Home > Small Mammals > Hamster and Gerbil Safety

Hamster and Gerbil Safety

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 5 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Hamster Safety Gerbil Safety Escape Safe

Ask any hamster or gerbil owner what their biggest fear is and they will say, "My pet is escaping!" These furry, wriggly little rodents can be master escape artists and the average household presents a minefield of hazards as well as a host of hiding places. Even the plastic "hamster balls" designed to give them exercise without free run of the house are not fool-proof and many an owner has turned around to find the hamster ball neatly split open, with their hamster or gerbil nowhere to be seen!

But preventing escape is not the only thing to worry about when trying to keep hamsters and gerbils safe. Consideration has to be given to their bedding, the equipment and toys they have access to and even the food they are fed. And then there's your own safety too - how do you prevent yourself getting bitten?

So, to keep yourself and your hamster or gerbil safe, here are a few things to consider:

Do

  • handle your pet gently on a regular basis - this will hand-tame it and get it used to being picked up, so it does not bite your hand out of fear.
  • leave your hamster alone if it is sitting on its haunches and chattering its teeth - it is indicating that it is not in an amenable mood and may bite if handled.
  • leave your hamster alone if it is sleeping (remember, these are nocturnal creatures)
  • keep any other larger pets away when your hamster or gerbil is loose as accidents do happen and it can be hard for cats and dogs to suppress their predatory instinct in a moment of excitement, no matter how well they normally live together.
  • take your hamster or gerbil to the vet immediately if it shows signs of wet fur around the anal region (not to be confused with diarrhoea, which nevertheless needs observation as well) - this could be the dreaded disease, "wet tail" which is nearly always fatal.
  • take your pet regularly to the vet for an examination and possible trimming of the front teeth (incisors) which grow continuously and may not be wearing down enough, thereby causing problems in feeding.
  • wash your hands thoroughly both before and after handling your pet. Not only will this prevent the transfer of disease (both human to pet, pet to human, pet to pet) it will also reduce your chances of being bitten as your hand will not carry any lingering and enticing food smells or flavours.
  • check your pet's accommodation and make sure all clasps and door mechanisms are secure. Similarly on the hamster ball before releasing it.
  • use a wheel that has a solid surface and rear wall so that tiny feet/legs do not get caught, broken or amputated. Be sure that the wheel is the right size for your pet. Too large and your pet can't spin it, too small and your pet won't enjoy it as his back is arched and he can't stretch his legs to run. Keep the wheel clean to prevent spread of germs and infection.
  • be careful with plastic toys as these can be badly chewed, resulting in splinters and sharp edges which can hurt your pet.
  • keep an eye on your pet even if it is exercising within a hamster ball
  • be extra vigilant when you are moving house or transporting your pet at any other time - in the chaos and confusion, it is very easy for your pet to escape and then be trodden on or crushed under a large, heavy object, such as packing boxes.

Don't

  • place your hamster/gerbil cage in the path of direct sunshine as these animals are nocturnal and will quickly suffer from heatstroke if exposed.
  • expose the cage to a draft as these little rodents can become chilled quite easily. Also, if the ambient temperature drops below a certain figure, this can induce a semi-hibernation or torpid state.
  • feed or give your hamster sharp food items or wood shavings as these can puncture the lining of a hamster's mouth pouch and an abscess can develop.
  • allow your pet free access to a room without great care being taken and keeping them under constant observation. The greatest danger comes from underestimating their climbing abilities - they love climbing upwards but can be very clumsy coming down: in most cases, they just let themselves drop, which can result in fatal spinal injuries.
  • use cedar and pine bedding as these can be toxic to your pet.
  • allow your pet to chew on cardboard as these can be harmful, impacting in their intestines.
  • give your pet any wood which has not been bought in a pet store and is specially designed for pet rodents, as it can contain harmful chemicals that could kill your pet.
  • have more than one Syrian hamster together in the same space at the same time after the age of 6 weeks except for breeding. These are solitary animals and will turn on one another quickly, resulting in injury or even death. This often happens at night when these pets are least likely to be monitored.
  • leave males and females together after mating - the female may attack the male.
Like all small, quick-moving rodents, hamsters and gerbils can be quite a handful sometimes but by following some simple rules and taking a few precautions, you can ensure that you and your furry pet will enjoy a happy relationship.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Ruth
    Re: Introducing a Kitten to Other Cats
    @Chrissy, did you solved the problem? Im in the sme situation right now and Im so stressed
    20 April 2018
  • prof. DF
    Re: Keeping Your Rabbit Safe
    was up people i love rabbit and take care of them
    3 April 2018
  • Misty
    Re: The Dangers of Cat Fights
    @Potli - You haven't said whether the cat is looking after its own wound or how serious the wound is. Much depends on what the vet…
    29 March 2018
  • Potli
    Re: The Dangers of Cat Fights
    My cat is bitten by another cat (wild cat). I took him to the Doctor n gave antibiotics. He has a big wound on his stomach. I am…
    28 March 2018
  • Anya
    Re: Dog Laws in the UK
    Hi. How about leaving a dog alone for two weeks when someone comes to him at least twice a day for an hour or so . Is it safe/legal? Thanks
    23 March 2018
  • SaferPets
    Re: Dog Laws in the UK
    Bea - Your Question:A small business (next to our property) brings 3 dogs to work every day. They let the Labrador run loose about the yard as…
    22 March 2018
  • Clyde
    Re: Dog Laws in the UK
    I live in a block of flats and have a dog and 3 children is it illegal for my 6 year old and 9 year old to take the dog on to the grass to have…
    21 March 2018
  • Bea
    Re: Dog Laws in the UK
    A small business (next to our property) brings 3 dogs to work every day. They let the Labrador run loose about the yard as well as the single…
    21 March 2018
  • mikey1
    Re: Dog Laws in the UK
    Our neighbours, who live in a 2 bed terrace have 9 dogs. They have quickly increased from 1 to 9. two of these dogs are very large, and 7 are…
    21 March 2018
  • SaferPets
    Re: Dog Laws in the UK
    Redyakyak - Your Question:Our neighbor uses our fence which is on our property to keep her dogs on her property. Surely as a dog owner she has…
    16 March 2018
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the SaferPets website. Please read our Disclaimer.