A-z - Animals

hamster

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Hamsters are small rodents. They are often kept as house pets. However, unlike other rodents, they have short tails.

They have stubby legs, widely spaced feet, and small ears. Hamsters come in a variety of colors including gray, yellow, black, white, brown, gold and red. They exist as a mixture of many colors. They are usually 2 to 6 inches long and weigh an average of about 6.2 ounces.

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There are several types of hamsters, including dwarf hamsters, golden dwarf hamsters, and Syrian hamsters, which are also known as teddy bear hamsters. Their scientific name is Cricetinae.

Hamster infographics
Hamsters are tiny rodents. There are 19 species, 5 of which are commonly kept as house pets.

© AZ-Animals.com

Unbelievable Hamster Facts!

  • Hamsters make great house pets because they are very gentle and reportedly caring. Some common names for pet hamsters include Cheeks, Chomper, Chewy, Harry, and Fuzzy.
  • Hamsters bite when they are scared or disturbed while sleeping.
  • Hamsters have poor eyesight and their feet are spread far apart.
  • Their teeth grow all the time and only get shorter as they keep chewing.
  • Mother hamsters are very protective of themselves and will keep their babies in a pouch in their mouth if they sense danger.

scientific name

The scientific name of hamsters is Cricetinae. They belong to the kingdom Animalia and the phylum Chordate, and the class is mammals. Hamsters belong to the suborder Rodentia and Murata.



The family is the hamster family, and the subfamily is the hamster subfamily. The lower classification of hamsters includes the subphylum Vertebrate. Meanwhile, the Chaoke is Murodea.

The name Cricetinae can be broken down into two words – cricetus and -inae (suffix). Cricetus is of Neo-Latin origin, although it probably comes from the Czech word "křeček".

Hamster Health and Recreation

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Syrian hamster in the garden
The scientific name of hamsters is Cricetinae.

© stock_shot/Shutterstock.com

Evolution and Origin

Syrian hamsters were first described in 1839, but it wasn't until 1939 that researchers were able to successfully domesticate them. The entire population of Syrian hamsters is believed to be descended from a brother and sister captured from Aleppo, Syria in 1930.

After its introduction to Jerusalem, breeding was very successful. Later, some animals from this original breeding colony were exported to the United States, where they quickly became popular pets and laboratory animals. A comparative study between wild and domesticated Syrian hamsters showed reduced genetic variability in domesticated hamsters. However, any differences found were still relatively small compared with other variations seen in other laboratory animals.

A Syrian hamster pokes its head out of its cage.
The entire population of Syrian hamsters is believed to be descended from a brother and sister captured from Aleppo, Syria in 1930.

© Mary Swift/Shutterstock.com

appearance

Hamsters are small, stocky rodents. Their legs are thick and thick, and their ears are small. Hamsters have very short tails, even shorter than their bodies. Their ears are hairy and their feet are broad.

Although the bodies of most species are very similar, each species has identifying marks and sizes to identify which species they are. Dwarf hamsters, like their name, are very small rodents. They are about 2 to 4 inches long.

Syrian hamsters, on the other hand, are quite different. Also known as the teddy bear hamster or golden hamster, it grows to about 6 inches long as an adult. On average, a hamster weighs about 6.2 ounces, which makes it fairly small with very little muscle.

Generally, hamsters have thick, silky fur that can be long or short, depending on the hamster. This fur comes in a variety of colors, including black, gray, yellow, red, brown, and white. Some hamsters also have a mix of several different colors in their fur, but the combination depends on the breed.

These rodents have a scent gland in the center of their body. In the case of dwarf hamsters, the scent glands are located in the hamster's stomach and allow them to mark their territory. However, Syrian hamsters (aka teddy bear hamsters) have scent glands on their rump.

Interestingly, hamsters have a natural way of getting out of trouble when they need to escape — their bones. The flexibility of their ribcage allows them to flatten their bodies under small gaps. Anyone with such pets needs to have a secure cage to keep them from escaping.

European hamster in a green meadow with lime flowers
Hamsters are small, stocky rodents. Their legs are thick and thick, and their ears are small.

©An13nA/Shutterstock.com

Behavior

Most wild hamsters are active at dusk and at night and need plenty of space to play at night. Some of them can easily run up to 5 miles during this time. When hamsters are kept as pets, they maintain this natural order.

