Leaving your hamster alone whilst on vacation
Upon booking a vacation to Disneyland for the family, it suddenly struck me that we would have to find somewhere or someone willing to look after our pet hamster Oscar, whilst we were away. But just how long could he be left alone for? where should I look for hamster care? and ultimately would he be ok with someone else?!
Can you leave your hamster when you go on vacation? If you are going on vacation for an extended period of time, then you should seek alternative care for your hamster. Although your hamster will be ok for a short length of time, it will require fresh water daily and sufficient food supplies every 12 hours.
Finding care for your hamster whilst on vacation
If you are going away overnight, then providing you have topped up your hamsters’ food and changed their water bottle in advance, they should be just fine. In fact, on the rare occasion, we have gone away overnight as a family, we have left a couple of water bottles in Oscar’s cage, just in case one happens to get jammed, blocked up or drips dry. Plus we always ensure he has an overflowing food bowl.
If, however, one night turns into a few days then I would strongly advise that you get someone to either pop into your house or look after them. Food when left uneaten can go rotten and water can go stale. Neither of these is particularly nice for you hamster nor good for its health and wellbeing. Plus, a dirty cage can start to smell when left unattended.
Although I managed to find a number of small animal boarding homes and pet sitting services which charge a nominal fee to feed him daily and top up his water when googling online, we were fortunate enough to have no end of offers from family and school friends all desperate to look after a pet hamster.
Small animal boarding for your hamster
You want a caretaker that you trust, but this can be tricky when using someone for the very first time. In the state of America where we live, I did some research and found a number of small animal care companies that would either let your hamster board whilst you are away or make daily visits to your property depending on your preference.
Most of these companies came with glowing reviews, and in fact, I was surprised to learn that our local vets even offered a pet boarding service. Therefore, make sure you ask around for any recommendations and visit the premises before committing. This will provide you with a good overview of your hamsters proposed living conditions and will allow you to chat freely with those who will be caretaking them.
If you choose a small animal pet boarding service, your hamster should receive all the benefits of living in a home environment such as pampering, playing and handling on top of the usual sanitary and dietary requirements. Prices range from between $12-20 per day, depending on whether your rent a cage for your hamster during its stay.
Pet sitting services for your hamster
If you have an anxious hamster or one that does not travel well, taking them out of their everyday environment could be stressful for them. Therefore, another solution could be to employ a pet sitter.
This is someone who will come to your home on a daily basis to care for all your hamsters’ needs and because their routine and surroundings remain the same, these visits create a sense of security for you and for them. Some even offer additional services over and above looking after your hamster, such as picking up the mail, turning on and off lights, opening and closing blinds, watering plants or taking out the garbage.
As per any service employed to commence within your own property, it is important that you organize a meet and greet beforehand and check out the credentials of the person who will be holding the key.
This type of pet sitting service tends to be more expensive than a boarding option, due to the daily travel time involved for the caretaker. Prices can range between $25 and $40 per day.
Leaving your hamster with friends and family
When you go away on vacation, you want to feel happy and relaxed, safe in the knowledge that your hamster is being given the same care and attention that they would get with you. Therefore, the easiest option when looking for hamster care whilst you are on vacation is to ask trusted friends or family that live close by to drop in on a regular basis.
Preparing your hamster for going on vacation
If you do have an impending vacation, then I have listed my top tips for preparing your hamster before you travel.
- Find a caretaker – a responsible person to look after them, someone who is familiar with hamster care and happy to handle them. Invite them around beforehand so that your hamster gets used to their scent.
- Write a routine sheet/information on how to care for them on a daily basis – this should include food and cage cleaning information.
- Clean your hamster’s cage just before you go.
- Leave all your contact details for where you will be staying and your vet’s details.
Do hamsters miss human interaction?
You might be surprised to learn that hamsters not only like affection but thrive on human interaction (when they are awake that is!). Hamsters are most content when they get to spend time out of their normal cage surroundings and are with owners that they trust.
Hamsters don’t have the best eyesight so are well adept at recognizing scents and vocal tones. Even from handling them regularly, your hamster will begin to recognize that it is you and can become fearful of those they don’t know. If you are leaving your hamster in someone else’s care, it is important that you help your hamster adjust by letting them get to know their scent in advance.
Although Syrian hamsters are ok if they are left alone without handling for a period of days, other species, such as dwarf hamsters, need playing with daily, and if left alone for two weeks or more can be become untamed again.
I would strongly advise that if you are going away on vacation for any length of time that you seek special arrangements for your hamster to be looked after. This could be a pet sitting service, small animal boarding, a family friend or even a neighbour. Wherever possible, and if your hamster likes to travel, why not try and see if you can take them along with you.
Hamsters, although not very social with other hamsters (especially Syrians) do like the attention of humans and will miss us when we are not around – especially if you have formed a close bond.