is a rodent belonging to subfamily Cricetinae
subfamily contains about 18 species, classified in six or seven genera. Most
have expandable cheek pouches, which reach from their cheeks to their shoulders.
Because they are easy to keep and breed in captivity, hamsters are often used as
lab animals and pets.
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Species of hamsters
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The best known species is the Syrian Hamster, also known as the Golden
Hamster, Mesocricetus auratus, which is commonly kept as a pet. It is
also sometimes mistakenly called a "Teddy Bear" hamster. Pet stores also have
taken to calling them "Honey Bears," "Panda bears," "Black bears," "European
Black bears," and "Dalmatian," depending on their coloration, although these are
not correct names.
The other kinds of pet hamsters are all different varieties of 'dwarf'
hamster. This name applies to four distinct kinds of hamster. Campbell's
Hamsters (Phodopus campbelli) are the most common kind of dwarf. They are
also sometimes called 'Russian Dwarfs,' and although they originate in Russia,
this does not identify them exclusively, as almost all hamsters originate in
Winter White Hamsters (sungorus) are also fairly popular. They are
called Winter Whites because their coats turn white when the hours of daylight
The Chinese Hamster Cricetulus curtatus is another kind of dwarf. They
are unique among hamsters because they have prehensile tails about four
centimetres long. The other species have very short tails that are not
Roborovski Hamster (Phodopus roborovskii) is the last species of
dwarf. Extremely small and fast, they do not make good pets for those wanting
hamsters to cuddle.
Hamsters as pets
The hamster kept as pet most often is the Syrian Hamster, also called Golden
Hamster. So-called Teddybear or Black bear hamsters are just
variations in colour and coat of the Syrian hamster. Four species of smaller
hamsters, known as dwarf hamsters, are also popular pets. These are Roborovski
hamster, (Phodopus roborovskii), the Chinese striped hamster (Cricetulus
griseus) and the two subspecies of Phodopus sungorus, the winter
white Russian dwarf hamster (Phodopus sungorus sungorus) and Russian
Campbell's dwarf hamster (Phodopus sungorus campellii). The care of the
dwarf hamsters is similar to that of the Syrian hamster, but there are
differences in feeding and housing needs and temperament. Also, dwarf hamsters
must be kept with a cage mate of the same gender to prevent loneliness, whereas
Syrians are extremely territorial and will kill other hamsters in their cage.
Winter whites and Campbell's are fairly popular; in the US, the Campbell variety
more so than the winter white, while the reverse holds in Europe. Roborovski and
Chinese hamsters are somewhat more difficult to breed and keep, are usually only
available from breeders, and therefore limited to serious rodentia fans.
Roborovski are especially not suitable for children.
Hamsters are nocturnal by nature. Many people prefer them to rats as pets,
given rats' generally unsavoury popular reputation. Unlike rats, they are not
particularly good at learning tricks but can be entertaining to play with and
watch. They are also much smaller than guinea pigs, although equally as furry
and appealing, so are more appropriate for homes with limited space.
Hamsters can be kept both in cages and in terrariums, both of which are
available in pet stores. Cages are easier to carry, their bars can be used for
climbing, and they usually include a convenient front door. On the other hand,
glass boxes keep hamsters from throwing litter out of their cages, provide a
better view into the hamster's home, and create a quieter and more sheltered
interior. In general, terrariums are more appropriate for dwarf hamsters, which
are more sensitive to a disquieting environment and which would otherwise need
very narrow-grid bars to keep them from slipping through. Middle-sized hamsters,
such as the Syrian Hamster, especially enjoy climbing the cage walls. This,
however, is extremely dangerous because the hamster can get its leg caught in
the bars and fracture it. On the other hand, bars (the cage should have
horizontal and vertical bars) are more open to the outside world; cages might be
a better choice for these hamsters.
Despite the hamster's small size, appropriate housings should always
have a floor space of at least one square foot. Glass boxes must not be higher
than their width to allow for a sufficient air circulation. Although smaller in
size, dwarf hamsters should have bigger housings than their larger relatives, at
least 80 cm by 40 cm (2 feet by 4 feet). The reason for this is that the dwarfs
are very active, running and digging a lot, but they often cannot be taken
outside their houses for long, because they are not comfortable there and, due
to their smaller size, are more endangered when leaving their domicile. Usually
hamsters with a bigger and more interesting home will live longer and provide
more visual entertainment.