Both in the wild and in captivity, their waking hours are nocturnal, which means they are awake at night. They prefer to be left alone, so wild hamsters avoid other wild animals and humans during this time. Any unwarranted disturbance to their sleep is likely to result in a bite from these small rodents.

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They survive best in rooms where the lights are turned on very late. In the wild, many hamsters will burrow, and some hamsters are solitary animals, which is why they need a lot of area to hide themselves. Wild hamsters hibernate during the colder months. These rodents wake up during hibernation only to eat occasionally.

It is said that a lone hamster should never be caged with other hamsters as it can bite it and in some cases even kill it. The only time these animals are particularly friendly to other hamsters is when they are young (i.e. less than three months old). They will even eat their babies if they want to.

Dwarf hamsters are an exception. They are surprisingly sociable and they love having multiple friends around their family.

In captivity, hamsters sometimes flinch, grimace, and raise their hands to their owners. This simple gesture indicates that hamsters may be ready to attack, indicating exactly how they feel about a person infiltrating their safe space.

If one earns a hamster's trust as a pet, the animal will gently approach their hand and even crawl inside. They are quite expressive animals and there is no questioning how they feel about their owners or those around them.

hamster on exercise wheel
In the wild, hamsters can run up to 5 miles per night. An exercise wheel is essential whether or not your hamster has time out of the cage.

© Katinka Bakos/Shutterstock.com

Habitat

The first of these small rodents were found in Syria. However, they are also found in Belgium, northern China, Romania and Greece. In the wild, hamsters like to live in warm, dry places. They like to live in grasslands, desert edges and dunes.

Hamsters have also become very popular pets, and there are many toys and hiding places that can be added to their homes to recreate their natural surroundings.

European Hamster (Cricetus cricetus), Czech Republic
In the wild, hamsters live in grasslands, desert edges and dunes

©Lubomir Novak/Shutterstock.com

diet

A hamster's primary diet consists of seeds, nuts, grains, fruits, vegetables, and ground corn. In addition, hamsters also eat small animals such as small insects and lizards.

Interestingly, hamsters have pouches on the inside of their cheeks in which they carry food to store and eat later.

Hamster eating infographic
A hamster's primary diet consists of seeds, nuts, grains, fruits, vegetables, and ground corn.

© AZ-Animals.com

Predators and Threats

Hamsters are known to protect themselves from these predators by using oversized incisors. Mother hamsters also place their babies in the pouch in their mouths and carry them to safety.

The critters have many predators because they are small and easy to pick up. However, they are fast and snappy.

What do hamsters eat?

Common predators for hamsters include snakes, birds, and other predatory mammals. That doesn't mean hamsters can't fight. Instead, they bite with their natural long front teeth. If the hamster is a new mother, she will hold the pups safely in her mouth.

Interestingly, the most likely cause of death for hamsters was not being hunted – it was heart disease.

What do hamsters eat?

In turn, hamsters feed on seeds, grains, fruits, nuts, crushed corn, small insects, lizards, and other animals. They are herbivores, so they don't look for any other animals as prey.

These animals should not eat string beans, tomato leaves, or unwashed produce. All of these sources of nutrition are incredibly toxic.

Dwarf hamster under a leaf, in the grass
The most common predators of hamsters are snakes and birds.

© iStock.com/hikaru1222

Reproduction, Babies and Longevity

Both male and female hamsters are known to be fast owners. They are known to waste no time in breeding and it is often said that female hamsters can conceive very quickly if two hamsters of different sexes are kept in one cage.

A hamster's gestation period is about 15 to 20 days. Soon after, a group of baby hamsters, known as a litter, was born. The average litter size is six to eight pups. Baby hamsters don't go blind until about two weeks after birth. They must be weaned at about three to four weeks old. However, these animals should be watched carefully, as they are one of many that may eat their young.

Female hamsters are said to give birth to two to three litters of baby hamsters each year. These small rodents live about one to two years. In captivity, they can live up to three years.

baby hamster sand
Hamsters have an average litter of 6 to 8 young and can mate 2 to 3 times a year.

