Welcome to Dashing Hamsters. I created this website back in 2005, initially to have a place to share my love of hamsters. Throughout the years I have come across a lot of information that just often doesn't match up. Care standards and information are outdated, and these little creatures are misunderstood by many. So I decided to make this website as more than just a hamster lover's website, but a hamster website for modern owners who are looking for up to date advice on how to care for and understand their beloved hamsters. On DH you can learn about hamsters, see some cute pictures and read through a hamster filled blog.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Papier Mache Playground Guide

Inspired by a papier mache sand dune creation I learned about on a gerbil website here: Gerbil Playground I took those instructions and made them more pet friendly so that the playground could be used inside of a cage. Small single hide-out dunes will probably fit better into most cage set ups, but they can still be used for out of the cage fun!

An example of a papier mache playground inside of a cage.
List of materials:

Tape (optional)
1 Cardboard sheet
Assorted Small cardboard boxes
Assorted Toilet paper tubes
Several Newspapers (be sure ink is soy/vegetable based)
Blank white printing paper (optional)
Paint (optional) (be sure it is nontoxic)
1-2 cups of sand (playground sand, chinchilla sand or calcium carbonate sand)
1 cup of Baking Flour
1/4 teaspoon of Salt
3 cups of water

1. The first step is to get a base for you playground. If it is going into a cage than be sure to measure everything out first, or you may end up with a playground that doesn't fit!

2. Take your assorted cardboard materials and toilet paper tubes and arrange them on your base. 

3. Begin to fill in the empty spaces between and around your base structures with newspaper balls and rolls.

Once complete it should begin to take a basic shape. Remember this is meant to be creative so make it as big as you want and use your imagination:

4. Cover this with a couple of sheets of newspapers to hold everything in place for when you start the actual papier macheing part. You can tape the pieces down if necessary, I usually removed the tape once I started papier macheing.

5. Rip up all of your sheets of newspaper. You can cut them, but ripping them helps them stay down better as the edges are ragged and hold down better.

6. Now is time to make the paste. Take the flour and mix it with one cup of the water in a bowl add the salt in now too. The salt will help prevent mold from forming. In a separate sauce pan boil the remaining two cups of water. Once it is boiled add the water to the flour-water mix and stir. Than add all of the mix back into the saucepan and heat on medium high for 1-2 minutes until the paste has thickened. Let it cool before starting as it will be hot. When ready just dip a piece of newspaper into the paste, strain off the excess and begin to paste it onto the playground.

7. I recommend at least three layers of newspaper. Be sure to let each layer dry before moving on to the next one. The thicker you go the stronger it will be.

8. The last layer (or two) I would use blank printing paper so that the newspaper does not show through afterward.

9. Now after your last layer is dry you can do something to add a little extra. This is optional, but using nontoxic acrylic paint to add some colour to the piece really does help to make it look better.

10. Once the paint is dry (or your last layer is dry)  take your paste out again and begin to cover your piece with it in an even coat. I use a paintbrush sometimes, but using your hands it a lot quicker.

11. Take your piece and put it on top off a plastic bag, because this will get messy. With your piece still wet from that layer of paste you painted on, pour the sand over it. Ensure that the sand is coating everything.

12. Let your masterpiece dry and than add it to your hamster's home or put it in their playpen. Either way your hamster will have a blast!

Some people have mentioned that they had mold issues with this, I have yet to have any such issues. Adding salt to the paste mix can help prevent this though.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Getting Bit is Part of Owning a Hamster

In recent discussion on HamsterHideout.com the question was posed whether it was reasonable to assume that getting bit by a hamster was part of what comes with owning a hamster. It was of no surprise that most everyone agreed, myself included, that it is indeed part of what comes with sharing your life with a hamster. Short of leaving a hamster in it's cage 24/7 with no human interaction, you are in the position to be bitten at any time. Any animal with a mouth is capable of biting after all.

It certainly ties in with the idea that hamsters bite a lot more than other small animals. In one way I do agree, hamsters do tend to be quick to use their teeth if ill at ease. On the other hand I would say 99% of any and all bites I have received , have been given due to my own error. Whether I did not let a sleeping hamster lie, I surprised them, my hands smelled of food or a cage territorial hamster felt their home to be invaded. I have yet to have a hamster bite for no reason. Even nibbles are given for the reason of exploration and understanding, and they often do not hurt. Especially as hamsters are seen as a child's pet, the notion that they bite often is only encouraged as young children who do not understand how to respect an animal's personal space and are often handle the hamster more roughly than they should be get bitten and a negative reputation is built with blame placed upon the hamster.

Biting before a hamster has been socialized or 'tamed' is to be expected as you must work diligently to earn your hamster's trust so that they understand that you are a friend and not an enemy. A taming guide can be found here: Dashing Hamster's Taming Guide.

Learning to read a hamster's body language for signs of distress, can go a long way to avoiding a hamster bite and in doing so you will not cross their threshold for stress, making them feel better about you. Not invading their space if they feel protective over it, food dishes or hoards as well as nests seem to be a sensitive spot for some hamster as an example; washing your hands with non-scented soap to get rid of interesting smells that may be mistaken for actual food or even a threat; letting your presence be known before touching your hamster such as talking to them or rustling some bedding and picking them up from where they can see your hands coming; not waking them and just overall respecting them and their space can definitely reduce the risk for bites. I used to consider hamster bites a regular part of keeping them, but as I have learned to read them better I have gotten bitten less and less over the years. Most importantly do not take the bites personally, your hamster isn't after all so why should you? The meaning behind each bite is situational and dependent upon the hamster, biting does not mean that they "hate" you though. Frequent biting experienced while a hamster is in their home may be linked to cage aggression, which is discussed in depth here: Cage Aggression.

So while biting can be made less likely getting bitten is always a possibility. Whether they will be quick to use their teeth in an attempt to solve their issues or if they will prefer to take things in a more mellow manner will depend upon the individual hamster. They have teeth and therefore they can bite and so it should be assumed that bites can happen, this does not mean that they will happen though. Basically be prepared. Despite it all, the bites are not as frequent as some make it out to be and with some thought into your actions around your hamster there is no reason why you cannot enjoy each other's company.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Kaytee Recalls Food Due to Salmonella

Heads up everyone, while the food isn't really recommended as it doesn't exactly meet a hamster's needs; I thought it best to share anyways. Kaytee has had to recall some of their foods, including:
The recalled products are 3-pound packages with a “best before” date of 31-Mar-2013 K63 (UPC Code 71859 9994); 5-pound packages with a “best before” date of 03-Apr-2012 K61 (UPC Code 71859-00001); and 25-pound bags with “best before” dates of 31-Mar-20-13 (UPC Code 71859 99995) and, for Petco stores only, 30-Mar-2013 (UPC Code 71859 00000).

No other products or product lots are involved in the recall and no human or pet illnesses have been reported, according to Kaytee.

If you are using any of their food be sure to check the date and codes, especially if your in the US and got it form PetCo.