Transporting Hamsters and Holiday Arrangements

Transporting Hamsters and Holiday Arrangements 2022-11-02

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Basically transporting hamsters anywhere is not a good idea unless necessary - eg to bring them home or take them to the vet. There are horror stories of people taking their hamster to work in their pocket. Don't do this! Hamsters find travel stressful - they need the security of their home cage and familiar smelling environment.

There is a thread on suitable pet carriers on the forum if you do need to take your hamster to the vet or somewhere else.

So when we have holidays, what is the best for the hamster?

They can't be left home alone for more than two nights. For two nights they can manage if you leave extra food and water out. However it helps if someone can pop in and check or talk to them. Our hamster pined when left alone in an empty house for two days, but came round again.

Option 1:

If you're going away on holiday, the best option is to leave the Hamster at home in its cage and arrange for a pet sitter, or friend or relative to come to the house daily to do the food and water (and chat to them a bit maybe). They don't need to let them out for exercise if it's just a week or two and the hamster is in a decent size cage with a working wheel. In fact hamsters often hide away when a different person comes in to feed them.

Option 2:

If that isn't possible then you could take the hamster to a pet sitter's home (or friend or relative's home). Ideally bag everything up from their cage, take the hamster in the pet carrier and take the cage as well then set it up again at the other end with all the same contents - so it's still their familiar cage with their familiar smelling bedding and toys and nest etc.

When travelling with a hamster in a car, it can help if the passenger has the pet carrier on their knee and can hold onto it, or wedge the pet carrier somewhere on the floor of the car so it's secure and can't get thrown if you have to brake hard.

The hamster should never be transported in the cage as that could be dangerous if you had to brake and the hamster was thrown across the cage.

Distance? Ideally no more than a 2 hour journey. Possibly 3 hours. A longer journey may be possible if the hamster is being taken to someone for a longer period - eg if you have to go abroad for 3 months or something.

The attached RSPCA article says car is better than public transport. Which is true, but one thing you can do is have a fleece blanket over the pet carrier, which can work well to help the hamster feel secure and not see a lot of flashes of light and distractions outside. Travelling with a hamster on a train for 2 to 3 hours is not that bad, if you don't have to change trains and can travel in the quiet compartment. The biggest issue will be other people - wanting to know what's in the pet carrier and having a peek. So you just say - sorry they're asleep.

Hamsters usually do go to sleep in the pet carrier on journeys. Give them a little house in the pet carrier and some food and a piece of cucumber (instead of water) but take a water bottle as well.

But it's the kind of thing you don't want to do too often.

Option 3:

Taking the hamster with you. Not usually an option. This only really works if you've rented a house for your holiday and can take the cage with you. Getting a petsitter is better.

Except - on some occasions I have had an older hamster who did better coming with us than being left in a strange place. The journey was only 2 hours, his cage was all set up at the other end and he had the familiarity of us. It's a very difficult decision with an older hamster - they need familiarity but they are also more fragile or could slip away when you're gone.

Some depends on the hamster and how bonded they are to you or how used they are to having a pet sitter coming in sometimes. Or what kind of temperament they are.

Attached is the RSPCA article which makes it clear that transporting a hamster is stressful. To temper that, there are other stresses as well. Being left in a strange house can also be stressful. Having to be put into a temporary holiday cage at a strange house is also stressful (some cages are too big to transport).

So you need to weigh it up with each individual circumstance. And ask advice from our members on the forum! Who can give you tips and share experiences.

Finally - I have found Option 2 doesn't work very well at all sometimes. More than a week is a long time for a hamster and they may start to think the change of home is permanent and the change of person is permanent. They can change. They may start to adapt to the new environment. Then you come back from holiday and bring them home again. They may be happy to be back in a familiar environment with their familiar owner, or they may be very stressed at yet another change when they had just adjusted.

Although hamsters vary in temperament I do think they have feelings and build bonds of trust. That trust can be shaken. It can be rebuilt however. On the one occasion I did Option 2 the hamster was extremely stressed on return and bar chewing frantically. It took two weeks to settle down and some re taming sessions. On the occasions we took the hamster with us he was fine both at the holiday house and back at home again. He kept the same people with him all the time, plus his cage so had a familiar smelling environment and people and only the house was different. We didn't leave him anywhere strange with different people.

But the best option is option 1. The Hamster is not moved anywhere at all and a pet sitter comes to the house to give them food and water. They adapt to this very well and are pleased to see you when you get back. Not only is their cage environment the same but their home environment is the same. Everything smells the same and feels the same. They react even to a change of room in the same home (eg moving the cage to a different room).

Some petsitting services are very geared to "pet holidays" though and a hamster may be absolutely fine left with a pet sitter with other hamsters around in cages as well.

To see the RSPCA guide, click on "Go to Download" button top right.
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