© iStock.com/Mikhail Davidovich

hamster and mouse

When comparing hamsters and mice, hamsters are usually larger than mice. Also, hamsters usually come in more colors than mice. Rats also prefer to eat opportunistically, while hamsters have been known to hoard food, even storing it in their mouths.

hamster vs guinea pig

Another popular pet rodent to which hamsters are often compared is the guinea pig. Guinea pigs are usually larger than hamsters and weigh a few pounds, while hamsters weigh less than a pound. Also, hamsters are omnivores while guinea pigs are strict herbivores.

population

While it's not known how many hamsters live in the wild worldwide, it's estimated that there are about 57 million hamsters as pets. About 11 million households keep hamsters as pets.

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hamster in the zoo

Not much is known about hamsters living in zoos. However, they are said to reproduce rapidly and make their way into parks, universities and zoos. For anyone wanting to learn more about hamsters up close, most pet stores will carry at least a few different species.

The population of pet hamsters is approximately 57 million. Wild populations are unknown.

©iStock.com/Conny V

19 species of hamster

The Hamster subfamily contains 19 different species of hamsters from different geographical regions. Many of these hamsters were never kept as pets. The five hamster species most commonly kept by pet owners are the Syrian hamster, Quimper's dwarf hamster, Roborowski's dwarf hamster, winter white dwarf hamster, and Chinese hamster.

  • Syrian Hamster – The Syrian hamster is a common pet hamster. They can grow up to 6 inches long and are usually golden brown in color with darker markings around the cheeks. Syrian hamsters tend to be relatively solitary, so they should be kept in individual cages. They can get along well with pet owners if provided with proper interaction and entertainment.
  • Campbell's Dwarf Hamster – The Campbell's dwarf hamster is one of only two species of dwarf hamsters found in Russia and is commonly found in pet shops. They are named after Charles William Campbell, who first captured them in Mongolia in 1904. They come in many colors and are friendly, loud and active. Campbell's dwarf hamsters can become territorial if kept in groups. This means they should be kept in very large enclosures. Furthermore, this species is genetically predisposed to diabetes.
  • Roborovski Dwarf Hamster – The Roborovski hamster is a small, energetic wild hamster species that originated in the deserts of Central Asia. They have recently become popular pets due to their playful temperament and small size. The average length of these hamsters is only 2 inches. Still, their fluffy fur comes in a variety of colors, making them quite adorable. While they make great pets to watch, they require a large cage and many different toys.
  • Winter White Dwarf Hamster – The winter white dwarf hamster is similar to the Campbell's dwarf hamster, but is a different size and color. They are also more gentle and reserved than Campbell's hamsters. The name "winter white dwarf hamster" comes from the fact that the fur of these hamsters usually turns white during the winter to camouflage themselves from predators. Winter white dwarf hamsters can be crossed with Campbell's hamsters, so it can be difficult to find pure winter white dwarf hamsters.
  • Chinese Hamster – The Chinese hamster is a small, energetic hamster that can be difficult to deal with. These hamsters need large enclosures with plenty of room to run around. Several states have labeled them as pests, so special permits are required.
  • Chinese Striped Hamster – The Chinese striped hamster is a species of hamster native to Central and Eastern Asia. These hamsters live in long burrows and come out to feed at night. They have an average body length of 3.9 inches and are mostly light grayish brown with a faint stripe along the spine.
  • West Caucasian Hamster – The West Caucasian hamster is a large hamster that lives in Georgia and Russia. It is brown or yellowish in color with a white throat and black belly. It also has very large round ears. This hamster is considered a pest because of its penchant for stealing crops.
  • European Hamster – The European hamster is a species of hamster native to large areas of Eurasia. It is considered an agricultural pest and is often hunted for its fur. While it is not considered endangered globally, it is critically endangered in many countries. European hamsters prefer twilight and eat mostly plant matter such as seeds, legumes, grasses, vegetables, and insects. They are often alone.
  • Eversman Hamster – The Eversman hamster is a species of hamster native to Kazakhstan. It is named after Russian naturalist, zoologist and explorer Eduard Friedrich Eversmann. Eversman hamsters belong to the family Hamsteridae, the second largest family of mammals.
  • Gansu Hamster – The Gansu hamster is an endangered rodent native to China that is easily recognized by its small size, round head, short legs, large ears, and long tail. It inhabits grasslands up to two miles above sea level and feeds on seeds and roots. As the only member of its genus (Cansumys), it is often called the "lonely hamster".
  • Long-tailed hamster – The long-tailed hamster is a species of hamster native to northern China. Because it eats crops all year round, it has been considered a major pest in China since ancient times. Hamsters also often stand on their hind legs and squeal loudly as a way of communicating with others.
  • Gray Dwarf Hamster – The gray dwarf hamster is a common hamster species found in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Russia, Central Asia, Mongolia, and western China. These hamsters have an average body length of 4 inches, with a furry tail about 1/3 that length. Their fur is brownish gray with white underparts, they have large ears and a flattened skull. Gray dwarf hamsters are known for their burrows, which can go as deep as 5 feet underground. These hamsters do not hibernate, so they are active year round as they forage for roots, plants, seeds and insects.
  • Jin dwarf hamster – Jin dwarf hamster is a species of hamster found only in the mountains of western China. These hamsters have an average body length of 4 inches and a tail length of 2 inches. Their fur is grayish brown with a grayish white underside. These hamsters are active day and night and dig burrows of average depth. They forage for grains and seeds, and also prey on insects.
  • Long-tailed Dwarf Hamster – The long-tailed dwarf hamster is a species of hamster found in Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Its average body length is about 4 inches, with a tail that is at least 1/3 that length. It is sandy brown on the back and off-white on the belly. This hamster lives in dry, arid regions with dry forests, rocky grasslands, and scrubby slopes. It is especially common in the semi-desert areas of the foothills. It is nocturnal and feeds on seeds and insects.
  • Mongolian Hamster – The Mongolian hamster is a species of hamster found in China and Mongolia. It's relatively muted, sandy-brown gray on top and light gray on the bottom.
  • Romanian Hamster – The Romanian hamster is a species of hamster found in both Bulgaria and Romania. It is brown with a white underside and a black stripe running from head to neck. It is about 7 inches long and is nocturnal. It lives alone in burrows, where it stores and eats seeds, vegetables, grasses, legumes and insects.
  • Sokolov's Dwarf Hamster – This hamster is usually gray with a light brown or yellow tinge and has a dark stripe across its body. It is approximately 3.7 inches long with a 1 inch tail. It is found in China and Mongolia, where it lives in underground burrows under desert scrub.
  • Tibetan Dwarf Hamster – The Tibetan Dwarf Hamster is a species of hamster found in Tibet, India, Nepal and China. It prefers to live in mountains, at elevations as high as 17,100 feet. This hamster lives in desert grasslands, scrubland, swampy grasslands, and alpine meadows. Its body is approximately 4 inches long and its tail is 1.5 inches long.
  • Turkish Hamster – The Turkish hamster is native to Turkey, Armenia and several other surrounding countries. It is closely related to the Syrian hamster, but is lesser known and rarely kept as a pet. The number of Türkiye hamsters in the wild is dwindling. However, they are still commonly used as laboratory test species. These highly adaptable hamsters live in sand dunes, scrub and desert grasslands. These areas are very dry with little vegetation, so hamsters will burrow 6 feet underground for shelter.
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See all 104 animals that start with H

