you know if your hamster wheel is the correct size?
8" is the accepted minimum, but some require larger. If your hamster arches its back when running you need a larger wheel. They should be able to keep their back straight while exercising.
Have you tried those flatter disc type things instead of the wheels? I've got one for mine, seems to like it.
Yep, some of them have both, but we usually just give them whichever wheel they prefer to use. Some like the flying saucers, some like the traditional wheels. Here's a dwarf figuring things out:
I had a hamster as a kid that would always bring his bedding into his wheel and sleep there. Lazy little thing.
We have several individuals that for whatever reason decide to store their food in their wheels and then run on them.
I have a hamster story you may enjoy. Sophomore year of college I adopted a hamster from an acquaintance who was not allowed to keep pets in her new apartment. When she gave me the hamster, who was promptly named Buddha (previous name was terrible), she informed me that he was quite sick and had a large tumor - thus insinuating that my tenure with Buddha would be brief. This was fine by me, I could give Buddha a good few months but wouldn't have to worry about moving with him in a year. So she drops off the hamster and leaves, and I decide to investigate the tumor. I pick up the little guy and am looking everywhere for a tumor but can't find one. I call the girl and ask her about it and she tells me to look towards the hamsters rear end on his underside. Well it slowly dawns on me that she thought the hamsters testicles were a tumor. Buddha lived for another 2 years, big balls and all.
Buddha story part 2 - this one is not as funny. I used to let Buddha run around the apartment under supervision and one day he plopped right into my shoe and fell asleep. I thought it was adorable so i call my roommate over and we start filming him sleeping in the shoe. All of the sudden he wakes up and startled himself so bad (I assume because he woke up in a shoe and not his cage) he started having a seizure and died. So I have this terribly morbid video of my roommate and I cooing over this chubby hamster sleeping...and it slowly transitions to us freaking out and filming his death.
Thanks for creating a safe place for hamsters! I have to ask a question so: What is your favorite breed of hamster?
I have had people contact us with concerns about "tumors" also! ;)
Thanks for sharing your stories about Buddha! Sorry to hear about him passing but it sounds like you gave him a good life.
I tend to prefer Syrians but it's really hard to have a favorite species. Chinese hamsters are terribly underrated but tend to be very friendly. I really honestly like them all for different reasons.
Can you give us a basic overview of hamster care? Where to get one? What to do once you get one?
Obviously as a rescue my first piece of advice is to adopt! Find a hamster rescue in your area, look for hamsters at a local shelter, heck, even browse Craigslist or something to find a hamster someone is giving away (careful that they ARE looking to rehome anad aren't breeding). If that fails to turn up a hamster (highly unlikely, though may require a small amount of patience) then you can research reputable breeders, which in North America at least are few and far between. If you feel you just MUST have a hamster and aren't willing to wait for one to show up at a rescue or shelter, then purchasing from an ethical breeder is much preferable to buying one at a pet store.
A basic set up for any hamster, regardless of species, is going to be a basic tank set up of 360 sq inches or larger (larger is better). Barred cages are usually a bad idea, and hamsters are extremely near sighted, making cages with levels very risky as well. They do best with lots of flat floor space, so an aquarium or a custom built cage made of a plastic storage bin of appropriate size are the top two recommended options for the average hamster caregiver.
They will need a safe bedding (paper bedding or aspen wood only, pine and cedar are toxic), a good diet, plenty of chews and toys, an appropriately sized exercise wheel, and some hides to sleep in.
Are reputable breeders currently attempting to increase the life span of hamsters or is this not considered a priority? Are there hamster shows? What kind of genetic health problems do they test for?
Yes, that is definitely a priority for the few ethical breeders I know. There are hamster shows but they generally seem to be prevalent in the UK and not in NA.
Common genetic issues in hamsters include a gene that causes a hamster to be born eyeless, cancer, deafness, small size, tooth deformity, diabetes...
I worked in pet care/am a zoology major and was under the impression that aquariums made poor enclosures for small mammals due to the lack of ventilation. Is this incorrect?
They aren't suitable for rats, guinea pigs, etc. but they are perfectly fine for hamsters and frankly preferable than barred cages which tend to either be big enough and have bar spacing that is too wide, or have bar spacing that's small enough but the cage itself is too small. Hamsters also tend to engage in dangerous bar chewing, and teeth breakage can result in death.