In addition to buying the common housings sold in stores, you can also build
customized dwellings. In this case, use only materials that are not dangerous to
the animals. Plywood and wood from conifers is not suitable, because hamsters
gnaw at their houses and both glue and resin are poisonous for them. Using
standard water-soluble white wood glue to join pieces of solid wood, such as
birch or beech wood, creates a safe environment for the hamster, although you
must frequently check that the hamster is not gnawing through the wood. You can
also equip a purchased cage with several intermediate levels, connected using
stairs. Using wire grid for these platforms instead of solid wood causes serious
injuries and is therefore not recommended.
The perfect place for the hamster's home is a well-lit room of constant,
moderate temperature (18 to 26°C, 64 to 80°F), in a place out of strong sunlight
that could cause dangerous heating. Especially when wire cages are used, it is
also important to avoid drafts. Though they cannot see very far, hamsters become
more relaxed and curious when positioned somewhat above the ground (at least
65 cm (2 feet)), from where they can perceive their surroundings.
Cover the inside of the hamster's residence, including all intermediate
levels, with a sufficiently thick layer of wooden litter for rodents, available
in pet stores. Although alternative materials may work as well, most of these
bear additional threats. Cat litter is dangerous, because gnawing and eating the
chunks is deadly. Cedar and pine based litter/bedding contain an aromatic oil
(phenols) which will irritate a hamster's respiratory system so avoid those as
well. Litter made from recycled paper/pulp works well to absorb odours and is
safe for hamsters.
Hamsters are nest builders and a steady supply of fresh strips of tissue or
newspaper (with soy-based ink) allows them to build a secure and comfortable
spot in a corner of their enclosure or in their hiding house. Hay, from shops or
even fresh from the garden, is also a valuable building material for cosy
hamster nests, but is discouraged for the reasons listed under food.
Hamster bedding materials made of fluffy cotton cloth are extremely
dangerous, as they can tangle around the hamsters neck and limbs as well as
posing a choking hazard, due to the fact that they cannot be broken down by the
A sand bath can provide hamsters with entertainment and helps them groom. In
the desert (their natural habitat), hamsters will roll around in the sand, which
cleans their coat and prevents it from getting too oily. Dwarf hamsters in
particular enjoy this activity. Be sure to use a dish that will not tip over.
Heavy ceramic and metal dishes are preferred. You can fill the dish with fine
sand. Avoid sand that is powdery or dusty as it will pose a hazard to a
hamster's respiratory system as well.
Regular cleaning of a hamster's home is crucial for the hamster's health. The
home must be cleaned at least once a week by replacing the soiled bedding where
necessary. Hamsters are fairly neat in their bathroom habits; if their enclosure
is regularly cleaned, they choose one small location in which to urinate and
defecate, making the cleaning simple. Small hamsters may require slightly
less-frequent cleaning (perhaps once every two weeks), and may have many
(usually hidden) places used as toilets.
Another important component of a hamster's home is a hiding place where the
animal can rest during the day. Not all commercially available houses are
adequate. The houses should be of sufficient size and be closed on at least two
sides. The same building materials are appropriate for these as for the larger
cages, although even a small cardboard box will work (and which will have to be
regularly replaced). Some houses add features such as a removable roof that
helps to take away collected food (especially perishable items).
Syrian hamsters are solitary animals and have to be kept alone once they are
mature (around 4 weeks and above). Dwarf hamsters are more likely to accept
another house mate. While sometimes two or more animals can live peacefully
within one home, there can be bloody fights, so separate them as soon as they
fight. In their natural habitat, there is substantially more empty space so that
each hamster can have its own large territory. If more than one hamster is to
live in a cage, then the cage must be larger (at least 40cm x 40cm per hamster)
and there must be separate hiding houses for each animal. In any case, even
after a long period of peaceful coexistence or even mating, there can be violent
biting. In this situation, the hamsters should be separated immediately. Note
also that, if a male and female hamster live together without fighting, then
they will usually reproduce rapidly, thereby causing more space problems.