Hamsters are omnivorous in nature. They eat seeds, grains, fruit, ground corn, and vegetables. They also feed on lizards, small insects and small animals.

Hamsters can be had for as little as $15 to $20.

Hamsters make great family pets because they are low maintenance and fun to play with.

Hamsters bite when they are scared and their sleep is disrupted.

Hamsters live about one to two years, but in captivity they can live for up to three years.

Dwarf hamsters, like their name, are very small rodents. They are about 2 to 4 inches long.

Meanwhile, Syrian hamsters, also known as teddy bear hamsters or golden hamsters, typically grow to about 6 inches (15.24 cm) long.
An average hamster weighs about 6.2 ounces.

Some types of hamsters are the dwarf hamster, the Syrian or teddy bear hamster, and the golden hamster.

The lower classification of hamsters includes the subphylum Vertebrate. Meanwhile, Chaoke is Muroidea.

Some popular names for hamsters are Cheeks, Chomper, Chewy, Harry, and Fuzzy.

Hamsters belong to the animal kingdom.

Hamsters belong to the phylum Chordate.

Hamsters belong to the class mammals.

Hamsters belong to the hamster family.

Hamsters belong to the order Rodentia.

Hamsters are covered with fur.

Hamsters live in dry deserts and dunes.

Predators of hamsters include owls, hawks and snakes.

Hamsters eat seeds, nuts and berries.

The average litter size for hamsters was 8.

Hamsters can travel as fast as 4 miles per hour.

The main differences between lemmings and hamsters are where they live, their appearance, and their relationship with humans.