Take good care of your hamster and he or she will be your buddy for a long time. Follow these simple steps:

1: Make sure YOU are ready for a hamster.

Hamsters are living creatures and they will need you to take care of them. Taking care of a hamster means feeding, playing, and taking your hamster to the vet. You need to be sure that you are willing to take care of your hamster for at least 2-3 years or longer.

2. Get the right equipment.

Your hamster will need his/her own space to be happy. You will need a cage, bedding and nesting material (hardwood shavings or animal litter made from woodpulp), an exercise wheel (solid back and solid running surface), a water bottle, and food. Visit your local pet store and they can help you get set up.

3. Give your hamster toys.

Toys help your hamster have fun and, well...be a hamster! Try a house (make sure it's big enough!), wooden blocks to climb on, plastic boots, a sand bath (it helps remove grease from their coats!), tubes and see-saws, mineral and salt blocks, and wood gnaws.

4. Feed your hampster a variety of good food!

Your hamster's basic diet should be hamster mix that you buy from a pet shop--most hamster mix is made up of different grains.

About once a week, give your hamster a treat like fresh fruit and vegetables. And, buy a bag of hamster treats from your local pet shop. But, whatever you do, don't overfeed your hamster! Only give him/her as much as they will eat.

Just like you don't like some foods, neither does your hamster. Find out what they like to eat and make sure they get a balanced diet of hamster mix and the occasional treat they love.

Don't worry if your hamster "saves" food. This is normal. Hamsters store food in their cheekpouches and then carry it to a safe place where they store it.

5. Keep the cage clean!

Hamsters don't need baths, but they do need you to keep their cages clean so they stay clean! Every week, take the hamster out of the cage and put him in a safe place where he can't get loose. Throw away the old woodshavings and food in the cage and replace the woodshavings with new bedding (mix the new bedding with a little old bedding if you can).

6. Take your hamster to the vet.

Hamsters need checkups, too! Talk to your local vet about how often you need to bring in your hamster for a checkup. Always bring the hamster in if it looks sick or starts acting differently than normal.

7. Play with your hamster--gently!

Before you pick up your hamster, wash your hands to get off the smell of food (you don't want to be nibbled!). Scoop up your hamster with two hands and cradle it gently. Don't squeeze or hold too tight! When your hamster is comfortable, you can start letting him walk from one hand to another. You may want to sit down and hold the hamster in your lap so that your hamster doesn't fall if it makes a sudden move!

When your hamster is new, it may be a little nervous. Before you pick her up, just pet her lightly in the cage first until she gets used to you and feed her a little bit of food to make friends.

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