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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-20-2011, 02:06 PM Thread Starter
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First Syrian hamster, help!

Heya!

I just bought a Syrian hamster in the pet store yesterday, and was wondering if I was doing the right things, and if the hamster was alright, so anyone here has any advice, it's very welcome!

He's still young but not quite a baby, I'm not entirely sure how old. Fur didn't look as clean and well taken care of as some of the others, but the store's vet said it was healthy.

I got a pretty large cage for it with three wooden floors, a corner filled with hay, one with those special soft hamster fabrics, a floor with a cabin, one with a wheel and one with food. The bottom is filled with wood shavings that are dust-free and natural, all materials are safe.

In the store he seemed rather content and used to being handled, he came to us and let us pick him up quite easily, I put him in his cage and left him alone since then to get accustomed.

So it's day 1 and he runs in his wheel a lot, eats fine, sleeps all day, normal behavior so far, doesn't seem afraid or shy when we walk by, but on two occasions he has made this low screeching sound (like a Pterodactyl you could say, heh,) when I was close to the bars, once while I offered him a treat. He came to get it, sniffed it, seemed fine (it's an almond, which he seems to eat) and then just screeched and ran away.

I'm not sure what to make of this. Is he just scared due to his new environment? Should I back off completely for a few days? Is there anything I can do to help?
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-20-2011, 04:35 PM
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I would take what the "vet" said with a grain of salt first of all. If you had an inkling that its coat was not clean then it might indicate a problem with the hamster. Most people working in a pet store are not going to tell you it might be sick bc it might turn you away entirely from the sale and that's the last thing you want. The pet store "vet" is probably just a more experience employee who might have taken a quick course in health.. Most likely she's not a real vet with 10 years of schooling and internship under her belt bc a general pet store would never pay her enough!

Anyway, that's not important.

What kind of shavings are you using?? Brand name would be specific. I wouldn't keep a small rodent on wood shavings but that's a personal thing. I prefer soft paper shavings like Boxo or Carefresh.

I don't like to leave a wheel in the cage because it ruins the natural instincts of hamsters when they become totally obsessively reliant on it. I prefer to let him play in an exercise ball, and on ropes, ladders, ramps, and anything else which encourages him to run and climb. I used to set up little obstacle courses on my bed for my hams to run rather than let him run a wheel all night. It's healthier and better for them.
So remove the wheel after a week when he's used to his house. If you insist, let him run on it only a half hour or something a night so he don't rely on it for exercise.

Another fun thing you can do is feed him his seeds (or blocks) or whatever food he eats by hiding it. Hamsters are scavengers and spend a good deal of time searching for food. I stopped using a bowl altogether with my ham bc I felt it was more stimulating for him (and me) to search around for it.

The screeching... um.. It's possible he is afraid. I never actually had a hamster screech on me except on my last hamster when he was dying of old age and wanted to be left alone. IF you can afford it, take him to a real vet.
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-20-2011, 04:39 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the advice! I didn't think of perhaps taking out the wheel now and then, I'll start doing that in a week or so when he's settled in, indeed.

The screeching doesn't seem to be health-related. He's very comfortable and relaxed, and seems quite normal. He only screeched when I was close to the bars for a certain duration (like 30 seconds or so.)

So I figure that it's probably a territorial thing or that it frightens him cause he doesn't know me (my scent perhaps) yet?
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-22-2011, 07:56 PM
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Could be. Hopefully it is! ^.^
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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-23-2011, 12:24 AM
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I would never take out the wheel they run miles a night and get bored easily. COuld you show me your cage? I have had many syrians and can help.

It seems like he is afraid of you so he is screaming.
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-23-2011, 01:17 AM Thread Starter
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I unfortunately can't post links or pictures yet, but I think I'm starting to figure it out!

He's only screeched at us when he was on the bottom (plastic) floor, where his nest is and where he usually sleeps. So I'm guessing the fear came from one of two things:
- Feeling like his safe space was being invaded
- Us coming too much from above, setting off his instincts

I haven't picked him up or petted him yet, and am giving him quite some time and space, but what I do now is every time he's on a higher floor, I stick my hand in there with a treat.

Since I've been doing that, he has stopped screeching, has walked over my hand, accepted treats from it, all very comfortably. So I think it might be working.