Despite their cuddly appearance, hamsters have long, thin, sharp teeth that
can pierce a finger that is mistaken for a carrot or for a predator. When they
are accustomed to being handled and are not startled, however, they are not
inclined to bite and can be placed in the custody of responsible school-age
children. Like many rodents, their teeth grow continuously and they must have
appropriate things to chew on to relieve their instinctive gnawing and to help
keep the teeth at a healthy length. They will gnaw on whatever is available, so
they must be kept in enclosures that they cannot chew through. When the hamster
is kept in or near a bedroom, their nocturnal nature combined with their gnawing
habit can become distracting.
Exercise and Entertainment
Like all pets, hamsters need exercise and entertainment to maintain their
physical and mental health. An exercise wheel allows hamsters to run full speed
to their hearts' content, and is a must. As more elaborate enclosures including
additional toys such as wooden tubes that somewhat mimic the burrows that they
might have in the wild and allow their owners to enjoy their activities. (Do not
use the often sold plastic tubes: They trap moisture and methane and may cause
serious illness.) Most commercial exercise wheels marketed for hamsters have
rungs which are not suitable for hamsters due to the fact that a hamster could
get injured in one. (Suitable ones have a guard at the back, protecting the
hamster from getting its feet between the wheel rim and the supporting frame.)
Clear plastic hamster balls or cars are available, into which the hamster is
placed and then, by its own action, explores an entire house or yard. Use these
toys only under supervision and use common sense. Unsupervised hamsters
in these toys can become trapped against furniture and panic or they can roll
down stairs, injuring themselves. Many experts advise against these toys due to
the high danger of the hamster getting injured or frightened. If you use them,
do not leave them in these toys for extended periods, especially on warm days,
and make sure to remove them frequently and allow them access to water or fresh
fruits or vegetables. Toys should always invite the hamster to explore
and use them at its own will, without forcing or violence. They should only be
left in a hamster ball for 10-15 minutes at the most or they can dehydrate.
If they are handled frequently, hamsters enjoy being out of their enclosures
and having the opportunity to explore. They can also become very tame if handled
frequently. Syrian hamsters will be tame for life once they are tamed, but if
neglected, dwarf hamsters will become mean and will bite. However, they must be
kept away from holes in the wall or in large pieces of furniture, because they
will seek out the dark and burrow-like confines of those areas and it can be
difficult or impossible to convince them to come out again. Ceramic toys are fun
and gnaw resistant, so they are a good choice.
Pet stores can provide basic food for hamsters that provides their
nutritional needs, but they also enjoy fresh vegetables and fruits, bird seed,
and even living insects like grasshoppers, which make up an important part of
their natural diet. However, not all foods are suitable for hamsters and some ,
such as sweets made for humans or poisonous plants like the leaves of the
tomato, may be most dangerous for the hamster's health. Citrus fruits are also
toxic to all hamsters. Campbell's dwarf hamsters are susceptible to diabetes, and
should not have high sugar foods, such as fruits and corn. Although there is no
increased risk for the other dwarf breeds, sugary commercial treats should be
avoided due being generally unhealthy. Like with most other animals (and
humans), it is not true that hamsters can decide which food is good for them and
they will usually eat anything that is offered.
Hamsters should also always have fresh water available. Appropriate drinking
devices can be found in stores. Being small animals that are adapted to the life
in arid environments, hamsters can also ingest all necessary liquid via
sufficient amounts of watery vegetables, such as cucumber, without any negative
effects. However, providing water is usually more convenient and can be an easy
way to add medication or vitamins to the hamsters diet. Both water and
vegetables must be fresh and have to be exchanged frequently, usually once a
day. Water must not be given in open jars, since it is likely to be polluted and
because wetness is generally very unhealthy for hamsters (that clean themselves
very carefully without the need of additional water).
In detail, the solid food components can be divided into three categories:
dry, fresh, and animal food. Dry food makes up the bulk of a hamster's diet.
Besides the standard rodent food sold in pet stores, most other kinds of seeds,
kernels, and nuts can be given. Care should be taken to limit the amount of fat
contained within the diet. Especially sunflower seeds, nuts, and sesame are the
most nutritious and are to be considered as a treat rather than as basic food.
