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Hello to the hamsters - John C. Kirk — LiveJournal

Dec. 3rd, 2007

12:53 am - Hello to the hamsters

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Date:December 5th, 2007 04:11 am (UTC)
However, I think that he showed restraint; given that hamsters can crack open nuts with their teeth, I'm guessing that he could have left dents in my bone, but he didn't even break the skin. In other words, he just wanted to send a message of "Oi, watch it!" rather than actually trying to hurt me.
I seriously doubt a dwarf hamster would be able to do any damage to your bones in a single bite. Whilst small rodents can and do gnaw their way through hard objects like nuts, it generally takes them a considerable amount of time and effort. Their teeth are very sharp, so they can ultimately gnaw through harder objects than we can, but their jaws are still fairly weak. (I'm not sure a dwarf hamster's jaws are even large enough to get sufficient purchase on something as large as a human had to do any more than surface damage.) Rodents grind things rather than chomp on them, and that's why it's safe for them to have cooked chicken bones, but not e.g. cats and dogs.

Rodents do recognise a difference between a nip and a bite: the former is a social thing, warning the other individual off; the latter is an instinctive reaction to fear or stress. Whether or not it's a sign of intelligence depends on your definition of "intelligence"; it certainly indicates a basic ability to relate socially to other creatures.

I'm using a Savic "Mickey Max" cage, which has 5mm gaps between the bars; since they're dwarf hamsters, they might be able to squeeze through a 1cm gap.
The Mickey Max actually has a 6.5mm bar spacing, not 5mm, so it's slightly more than the most paranoid of the cage recommendations. Still, it should be sufficiently narrow for Roborovskis: I suspect they would only fit through those bars if they were appropriately flattened and therefore dead. :p

I haven't yet had a reply from the person who appears to be keeping dwarf hamsters in regular hamster cages, but someone else I know who used to have dwarves reckons that 1cm bars would be inadviseable, especially as Roborovskis are the smallest of the dwarf hamster species.

Still, it's nice to see that sibling behaviour doesn't change much between species.
My spinies will attempt to steal food off each other even when there's a full food bowl with more of the same food right next to them.

However, I noticed that the hamsters sometimes put their legs between the bars when they were walking around, and we were concerned about injury, so we put down some newspaper to cover it.
I reckon it's as much about comfort as it is about safety: trying to walk on a surface that you keep falling through can't be much fun. If you notice them having any such trouble with the ladder, it might be an idea to weave some cardboard through it as well, just so they can run up it at a decent speed. If they don't pee much, you'll probably only have to replace it every cage clean.

The side effect of this is that if one of them stops then she gets spun around and then flung off; I've seen them do a complete loop that way. At first I thought that they were just a bit dense, and hadn't realised that they need to slow down gradually, but I now wonder whether it's deliberate (like a kid jumping off a swing at the high point).
Again, this is something my spinies do as well, and I seriously doubt they do it for fun. When they've been catapulted particularly badly, they look visibly shaken and run off somewhere to hide. I think they're just rather slow at linking cause and effect: Charm's managed to mostly work it out now, since she's an avid wheel runner and has had plenty of practice, but Strange still thuds out of the wheel on a regular basis, almost certainly because she runs less often and has therefore had an insufficient number of bad experiences to realise that stopping suddenly in the wheel is a stupid thing to do.

Edited at 2007-12-05 04:12 am (UTC)
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Date:December 5th, 2007 04:13 am (UTC)
I think I may have a solution to both the water bottle and the wheel problems. (The yellow clip on the wheel is supposed to be able to turn all th way so that it's perpendicular to the cage bars, but due to the narrowness of the bars, it can only turn slightly before it starts forcing the bars open. I guess Savic couldn't be bothered to make some customised accessories to go with the unusually narrow bars of this cage.) It may require the purchasing of a wheel stand, but I'll have to check the height of the stand first.

If we can sort the water bottle so it doesn't have to rest on the platform anymore, you could consider placing something hard and rough immediately beneath the water bottle so that the hamsters have to walk on a rough surface in order to get a drink. That's a common method to ensure that small animals keep their nails trim of their own accord, which prevents having to trim the nails yourself, which is particularly difficult (if not impossible) with creatures this small and this skittish.
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Date:December 5th, 2007 11:25 am (UTC)
I seriously doubt a dwarf hamster would be able to do any damage to your bones in a single bite.

Just to clarify, the hamster I looked after at school was a "normal" Syrian one, not a dwarf.
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