- Lifespan: 3-5 years
- Body weight: 80-150 g
- Sexual maturity: 45-75 days
- Gestation: 15-18 days
- Liter size: 5-9
- Weaning: 20-25 days
- Daily diet consumption of adult (g): 10-15
- Daily water consumption of adult (mL): 9-12
- Adapt well to captivity.
- Small; do not require a lot of living space.
- Relatively inexpensive to maintain.
- Can easily become tame with frequent, gentle handling.
- Hamsters should have a set schedule where a consistent amount of time and attention is given each day. This is especially important for maintaining tameness.
- Hamsters may bite or show aggression in response to rough handling, sudden disturbances, being around other hamsters, or when they are pregnant, lactating, ill or in pain.
- Nocturnal animals, active during the night and sleep during the day.
- Solitary; never house more than one adult hamster per habitat.
Anatomy and Physiology:
- Hamsters are short-tailed, stocky rodents that are known for their abundance of loose skin.
- Hamsters have large cheek pouches that are paired muscular sacs extending as far back as the scapula.
- The pouches are used for transporting food, bedding material and occasionally young.
- Have distinctive hip or flank glands that should not be misdiagnosed as skin tumors.
- Females are typically larger than the males.
Sexing and Reproduction:
- Male hamsters have rather large scrotal sacs that give them rounded posterior.
- The female hamster’s posterior is pointed toward the tail.
- Males have a greater anogenital distance than females, and a pointed genital papilla with a round opening.
- Syrian golden hamsters are solitary and should not be housed in multiples under any circumstances.
- Housing should be constructed of escape-proof wire mesh with plastic or metal solid flooring and should be large enough to allow nesting, burrowing and exercise.
- A secure wire screen clamped top or other roof is necessary to prevent escape.
- Ideal room temperatures should be 71-75 degrees F (21-24 degrees C).
- Ideal humidity should be 40-70%.
- Suitable substrates include shredded paper (non-inked), recycled newspaper composite material or pellets, hardwood chips or shavings and compressed wheat or straw. Cedar may cause harm and is not recommended.
- The enclosure should be cleaned thoroughly at least weekly to reduce odors and decrease the likelihood of respiratory or skin inflammation associated with soiled bedding. Remove wet spots daily.
- A hide box with deep litter for burrowing is recommended.
- Exercise may be provided in the form of a large exercise wheel and climbing toys.
- Toys, such as tubes (paper towel rolls), provide the hamster with environmental enrichment and exercise.
- Young hamsters should be fed a pelleted diet with a minimum of 16% protein and 4-5% fat.
- Hamsters eat solid food 7-10 days of age, so food and water must be accessible for their small size.
- Mature adults thrive on a slightly lower protein level 12-14%.
- Treats may include tiny bits of apple (no seeds or skin), raisins and walnuts.
- Drinking water should be provided via sipper tubes.
- Water can also be obtained from carrots and other fruits and vegetables.
- The food bowls should be carefully monitored to avoid mistaking seed hulls for whole seeds. Hamsters also tend to hoard food and hide it, leading to spoilage.
- Hamsters pack large quantities of food into their cheek pouches.
- Offering to much fresh produce and not enough fiber may result in diarrhea.
Grooming and Hygiene:
- Hamsters stay clean and rarely need baths.
- Consult with a veterinarian if your hamster’s teeth or nails seem too long.
- Because all hamsters are potential carriers of infectious diseases, always wash your hands before and after handling your hamster and/or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of diseases.
- Pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing and/or caring for a hamster.
- May be helpful to purchase a gram scale to keep track of your hamster’s weight and food consumption.
This information is provided through Valley Veterinary Hospital and the following sources. If you have any further questions regarding hamster husbandry and health, please contact our hospital at 701-232-3391.
“The Exotic Guidebook Exotic Companion Animal Procedures,” written by Susan Leck,
DVM Dipl ABVP – Canine & Feline Practice Edited by Peter Fisher, DVM.