The hamster family is made up of over 25 different species, the majority of which are not actually kept as pets. This Article will Talks about the 5 species of hamster that are most commonly kept as pets.
The two most popular breeds in the United States are the Golden hamster and the Campbell’s dwarf hamster.
Golden Hamster (Mesocricetus Auratus)
The Golden hamster is native to Northern Syria and Southern Turkey. The number of wild golden hamsters has declined significantly over the years, to the point that they are actually now considered vulnerable to extinction, as their preferred habitat is being lost to agriculture and industrialization.
The number of domesticated Golden hamsters however is growing rapidly helped by the fact that they are regularly used in scientific research, and are also the most popular breed of pet hamster.
Adult hamsters are between 5 to 7 inches long and live for about 3 years. They also reproduce extremely rapidly. A female hamster becomes fertile every 4 days, and the gestation period (the time from fertilization and birth) lasts only 16 days. Litters consist of an average of between 8 and 10 newborn pups.
For this reason, it’s highly recommended that you avoid getting hamsters of the opposite sex. If you put a male and female in a cage together, you’ll end up with hundreds of hamsters within a few months. So unless you intend to breed, stick with one hamster, or two hamsters of the same sex.
The Golden hamster gets its name from the coloring of its fur as it is a blend of black, brown and gold, however as a result of breeding; there are now a number of different fur colorations available so the name “golden”is now no longer always appropriate. For example, you can now get golden hamsters with cream, blonde, black, copper, tortoiseshell (black and gold) and difference shades of gray fur.
Breeders have also produced golden hamsters with longer hair than their wild counterparts. Typically these are called Angora hamsters, or “teddy bear”hamsters. The males have longer hair that creates a sort of “skirt”of fur around its lower backside, however the females of this breed still have short hair, but it is more velvety. In terms of behavior, golden hamsters are some of the most docile and mild-mannered hamsters available. They are also famous for their drinking habit. In the wild, golden hamsters collect and store fruits throughout the summer to survive throughout the winter, however by the time winter arrives, those fruits have fermented and become alcoholic.
Because of this, golden hamsters have developed a taste for alcohol and their livers are five times larger than you would expect for their body size, meaning that they could beat anyone in a drinking competition.
Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster (Phodopus Campbell)
Native to China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Russia, the Campbell’s dwarf hamster is growing in popularity as a pet mainly because their small size makes them extra adorable. In the wild, they average about 3 inches however the domesticated versions are a little larger since they are fed a more nutritious diet more regularly.
The underside of the hamster, from the tail up to the jaw, is covered in a coat of cream-colored fur, whilst the upper side is a light or dark grey with a long black, or dark grey stripe, running from the tip of its nose, down to its tail. They have a shorter lifespan (ranging from just 1 to 2 years) and have a high risk for cancer than the Golden hamster. They are also at greater risk of having a genetic mutation which prevents them from being able to digest carbohydrates or fats. This results in them therefore technically being omnivores. It is really important that you monitor your hamster regularly to ensure it is properly digesting fruits and fatty foods. If it isn’t, you’ll need to restrict its diet primarily to insects and other low carbohydrate, low fat foods.
Like many other kinds of rodents, the teeth of a dwarf hamster continue to grow throughout its entire life. This means that they need smooth, nontoxic wood to chew on in order to keep their teeth filed down.
In captivity, females can reproduce as many as 18 litters a year, with an average of 6 pups per litter. They can also be bred with the Djungarian Russian dwarf hamster to create a hybrid however this hybrid species is prone to a lot of health problems, so this type of crossbreeding is not recommended.
They are less docile than the Golden hamster but they can still be great pets if cared for well. You will therefore need to give them more attention and spend more time with them so that they get used to you. You should also avoid putting your hand directly into the cage to pick it up, as they are extremely territorial. Try instead using a spoon that it can climb on to.
Djungarian Russian Dwarf Hamster (Phodopus Sungorus)
To be Continued …