There are two types of pet hamsters: the classical Golden Hamster and the smaller Russian or Chinese Hamster. Golden Hamsters are easy to hand tame and rarely bite if they are used to being handled but the Russian and Chinese Hamsters tend to be more difficult to handle.
Hamsters are solitary creatures and will tend to fight so they are best kept alone. A strong wire or smooth plastic cage is important because hamsters will continually gnaw and chew their way out. A good quality commercially available hamster food is an ideal diet, supplemented with a few treats of fresh vegetables. Fresh water should always be available. It is traditional to use sawdust as a substrate in the bottom of cages but sheets of newspaper are more than adequate and easier to clean. Commercially available bedding made from fibrous material should be avoided as hamsters will tend to eat it causing fatal obstructions. Shredded paper makes ideal bedding. Cages should be cleaned out at least weekly. Hamsters are very active and will enjoy stacks and wheels to explore and play in.
Hamsters generally suffer from very few infectious diseases but may have a skin mite called Demodex. This causes bald spots on the skin and is not generally serious but can be a sign of a debilitated or ageing animal. Teeth and claws should be checked regularly for signs of overgrowth.
Hamster quick stats: lifespan 1 - 3 years; wean at 20 - 25 days; sexual maturity 6 - 8 wks; gestation 15 -18 days; ave. litter size 4 - 7
Guinea Pigs make ideal pets. They are affectionate and rarely if ever bite. They can be kept together and welcome companionship but may fight if not brought up together. Entire males and females should not be kept together of course to prevent unwanted breeding.
Guinea Pigs can be kept outdoors in a secure hutch with an exercise run and are quite hardy provided they have weather-proof shelter and plenty of warm bedding.
Guinea pigs should be fed on a mixed diet of commercially available food with fresh fruit and vegetables. Fresh hay and water should be provided at all times. Grass is an ideal food but never feed grass cuttings as these will rapidly ferment and cause digestive upsets. Guinea Pigs have a special requirement for vitamin C in their diet as, unlike most other animals, they cannot make if from other foods. Good quality commercially prepared diets have a vitamin C supplement but this vitamin can be provided via supplementation in the drinking water although it rapidly degrades in bottles with metal nozzles.
Guinea pigs may need worming when first bought but rarely suffer from infectious diseases so long as they are healthy to start with. Mange mites are however very common and can cause a painful and sometimes fatal skin condition. Teeth and claws should be checked regularly for signs of overgrowth. A block of wood should be provided for gnawing.
Guinea Pig quick stats: lifespan 4 - 8years; sexual maturity: males 9 -10 wks., females 4 - 6 wks; gestation 59 - 72 days; ave.litter size 3 - 4.
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