Most owners will prefer to provide a hamster wheel however I prefer not to introduce them for unsupervised and unlimited use in cages to hamsters that are younger than 16 weeks old, to elderly hamsters or to hamsters that are having difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. Chinese Hamsters will usually be able to use a 6.5″ wheel without any difficulty or arching of the spine but every hamster is different as to the type of wheel that suits them best. Some might prefer an enclosed wheel but it’s worth mentioning that Chinese Hamsters often pee in their wheels so you should choose one that is easy to clean. Whichever type you choose, it’s important to avoid any with mesh or open rungs to prevent injury as the hamster runs.
Some owners find that choosing toys for their new pet is one of the more fun parts of the preparation but you don’t need to spend lots of money and they often get a lot of enjoyment out of cardboard boxes and tubes. The Metallica Chinese love the cardboard boxes that come with the chocolate oranges as they’ve got several holes that they can hop in and out of!
I like to give the Metallica Hamsters out of cage time most evenings and this usually begins with a handling session and then a playtime with various climbing and burrowing toys in a playpen. I have found that the best kind of playpen is simply a large storage box and have found that many of the wire playpens sold in pet shops will rarely contain a Chinese hamster with a skill for climbing for long! Another enrichment activity I like to offer my Chinese is a ‘Find and Seek’ game where treats are hidden in small cardboard boxes and the hamsters have to get the treat out.
Chinese Hamsters are often thought to be shy and have a reputation to be difficult to tame however I feel that this really does the species an injustice and I have found that once tame, they can be a very loving species.
If you get your Chinese Hamster from a breeder they will often have been tamed from the time that their eyes are open and consequently will already be used to human contact but they will need a little bit of time to become accustomed to their new home and owner. When I have brought home Chinese Hamsters from other breeders, I will usually handle them as I get them out of their carrier and will then leave them to settle into their new cage until the next evening. Pet Shop Chinese Hamsters may not have had any prior handling and may take some time to finally come out of their shells.
To begin with, I’ll keep handling sessions short and will use a small box such as a carrier filled with substrate, picking them up, allowing them to weave through my fingers and hopping down when they feel the need. As they become happier to be held, I’ve often found that they’re happier to sit in your hands for longer.
Chinese hamsters respond best to confident handling and can sense hesitation so if picking them up out of their cage makes you a little bit nervous to begin with, you can always encourage them to climb into something like a mug and transferring them into your smaller box that way.