The Syrian Hamster, also known as the Golden Hamster or the Teddy Bear Hamster, are small rodents of the Cricetinae family. Due to their docile and solitary nature, Syrian Hamsters are one of the most popular hamster breeds as house pets.
Usually found in the wild in Turkey and Syria (where it gets its name), they have spread throughout the Middle East and domestically into other parts of the world.
Numbers in the wild are low as their natural habitat is under threat, but domestic numbers are stable due to successful captive breeding programs.
Along with making great pets, Syrian hamsters are also used for scientific research.
It is believed that the domestic Golden Hamsters can trace their lineage to a single family that was brought from Syria to Israel in the 1930’s.
How long do Syrian Hamsters live?
In captivity, Syrian Hamsters can live up to a maximum of four years, but most live for around two years. This is usually less in the wild.
What do Syrian Hamsters look like?
If you are unfamiliar with these kinds of hamsters then here are some Syrian Hamster facts.
They are a small rodent about 5 – 7 inches in length and weigh around 120 grams when fully grown. Being the perfect size for small hands, Syrian Hamsters make great pets
Similar to a mouse in shape, but with a much smaller tail that is kept tucked away beneath their fur. Fur covers their whole body including their ears and feet.
The Golden Hamster is a hoarder and has pouches in its cheeks that expand to hold food. As such, their name in Arabic means saddlebags. They are similar in appearance to dwarf hamsters but around twice the size of their smaller cousins.
In the wild, they are usually a brown golden color which earned them the name Golden Hamster. However, breeding has produced new colors such as white, beige, cream, sable, and black – known as Black Bear Hamsters.
The natural coat for the Syrian Hamster is short and soft. But, like a lot of pet species, breeders have managed to breed hamsters with a variety of coats.
Long Hair Syrian Hamster – The Teddy Bear Hamster
Probably the most common and popular is known as the Teddy Bear hamster. Teddy Bear Hamsters are known for the long luscious coats. Male long haired Syrian hamsters are known to have hair up to 4 inches in length, whereas the females are slightly shorter.
Extra care is needed when owning long haired hamsters and they require regular grooming to prevent the fur from becoming dirty and mated. However, this is a great way to spend time with your hamster and an excellent way to tame your new friend.
Rex Syrian Hamsters
Rex hamsters have a slight curl to the fur and can be found in both short and long hair varieties.
Satin Syrian Hamsters
As the name suggests, Satin Hamsters have a lovely shine to their hair.
Syrian Hamster Colours
The natural coloration of the Syrian Hamster is Golden. However, through selective breeding, it’s possible to produce Hamsters in a variety of colors, many of which now make popular pets. There are many color variations, but here are the most common.
Black – The Black Syrians have dark black fur, with some hamsters retaining a light belly. Both the eyes and ears are also black.
White – There is actually no true Albino Syrian Hamster gene. Its possible to get White hamsters with red eyes, but the eyes will normally darken with age. These are known as the Dark-Eared White Hamster, due to the dark skin color on the ears. Next is the Flesh Eared White, which as the name suggests, has lighter skin color ears. These are more likely to retain the red colored eyes but are genetically not a true albino.
Grey – Light, Dark and Silver grey hamsters are commonly found in pet stores.
Its also possible to get Syrian Hamsters in Rust, Cinnamon, Cream, or a mixture of colors.
Syrian Hamster Patterns
Banded. The most common pattern found in pet stores. The perfect show winner would have a band of color running through their middle, in equal 3rds.
Spotted – The spotted Syrian hamster will have random spots of color dotted over their bodies.
Tortoise Shell – Quite rare. Tortoiseshell patterns can only be found in females.
Behavior – What to expect from your Syrian Hamster
Golden hamsters are a laid back, docile small pet.
They are small and slow moving which makes them perfect pets for kids. In the wild, they are very territorial animals that do not tolerate each other’s presence and they are quick to fight another one that enters its territory.
Due to their nature, Syrian Hamsters must always be kept alone, apart from when breeding or under 4 weeks old
They will suspend hostilities to mate, but even then, fights often break out afterward as the female attacks the male.
Babies are left to fend for themselves after four weeks and will be sexually mature at five weeks. What this means in captivity is that they must be kept in their own cage to prevent squabbles.
If a pet Golden Hamster has babies they must be separated at around 4-5 weeks of age and housed on their own for the same reason – siblings have no qualms about killing their rivals. Nor do mothers have a problem killing their young, often because they have been tainted with the smell of humans and will, therefore, be seen as a threat.
One of the interesting Syrian Hamster facts is that they are commonly termed nocturnal but this is not strictly true, having more of a crepuscular nature. This is in order to avoid true nocturnal animals who would prey on them and to keep out of the hot days and cold nights of their natural habitat.
Being crepuscular means that they are active during the twilight hours of dusk and dawn which is good for kids who can play with them after school in the evenings.
How to care for your Syrian Hamster
Like most hamsters, Syrian’s are easy to care for, and after the initial outlay for the cage and accessories, they are relatively cheap to keep, with bedding and food being readily available from the supermarket or pet store.
Food – Whats the best food for my Syrian Hamster?
The easiest way to feed a Syrian Hamster is by getting a pre-mixed bag of commercial hamster food from a pet shop.
To top up and add variety, try preparing some extra food from home.
Syrian hamsters are omnivores. So will respond better to small portions of fruit, vegetables, and meat a couple of times per week. A piece of cooked chicken is good, as are broccoli, cabbage, carrots, pears, and apples. Syrian hamsters natural diet includes insects and grains, which can be good for the occasional treat.
It is best to avoid anything too acidic such as citrus fruits, which can cause digestive issues. Also, avoid lettuce and avocado which are toxic and can be harmful to your pet.
Like all pets, you should not overfeed your hamster. Yet, there are a few treats you can spoil them with from time to time such as egg whites, peanuts, sunflower seeds and cottage cheese.
Like all Pets, fresh clean water is a must
Syrian Hamsters are active animals and require a decent sized cage to live in, the minimum size being around 60 cm x 35 cm x 25 cm – though bigger is better.
Some pet shops sell cages specifically for these hamsters that will be the ideal size and layout for them.
The main thing to keep in mind is that they must be alone after reaching 4-5 weeks old. As mentioned before they are fiercely solitary and will not tolerate another hamster in their territory, fighting and killing them if need be.
For comfortable sleeping, owners can create a little nest for them out of hay or paper. However, if clean bedding is available the Syrian Hamster will happy make their one bed.
Hamsters naturally travel several miles per day. One key addition to all cages is a hamster exercise wheel. These provide the exercise they need to stay happy and healthy. Hamster balls are another great toy. These also make cleaning you hamsters cage easier, as they will happily scoot around the room whilst you clean their home. And, a few toys to keep them occupied and entertained.
Syrian Hamsters are easy to care for and will become tame if handled each day. Remember, being small animals, they are prey animals, and can be skittish. But, with time and patients, they can be tamed and will look forward to human company.
Despite their inbuilt rage at each other, they are friendly towards humans. As long as your hamster is happy and cared for well they will rarely bite. To help keep them happy they respond well to toys which can you can buy from a good pet store or online. Or homemade such as loo rolls, and small boxes toys are equally entertaining.
Make sure to keep their cage clean. They usually use one small corner as their toilet so it doesn’t always have to be a full cage clean. But, this shouldn’t be ignored and the cage must have a full clean at least once a week. Like other hamsters, they store and transport food in their cheek pouches, so it’s common to find food in their sleeping quarters. These should be cleaned regularly and old food removed.