It all started in 1829, when pet hamsters were discoverd in Aleppo,
Syria by the Bitish zoologist George Waterhouse. The hamster is native
to Syria and
was not successfully domesticated and bred in captivity until the
1930s, at which point they were imported to the United States as
laboratory animals. Because of their size and perceived cuteness,
hamsters can be appealing to those looking for an alternative to the
cat or dog for a household pet. If you are considering a new addition
to your household, read on to find out if the hamster will be an
appropriate fit for you.
Quick Reference to Hamster Information:
There are several species of pet hamsters that are typically kept as
in the United States. The Syrian hamster, also known as the ‘teddy
bear’ or "golden" hamster, is classically the most common type of pet
adult size is six inches to 8 inches in length. It is possible for a
Golden to grow as long as 11 inches in length.
Key Facts Golden or Syrian Hamsters:
Several dwarf hamster species are
also common, such as the Campbell or Russian dwarf (most popular),
Roborovsky dwarf (smallest of the dwarfs), the Siberian or winter white
dwarf (type of Russian), and the
Chinese dwarf (looks like a mouse due to the long tail). The dwarf
species are significantly smaller than the
Syrian hamster, with an average adult size of two to three inches in
Key Facts Dwarf Hamsters
Hamsters are energetic and active creatures that are natural burrowers. Although they are not truly nocturnal, they tend to sleep during the day and become more active in the evening and at night. This is nice, because it means that they are more likely to be active while their owners are at home. However, if the hamster is housed in a bedroom this can be a problem if the rodent is active enough during the night to interfere with the owner’s sleep. Hamsters are also notorious for their tendency to bite. They are especially prone to biting if they are startled or handled inappropriately. For most hamster owners, it takes a certain amount of time for the animal to build up enough trust to allow itself to be handled without protest.
Hamsters are not recommended for households
with small children, and should not be handled by children without
adult supervision. Not only do the hamsters pose a threat to children
because of their propensity to bite, but the children pose an obvious
threat to the hamster as well. Children are often unintentionally
rough, and hamsters are tiny and fragile. It is extremely easy for a
well-meaning child to squeeze too hard or drop the poor animal,
resulting in horrible injuries that usually mean the death of the
animal. In general, Golden or Syrian Hamsters are recommended for
children as they are tame and fit well in the hand. Dwarf Hamsters need
to be continually tamed and prefer to pay attention to other Hamsters.
Hamsters are self grooming and keep themselves clean. After
bringing a hamster home for the first time, give him or her a few days
to get used to the new home before playing and handling.
Pet Hamsters are a low maintenance pet, but do require some basics:
Hamsters are largely vegetarians, but will eat other foods on
occasion (omnivores). Pet hamsters should be able to get to food all
day. Protein should comprise 20% of the diet. The ideal combination is
a commercial diet combined with fresh vegetables (consider iceberg
lettuce, peas, carrots, parsley, broccoli that is chopped) and as a
treat, some fruit (banana, blueberries, corn, grapes, i or a raisin.
Pellet based diets are preferred over seeds, since pellets contain a
nutrient rich combination of ingredients.
Do not feed a hamster canned foods, greens from tomatoes or potatoes or candy/sweets. You can feed cooked meat, pasta, or rice as an occasional treat.
A Hamster Starter Kit Like This One Makes it Easy to Care for Your First Hamster. The kit includes bedding, food, treats, toys water bottle and a dish for Food.
Shown: My First Hamster Kit from Big Als
These are the recommended specifications for anyone getting started with a pet hamster: Hamsters should be housed in an aquarium or plastic rodent cage. A 10-gallon aquarium is the minimum size appropriate for a dwarf hamster, and Syrian hamsters should be given more space. Regardless of the hamster species, a roomier habitat is better than a cramped one. Hamsters in general are solitary animals. Syrian hamsters should never be housed together, as they undoubtedly will fight, often to the death. Dwarf hamsters will sometimes tolerate a roommate, but they need to have plenty of room and must be supervised closely, especially when first introduced, to be sure they are a good fit. Males and females should never be housed together, as they breed very quickly and efficiently.
Do you have a question about hamster health or care? Ask and our Vet will answer it for free!
Please be sure to include important information such as age, breed, diet, medications, advice from your veterinarian or anything else you believe would be helpful.
It also helps to include a picture, especially when asking about skin or coat problems.
Every week we will select questions to be answered by our Vet. If you need an urgent response, we suggest using this online veterinary service that has Veterinarians standing by 24 hours a day.
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Hamster: Your Happy Healthy Pet by
Betsy Sikora Sino (highly recommended book for any owner or for someone considering owning pet hamsters
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