IMO an ideal hamster cage is an open-top glass enclosure. Do a Google for IKEA "Detolf" hamster cage hacks. They're a great example. But obviously take a good degree of space and must be constructed tall enough that the hamster cannot climb out.
I just learned that my beloved childhood hamster, Whiskers, was not cared for properly :( I thought I had spoiled him with his 3 story barred cage (for fresh air) and by cleaning his cedar bedding frequently. Apparently this isn't good. Poor Whiskers, I loved him so much.
I kept my Hamlet in a cage that probably wasn't best for him and overcleaned him also. We do what we think is best at the time. Honestly just having a home where they are cared for and loved and fed well and get to be warm and safe probably makes a hamster feel really good. So even if it wasn't ideal, it was better than most. So thanks for being a good hamster parent!
The consensus in the mouse community is that kiln-dried pine is suitable since the phenols are removed in the drying process. This is coming from the intensely zealous mouse people on thefunmouse.com. What are you thoughts? I've used it with no noticeable issue in mouse keeping for years.
I agree, but I honestly believe paper bedding is a more comfortable material and I also don't trust the majority of people to be able to discern the difference between pine beddings and think it's safer to simply discourage people from using it.
Is there alot of hamsters in need of rescue?
Enormous amounts. Sort of impossible to really quantify.
What are the most common reasons hamsters end up in rescues? I was under the impression that they are relatively cheaper to care for than larger pets.
We usually get variations of: I got him for my kids and now they're bored, he bites, I don't pay attention to him anymore, I can't afford him, I got a dog/had a baby/parents moved in and I can't keep him, etc.
I can't afford him? If you spend $20 per year on food you're spending a fortune!
Eh, not really. At least not if you're giving a diverse diet and it's high quality. But most people aren't, so you're right that it is a bit odd of an excuse. I usually just assume most excuses actually in reality are there in lieu of "I'm bored of it and view animals as disposable."
You mentioned in a comment that a lot of the information on keeping hamsters is lacking. Especially in terms of their cages and bedding.
Can you please provide us with some more information about how to best keep our little furry friends happy and thriving? What kind of bedding is best? Cages? Toys? etc?
P.S. - I used to have hamsters when I was around 10-11 and I loved them. I am certain that I didn't treat them as well as I should have but I didn't have a lot of information to go on. So I'd like to pay it forward and help others that maybe already have hamsters or are considering them now.
Our sister rescue in Indiana has a really great page set up full of informative articles that I highly recommend: http://thepipsqueakery.org/hamstercare
Is it true that hamsters have an unusually high rate of cancer? Or is it just a myth? What are the most common ailments affecting them in older age?
Also, have you considered aiding Guinea pigs as well?
I've had more hamsters die from age related degenerative diseases or genetic illnesses than cancer, though it does pop up more and more often as they age. I don't believe it is more common in hamsters than in other small mammals commonly kept as pets, though.
And we are actually very friendly with a great guinea pig rescue in our area! https://www.facebook.com/wheekcareguineapigrescue
Thank you for your answer. That's interesting to know.
I have to say that I'm not very fond of hamsters but my family had them as pets. I was under the impression that most of them died of cancer or genetic-related afflictions which developed after 2 years or so. I wasn't sure if that was a common thing for hamsters or if the breeding pool is particularly small where I live and they're subsequently affected.
Oh, another quick question: who is your favourite Hamtaro character? :)
So maybe this is a stupid question, but how do you know if a hamster has cancer? We would find out about our dogs having cancer from the vet, but I would imagine vet bills would add up quickly considering how many hamsters you have.
Vet bills do add up quickly. That's actually the long and short of it. If someone develops a growth, they go in for an exam, if someone starts losing weight for reasons we can't account for, in they go as well, etc. Sometimes a much older hamster might grow a tumor but seems otherwise unbothered by its presence, and in that case we may assume it is cancerous but not bother to stress them through exam and procedure out of their home if we would not plan on treatment anyway. This is why we depend and appreciate our supporters, volunteers, and donators as much as we do. I do the heavy lifting but they keep the thing running, as I simply could not pay for it all out of my own pocket.
How can we donate?
Donations can be sent to us through Paypal to [email protected] or we have an Amazon wishlist as well. :) Direct monetary donations are most helpful because they go toward our veterinary expenses which are by far our greatest expense, but supply donations are absolutely always used and very appreciated.
do you believe that animals have intrinsic rights?
Yes, I do.
Where is this sanctuary and when can I swing by to play with your flock(?) of hamsters?
