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Gerbils & Hamsters/Syrian obsessed with chewing/escaping

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Question
I recently adopted a black Syrian hamster.  It came with a 10 gallon fish tank.  The hamster chewed at the corners and climbed the water bottle to chew at the top.  It had chewed much of the plastic and the screen.  I purchased a 110 gallon plastic bin.  I have the same one for my Russian Dwarf hamster and she seems very happy in it.  I thought the size of the 10 gallon tank was stressing the hamster and that's why it chewed.  At first the Syrian seemed happy in its new home.  Then I saw it standing on its house to chew the top of the bin.  I thought it was just repeating behaviours it learned in its previous cage and it would get used to the bin.  But its chewing continued all night, every night and I was forced to put it in the basement.  This morning I went to feed it and change its water and there was a large hole in the top of the bin and the hamster was gone.

My question is, was the hamster just neurotic or was the cage insufficient?  Did it need more space or did it need metal bars that it couldn't chew through?  If I find it again I will need to buy a new cage that it can't chew through.  It was so determined to escape.  I don't understand why.

Answer
Hi Regina

I'm sorry to hear about your hamster - have you found him yet?

All hamsters chew although some more than others. I tend to keep mine in wire cages - some chew the bars despite having lots of other things to chew as their teeth grow constantly and they need to keep them short.

Some hamsters are happy to sleep all day and just have  a run in their wheel at night but I've had some who seem to want to escape all the time, with those ones I've put lots of things in their cage to stop them getting bored - climbing frames, tunnels, edible houses and toys etc. of course if they get an opportunity to escape they will but this seems to distract them most of the time.

Remember that hamsters can fit into tiny spaces and can climb so if you haven't found him yet you need to look in places you think he might not be able to get into. Also put his cage on the floor with a trail of his favourite food and close the door to the room to see if he will follow the trail into his house over night. Don't put too much food out otherwise he'll stockpile and hide somewhere else.

I do hope he turns up - I've heard of some who go missing for months and then suddenly reappear so please don't give up on him.

Regards
Sheila

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Sheila Adby

Expertise

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 www.thehamstersite.com

Experience

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: www.thehamstersite.com

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

Education/Credentials
Educated to A Level standard in the UK.

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