All kinds of grain, rice, noodles (dry), dry peas and lentils on the other hand
can be provided more readily: about 120 g for a medium hamster and, depending on
size, about half the amount for a dwarf hamster is sufficient. Bread and similar
bakery products contain many ingredients (e.g. yeast) that can trouble the
hamster's digestion system. They should be given in small amounts for gnawing or
be replaced by special wafers as found in pet stores. All dry food should be
appropriate in size. Especially small hamsters often cannot cope well with large
seeds, even if they are sold under the label "hamster food". Bird food like
millet is a noteworthy alternative for small hamsters.
Hay, although a popular choice as it is cheap and easy to find, should not be
fed to hamsters as it can cause damage to their sensitive cheek pouches.
Fresh food is also an important part of the hamster's diet. As mentioned
above, cucumber is a good supplement of water. Fresh carrot, spinach, broccoli,
turnip, any kind of lettuce except iceberg, leaves and even branches of
(non-poisonous) plants are also no problem in general. However, no conifer wood
must be fed since resin is poisonous for hamsters. Hamsters are known to
appreciate Tofu. In smaller amounts, grown hamsters also appreciate apple, pear,
sweet paprika, banana, mango, grape, and strawberry. Too many sweet fruits on
the other hand are not healthy. All kinds of cabbage should be avoided, since
they may cause flatulence, which is quite dangerous for the hamster's sensitive
digestion system. It is also dangerous to feed your hamster citrus fruit of any
All hamsters should be given a more conservative diet. If accepted, herbs can
also help to strengthen the hamster's health, though they cannot replace a
veterinarian in case of a disease. Daisies (the flowers, not the stems or
leaves) and dandelions are likewise appreciated. Plants used for hamster foods
should never be placed near open windows because hamsters are more sensitive to
chemical pollutions, due to their small body weight.
Finally animal food is a major component of some hamsters' natural food. As
pets, a large part of this can be replaced by dry food. Still, hamsters need
some animal proteins for their health. While some people like to provide living
insects from pet stores to their hamsters (mealworms are very suitable), others
will prefer to give them dry dog biscuits. Some hamsters are known to accept
yoghurt (natural, without sweet ingredients) or soft cheese (low fat, not too
salty), and in any case egg noodles are usually taken gratefully. If (dry or
soft) dog or cat food is given, then the fat content has to be checked
carefully. Furthermore, it must not contain molasses, which would harm the
It might be noted that many hamsters tend to carry away food from their food
source (by carrying it in their cheek pouches) and hoard it away in a cache
hidden somewhere inside their container. These caches, when combined with
hamster urine or a leaky water source and poor airflow, can grow mould or start
to rot, creating a hazardous environment for the hamster. To keep this from
happening, clean hamster cages frequently.
There are also many foods that a hamster should never eat. This includes all
kinds of human sweets, such as chocolate or candy, which are unhealthy and even
dangerous. Furthermore, poisonous plants (also check indoor plants if the
hamster is taken outside its housing) constitute a considerable danger. Other
than this, mainly the various unhealthy and chemically treated products usually
consumed by humans can cause problems.
Campbell's dwarf hamsters are especially sensitive to Diabetes mellitus, and
other dwarf hamster species may be somewhat sensitive too. Diabetes mellitus in
hamsters is often caused by intake of simple sugar. Therefore it is essential to
avoid hamster food and snacks containing molasses, honey, sugar, fruit sugar or
other sweet stuff. Intake of sweet fruit should be limited to small snacks. Even
with golden hamsters it may be useful to follow these guideline in order to
avoid overweight and digestion disturbances.
Sex and longevity
Hamsters typically live no more than two to three years in captivity, less
than that in the wild. Because of their short life expectancy, hamsters mature
quickly and can begin reproducing at a young age (four weeks). However, this is
unhealthy for the female in the case of the Syrian hamster. Dwarf hamsters start
much earlier than the Syrians. Left to their own devices, hamsters will produce
several litters a year with several babies in each litter. Male and female
hamsters are therefore usually kept in separate enclosures to prevent the
addition of unwanted offspring.