We're in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and come by whenever you like! Our Facebook page is in the OP -- give us a message and let us know when you'd like to come play with the hamsters and we'll be happy to have you!
Hi! Thank you for everything you do. :3
My Whisper was a Valentine's gift last February. I had wanted a hamster for months, and thought I was prepared. The reality became apparent so incredibly quickly. How could the store have sold us a cage that was so incredibly small, with a wheel that would inevitably damage her back within a month, when they sold us a female Syrian that they should have KNOWN would grow to be large? Why didn't they have any wheels big enough for her? (We eventually bought her a chinchilla cage and modified it, but when it turned out that she was a serial bar chewer, we switched to a 60 gallon tank with a mesh lid.) Why do they even sell bedding marketed towards hamsters if they know it is unsafe, such as cedar shavings? Why did one store expert tell us that supplementing her meals with dried mealworms for extra protein would kill our hamster when it is perfectly safe? When she was being too picky with her eating, the advice was basically "feed her bread, if she doesn't like it, tough"? Why do they tell people that hamsters can be housed together when they rarely get along peacefully? Why are treats sold that are basically the worst kind of sugar-filled junk? Why on earth is it never mentioned by anyone that tomatoes and their leaves are poisonous to hamsters?!
Those are rhetorical questions, of course. It's just frustrating, and I'm sure you understand all too well. It was a hard journey for us and mistakes were made, but the internet was the best resource in learning how to care for a hamster, because the resources in the real world are useless. For any hamster owner, or indeed pet owner out there, I implore you to look up online what is best for your pet and do not take the pet store recommendations and advice to heart without extra proof. A lot of those people mean well, but they are misinformed and, at the end of the day, paid to sell products.
Okay, so my real questions! What do you think could be done about the spread of misinformation and the lack of resources available for people who want to take care of their pet in the best way? Do you think pet stores and chains will catch up with the times? Likewise, the companies that produce the products themselves?
One last thing: can I suggest a couple of names for you to give to hamsters? I had a pair of dwarf hamsters when I was young, but they went missing after my cat tipped over their cage. Their names were Charlie and Jaikai (pronounced Jay-Kay). I'd love it if their names could be passed on!
My pessimistic opinion is that large companies and pet stores will never truly catch up, because the average buyer doesn't want to hear the truth -- that even caring for a hamster can be an expensive venture, and that they take up much room and sometimes much time, and these large entities are out for profit, not for what is best for the animal. Using cheap products and fillers and flimsy cages made of low quality junk gives them a higher profit margin, and brings in more customers that think that throwing their 8 year old a hamster for their birthday is only going to cost them $50 or so.
The best thing we can do as people that care about hamsters is to speak up when we hear someone giving misinformation, and to vocally demand appropriate care when we see inappropriate care provided. Tell your friends. If someone you know talks about getting their kid a hamster, educate them before it happens so they know what to do or avoid getting the hamster in the first place if they aren't prepared for the responsibility. Talk about the great experiences you had with your hamsters, make sure people know their lives have value and meaning and they are not objects. Be a hamster advocate. ;)
And I'll definitely keep those names to use in the future! Thank you!
do you ever hate your job?
Sometimes, yes. When someone brings in a hamster with a tumor bigger than its head and I'm told that if they couldn't drop it off to me they were going to feed it to their dog and the only reasonable and humane action I can take is to euthanize the little guy, then yes. I hate it. Intensely. But I'm glad I can do it.
Oh wow, that's beyond horrible. This is the biggest fear I've got about having an animal sanctuary: dealing with mistreated or ill animals. Can't handle it :(
Its really rough at times. I'm not OP, but I'm the VP of a Turtle Rescue, and most turtles we get in are not in good condition. Its worse when you get 30 in all at once that are 1/2 dead or should be dead. Or an out break happens and dozens catch it. So many sleepless night.
Your blood boils when someone demands to adopt a turtle and plan to keep it in a pail. WTF? nooo... No matter how much yu try to politely educate them, they are blind and ramble like a crazy person that enjoys torturing animals. I just smile and nod, and try to find a polite way out. Getting upset over these things solves nothing, and does nothing but stresses yourself out, and it makes you look like the bad guy, or a crazy rescue. So keeping your cool is key, and really hard.
