Sunday, September 9, 2012


Hamsters are rodents belonging to the subfamily Cricetinae. Hamsters are crepuscular (meaning they are most active during dawn and dusk) animals which burrow underground in the daylight to avoid being caught by predators. Their diets include a variety of foods, including dried food, berries, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables. In the wild, they feed primarily on seeds, fruits and greens, and will occasionally eat burrowing insects. They have an elongated pouch on each side of their heads that extends to their shoulders, which they stuff full of food to be stored, brought back to the colony or to be eaten later.
Hamsters are seasonal breeders and produce many litters in a year, each consisting of several Pups (baby hamsters). The gestation period differs for all hamster species. Gestation lasts 16 to 18 days for Syrian hamsters, 18 to 21 days for Russian hamsters, 21 to 23 days for Chinese hamsters, and 23 to 30 days for Roborovski hamsters. A mother may give birth to 1 to 13 pups in a single litter.
Hamster behavior varies depending on their environment, genetics, and interaction with people. Hamsters have also become established as popular small house pets, and are sometimes accepted even in areas where other rodents are disliked.

Hamster Species:
There are many species of hamsters but only five species are widely kept in captivity as pets in the United States. Here I will list them and give some information on each.​​

Syrian Hamster​​​
Scientific Name: ​​​Mesocricetus auratus
Alternative Names: ​​​Golden Hamster, Fancy ​Hamster, Teddybear Hamster, Standard Hamster
​Native To: Syria
Adult Size: 5-6"
Life Span: 2-3 years
About:​ Syrian Hamsters are the most well known hamsters and are most often kept as pets. They are excellent starter hamsters, due to their larger size. Syrian hams do NOT get along with other hamsters though and will fight once they are a few months old, so they are best kept alone. Syrian hamsters have developed a variety of colors and pattern mutations, including cream, white, blonde, cinnamon, tortoiseshell, black, three different shades of grey, dominant spot, banded and dilute. Syrian hamsters also have a long haired form known as "angora". Many pet shops offer these unusually marked hamsters as "Fancy Hamsters" and sell them for nearly double the price of normal Syrian Hamsters. There is no difference between Syrian and Fancy Hamsters, besides their coat.
​​Dwarf Russian Djungarian Hamster
Scientific Name: Phodopus sungorus
Alternative Names: Winter White Hamster, Siberian Hamster
Native To: Asia
Adult Size: 3-5"
Life Span: 1-2 years
About:​ Djungarian hamsters are thought to be one of the most naturally tame species of hamster. Due to their friendly nature, they can often be housed with another hamster of the same species, though there is still a chance they may fight. They typically have a thick, dark grey dorsal stripe, but there are other color variations such as pearl and sapphire. Their feet are covered in fur to protect them from the cold. As winter approaches and the days shorten, the Djungarian hamster's dark fur is just about entirely replaced with white fur. In captivity this almost never happens, though.
 Roborovski Hamster
Scientific Name: Phodopus roborovskii
Alternative Names: Robos, Robs, Dessert Hamsters
Native To: Asia
Adult Size: 1.5-3"
Life Span: 2-3 years
About:​ Roborovski Hamsters are the smallest of all hamsters. They are very fast and active, thus making them a challenge to tame and handle. They are not recommended for starter hamsters or young children. They have been said to run the equivalent of four human marathons per night on average. They can be housed together if they are introduced at an early age, but they are also very territorial so owners need to be aware of this. Robos are known for their distinguishing eyebrow-like spots over their eyes, and are typically a sandy color with white on their bellies. 
 ​​Dwarf Campbells Russian Hamster
Scientific Name: Phodopus campbelli
Alternative Names:Cam
Native To: Asia, China
Adult Size: 2-3"
Life Span: 2-3 years
About:​ Campbell Hamsters are closely related to Djungarian Hamsters, and the two species are oftern confused with one another. They are relativley easy to tame, though not as easy as their close cousins, Djungarians. Campbell's can live happily together if they are introduced at an early age, however, any hamsters that have been housed together for some time can occasionally end up fighting to the point that they need to be separated. They can be many different colors and have one of four coat types; normal, satin, wavy or rex. Some pet stores, such as PetCo, do not have them listed as Campbells, but just Dwarf Hamsters. This makes them seem more rare than they actually are.
Dwarf Chinese Hamster
​Scientific Name: Cricetulus griseus
Alternative Names: Chin
Native To: Asia, China
Adult Size: 4"
Life Span: 3-5 years
About: ​When young, Chinese Dwarf Hamsters are quite nervous but grow to be very gentle and calm. Compared with other hamsters they have a long, thin build and a relatively long tail. Because of this, some people may confuse them with mice. They can be greyish/brown in color with a dark stripe down their spine and a light colored underside. Some US states such as California, regard Chinese Hamsters as pests and a special permit is required to own, breed and sell them. In other states such as New Jersey they are classed as exotic animals and a permit is also required to own them.

Other species of hamsters that are not widely kept as pets are:
​​European Hamster
Common Hamster
Black Bellied Hamster
Rumanian Hamster
Romanian Hamster
Turkish Hamster
​Brandts' Hamster
Ciscaucasian Hamster
​Georgian Hamster
Ladak Hamster
Chinese Striped Hamster
Mongolian Hamster
Eversmann's Hamster
Tibetan Hamster
Lesser Longtailed Hamster
Armenian Hamster
Migratory Grey Hamster
Greater Longtailed Hamster
Korean Hamster
Mouse-Like Hamster

Hamster Hybrids:
​​The offspring produced from the mating of two separate species are known as hybrids. Of the 5 species widely kept as pets only two species can interbreed and produce live offspring. These are Campbell's Hamsters and Winter White (Djungarian) Hamsters. The hybrids are commonly referred to as "Pudding Hamsters" due to their unique coloring. Pudding Hamsters are a peach color and have an orange dorsal stripe. They are a rather rare find because breeders of Pudding Hamsters must be very skilled to produce healthy hams. It is not recommended that hamster owners try to breed them for this reason. Pudding Hamsters are still a rather new species, and there is not much known about them yet.

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