After a female hamster mates, there is a gestation period of 16-18 days
before it will give birth. If the mother-to-be is a dwarf hamster, she will
drive the male away from the nest when the birth is about to occur. This is
normal, and he will be permitted to come back once the pups are a little older.
In the case of Syrian hamsters, the male will not take part in raising the
children as they are kept separately. However, dwarf males will often assist the
mother, bringing her food, sitting on the nest to keep it warm, and tracking
down wayward young. The average litter for Syrians is about 7, but can be as
great as 24, which is the maximum number of pups that can be contained in the
womb. Dwarves tend to have 2 to 8 in a litter. The mother hamster will gather
all the pups into a nest which it built. They will be hairless, have closed
eyes, nurse from their mother, and move very little. After about a week, they
will begin to wander from the nest and eat solid food. After a total of three
weeks, the pups will be weaned and can leave the nest for good. They should be
separated by sex at this time.
When seen from above, a sexually mature female hamster has a trim tail line;
a male's tail line bulges on both sides. Male hamsters typically have very large
testes in relation to their body size.
Classification of hamsters
Taxonomists currently disagree about the most appropriate placement of the
subfamily Cricetinae within the superfamily Muroidea. Some place it in a family
Cricetidae that also includes voles, lemmings, and New World rats and mice;
others group all these into a large family called Muridae.
- Subfamily Cricetinae
- Genus Mesocricetus - Golden hamsters
- Syrian Hamster (Mesocricetus auratus); also called the Teddy Bear
- Turkish Hamster (Mesocricetus brandti); also called Brandt's Hamster,
- Georgian Hamster (Mesocricetus raddei); also Ciscaucasian Hamster
- Romanian Hamster (Mesocricetus newtoni)
- Genus Phodopus - Dwarf hamsters
- Dwarf Winter White Russian Hamster (Phodopus sungorus)
- Campbell's Dwarf Russian Hamster (Phodopus campbelli)
- Roborovski Hamster (Phodopus roborovskii); sometimes known as the
Mongolian Hamster, although this causes confusion with Cricetulus curtatus
- Genus Cricetus
- European Hamster (Cricetus cricetus); also called the Common Hamster
or Black-bellied Field Hamster
- Genus Cricetulus
- Ladak Hamster (Cricetulus alticola)
- Striped Dwarf Hamster (Cricetulus barabensis including "C. griseus",
"C. pseudogriseus", and "C. obscurus"); also Chinese striped
hamster, Chinese hamster
- Tibetan Hamster (Cricetulus kamensis)
- Long-tailed Hamster (Cricetulus longicaudatus)
- Armenian Hamster (Cricetulus migratorius); also called the Migratory
Grey Hamster, Grey Hamster, Grey Dwarf Hamster, or Migratory Hamster
- Sokolov's Hamster (Cricetulus sokolovi)
- Genus Allocricetulus
- Mongolian Hamster (Allocricetulus curtatus)
- Kazakh Hamster (Allocricetulus eversmanni); also Eversmann's Hamster
- Genus Cansumys
- Gansu Hamster (Cansumys canus)
- Genus Tscherskia
- Greater Long-tailed Hamster (Tscherskia triton); also Korean Hamster
Relationships among hamsters
Neumann et al. (2006) conducted a molecular phylogenetic analysis of 12 of
the above 17 species of hamster using DNA sequence from three genes: 12S rRNA,
cytochrome b, and von Willebrand factor. They uncovered the following
The genus Phodopus was found to represent the earliest split among
hamsters. Their analysis included both species. The results of another study (Lebedev
et al., 2003) may suggest that Cricetulus kamensis (and presumably the
related C. alticola) might belong to either this
Phodopus group or hold a similar basal position.
The genus Mesocricetus also formed a monophyletic clade. Their
analysis included all four species, with M. auratus and M. raddei
forming one subclade and M. brandti and M. newtoni another.
The remaining genera of hamsters formed a third major clade. Two of the three
sampled species within Cricetulus represent the earliest split. This
clade contains Cricetulus barabensis (and presumably the related C.
sokolovi) and Cricetulus longicaudatus.