Yeah, seconding this. Sometimes you have to remain calm just long enough for, for example, the person surrendering an animal to you to just hand it over and go away and you can scream as much as you like after they've left. Another reason why having a network of other rescue workers available to is important. People that work in animal rescue actually have a disturbingly high rate of suicide. It's really emotionally taxing. The support you give to a rescue worker helps animals and helps us, emotionally, so we can continue to do what we do.
How many hamsters have you put through college?
Several dozen, and a few internships. ;D
Which sanctuary hamster is the cutest?
http://imgur.com/bimm8P3 This is Hermione. ;)
How does this organization support itself financially? When I adopted my dog from a rescue there was a adoption "donation" fee, and they also get donations from benefactors. I am curious as to how you can provide these services because I assume the donation fee for adopting a hamster would be less than a dog. But to balance that out I'd guess that the labor and overhead must be less than a dog rescue. Thanks!
Anxious optimism, haha. We only charge $10 or a donation of a bag of food or bedding (of the sort we use here only) to adopt (with a completed and approved adoption application and signature of contract of course). As you might have noticed above on a comment I made with a basic cost breakdown, that doesn't even cover a month of care here, so we depend entirely on donations and anything that donations don't cover I must cover out of pocket.
I've been wanting to get a hamster, how long are their average lifespans?
People say 3 years. I say 2 is a good run. Most hamsters are bred poorly without concern for genetics and only for profit and consequently are prone to a large variety of genetic ailments and stress-related conditions. That said, I have had 3 year olds. And I've had 2 year olds that passed away from what appeared to be nothing other than old age, and it seemed peaceful. I am a bit doom and gloom about it sometimes but provided you give a hamster adequate care and keep an eye on it for changes in health, then your chances of having a hamster live a healthy 2 or 3 years is reasonably good.
How many hamsters do you get a day? What was the strangest way you receive a hamster?
We have some weeks where we seem to get a hamster for every day and sometimes we go even a month without anyone new.
We haven't had any really strange intakes IMO, though I may be desensitized. It is usually owner surrender or transfers from high kill shelters.
How many hamsters do you currently have in your sanctuary?
We have 7 hamsters currently that will live out the remainder of their lives with us. :)
I work for quite some time with a number of rodents. What are hamsters' dispositions compared to, say, rats and mice? I've always found rats to be very intelligent and laid-back whereas mice are basically assholes. Thoughts?
Hamsters have personalities just like people. Some hamsters are very outgoing and just want to be handled and are very curious about people. They want to be out and about and included in things. Some hamsters are little homebodies that are otherwise friendly but really just want to be left alone. They might play with you a bit and accept treats from you and let you give them a good scratch but want to stay in. Some hamsters, due to trauma or just personality, hate people and hate being physically manipulated and just need a safe, comfortable place to live out their lives.
I don't believe that animals are obligated to please people to deserve basic care, and some people even prefer hamsters that kind of want to be left to their own devices and prefer to simply watch them go about their own business, so there are homes for every hamster in my opinion.
I remember reading somewhere that hamsters sometimes eat their offspring, is this true? and if so, how do you deal with it in your sanctuary?
They do, yes, and if this is something the mother hamster feels is necessary we let nature take its course frankly. A mama ham will eat her litter if she feels it is not safe to raise the young ones -- so she kills them rather than let them suffer (if she perceives that to be likely). Sometimes hamsters come in pregnant and are stressed out from the conditions they were forced to live in and despite our best efforts to comfort and secure them, they don't feel well enough to raise their babies. We trust her judgement and do not interfere. It's sad but a part of life.
Why is Marigold the coolest hamster that ever did ham? Also, why is she such a hamster genius? Lastly, is she actually a terminator bot in hamster form?
Marigold is absolutely a terminator bot, but we are forbidden from publicly disclosing more information about our line of hamster bots at this time as it may interfere with our resistance efforts.
You mentioned that they are not good with multiple levels. Would you say habitrails are a no go? Would they be okay if they were done relatively safely, with mostly horizontal crawling involved? My previous ham was super into her habitrail but I had a lot of vertical spots because I didn't know any better. : /
Also, thank you for what you do. <3
Habitrails are basically a no-go for a variety of reason, including inadequate space, the wrong "kind" of space, poor sanitation and ventilation, etc.
I was constantly cleaning them but I think I'll steer clear when I get another ham. Thanks for the input. :)
No problem. They have actually done studies, by the way, that show that hamsters exhibit lower stress when they are not overcleaned. We frankly do not clean out our larger cages (40g breeder tanks) more frequently than once a month with spot cleaning of urine, etc.
