Hamster and Gerbil Enrichment: Keeping Your Pet Happy and Healthy!

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Guest Blog by : Andrea Babb, The Other Pets Animal Rescue

Whether it’s a tiger living at the zoo or a tiny hamster you adopted from the pet store, proper equipment, cage size, and enrichment are crucial to their well- being and health. When thinking of purchasing (or adopting) a hamster, or gerbil, from a pet store, it’s easy to simplify the process by buying a standard, small square cage, food bowl, water bottle, and bedding. What most don’t think of are all the fun ways to keep your new pet entertained and happy. Luckily, it’s simple and fairly inexpensive to make the necessary changes to their environment that will accomplish just that.

Cages: This is the biggest factor to consider when adopting any animal that lives in a cage. This is where your pet will live for its entire life. A small square cage will not suffice. Instead, keep the motto “Bigger is better” ringing in your mind when finding the perfect cage. The more space they have, the more healthy and active they will be. Admittedly, it can be a hassle to find a place for a larger cage, and it takes a little extra time to clean it each week, but it’s a small sacrifice to make for your sweet hamster or gerbil. Make sure the cage is at least two feet in length, one foot in width, and offers at least two levels. And don’t forget about the bar spacing! There shouldn’t be enough space for your pet to squeeze through and get out.

Bedding: Bedding is found at all pet stores, and even most grocery stores. Opt for Aspen or recycled paper pulp bedding to avoid any unwanted allergies and medical problems that Pine and Cedar shavings often cause. Place enough bedding on the bottom of the cage to ensure they are able to keep warm and comfortable, but not so much that they can’t walk or stand up freely.

Houses: Every hamster and gerbil loves a good house! Wooden houses are preferable to avoid your pet from chewing and eating plastic, which can be deadly. One to two houses is all you will need to keep your hamster feeling happy and secure. This allows them a space to hide, sleep, and escape any unwanted noise and attention. Climbing on top of the house is a lot of fun for them too.

Toys: Wooden wheels (no spaces and bars, to avoid injury), wooden balls, bridges, ladders, and cardboard toilet paper rolls are all easy and inexpensive toys you can offer your pet. They will chew on them, move them around, hide on them, and even climb on them. It’s endless fun that will keep them entertained each day.

Treats: Salt licks, hanging treats, and hay will help keep your pet healthy and entertained all at the same time. The hay can also be used to fluff up the bed they are making inside of their house, so it’s even more multi-purpose.

Sunlight: Like all living creatures, hamsters and gerbils need access to natural light. Allowing their cages to be in direct sunlight in the winter months will help keep them warm and healthy. Just be careful of the sun getting too hot for them, and make sure that at least half of their cage is in the shade so that they may escape the sunlight and heat.

Things to avoid: Plastics, too much food, not enough space, the wrong type of bedding, dirty cages, and not enough light. These are all things that will make your hamster or gerbil unhealthy and unhappy.

When following this simple list, you are guaranteed to have a happy and healthy hamster or gerbil. Just knowing that you are making their life more enriched will help you to know you are creating a wonderful life for your new pet.

Andrea Babb is a freelance writer who owns and manages The Other Pets Animal Rescue, an exotic pet and farm animal rescue located in Hardin County, KY and Kaiserslautern, Germany.

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