The remaining clade contains members of Allocricetulus, Tscherskia,
Cricetus, and Cricetulus migratorius. Allocricetulus and
Cricetus were sister taxa. Cricetulus migratorius was their next
closest relative, and Tscherskia was basal.
Note that there are some rodents which are sometimes called "hamsters" that
are not currently classified in the hamster subfamily Cricetinae. These include
the Maned Hamster or Crested Hamster, which is really the Maned Rat (Lophiomys
imhausi), although not nearly as marketable under that name. Others are the
mouse-like hamsters (Calomyscus spp.), and the white-tailed rat (Mystromys
Hamsters in popular culture
As the hamster is generally considered a cute animal, it is often
anthropomorphized when found in popular culture. Famous examples of this include
the anime Hamtaro and the Hampster Dance.
- Ebichu is a Japanese cartoon that depicts a talking Hamster as a
house-keeper living with a human female.
- The character Minsc in the RPG Baldurs Gate also had a hamster named Boo.
- There is also a game Hamsterball Gold.
- Hamster racing and related wagering has become a small but real pastime in
the UK and elsewhere.
- In March 1986 the British tabloid newspaper The Sun published a famous story
in which it claimed that the comedian Freddie Starr had eaten a hamster. The
story was untrue.
- In an episode of the BBC comedy series Fawlty Towers first broadcast in
1979, Manuel the Spanish waiter insists that a rat that he has bought as a pet
is really a filigree Siberian hamster. Mayhem ensues when a public health
inspector arrives at the hotel and the "hamster" escapes.
- Sir Doris is an endlessly hungry pet hamster in the animated program
- Melvin Sneedly from the Captain Underpants book series owned a hamster named
Sulu, but after Sulu spanked Melvin, George and Harold adopted Sulu.
I finally convinced my parents into
letting me get one. Cool, huh? Well, I had to do a five page
essay on ham-hams. It was worth it, though!
rats and hamsters, which is better. rats
smarter, sweeter, more love. hamsters , cuter , not as
bright in the head, don't have useless tails. rats can wear
clothes, hamsters don't like it as much. rats get WAY TO
BIG. Like CATS. hamsters. good cute pets. rats same but umm,
better JUST TAKE UP WAY TO MUCH ROOM, HOW DO I
KNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I HAD BOTH, NOT AT SAME TIME, okay
i love hamsters i have a 8 week old syrian
hamster called coffee ad i hav been beggin my mum for 2
dwarf hamsters and hopefully she will giv in and let me hav
them xxx gr8 website btw
I'm getting hamsters soon! Do girl golden
hamsters fight like the boys do???
I love hamsters! So cute!!!!!!!!:-) :-)
:-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)
ya...hamsters are so cute!!
i love hamsters!1
hamsters are awesome !!
people who have a hamster are very lucky
Hello, I haven't a Hamster but i love she!!! She are so
butifoul and cool :P
I teach a fifth grade class, my students really love the
robo's!! They are alot of fun to watch. The students draw names each Friday to
take the two home for the weekend! We have named them "little miss" and "little
bit". The students think that we are going to have babies soon, but I'm
wondering if we have 2 females or 2 males instead! We have had them since Oct.
19, and no results yet.
This is SO ADORABLE! ^-^
does anyone know how to tame a robo hamster?
i love de hamster hay for the hamster
Are Campbell's Russian Dwarf Hamsters suitable for a 12year
old girl to look after? Any downsides?
Can I see some Hamster Cages ?
Have a look below on Kelkoo, there are lots of
them there !
hamsters are so cute!
it is cool
I have a roborovski, dwarf hamster. Her name is "curious'' she
is very shy. Also is not easy to handle. I'm going to get her a boyfriend
because she is a loner. For all the owners that own a roborovski (or otherwise
called robo's) I wish u luck with the cute furry friend because I have 1 too.
THANK U for reading
Hey, it's me the robo lover, I have to tell u more about
these furry little creatures. Curious (my hamster) just got a new exercise wheel
and she is going banana's over it. Oh! and if your going to breed robo's GOOD
LUCK!** because they are the cutest little things ,but the hard part is giving
them away. But I can give u tips, u can give them to a, pet store, friend, and a
family member. So don't worry about keeping to many! THANKU FOR READING!!**