Thank you SO much for doing what you do!!! My beloved Robo, Chumley, passed away at a very young age due to poor breeding and it's super important people are better educated about these amazing animals. My goal is to one day operate a Guinea pig rescue, any advice for someone just starting out? Also, people seem to want to adopt younger animals while most animals that enter rescues are a bit older. How do you handle that? Thanks so much again!
Put away as much money as you can and build up a relationship with a veterinarian. Connect with other rescues in your area. Make sure you have a network of other people that are interested in your species so you can bounce off ideas and exchange advice.
what is the cost of keeping the hamster alive vs humanly putting them down?
Depends on the case. We do not euthanize unless the hamster is suffering or it can be assumed that they will suffer soon due to untreatable illness or injury. A healthy hamster might only cost us $15/month for upkeep. Sometimes we spend hundreds of dollars on a single hamster in a month if they need specialized veterinary care.
That seems a bit high for a healthy one, do you have a break down of cost?
About $5 in bedding, another $5 in food (including treats, supplemental "human" food -- we give everyone fresh veggies, tofu, etc. regularly), and $5 in enrichment such as toys, chew toys made of wood or dental chews [such as "Whimzees" for dogs] which are rapidly eaten down, the occasional chewed water bottle, etc. It is an average, of course. But we also use the highest quality stuff we can find, which can make it seem a bit more expensive than, say, the hamster food you'd buy at Walmart or wood chip bedding.
have you consider actually producing your own bedding and toys? To reduce cost. Maybe even going to a local market and make deals to get food a reduced cost for items they can't sell (not spoil, bare in mind).
edit: just want to be clear, I'm not against your program. Matter fact I love it.
It's actual my job to reduce cost and when I see high costs like this. I'm naturally inclinded to help.
We actually do make a lot of our own toys already, and we actually get a lot of the fresh foods we use to supplement at a scratch'n dent store in the city that has an "ugly vegetable" department. We attempt to cut costs as much as we can by doing things like buying in bulk. We are actually likely going to be mixing our own food soon rather than buying a commercial mix, but for the foreseeable future there are some things we will need to continue purchasing from a manufacturer (such as the laboratory block food we feed along with our mix). I definitely appreciate people giving us ideas for cutting costs!
What brand of food do you use? I find that a lot of pet owners tend not to be aware of the fact that hamsters are omnivorous and need a higher amount of protein than some commercial brands contain (not insinuating that you don't know what you're doing :3).
We currently mix Higgins Sunburst and Harlan Teklad 2018 lab blocks. 18% protein is a pretty good standard. You can go lower for an older hamster, higher for younger, but 18 is a good middle IMO.
Hamsters are omnivorous but they are able to get their protein needs from plant sources provided they are provided sufficiently. We supplement with fresh tofu as well, which is a good option that most hamsters enjoy.
How common are hamster rescues? You mention finding one to adopt but this is the first time I have ever heard of one.
Also, like, oh my god, do you have the cutest job ever?
Not as common as they should be. But there are greater numbers of more generalized small animal rescues that do take hamsters, and sometimes hamsters are left at county shelters or humane societies, so there are several options to rescue and adopt.
Is it true hamsters almost went extinct and are mostly all offspring from one female? I see the story a lot just seems crazy.
I don't think so. Syrian hamsters in captivity are all likely the descendants of probably one or two females though.
Have you considered helping other animals out in addition to hamsters?
Currently I think I'm able to provide the best quality of care by specializing in hamsters only at this time. I would love to be able to do more for all animals but rather than a few people taking it all on themselves, I think it would be best to encourage other people interested in rescue to specialize and become experts in the animals they wish to care for.
When I was in college, I had a roommate that was obsessed with his hamster. He loved that little ball of fur so much. He would always come home with random attachments and tubes for the cage. He never closed his bedroom door and mounted the tubes on next to the ceiling. He had it go from his room, all around our living room and back in his room.
What is the most elaborate hamster set up you have ever seen?
In contrast, what was the worst hamster scenario you have saved a little furball from?
If you Google "German hamster cages" you'll see some beautiful hamster terrariums, usually with naturalistic decor... they are gorgeous. If I were rich I would give something like that to every hamster.
