Critter Corner: Teddy Bear Hamsters
Education helps customers enjoy and care for these economical pets.
By Soraya Gutierrez
The teddy bear hamster, a long-haired version of the classic Syrian hamster, can be an appealing pet for small-mammal enthusiasts who are looking for a low-maintenance furry friend. It’s up to retailers, however, to help customers realize that keeping this critter content involves more than a cage, food and exercise wheel.
Informing customers about the care requirements—such as a nutritious diet, adequate housing and exercise toys—offers a good starting point when it comes to making a potential match between a new owner and pet. In addition, it’s helpful to provide tips about grooming, normal behavior and keeping teddy bears in good health.
|Teddy bear hamsters are naturally solitary creatures and are likely to fight cagemates if they have them. Credit: Carolyn McKeone/Courtesy of Pet Paradise, London, Ontario, Canada|
Originally found in Syria and southeastern Europe, teddy bear hamsters
became sought-after pets for their similarity in appearance to toy teddy bears. Their plush coats come in different shades of golden brown.
Retailers can be prepared to answer questions from customers about the teddy bear hamster’s average size and life expectancy, as well as about sexing. These animals—also known as Angora hamsters—grow to 4 to 5 inches long, or about the size of a mouse (without the long tail).
Teddy bear hamsters are known as low-key pets because of their size and temperament. On average, they live to be about 2 to 3 years old when properly cared for.
To show a customer the difference between males and females of this hamster type, retailers can check the underside and determine the space between two visible openings found on both sexes. The openings represent the genitals and the anus, and males have a wider distance between the two. Males also have longer fur, especially around their faces, necks and backsides.
It’s necessary for retailers to differentiate correctly between males and females because of certain behavioral problems that may arise. These naturally solitary creatures prefer to dwell in their own spaces, and if they have cage mates, fights are likely to occur.
Fighting between teddy bear hamsters can result in death. Owners can prevent these altercations by keeping the adults in separate habitats, regardless of sex.
The appeal of teddy bear hamsters as pets also lies in the fact that they make for relatively economical animal companions. A new owner can expect to be entertained simply by watching these critters in their habitats as they do what they do best: play.
Part of keeping teddy bears healthy includes providing plenty of stimulating exercise toys. For example, retailers can suggest products that encourage physical activity.
Exercise wheels are staple items in many hamster habitats; however, retailers can also carry the following toys: clear hamster balls, chew toys, tunnels and playgrounds. All promote hamster health and keep them on the move.
|Fresh vegetables, fruit, grains and clean water are all part of a teddy bear hamster’s proper daily diet. Credit: Carolyn McKeone/Courtesy of Pet Paradise, London, Ontario, Canada|
These animals may be small; still, it’s important for retailers to display them in the largest habitats possible. This way, customers can see how much space they need to keep teddy bears as house pets.
A small cage does not provide adequate room for these hamsters to comfortably play and exercise, since these pets love to run, chew, store food in their mouths and crawl through tunnels.
These unique behavioral traits are not only to be expected, but they are also signs that a teddy bear hamster is healthy. The chewing, for example, keeps the incisor teeth from overgrowing. Retailers can suggest giving chew sticks to keep these teeth in check. This chewing option also helps prevent the animals from gnawing their cages.
Another distinct behavior—the collecting of food inside large cheek pouches—enables teddy bear hamsters to store food for later. They also tend to carry food in their cheeks and hide it around their homes.
Appropriate hamster habitats can be made out of glass, plastic or metal. It’s important to ensure enclosures prevent teddy bear hamsters from escaping and getting lost.
For ways to keep teddy bear hamsters happy in their dwellings, retailers can sell quality hamster food in prepackaged varieties, as well as advise customers to give their pets fresh vegetables, fruit, grains and clean water on a daily basis.
In addition, new buyers might want to know about bedding materials. According to Audrey Pavia in the article “Hamster Bedding and Litter” on SmallAnimalChannel.com, the best bedding is nontoxic, clean and absorbent, and it gives off little dust.
Retailers can stock their shelves with a variety of premade bedding package selections for customers to choose from.
Teddy bear hamsters’ coats get easily dirty or matted. Therefore, while bathing these pets is not necessary, owners can groom them with a clean toothbrush if needed.
Teddy bear hamsters need to be handled with care. It’s best to leave these nocturnal animals alone during the day.
These hamsters may bite people who wake or otherwise disturb them. Educating potential owners as well as pet store staff about this risk can prevent an attack.
These animals are otherwise friendly and easy to scoop up with the hands, as long as it’s late in the afternoon or evening. Letting teddy bear hamsters roam outside their habitats in secure rooms can prevent boredom and excessive weight gain. This is when hamster balls may come into play.
Teddy bear hamsters make good companions for first-time pet owners, whether they are children or adults. With daily interaction and supervision, these pets provide plenty of enjoyment. <HOME>
Posted: Sept. 9, 2009
Soraya Gutierrez is a former associate news editor for DogChannel.com and CatChannel.com.
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