The hamster which is often considered as a popular household pet is a rodent which belongs to the subfamily Cricetinae known for including as much as up to 25 species in seven categories.
When in the wild the hamster is a mostly active during twilight and will remain underground for the most part of the day to avoid coming into contact with any known predators. The hamster will feed primarily on vegetation, burrowing insects, fruits and seeds.
Using its cheek pouch which can become elongated by stretching out its shoulders backward, the hamster has the ability to carry a vast amount of food to be stored within its burrow.
Depending on the genetics, social interaction with human beings and its habitat, a hamster’s behavior will often vary. Relatively easy to breed when in captivity the hamster is frequently used as a suitable laboratory animal for conducting research.
Facts About the Hamster
- The name hamster is a word loaned from the German vocabulary, which was derived from an the earliest stage of the German language (Old High German) hamustro. It is thought that the word bears some close relation to the Old Russian word chomĕstrŭ which is probably a blend of the Russian root word khomiak “hamster”.
- Although it was George Robert Waterhouse in 1839 who first described the Syrian hamster commonly referred to as the golden hamster, it was not until 1939 that researchers were able to successfully breed and tame the hamster. It was nonetheless a zoologist at the university of Jerusalem by the name of Israel Aharoni who first captured and imported the litter-mates from Aleppo in 1930. Several years later hamsters from this first breeding animal group were exported to the United States where they were adopted as one of the most popular laboratory animals and household pets.
- The hamster is typically known to have stout body, small furry ears, wide feet, stocky legs and a short stubby tail. Its coat consists of a thick silklike fur which can be seen as either long or short and depending on the species, colored in black, white, honey, grey, yellow, or an assortment of colors. Campbell’s dwarf hamster and the Djungarian hamster are the only two species of hamsters belonging to the Phodopus family as well as the Chinese stripped hamster and the Chinese hamster of the Cricetulus genus which are known for having a darkly colored stripe from their head to tail.
- The smallest species of the hamster to date is the Phodopus genus while the European hamster also known as the Cricetus cricetus is the largest hamster and can measure as much as over 15 inches in total length and as such are more suitable for children who want to spend more time holding their pets. The species known as the Angora hamster commonly referred to as the teddy bear or long – haired hamster which is actually a species of the golden hamster is the second largest breed of the hamster often seen measuring about 7 inches in length. Dwarf hamsters which are considerably smaller than the Syrian hamster and rarely considered as an adequate choice for children pets due to their small size and quickness.
- Typically a hamster’s tail which is about a length of one – sixth of its body is not easily seen. However the tail of the Chinese dwarf hamster which is about the same length as its body is easily recognizable.
- One of the distinctive features of the hamster is its sharp and visible incisor teeth. A hamsters incisors will grow continuously throughout the life of the hamster and as such must be repeatedly worn down. Although the hamster is highly flexible its bones are quite fragile and easily broken. Not to mention that they are very susceptible to rapid changes in temperature including extreme cold and hot climates.
- Hamsters are known for their poor eyesight being not only nearsighted but also colorblind. To assist with their poor eyesight the hamster has scent glands on the sides of their bodies which they use to wipe against the substrate to leave behind a scented path. The hamster will additionally use their sense of smell to not only distinguish between the males and females but also for finding food. They are moreover highly sensitive to high – pitched noises allowing them to communicate within an ultrasonic range inaudible to the human ear.
- The hamster primarily gets its energy and nutrients from a diet consisting of a number of food sources and as such can solely survive on vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, commercial hamster food as well as other types. Middle Eastern hamsters in the wild have been known to hunt in packs for insects as a main source of food. The hamster is also a hindgut fermenter capable of eating its own feces to gain unabsorbed nutrients digested within the hindgut.
- Hamsters are known particularly for hoarding. Able to carry food within their spacious cheek pouches to their burrows, the hamster can store enough food within its cheeks doubling and sometimes tripling the original size of its head.
- The hamster is traditionally a solitary animal and if housed together with another hamster will develop an acute and chronic stress occasionally fighting even to the death. However few species of the hamster such as the dwarf hamster however are slightly more tolerant towards similar species. Russian hamsters on the other hand are known to form close monogamous life long bonds with their mates and will become severely depressed when separated especially in the males. This state of depression will often result in the hamster developing poor eating habits, becoming inactive and even displaying similar social behavior common in most humans when they are depressed. And as such generally results in obesity.
- Hamsters will reproduce several times within each year and can begin reproducing as early as at the age of 4 – 5 weeks. Hamsters found within the Northern Hemisphere will generally breed between the months of April through to October with up to five litters of one to thirteen young after an average pregnancy period of between 16 – 23 days.
- The female hamster if kept together for an extended period of time are known to sometimes become aggressive towards the male and may even attack or kill the male hamster. As such it is strongly recommended that when breeding hamsters, the pair are separated after mating.
- Female hamsters have been known to eat their young if they are in danger. But will mostly carry them around in her cheek pouches. Nonetheless the female should be separated from her litter within three weeks after giving birth as she will likely cannibalize her young.
Hamster Web cams
The web cam link posted below shows a recorded video of nine year old Alexander Syrian hamster.
View Hamster Web cam.