And it's rough. Some were bad for different reasons. Usually (sadly) owner surrenders come in poorly ventilated, small cages that clearly haven't been cleaned in months. We had a large intake recently from a high kill shelter in Chicago and one of the hamsters was so covered in fungus she was barely recognizeable. We still have her, and the fungal infection is gone, but she continues to suffer from a stroke she had prior to getting here and doesn't have full use of one of her legs. She's pretty irritable. :( She'll probably wind up staying here with us.
How much do you spend on them on average? Do you accept bitcoin donations?
I spend about $15/per hamster per month on basic upkeep. My veterinary bills are kept on a credit account, which I pay a set amount toward each month -- usually around $300/month. Costs obviously fluctuate if we have more or less hamsters, or if we need to do something like construct more cages for a large intake, which occasionally happens (it costs us about $30 to build a large bin cage, $20 for a small bin cage, plus purchasing additional basic supplies like wheels, water bottles, hidey houses, food bowls, etc.)
I don't, and I'm actually pretty technologically incompetent so I don't know much about bitcoin. I haven't had anyone ask me that question before. :)
What is "old-age" for a hamster? Because we've had one for 2+ years and he has become gigantic and grey-haired. Lol
2 is pretty old.
I'm betting one of the biggest problems leading to the need for hamsters rescues is that if you have two hamsters, they're exceptionally good at making more hamsters.
So my question is; how do you not have 20 million hamsters?
Is spaying/nuetering a thing for an animal that small? It seems expensive though. Seperate habitats for each gender? If so does that create social issues you have to then solve?
Actually, nearly all hamsters species should only be kept one per cage. Syrian hamsters will fight to the death as adults. Some dwarf hamsters can be kept together, but IMO should not be unless you are experienced and well researched in housing them together. In that case of course they should only be kept in same sex pairs.
What about gerbils? Do you deal in Gerbils too? Ever had any experience with degus?
Nope, just hamsters!
What gave you the idea to start a hamster sanctuary? Was it a spur of the moment thing, or was it something you had wanted to do for a long time?
tl;dr I bought a hamster at age 20 for the first time and first hand had to deal with the repercussions of poor breeding and the shortened lifespan and rough time my very much beloved hamster had because of it, and felt like I needed to do something.
Thank you for taking care of these little animals!
What is some good, sound advice you could give to someone considering getting a hamster?
Have money set aside for a veterinary fund, plan on committing a set amount of time to interacting with and taming your hamster each day, put in plenty of research beforehand to know what is the best cage for your situation and whether you have a vet in your area that is well researched in hamster care (or willing to research).
man this is so cool. I love this. I had a pet mouse for years, he loved to eat peanuts. Do you intend to open a donation page or something? Im not wealthy, but im sure others have money to help make a difference
We gratefully accept donations sent through Paypal to [email protected] and we also have an Amazon wishlist! :) Thanks! http://amzn.com/w/XRIMGS0375HR
Pittsburgh native here! Where are you located/do you allow visitors?
Yes, we love visitors. We are in Greentree borough. Send us a shout out on Facebook (linked in the OP) and we can schedule a visit. :)
My Syrian Hamster is very scared, even when i look at i, it goes to the corner. Any advice?
Can you tell me more about your hamster? What species is he? Age? What sort of environment do you keep him in and how do you interact with him?
he is a Syrian hamster. 10 weeks old I think. we keep him in a cage with pipes going through the outside. His bedding is shaved paper, and normally we stay up late and look at him while he is on the wheel, but when he notices us, he goes to a corner
He's very young yet. I highly recommend making sure he feels secure in his tank, and that it meets the minimum cage size of 360 sq inches of unbroken floor space. To get him used to you, you can try placing treats in your hand, or simply keeping your hand in there with him for some time each day without trying to lift him so that he 1. associates your hand with getting something he likes and 2. doesn't think that every time you reach in he's going to be forced to be picked up or made uncomfortable. Once he starts coming to your hand freely you can work on handling him. Good luck!
What does a hamster sanctuary look like?
I'm torn between imagining two styles: a room full of hamster wheels and a bunch of free-range hamsters where as soon as you walk in they all try to interact with you vs a room full of hamster tubes that looks just like the 3D Pipes screensaver for windows.
A room full of aquariums and bin cages and the continuous, maddening squeak of wheels and slamming of food blocks against glass. ;)
Do you advertise your services or is it mainly by word of mouth? I think it's great that you offer such services to people.
We're on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Petfinder, we give our information out to other area rescues, pet stores, etc. :)
Is there any ongoing research devoted to elongating a hamster's life?
