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Gerbils & Hamsters/A very itchy 11 week old long-haired Syrian hamster.


QUESTION: Hi Sheila,

I have an 11 week old female long-haired Syrian hamster called Sophie. She's a rescue who used to live in a flat with a very noisy and rather boisterous young golden retriever puppy. When I got her just over a week ago she was incredibly itchy and scratching a lot and rubbing against the sides of her cage. No obvious hair loss or any other symptoms. She's in a cage that's new to her (cleaned thoroughly beforehand with Johnsons Clean and Safe detergent) as my cages were at least twice the size of her previous cage. Same goes for the wheel which she now loves. I initially put it down to stress of move as this happens with most rescues I've had but her itchiness didn't go away after a couple of days. It's been over a week now. Her cage floor is covered with plain wood shavings and her bedding is just paper.

I have unopened Ivermectin spot on stuff which I've used on previous hamsters but I've no idea about a hamster this young. She's the youngest I've ever had as all previous rescue hamsters and the two I received as a thank you from a breeder friend have been at least 12 weeks old. She's also the jumpiest hamster I've ever seen. I'm beginning to regret calling the eight month old boy I rescued a week earlier Twitch as it suits her better and he's mostly stopped jumping/twitching at every sound! He lives in a separate cage in another room as I think he upsets her somewhat. Despite being incredibly easily startled she's very friendly and usually happy to climb out onto my hand and play with me outside her cage. Like all my previous hamsters it's getting them back into the cage after playing that's problematic!

She's incredibly hard to photograph so here's a YouTube video instead.
It's currently 2.50am GMT and YouTube reckon it'll be up by 4am.

Long story short, 11 week old female Syrian who has just moved home and been overly itchy/scratchy for over a week. Is she too young for a course of Ivermectin? If you don't know the answer to that I'll just take her to the vet and ask them. The Ivermectin I have is exactly the same stuff our vets prescribe.


p.s. I had to leave this email as she was demanding attention. I played with her for about 20 minutes (I made an adventure playground on my bed with a Trixie pirate ship and some empty boxes and stuff) and then spent the next five minutes trying to get her back into her cage which is normal for my hamsters. She's just realised I'm back in the room and is now sitting as close to me as she can in her cage which happens to be on the roof of her house and is just staring at me. She looks so cute! I suspect she wants to play again but at the same time she's looking rather worn out. We both are! The more she plays the speedier she gets and as it's now almost 3am I'm far too tired to keep up with her. She'll just have to wait until the morning for more fun and games. And now she's just yawned!

ANSWER: Hi Lauren

Thanks for your question. I would definitely start with giving Ivermectin - this will rule out any parasitic problem.  She will rub herself over the cage - she has scent glands on her hips and she will rub these over the sides of her cage and along any objects to mark them - this is normal. It could just be this. Some bedding/wood hip can cause problems - if you suspect this this then the best thing is to remove it and replace with paper bedding for a week. Some wood chip can cause skin irritation - a lid woodchip from pine, cedar or cypress as these contain an oil that can irritate.

Females are much more active than males and this can make them a much more interesting pet. They do eventually calm down but yours is very young and obviously has a lot of energy. Rarely will they sit still - it really is a case of persevering with her!

I hope this helps

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Sheila,
Thank you for your answer. I gave her the first dose a week ago. The scratching has reduced considerably but I'll follow the instructions for an infestation and give her another dose in a week and another two weeks after that. I doubt it's her bedding as that hasn't changed but if the itching persists even after the last of the treatment I'll change it. She is marking territory too and loves burrowing under wood shavings. Once the mites are dealt with I'll get the digging tower out because I think she'll love it.

Her jumpiness has mostly gone. She's still easily startled if she's just woken up but if she's been up for a while you can cough and sneeze and rustle plastic bags and she won't dive into her tube for safety. She also comes out of there much more quickly than before. I think she's settled down now.

I do have another question about weight. How much do adult hamsters normally weigh? And what age is adult in a hamster?

Twitch (8 month old male Syrian) is currently 117g. He was 105g when we got him three weeks ago. He's very long and skinny and incredibly active. He's always in his wheel. He didn't have one until my partner and I rescued him. Our previous male hamsters were 105g and 130g and their weight remained fairly constant no matter what they ate. I'm wondering if Twitch was underfed as he's much longer than our previous males.

Sophie (12 week old female) was 100g when we got her almost three weeks ago. She's now 119g and also insanely active. Her old wheel was far too small for a Syrian and she loves her new 8" one. Our previous female hamsters were 150g and 180g.

They're both fed on Pets at Home hamster muesli (Twitch has a mixture of his old food and the Pets at Home stuff) and get bits of broccoli and carrot about twice a week and the occasional treat.

Should I start weighing the food I put into their bowls or are they healthy?

Thanks again,

Hi Lauren

I'm glad your hamster is improving.

Regarding food and weight - they should have dry hamster mix available at all times. If your hamster does get fat then cut out treats and not other food. It is hard to give you a specific weight for a hamster as they vary a lot. I've had some who always seem to be skinny of lightweight whereas others can be quite large. I wouldn't worry about this - the only time it becomes an issue is if they are clearly very fat (I've never found this as all mine have the larger wheels so they can exercise) or if they suddenly start to lose weight.


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Sheila Adby


Syrian hamsters are my specialty, however, I have kept Campbells,Winter Whites and gerbils in the past. I can advise on most subjects associated with hamsters, including housing, bedding, feeding, handling, new borns and catching escapees. I have had some experience of various health problems with hamsters and can offer my opinion and advice on basic health issues, however I am not a qualified vet and therefore cannot recommend drugs etc. My website is


I have been keeping hamsters and other small animals for more than 12 years. My favourites are Syrian hamsters and I foster litters and 'difficult' hamsters for a rescue centre. My job is to tame hamsters ready for re-homing, which is extremely rewarding. I also enjoy looking after new litters and raising the pups. I have co-written a book on hamsters with my local vet and have a website:

Hamsters in Sickness and in Health - Sheila Adby and Dan O'Neill ISBN186163218-5 (Capall Bann Publishing)

Educated to A Level standard in the UK.

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