List of Products to AVOID for your Hamster
Products made of Coniferous Wood/Bark:
There have been reports of items made with coniferous bark, such as the above examples, leaking resin - a sticky substance that can get caught in your hamsters fur, feet, or cheek pouches despite these products being labelled as being resin free. This is one reason for why I cannot recommend these products to you with any confidence - but there are also other concerns.
Not only is the resin a potential cause for concern, but these items are often cheaply made and splinter easily and are often (practically always) held together with screws and/or staples instead of a pet-safe glue. This can be incredibly dangerous as if your hamster were to bite through the nail, it could result in broken teeth, and/or damaged cheek pouches. Exposed nails & staples can also cause your animal bodily harm; these products are so cheaply made that it wouldn’t be uncommon for some nails to be exposed prior to your animal even chewing it.
An additional problem with many of these products is that the entry holes are often (not always, but often!!!) much too small for any species other than a robo - and yet I have seen them offered countless times to larger dwarfs or even Syrians. Please remember to check the entrance holes of items before providing them to your hamster; 5cm opening for robos, 6cm for larger dwarfs, 7cm for Syrians. This is important regardless, but especially so for any items you know they’ll attempt to run through with stuffed cheeks (i.e. houses).
Products made of the coniferous bark are overall best avoided in favour of others made of hardwood. Additionally, please always check what the product is held together with. Even if it is hardwood, products held together with nails are inappropriate and a danger hazard. All products offered to your hamster, if required, should be held together via pet safe glue and not nails or screws
If you would like to read more about why items like this are unsuitable to provide your hamster, I would highly recommend you check out the blog post written by @espressopets which can be found over here.
Hamster wool is a completely different product from kapok. While both are digestible, kapok has very short, brittle fibres that are easily broken & impossible to tangle. Hamster wool, on the other hand, has very long, tough fibres that are easily tangled & not easily broken or pulled apart and so pose a high risk for strangulation, and choking hazard. In absolutely no circumstances should hamster wool be used. To learn about safe & unsafe nesting materials, check out my other blog post here. To also learn how kapok differs from hamster wool, you can read further up on the topic over here.
Barred and Meshed Wheels:
Barred and meshed wheels must be avoided at all costs for hamsters in particular. Small paws easily fall through the gaps, and this can result in broken limbs - oftentimes this damage can be beyond repair, and the limb(s) must either be amputated or the animal euthanised. Additionally, mesh wheels in particular are notorious for catching nails and ripping them off which can cause tremendous amounts of pain for your hamster. Further areas of concern lies with ulcerative pododermatitis, or perhaps more commonly known as 'Bumblefoot', a condition caused when an injury on the foot (which can be caused by running on a barred/meshed surface) is infected, which can happen very easily give that most hamsters go to the bathroom on their wheels when running. A hamsters wheel must be a quality, smooth surfaced & upright wheel while may initially be more expensive than wire/meshed wheels, but exotic vet bills can cost well into the hundreds - which is a lot more expensive than a €20 Wodent Wheel. You can read more about how to choose an appropriate hamster wheel over here.
Hamsters have very poor eyesight and rely heavily on their sense of smell and touch for general direction and overall stimulation. In a ball, they can't interact with their environment at all thus it is not only providing them with absolutely no enrichment at all, but it's also an extremely disorienting experience. The animal often runs the ball full speed into every single object in its path, which can be incredibly dangerous to the animal inside as they're tossed around and often have difficulty bringing the ball to a complete stop. The ventilation slits are not only completely inadequate ventilation, but they pose a risk to little toes & nails - those ventilation slits can (and have) rip them, and there have been cases of broken toes. Hamsters must have either access to a hamster-proofed room to exercise, or a secure large playpen to explore. Out of cage time is supposed to be an stimulating experience, and a chance for your animal to explore & for you to provide more enrichment. Regardless of if you claim to have a ball with adequate ventilation and ensured your hamster could not bump into obstacles, this simply just cannot be achieved by locking them in a ball. In absolutely no circumstances should exercise balls be considered suitable for hamster use; they serve no benefit, and only pose as a safety risk
Perception is key. Many owners who know yoghurt drops are terrible, still insist on feeding them once or twice a week on the basis that "it's just a treat" but while to you yoghurt drops may seem small, in comparison to the size of a hamster they are a huge serving of pure fat and sugar. While yes, humans enjoy the occasional sweet treat, the average human does not sit down to what is easily an entire months worth of processed sugar and fat in one sitting - so why allow your hamster to?
The topic of food and treats is definitely one that is heavily opinion based and what is right and wrong will vary on who you ask. My opinion is based on the fact that in the wild, hamsters eat a diet composed mainly of carbohydrates, which are slowly broken down and released gradually. Processed sugars cause an immediate spike in their blood glucose and not only that, but put them at risk of obesity & diabetes- it's not fair to them to subject them to this when they know no better when greedily accepting their sugar-fat-laden snack. You can think you're "spoiling" or "just" treating them, but you're really not. This applies to all commercial treats with added sugars, artificial dyes, etc - even 'sugar free' yoghurt drops are laden with fats. More natural options (i.e. sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, nuts, etc) are much better choices for your hamster, and your pet will go just as crazy for them.
Hamsters and leash are two words that do not belong in the same sentence. They are notorious escape artists. To get a leash tight enough in order to prevent your animal from being able to manoeuvre itself to escape, would not only be incredibly uncomfortable for the hamster, but would require just one quick move by the animal to potentially cause itself devastating injury. They are very small, fragile bones - and it does not take a whole lot of force to break them. One quick dash, the short leash runs out of slack, and you will be incredibly lucky if your hamster escapes with no injuries.
If the leash isn't tight enough, other areas of concern include the animal chewing their way to freedom, or simply just escaping from the harness and getting lost. Regardless, there is too much risk associated with these leashes that they are best avoided. Hamsters need freedom to explore a hamster-proofed room or at the very least, large secure playpen.
Hamster Shampoo/Bathing Hamsters:
Washing a hamster in water alone is already a big no-no in hamster keeping, and washing them in shampoo just further adds insult to injury. Bathing hamsters is only permissible if medically required, as they are naturally clean animals who are fully capable of maintaining their coats themselves. Washing them strips the natural oils from their coat, dries out their delicate skin, and can be an incredibly stressful experience for them. Older animals who may have difficulty cleaning themselves can be helped using a warm rag, they should never be bathed in water. The only baths hamsters need are sand baths, and you can read all about them HERE.