Nothing aside from the efforts of a small number of ethical breeders that I am aware of.
Do smaller types of hamster live for less time? My Chinese hamster was with me for just over a year and died in november of last year. He was well looked after and had a massive cage from a pet shop as well as the best food they had for sale there.
In my experience perhaps to a small degree of a few months, but not very much. The average lifespan is about 2 years of age. But keep in mind that most hamsters come from very bad breeding situations and a year old hamster is already well into adulthood and could start seeing the effects of a poor genetic background or poor start in life easily at that point.
What were some of the big beauracratic hurdles you had to overcome? Are you a 5103c organization? How hard was it to get that approved?
We are not 501(c)3 atm but we are in the planning stages to become one.
Im a Petco employee and understand how terrible we are in terms of breeding hamsters and all that. However, I gotta have a job. What can we do to help the greater good of hamsters in this country? Is there anything that we can do that won't get me fired that will help hamsters?
I understand. I would do my best to try to give the best care information for them that you can without losing your job. Direct them toward appropriate sized cages, good quality food and bedding, give them links to my Facebook page if you like -- I am happy to direct people toward good care information. We are primarily a rescue and sanctuary but I am happy to answer care questions any time as well.
I'm blown away that hamsters are getting this much attention. I used to have one of the better hamster resources on an old geocities account and I was only 12 at the time.
Did you get a lot of Syrians still? All I ever see in the pet stores is roborvskis nowadays
We have mostly Syrians actually!
What inspired you to start caring for them? Do you have any pics?
We have an Instagram! Check us out, we're "hamhamhouse" on there. :)
What is the cost of caring for one hamster compared to a cat or dog?
Hard to compare. We spend about $15/per hamster, per month without factoring in emergency vet care.
Do you care for other animals too in your Ham-Ham House?
We have 4 rescues cats, 2 rescue bunnies, and a crested gecko, but they are our companions and not for adoption. :)
I use to be pretty into hamsters too but their short life spans made me sad so I stopped and now my bin cages collect dust :( Have to remind myself of the heartbreak whenever I'm at a pet store and see a particularly cute one. Glad to know there are people like you who care for these little critters!
Which hamsters do you prefer? Syrian or dwarfs?
Usually Syrians, but I've had many dwarf hamsters close to my heart. :)
How do you segregate the hamsters that are related as to avoid potential retarded hamster offspring?
We keep all hamsters on their own. Most species are strictly solitary.
So, do hamsters inbreed?
Yes, of course. Actually it could be argued they are all inbred as their pet trade population started with arguably only one or two females that were wild caught.
My sister had two hamsters. One didn't like the other one and worked out on that little hamster wheel constantly to the point that it had HUGE upper (front) body. The thing looked like it did steroids compared to the other one. We figured the muscle one was working out to kill the other one. So one day, my sister finds one dead, under the water container. In a twist of fate, it was the muscular one. Have you experienced this, or similar, before?
Most hamster species are strictly solitary and if kept together will fight to the death.
Would you knowingly place a hamster with a person who would use it as food for another pet? If not, how do you evaluate potential new homes?
No, definitely not. We have a pretty intense screening process that involves an application, a photograph of the hamster's prospective cage all set up and prepared for it to arrive home in the area of the adopter's home that they plan to keep it in, and the signing of an adoption contract.
Isn't sexing a challenge? Have you had much unintended breeding happen?
Do you take dwarfs as well as syrians?
Much respect for what you do!
Oh no it's pretty simple. Every hamster we've ever had has had genitals so we've learned what they look like. ;)
No unintended breeding happens, 99.9 percent of our hamsters are kept solitary.
And yes, all species of hamster. :) Thanks!
What type of bedding would you recommend for a hamster? Thank you for all of this information and for all that you do!!
We tend to switch between Kaytee Clean & Cozy and Carefresh, sometimes mixed with a pelleted paper bedding to line larger cages that won't be cleaned as often as they are more absorptive and IMO less dusty. Definitely go with a paper based bedding.
Duarf hamsters are so cute but I made the mistake of putting mine outside because of the smell while I went to get more bedding for it and I'm guessing they died from heat exhaustion.... It was really hard to explain that to my 5yr old DD.😔 what can you tell me about their climate preference?
Even temperatures. Room temperature is ideal, without much fluctuation. Too cold and they can go into a hibernation state that can kill them, too hot and they will die of heat stroke.
What got you interested in doing this? Why hamsters?
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