The Russian hamster is one of the most attractive rodents. More sociable than other hamster breeds, inexpensive to maintain, easy to access for children, this little animal could have it all.
It is however not a given thing to know how to take care of it, even if it is by far not the most complicated animal to maintain, there are still a few things to know that we will see in this article. .
What is a Russian hamster?
The Russian hamster is not of Russian origin as its name might suggest. It is a small animal of the order of rodents, which is native to the sandy deserts and steppes of Siberia and Kazakhstan. In its natural environment, temperatures can drop to -20 ° C. This small rodent is nocturnal, which means that its period of activity begins after dark.
With gray fur in most cases (there are some exceptions of brown, tan, white or black color), the Russian hamster measures between 4 and 8cm and weighs 50 to 90g (the male is often larger than the female) . This animal has a lifespan of about three years and reaches sexual maturity at about one month.
It is also a solitary animal, which likes to be quiet and could fight against one of its congeners to defend its territory.
The Russian hamster is an omnivorous animal, which means that it needs a wide variety of foods to eat. In nature, its diet consists of leaves, roots, seeds, flowers, berries and insects.
Russian hamster captive life
The Russian hamster is an animal that adapts very well to life in captivity. Its small size allows it to live in a relatively small cage, which allows not to devote an entire room to its habitat. But be careful, that does not mean that you have to make it live in a tiny cage. Like any animal, even if it is small, it will need space.
Russian hamster cage
For these small animals, a cage of at least 60x40cm (width x depth) is necessary, and preferably with a floor. Obviously, the bigger the cage, the better. Also check the spacing between the bars, it is better that the wire mesh is very fine, these small animals squeeze very well in small spaces.
Do not hesitate to take pipes, either already supplied with the cage, or in a separate kit. It’s not just an accessory to look pretty. In the wild, the Russian hamster digs galleries in the ground to make a nest. He will like to make his nest here in these pipes. Plus, it gives him extra room to stretch his legs.
The wheel is also an essential accessory in the cage, allowing it to compensate for any distance it would have traveled per day in nature. He’s going to do them in the wheel here.
Russian hamster cage interior
You now have a suitable cage, you now have to know how to set it up. Let’s talk about the litter box first. Since the Russian hamster is an animal that likes to bury itself, a fairly flexible litter would be ideal, such as hemp litter or wood chips. The hamster will also need to build a nest, as in its natural state. To help him with this, two options:
- the hay, the most natural solution. You just have to put a handful of hay in his cage, and he will do the rest himself.
- the cotton, which is more comfortable for him. But be careful not to use cotton for humans, which is too compact and could suffocate them if they swallow it. There is special cotton for hamsters, which is much more stringy and airy, and therefore safe for our little rodent. This cotton can be found in most pet stores.
Like any rodent, the Russian hamster needs to groom its teeth, because its incisors grow continuously. You can give it either small logs of wood or mineral stone. The second option also offers him a small supply of minerals that he needs. It is therefore recommended.
Finally, the hamster is a clean animal. But he does not wash himself like most animals, with water or only by licking himself. He will need bath soil, which is sulfur-based sand. He will roll around in it to clean his coat. So put it in a small cup adapted to its size, and it will wash itself.
And above all, remember to clean the entire cage and change the litter and soil to bath once a week or every ten days maximum.
Russian hamster food
The Russian hamster is omnivorous. It is difficult and above all quite expensive to prepare his daily rations with all the energy inputs he needs. The easiest way is to buy granules from a pet store, which are a mix of all the nutrients it needs. And of course, unlimited fresh water, to be changed every day.
The behavior of the Russian hamster
Along with humans, the Russian hamster is a fairly easy animal to tame. It will be, like any animal, quite fearful at the beginning, but by handling it regularly and especially little by little, it will end up getting used to your contact and will quickly no longer be afraid of you. However, it is better to try to handle it during its period of activity, ie at night. During the day, you may wake him up and he may be afraid, and more difficult to get used to your contact.
With its congeners, however, it is not the same story. It is absolutely not recommended to have several Russian hamsters cohabit together. As said above, they are solitary and territorial animals. If you try to make them cohabit in the same cage, they will spend their time fighting for their territory and will therefore be constantly stressed.
Precautions to take when raising your Russian hamster
The Russian hamster does not have any particular common health problem. But they are still very small animals, some things that are harmless to us, can be fatal for them without realizing it, so it is advisable to take care to:
- avoid placing the cage in a place where there are constant drafts. He could catch a cold quite easily.
- avoid smoking next to him. With his small size, he therefore has very small lungs and very small bronchi. Breathing cigarette smoke is harsh enough for his lungs.
- do not leave it in direct sunlight for a long time. In its natural environment, it is used to very cold temperatures. It is therefore not made to withstand excessive heat, and could die quickly from dehydration and hyperthermia. This is one of the worst things he could go through, so pay close attention to it.
You now know everything there is to know to take care of this little rodent. Now it’s up to you to let yourself be tempted by this little ball of hair that has touched more than one.