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Pet Care - choosing
Hamsters make great family pets as they need very little space and are easy to look after, with either sex making an equally good pet.

Pet Care - choosing

Long-haired or teddy bear hamsters are very cuddly, but require more care as they need regular grooming. Dwarf hamsters are very cute, but not all are suitable as children's pets. Russian and Roborovski hamsters tend to be friendlier and easier to handle.

Which one is for you?
There are 24 species of hamster, but only a few of these are kept as pets. The best known are Golden, or Syrian hamsters, but it is possible to find other types of hamsters in pet shops nowadays. There are many different colours and textures of hamster coat. Short-haired hamsters are the most common, but there are also long-haired hamsters, known as Teddy Bears because of their appearance. Satin hamsters' coats are short, but very smooth and shiny, while Rex Hamsters' coats are wavy. You can also buy dwarf hamsters, which are only around 7cm (3") long. These are very entertaining as they dart and leap around, but make sure to get a type, such as Russian, that is easy to handle.

Hamsters like to live alone
Hamsters are territorial. They always live alone in the wild and prefer to live alone in their habitat. If you put two hamsters in one home, they will fight and may even kill one another. The exception is dwarf hamsters, which are happy to live with other hamsters of the same sex.

Where should you buy your hamster?
You can buy hamsters from pet shops or local breeders. Wherever you buy yours from, make sure that it is in a large, clean cage and that the staff or breeders are knowledgeable, and the hamster is used to being handled. When you buy your hamster, it should be between four and eight weeks old. Hamsters are ready to leave their mum and are easiest to tame at this age.

Signs of a healthy hamster
The hamster is likely to be asleep when you visit your pet shop or local breeder. Once he has been awakened gently, he should be inquisitive.

A healthy hamster should have:
• Bright, clear, round eyes that are wide open and have no discharge
• Clean ears
• Shiny fur
• Clean bottom and tail
• Rounded body
• Clean nostrils and easy breathing

You may see a dark patch on each hip. These are the hamster's scent gland and are nothing to worry about.

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