Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Gosh, it's been a while...

... nearly ten days since I last posted! Blame real life, my boyfriend ended up having to have his appendix removed.

The hams are doing well! Darla is starting to look even more like an old man, he's getting a bit of fur loss on the inside of his back legs. A friend of mine had her Robo go bald from the waist down before he passed, I am wondering whether Darla will do the same. As long as he is happy though!

Annie has had no issues since her teeth trim, which is good. She hated the JR Farm hamster food though, so I now have two bags of it that I am not sure what to do with! I might feed it to Darla, with his fur loss and age I am thinking a lower protein diet might be beneficial.

Darla, Winter and Rocco love the JR Farm dwarf food, so they're currently eating a mix of that and Burgess dwarf. Winter and Rocco are back to their flying saucers, though, as I noticed today that Winter has managed to injure his food somehow on the wooden wheels I had given them. It seems to be healing well, so I am not going to stress him out with a vet visit.

And next week I am off on holiday, so no ham updates. Have a picture of Winter now instead!

Monday, 13 May 2013

How much does a hamster cost?

It's easy enough to think that hamsters are cheap pets. Walk into any large chain pet store and they'll be on sale for £10 or less. Just because the hamster is cheap, however, doesn't mean that their care is cheap!

(I'll be going through this as if the hamster being bought is a Syrian, however getting a dwarf hamster is honestly not much cheaper.)

The RPSCA minimum recommended cage size for any species of hamster is 75 by 40 centimetres, which equates to 3,000 square centimetres of floorspace. For a Syrian hamster, my personal recommended minimum cage size is 80 by 50 centimetres, or 4,000 square centimetres. This is far more space than most cages sold as suitable for a hamster -- in fact, the only cage suitable for a Syrian hamster sold in store in the well known big green pet store here in the UK is the Ferplast Mary rat cage. At 80 by 50 centimetres, and 37 centimetres tall, it is widely regarded to be too small for a pair of rats, but makes a good sized Syrian home. This cage, however, currently retails in said pet store for £70. (The store also sells the Hamster Heaven, but only online, not in store, and it can be found cheaper elsewhere.)

Buying online is definitely the way to go to get a good sized cage without breaking the bank. The Alaska, at 84 by 48.5 centimetres, is larger than the Mary and is currently available at for £39.90. The Mamble 80 is also good value for money, currently at £34.99 at If you want to go larger, the Mamble is also available from littlepetwarehouse in a 100 by 54 centimetre version for (currently) £44.99. Another cheap option is making a bin cage; the Ikea Samla bin at 78 by 56 centimetres makes a good sized Syrian home. This does, however, require a bit of DIY!

Lets say you decide to go for the Alaska cage. That's nearly £40 spent on the cage alone. The next important item is the wheel. Most wheels aimed at Syrian hamsters are only suitable for the dwarf species, and a wheel with a diameter of at least eight inches is needed, as a hamster needs to have a flat back when running. Personally I would not recommend buying a wheel less than eleven inches in diameter for a Syrian, as there is no such thing as a too big wheel, but a too small wheel can cause back pain and spinal issues. Since we're on zooplus already, lets get the Trixie Rodent Wheel. This is a plastic wheel, so is easy to clean, that isnot going to break the bank -- the 28 centimetre (eleven inch) version is currently available at £7.99. Other options include the 12 inch flying saucer and the 29 centimetre Karlie Wonderland wheel (both currently £11.90).

Annie's old Ferplast Mary and Trixie Rodent Wheel, plus
her Ferplast rat tube
Next on the list of necessities is a water bottle and food. Both of these are easily got from the big green pet store, with a 75 millilitre classic water bottle at £1.50 and a 700 gram bag of Harry Hamster food for £2. In my experience, more expensive brands of water bottles are not worth the extra money, and the 75 millilitre is fine for a Syrian even though it is branded as the "mouse" sized bottle. Harry Hamster is the only food endorsed by the National Hamster Council and is actually cheaper than the store's premium brand (called Healthy Handfuls). Also from the big green pet store, you can get an extra large pack of Snowflake brand shavings for £9.49. These shavings are dust free and the only brand of shavings I'd recommend using. The best bedding material you can get is actually torn up tissue paper or kitchen roll (the fluffy cotton wool bedding is actually really dangerous and should never be used -- even if it claims to be pet safe, it can tangle around limbs and cut of circulation, or cause a blockage if ingested. There's a thread about it on one of the hamster forums I frequent).

There are also other things that you may want to buy for your hamster that are not strictly necessary, like a house (a cardboard box will do fine from the hamster's point of view) or a food bowl (scatter feeding is actually an enrichment activity for the hamster). If you want to buy a house, a "guinea pig" corner house that is the perfect size for Syrians is currently on zooplus for £7.49. Similarly, a hamster food bowl is currently £1.59 on zooplus. A "must have" toy in my opinion is the bendy bridge, with the medium one, ideal for Syrians, currently £2.79 on zooplus. A Ferplast rat tube (most "hamster" tubes are too small for Syrians) is currently £6.99 from zooplus. A small hamster climbing frame from zooplus is currently £3.99. If you want to potty train your hamster, a Trixie corner toilet is currently £3.29 from zooplus, and a kilogram of chinchilla sand is currently £3.99. Most Syrians will use sand bath as a potty, and they may also love digging in it and using it to clean themselves like dwarf hamsters will.

Then there are also hamster treats. A bag of JR Farm mixed flavour yoghurt drops is £1.39 from zooplus. Dreamies cat treats are loved by my Syrian, and a 60 gram bag of these is currently £1.49 from zooplus. A 200 gram bag of mixed nuts by JR Farm is currently £2.99.

Finally, there is pet safe cleaner for cleaning out the cage, which can be got from the big green pet store for £3.50.

