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Pets are not immortal. When we decide to have animals in our homes, we must remember that we will outlive them. With hamsters, their life span is considerably shorter than ours, living, at best, from two to three years. Knowing this fact, it is our responsibility to make those years as happy and healthy as we can be. It is our duty to make sure they enjoy the longest life possible and to give them a loving bond and safe environment. The mutual love will exist for the entirety of their lives.

A responsible owner is directly related to the health and happiness of a hamster. It is important to learn as much as possible about your pet BEFORE you bring it into your home. The owner must learn about housing, diet, exercise, and social interaction the pet will need if he is to live a long, healthy life. In this respect, whether it is a hamster or a dog or a cat or any animal, owners are responsible to be prepared for the commitment a pet demands.

This starts with the purchase itself. In choosing a healthy hamster either from your vet or a pet store or a neighbor who has the awesome responsibility of finding homes for offspring of their pet, look for the following characteristics:
--bright, lively eyes
--clean, erect ears
--well-formed and trimmed incisors
--hearty appetite
--barrel-shaped physique
--alert expression
--dry nose
--abundant, silky hair
--vigorous behavior

Once the hamster is a member of the family, it is important to handle the hamster correctly and avoid any stress. It must have a healthy, clean, safe habitat away from drafts or excessive heat. The environment must be kept clean. Healthy food and fresh water should always be available.

If an owner and his pet bond and spend time interacting, subtle changes will be evident. Even the subtlest differences will come to the owner's attention. Knowing a pet's physical and behavioral characteristics when he is healthy could be a matter of life or death when he becomes ill. The medical profession is in agreement that the earlier the treatment is sought for an ailment, the greater the patient's chances are for full recovery.

Some of the subtle changes to be aware of are:
---eating patterns
---appearance
---density of its hair
---natural aroma
---personality changes
---sleeping patterns
---lumps and bumps on the hamster's body
---water intake
--uncharacteristic lethargy, especially at playtime (late afternoon and evening)
--a lack of appetite
--diarrhea
--presence of moisture around the hamster's rear end (classic sign of wet tail)
--a deterioration in the quality, density, and texture of its hair
--swollen abdomen,
--incessant scratching
--failure to tend to routine grooming
--unusual odor
--drinking excessive amounts of water or excessive urination (kidney disease, diabetes, or adrenal disease)
--circling behavior (acute sign of ear infection)
--development of lumps or bumps under the skin (tumors or abscesses)
--eye discharge

When in doubt, seek the advice of your veterinarian. Never wait until it's too late for the veterinarian to help.

The owner who interacts regularly with his hamster will notice these things and be able to attend to them rapidly.

Even with the most diligent care, hamsters are not immortal. After his first or second birthday, changes will be evident. A diligent owner will know when the changes are due to age or if age is part of it. If not, a veterinarian can help.

Loving a hamster is an emotional investment with great rewards. Giving your hamster the highest quality of life is a fundamental ingredient in the formula.