Tonight or tomorrow I'll probably try scooping him up, any tips for that? The only issue is that I only have one tiny door to the cage, can only fit in one hand unless I lift the whole thing up; and I don't want it to be an uncomfortable, clumsy or frightening procedure for the little one.
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-23-2011, 09:37 PM
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Before you try to straight up hold him, try coaxing him into your lap with a treat. He already eats a treat from your hand right? I would get a chair or stool and sit in front of his cage and try to keep your knees high enough so he can toddle out and eat off your lap. Take it slow and gain his trust
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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-23-2011, 09:40 PM
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What i have done with all my hamsters is coax them into the ball let him out in that then open the ball in your lap ( make sure you are in a secure place where he can not get away) and let him come out and keep offering him treats. Then back into the ball for 5 mins then into the cage this method works great it takes a while but it makes it to where out time and you yourself are associated with good things.
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-24-2011, 03:38 AM Thread Starter
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Awesome, thanks for all the tips, I just read them!

My girlfriend and I picked him up for the first time this morning. She stuck her hand in with a piece of broccoli, let him finish it, and then gently picked him up and took him out.

He seemed a little nervous, but no screeching, no biting, so I think it went well. She passed him to me, we just gently handled him a bit so he'd get used to us.

He did jump out of my hands twice though, but I was sitting on the floor so he couldn't really hurt himself. When we put him back in his cage, he made no attempt to run away, didn't show any particular signs of fear. I'm glad, seems to be going well.

So should I get one of those balls? They don't get scared in them cause they can't smell or see well in there?
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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-24-2011, 12:11 PM
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Get a clear white one if you can. Balls are great exercise and allows your hams to explore safely. Also, make sure the top fits tight, or use tape to close it. Some smart hams are able to get out unless you tape it.

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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 02:14 PM
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I use clear and all 4 of my hams LOVE them they look forward to it
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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 08:19 PM
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I had to do a bit of research and asking around, but I dont agree with the idea that a hamster should only have limited time on a wheel. Even though many hamsters get what seems to be "obsessed" with using it, the fact is, it is the closest thing to what they have in the wild, which is miles and miles of terrain to run. While having many toys and things to climb on gives them something to do, they can't go miles and miles and exhaust all that pent up energy. This is why hamsters run so frequently, and so long on their wheels.

Other toys are def recommended, and my syrian loves her climbing ladder. But her wheel is still number one.

Some hamsters aren't able to figure out how else to use their energy or time, so they resort to bad behaviors such as chewing on things, or even themselves. The last thing you want is a hamster with behavioral problems caused by not getting their wheel.

I asked multiple owners and experts in a different forum, and no one thought that limiting wheel time is a good idea.. Plus, they love it so!

I don't want to start an argument, but I just wanted to say from my experience and from the experience of many other current owners of hamsters, that the wheel is essential to their health and happiness.

There are a few instances in which the wheel should not be provided, like after a mother has given birth, or with a sickly hamster, or perhaps other cases.

but by and large, hamsters need their wheels. So i suggest providing many toys and options, but leave the wheel in there.

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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 08:45 PM
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I agree with this as long as your wheel is safe which is the only thing Tny left out if your hamsters back is arching you should take out the wheel until you can get another safe wheel. I suggest Wodent Wheels Tiny's Sadi has one as do my dwarfs and they LOVE them you need the JR and its only 15 and a great wheel super stable and no way they can get hurt

The obstacle courses are great but you never take the wheel except in special conditions like listed above.

Last edited by Elliriyanna; 10-25-2011 at 08:56 PM.
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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 08:51 PM
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Sadi Loves her wodent wheel and honestly if i took out the ladder, she wouldnt care probably. But I wanted to give her options and the ability to build muscles.

Elli is right, the RIGHT wheel is key. Def look into the wodent wheel as she suggests.

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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 09:02 PM
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yeah ... I love wodent wheels

As for this territorial thing All 4 of my hams are cage aggressive ( Its very common in RC) so I can not reach in to get them what I have done instead is teach them all that the ball is a good thing ( just letting them run in it they love it and instantly want it) So I open in and let them climb in then its out for ball time for about 10 mins then I take the ball sit in a secure location and open the ball and sit it in my lap And offer treats after 5-10 mins of this its back into the ball for another 5-10 mins in the ball. This way its not stressful its all fun and they associate you with good things. This method I also used for my syrians.

Last edited by Elliriyanna; 10-25-2011 at 09:06 PM.
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