Hamsters are lovable animals that make great household pets. They’re also unique critters with a lot of interesting quirks. Before you bring your new hamster home, learn as much as you can about your pet with our hamster facts round up.
Fun Facts About Hamsters
Hamsters are nocturnal
Hamsters sleep during the day and are active at night. They don’t like being woken up during the day to play, so wait until they’re active – in the late afternoon and evening.
Hamster cheek pouches
Hamsters have cheek pouches called displostomes. They store food in these pouches, which they save and eat later. If you notice your hamster “eating” a lot of the food you give them, they might just be sticking it in their cheek pouches.
Hamsters don’t have a habit of overeating, but you still don’t want to risk giving them too much. Sometimes, hamsters will leave uneaten food to sit in their habitat. Check for old fruits and veggies daily, and replace them with fresh food.
In fact, hamsters get their name for their hoarding tendencies. “Hamster” comes from the German word hamstern, “to hoard.”
There are five main hamster breeds you should be aware of. Each has distinct physical and behavioral characteristics. Not every breed is suited for every owner, so research the breed you want first to ensure it’s a good fit for you.
- Syrian hamster: The Syrian hamster is the most popular breed. They also go by the name teddy bear, short hair, fancy, or golden hamsters. The first hamsters came from Syria less than 100 years ago, hence the name. Syrian hamsters grow to be six inches long. These hamsters are usually docile and love being around humans, making them a great pet.
- Winter white hamster: Winter white hamsters are popular for their snowy coats, which turn white in winter to hide them from predators. They grow between three and four inches long and live up to two years. Winter white hamsters are great pets, but not suitable for young children, as they startle easily.
- Campbell’s dwarf hamster: Campbell’s dwarf hamsters, or Russian dwarf hamsters, have a variety of coats. These small hamsters like to hide away and they could bite if startled.
- Roborovski hamster: Also known as the Robo dwarf hamster, the Roborovksi is the fastest dwarf hamster breed. They’re very shy, so they only make good pets for owners who don’t want to handle them too much. These little critters are better to watch, as they run around a lot.
- Chinese hamster: The Chinese hamster is often mistaken for a mouse. They’re very friendly and don’t nip or bite. These hamsters need plenty of stimulation, though. If they get bored, they’ll start chewing on just about anything. They also might develop behavior problems without enough attention.
Hamster gestation period
The hamster gestation period is only 15 to 22 days, allowing female hamsters to give birth about four times per year. An average litter is between five and seven babies, but they can be as small as one or as many as 13.
Male and female hamsters have multiple mates. Male hamsters will travel from burrow to burrow, looking for any female to mate with. Once they’ve mated, female hamsters usually get territorial and kick the male hamster out of their burrow.
A hamster’s teeth never stop growing. Hamsters that don’t have chew sticks or chew toys end up with extra-long teeth that a veterinarian has to trim. Chew sticks help hamsters keep their teeth healthy and filed down.
Hamsters have poor eyesight and rely more on their sense of smell to get around and find food. They also bond with you based on your scent, which they’ll recognize after spending some time with you.
Hamsters need a well-rounded diet. Their food usually includes commercial hamster pellets from pet stores, small quantities of fruits and vegetables, timothy hay, occasional treats, and clean water. Timothy hay is great for small pets that need a lot of fiber. Some good hamster treats would be nuts, boiled egg bits, or mealworms.
Just like dogs, you should never give hamsters chocolate. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to hamsters. You should avoid giving your hamster anything with alcohol or caffeine in it as well.
Hamsters like keeping their cages clean. They’ll only use one or two corners of their cage to urinate or defecate, making it easy for you to replace soiled bedding. You can also train hamsters to use a litter box.
Hamsters also like to hide, so you should provide them with plenty of substrate. They’ll burrow underneath of it to create a hollow hideaway.
Hamsters live to be two to three years old if you give them the proper care and attention. The lifespan of a hamster can also vary depending on the breed.
How Smart is a Hamster?
Hamsters are intelligent and will respond to their own name if you use it frequently enough.
Hamsters should get a checkup from a veterinarian at least once a year. They can develop many health problems, including illnesses such as pneumonia, eye problems, and dehydration.
Hamsters are banned in Hawaii
Hawaii’s climate and environment is very similar to hamsters’ native habitat. That fact, along with hamsters’ high reproductive rate, means that wild hamsters could quickly form large colonies that would upset agriculture and other species in Hawaii.
Endangered European hamsters
Wild European hamsters were once widespread across the continent, but they’re now endangered. Changing agricultural practices, land development, and pollution have all contributed to these hamsters’ decreasing numbers in Western, Central, and Eastern Europe.
Why Are Hamsters Good Pets?
Hamsters make great pets – that’s why so many people adopt them! Although hamsters like to have a big cage that they can keep tidy, they also love leaving their habitat every now and then to play. Some of the best (and safest) hamster toys are tunnel mazes and hamster balls.
Although hamsters love playing and bonding with their owners, they can also be easily startled. Before you approach your hamster, call out their name to let them know you’re coming. Always approach a hamster from the side, too.
Syrian hamsters are solitary creatures. If you put two Syrian hamsters in a cage together, they will start fighting. They get territorial starting at about six to ten weeks of age. Once your hamsters are this old, they should have separate cages.
Who knew there was so much to learn about hamsters? If you’re considering adopting a pet hamster, always get the facts about the animal first, before bringing it home.