Even with buying all of this online, often at discounted prices, this comes up to a lot:

An old layout of Annie's Ferplast Mary.
Cage: £39.90
Eleven inch wheel: £7.99
Water bottle: £1.50
Food: £2.00
Substrate: £9.45

House: £7.49
Food bowl: £1.59
Toys: 13.77
Sand bath/potty: £7.28
Treats: £5.87

Pet safe disinfectant: £3.50

Total: £100.34

Yes, you read that right. It costs just over £100 to get this rather basic set up for a £10 hamster. True, some of the things are not necessary, and you can buy cheaper toys or make some yourself, but hamsters are not cheap to look after properly. This total would be even higher if it was all bought in stores rather than online; obtaining all of the essentials, a handful of different toys and treats from the big green pet store would cost nearer £150 to £160. Plus there is the emergency vet fund to consider, which depends on how expensive your local small animal vet is.

If you think hamsters are cheap children's pets, well, think again!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

All change! Winter and Rocco's new cage

So, a while ago I changed Annie's cage, meaning that her old cage, the Ferplast Mary, ended up being put in the bottom of the wardrobe. I thought about selling it, but to be honest wasn't keen on the hassle. It just sat there, taking up space, forgotten about.

Recently, I had a thought. The Mary, at 80 by 50 centimetres, is larger than the zoozone the boys are in (72 by 46 centimetres). While it's not much difference in size, I figured it was a big difference when you're only a couple of centimetres long!

I had two worries. One was access -- while the zoozone has a large top door, the Mary has one small side door and one larger top door. The other was the bar spacing. However, I know many people who have successfully kept Roborovskis in cages with one centimetre bar spacing before, and tested it out with Rocco. He could not fit through the bars, and I decided more space for the hams beat any access concerns I had, so today I swapped them over.

Whole cage

I've tried to leave the layout as similar as possible to the one from the zoozone, although I did swap their wheels to eight inch wooden wheels rather than the flying saucers they had. Winter had started doing impressions of the Amazing Flying Robo off the saucers, which was concerning me. The eight inch wheels are larger than necessary, but there's more space for them to run together in an eight inch wheel than there is in a six inch one, the smaller size down in this particular wheel. (I coated them in plastikote, a waterproof child safe paint, so that they're easier to clean.)

Left side
Wheels on the right side
The rest of the right side
Usually I scatter feed, but because of the new JR Farm food I've received recently (eventually -- parcelforce were a pain in the backside about it, but that's another story), the boys have two bowls, one with their old mix and one with the JR Farm, to see which they prefer. The jury's out with these two, although Darla prefers the JR Farm.

As for the zoozone, well... Darla got it, so the last cage tour for him is out of date already, although I did try to keep the layout as similar as possible.

Darla's cage

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Darla cage tour May 2013

I mentioned doing a cage tour of Darla's cage a while back now... so here it is!

Here it is. It is still the 62 litre Crystal storage box from Wilkinson's, external dimensions 79.5 by 39.5 cm, 25cm tall. On the left he has his little house which he stores his food in, a bendy bridge up to the roof, and his sand bath with a wicker teepee over it.

 In the middle he has his wooden swing thing and a tube leading under his platform. You can also see his T-shaped alfalfa tube.

Then we have his platform, made by the lovely woman who also let me adopt Winter and Rocco! It's made from an Ikea magazine rack, and there's a detailed thread about her making them over here on one of the hamster forums I go on. On the platform he has his flying saucer, a hedgehog shaped antos dog chew and a strawberry wooden chew. His T-shaped alfalfa log leads to his water bottle, and as you can see he likes sitting half in the log to drink.

He also nests under the platform.

And a bonus Darla pic!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Hamster food saga take 2

Why does hamster food have to be so hard? A couple of months ago I did a post about making my hamster mix, but a lot has changed since then.

For the mix in question, I tried to please both Annie and Darla. They kind of have very different tastes, though. Annie ignored a lot of the smaller seeds I had put in the mix, making me concerned at the lack of variety, and Darla left all of the nuggets that contained the majority of the vitamins and minerals. Plus a component of the mix, Pets At Home Premium Muesli, has been discontinued in favour of something I have not heard the best reviews for from my fellow hamster nuts. As it seems I can't please them both with one mix, I am going to have to make two!
Burgess Supahamster Dwarf Hamster Harvest
 Annie is currently eating Harry Hamster, a mix which I avoided for a long while because Darla refused to eat most of it. This was partly because I saw it in Pets At Home and partly because Winter and Rocco came to me eating Harry Hamster too. Darla is currently on Burgess Supahamster Harvest Dwarf, but he preferentially eats the small seeds and leaves the green sticks and the flaked peas a lot of the time. Similarly, Winter and Rocco preferentially ate Burgess over Harry Hamster once I had introduced them to Burgess, but still ignore the green sticks a lot.
Supreme Harry Hamster
 For the Robos, at least, I think I have found the answer: JR Farm. A friend of mine feeds all her dwarfs on it, and another friend uses both the dwarf and Syrian foods as components in her hamster food. It looks tasty, has good variety, and seems very promising. I ordered both the dwarf and Syrian versions from zooplus, and they shall hopefully be here by Saturday. Whether I will mix the Burgess in with it, I am not quite sure.
JR Farm Dwarf Hamster Feast
As for Annie... I have ordered the Syrian mix as well, but I am wary of just how low it is in protein. While I know adult hams need less protein than growing babies, and that too much protein is bad for the kidneys, the protein content seems just too low. I will probably end up mixing it with Harry Hamster, at least at first, although whether she will ignore my efforts by selectively eating the JR Farm is another matter. Hopefully it will not come to that!
JR Farm Hamster Feast