Black bear hamsters are a popular choice for a pet for their unique markings and lovable nature. Learn all about the black bear hamster, as well as how to take care of one, in this guide.
- History and Origin of Black Bear Hamsters
- Characteristics of the Black Bear Hamster
- How to Care for a Black Bear Hamster
History and Origin of Black Bear Hamsters
The black bear hamster was first discovered in France in 1985. Sometimes called a black Syrian hamster or European black bear, the black bear hamster is not an officially recognized hamster breed. Some hamster lovers claim the black bear is a full subtype of the Syrian hamster breed. Others think the black bear is a simple gene mutation, an offshoot from the existing Teddy Bear Syrian hamster breed.
Whatever the black bear hamster’s breeding, pet owners across the U.S. and in Europe have taken to the small rodent. Many love the black bear’s unique markings.
Characteristics of the Black Bear Hamster
The black bear hamster has become a popular pet due to its unique appearance and docile temperament. What other characteristics distinguish this hamster from other types?
Temperament: Are Black Bear Hamsters Friendly?
Breeders originally bred black bear hamsters for their large size and gentle nature. There’s no documented testing, but anecdotal evidence from owners confirms that black bear hamsters seem to have a good temperament. They are less prone to stress when being handled, unlike other hamsters. Because they don’t get stressed out as easily, black bear hamsters are also less likely to bite or attack humans. Their docile nature makes them a friendly hamster type and a good choice for a pet.
Since black bear hamsters are larger and more relaxed, they move around less often than other hamster types. Their size and inactivity make them prone to obesity. They need plenty of exercise to stay healthy, which you can provide with toys and enrichment.
Black bear hamsters are, of course, black. Their black fur typically covers their entire body, with a few white marks appearing near their belly, paws, and face. Some black bear hamsters might have dark brown fur, though. Black bear hamsters also have black eyes and ears. Their paws, nose, and tail are usually pink.
Their coat is either long-haired, satin, or rex. Satin coats are shiny and are more noticeable on light-colored fur than black fur. Rex coats are curly or wavy; even the whiskers are curly with rex coats.
When they reach adult size, they can be between five and six inches long. This makes them typically larger than the standard Syrian breed size of three to four inches. Black bear hamsters stand about seven inches tall and weigh between four and six ounces. The size and appearance of your black bear hamster will depend on its specific genetics – there isn’t a standard for these hamsters since they’re not an officially recognized breed.
How Long Do Black Bear Hamsters Live?
Black bear hamsters have a maximum life span of five to six years, although the average is between two and three years. The healthier you keep your hamster, the longer it is likely to live.
How to Care for a Black Bear Hamster
Caring for a black bear hamster isn’t so different from caring for other types of hamsters. There are a few considerations to keep in mind before you adopt one, though.
Black bear hamsters, like all hamsters, need a balanced diet. Hamsters eat grains, seeds, grasses, vegetables, and fruit daily. You can feed them pre-packaged seed mix, as long as it’s high enough in protein and the seeds come with husks removed. The seed husks can hurt their delicate cheek linings.
If you need to supplement protein in your black bear hamster’s diet, you can feed them the following:
- Cat food
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Small bits of cooked chicken
- Small portions of scrambled eggs
For vegetables, give your hamster stalks of celery, broccoli, or some bell peppers. Avoid vegetables that have high moisture content, however. Foods like lettuce and cucumbers are like laxatives for hamsters, causing too much defecation or even diarrhea.
When you feed your black bear hamster, give it a small quantity of food at one time. Hamsters tend to store extra food in their cheeks so they can stash it and hoard it for later. Try to discourage hoarding because it can attract flies, worms, insects, and mold. These problems can put your hamster’s health in jeopardy.
Hamsters need fresh water daily. If possible, use filtered water. You can dechlorinate tap water with tablets as well. Avoid using a water bowl, and go for a bottle with a sipper instead. A hamster can easily drag bedding or food into a water bowl, contaminating it. A bottle is much safer and cleaner for a hamster. Try to find a BPA-free plastic bottle, or use a glass bottle. Also, clean the bottle with a bottle brush regularly to prevent the water from becoming contaminated.
When selecting the best cage for your hamster, you should look for three things:
- Size: Bigger is always better, giving your hamster room to run around.
- Wire bar spacing (for wire cages): The spaces should be small enough the hamster can’t get out, but large enough their hair doesn’t get caught.
- Material: For wire cages, the best metal is galvanized steel. You can also use glass tanks as long as there’s plenty of ventilation.
Remember, the cage from the pet store isn’t always your best option. Look at online retailers to find the perfect cage for your hamster if need be.
Bedding and Habitat
Instead of a cage or tank, you can give your hamster a plastic habitat. These tubes and modules connect to one another to give your hamster room to run around and keep them entertained. A single hamster will need more than one module, however, as each piece is meant to connect to others, to form a whole habitat.
Hamsters also need bedding. Safe bedding types are shredded paper and untreated sawdust. Unsuitable bedding would be wood, cotton, or fluffy bedding.
You should groom your long-haired black bear hamster regularly, as food, feces, and dirt can get caught in their hair. Use a hamster-safe brush or comb to groom your hamster once per week. A cat flea brush works well. If your hamster’s hair has tangles that don’t come loose after brushing, you may need to trim that bit of hair.
If your hamster gets fidgety during grooming sessions, try feeding it fruits and vegetables while you comb their hair – it’ll reduce stress.
Black bear hamsters are prone to obesity and need a lot of exercise to prevent it. Some great ways to help your hamster exercise include:
- Exercise wheel inside their cage
- Plastic running balls outside the cage
- Letting your hamster loose in a hamster-proof room
- Harnessing and leashing your black bear hamster for walks
Hamsters have a natural tendency to chew. If you don’t give them something healthy to chew on, they’ll start chewing the bars on their cage. Give your hamster chewing sticks, as well as the following items:
- Wood from orchard trees (ensure the trees are not treated with pesticides)
- Whole wheat macaroni
- Dog biscuits
When you first bring your hamster home, it’ll need time to adjust to its new surroundings. Give your black bear hamster about 2 days alone in their new cage or habitat to explore on their own. Getting your hamster comfortable enough to be held will take time as well. Let your hamster come to you and never squeeze it if it struggles and tries to get away from you. Also, always wash your hands before picking up your hamster.
Be on the lookout for common health conditions in black bear hamsters, such as the following:
- Wet tail: A bacteria causes your hamster’s rear end to become very wet
- Diabetes: Prevent diabetes with proper nutrition and exercise
- Bladder stones: Give your hamster enough water to prevent bladder stones
- Salmonellosis: Salmonella can infect your hamster, causing diarrhea
Black bear hamsters are great pets for any hamster lover, as long as you care for them properly. Always do your research before adopting a new hamster and ensure you’re prepared to welcome your new pet before bringing it home.