Preparing for your new hamster

This information was based on a post by Jane at Hamster House.

1.  Research.
Before you buy a hamster, research it.  Look in books, go to the library, look on the net, talk to other owners. Decide which type of hamster you want, a dwarf or a Syrian?

2.  Save
Set aside enough money to purchase all the equipment and supplies your hamster will need for the first few months. All of my hamster supplies cost a grand total of �37.65 including the hamster. Look at my Price list for more information in what everything will cost.  

3.  Find a Vet
You don't want to be stuck with a hamster with an illness  and you looking through the yellow pages. Write down the name, address, telephone number and opening hours of at least 2 vets or so because then you  have somewhere else to go if the first choice is closed.

4.  Investigate
Visit the shelters, breeders and shops you're considering.  Inspect the animals and look their condition and care.  Tell the shelter you're a new pet owner, and don't rescue a sick or special-needs hamster if this is your first time.  They often have healthy abandoned animals from unexpected litters or owners who had cared for them well.  Don't purchase from a breeder who won't let you see their stock.  Be sure shops are clean and the staff knowledgeable.  You don't want to have to rely on their advice, but you do need to know they've taken good care of the hamsters.  Check that the animals are housed properly and that all of them are healthy.  One sick animal in a tank infects them all, so skip anyplace that displays a hamster that appears ill.  Visit any location you were pleased with on another day too, to be sure the care is consistently excellent.

5.  Choose a Location
Your hamster needs to live in low humidity and constant temperature between 65-75 degrees -- at no time cooler than 60 degrees or hotter than 80.  The room should be consistently light and quiet during the day and dark at night with lights turned off at the same time nightly.  Avoid a high-traffic area because your hamster must sleep during the day.  The room should be clean, well ventilated, secure from other pets, and free of strong odors.  Choose a spot in the room that's not in direct sunlight and away from drafts.  The cage will have to rest firmly on the shelf, and tubes or additions shouldn't extend where something could be toppled.  If there are small children or other pets around, the cage must be safely out of reach.  Be sure the spot you choose will allow your new pet safe, quiet time to feel secure in his new home.  Measure the available space carefully for shopping later.  

6.  Clean.
Dust, vacuum and air out the room your hamster will live in before he comes home, so there aren't any fumes from cleaning products or disturbances the first week.  He'll be stressed enough.

7.  Shop.
Purchase all the necessary equipment (take your notes and measurements).  Buy supplies and assemble a good first aid kit.  Always wash and rinse new items in antibacterial dishwashing liquid detergent and hot water, and shake out dust and air out fresh bedding before putting it in the hamster's home.  Put his dry food in an airtight container.

8.  Set Up.
Arrange your hamster's home in its new location.  Check for missing parts and anything you forgot.  Clean and test the water bottle, then empty it and let it dry.  Oil the wheel lightly with vegetable oil.  Leave the home's doors, vents, etc. open to further air it.  Keep a roll of good tape nearby for extra security at any places the hamster might push out, being sure he could never reach the tape, of course.  If you have a wire cage, add a roll of plastic-wrapped wire like the little twist-ties you use to close bread wrappers or trash bags.  You can cut off small lengths to secure doors, water bottles, etc.  Leave room in the home for the carry-home box from the store, even if it means leaving a few toys out for now.

9.  Choose Your New Hamster
Before you leave the house, put fresh water in the hamster's water bottle and attach it to his home, then touch a clean finger to the tip to make sure it works.  Follow the guidelines you researched for selecting a healthy, friendly pet.  Find out what kind of food he's been eating, and be sure you have some so you can avoid changing his diet the first few days, and then do so only very gradually.  A small bag is plenty if you plan to switch.  Don't let them put him in a box until you're completely ready to leave the shop, and then ask them to add a big pinch of clean litter and a little food from the tank he was in for security.  Talk to him gently and hold the box securely and close to your body, but leave him in the closed box until you get home.  Be sure the air vents in the box are clear, and that the car is a comfortable temperature before you take him outside to it.

10.  Welcome Your Hamster
Set the box you brought him home in inside his new home, open it and let him come out when he's ready.  If there's room, leave the box and remove it in a few days when he's comfortable.  It's probably cardboard, and he can safely chew it up or nest in it if he likes.  It will be the only thing in there that has his scent on it already, and will be comforting.  Watch him from a distance and talk to him often.  Let him rest.  He needs peace and quiet to explore his new surroundings and settle in.  Be patient.