The golden hamster, or Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus), is a species of rodent in the subfamily Cricetinae. It was first described scientifically by Wilhelm Zimmermann in 1839, who named it “Cricetus auratus”. The species has two recognized subspecies: Mesocricetus auratus auratus and Mesocricetus auratus nivicolus. Both are commonly called golden hamsters, though the former is also known as the teddy bear hamster.
Golden hamsters are small rodents with short tails and somewhat flattened bodies. They have a head-and-body length of 6 to 8 cm (2.4 to 3.1 in) and a tail length of 2.5 to 4 cm (0.98 to 1.57 in). Females are generally smaller than males, weighing between 30 and 50 g (1.1 and 1.8 oz), compared with the male golden hamster’s 40–100 g (1.4–3.5 oz). The fur is very soft and thick; coat colours are mostly shades of brown, but golden, buff, black-based, agouti, satin, grey/silver mottled and in occasional instances white are known.
Golden hamsters are native to Syria, where they are found mainly around the cities of Aleppo, Damascus and Homs. They were introduced to the rest of Europe in the 19th century following the visits of British naturalists to Syria. They were first referred to as “Syrian hamsters” and then adopted as “golden hamsters”. However, some taxonomists continue to use “Mesocricetus auratus”. They have also been introduced into Australia and Mexico.
What do I need for my Golden Hamster?
Golden hamsters require a cage that is at least 6″ in diameter and 6″ high, with sufficient bedding to keep their cages from getting covered with urine and feces. The larger the space, the better. They also need lots of exercise, which can be provided by climbing structures. Pet stores sell several types of hamster cages. Whatever type you get, make sure that the bars of the cage are spaced no more than 1″ apart.
A wheel is necessary to allow a hamster to run, and also helps keep his or her teeth short. Pet stores sell many kinds of wheels for different sized pets. Check the wheel carefully before purchase; some wires can be so poorly made that they break after a short period of use. A wire wheel is preferable to a plastic one, as it allows the hamster to climb on top of it, and provides an opportunity for exercise on the top side and inside the base (this is also beneficial for hamsters with sore hocks).
Hamsters, like any other pet, require frequent veterinary visits. They are susceptible to tooth problems, skin issues and respiratory diseases. A healthy golden hamster diet consists of a variety of soft foods to keep their teeth short and clean their teeth more often than other rodents.
Hamsters have a reproductive cycle similar to that of other rodents; they experience estrus during the first part of the year when they mate with each other in their cages. During this time, many females will produce offspring, but only one is able to successfully survive through the winter. Therefore, it is essential that you provide your hamster with sufficient bedding and food so that it will be able to survive its first few months outside its birth season.
Golden Hamster Care
Syrian Hamsters are playful and friendly; however, they are nocturnal animals and do not interact with their owners during daytime. They must also live alone in order to be happy, as males tend to fight if kept together, while females may have fights with each other as well. They enjoy running in a hamster ball or exploring the house, but they can escape from their cage. They like to hoard food inside their cheek pouches and store them for future use.
Syrian hamsters should not be kept in the same cage with other pets. This can lead to aggressive behavior or even fights. If you ever give away your hamster, make sure it does not go to a stranger’s house, as their animals may get into each other’s space (so be sure that they are happy with you!). In addition, if your pet is sick, don’t even think of throwing it away; get a new one instead!
Like their wild cousins, Syrian hamsters like to live in burrows. They prefer burrows that have been used before and should not be dug within 2 months of a previous digging. If the burrow was dug in a corner, a cone shape may result. If you notice this, please dispose of it properly (i.e., burn) or dig a new one as an addition to your hamster’s home.
In the wild, Syrian hamsters hibernate during the coldest months of the year during early spring and late fall. While it is not necessary for a hamster in captivity to hibernate, it can be a fun and healthy way to make the winter months go by faster.
Hibernation can be achieved in several ways. For an animal that lives indoors, a small cage can be placed in a closet or basement where there are no other animals. There should be enough bedding for it to burrow and enough food for them to survive the winter. With this kind of hibernation, the animal should always have access to clean water and fresh food during its waking hours. When you notice that your pet is entering hibernation mode, feed them smaller portions less often so that they do not over-eat (which causes obesity). Your hamster will also need rest during hibernation, which can be achieved with a lower cage temperature, less light exposure and usually, no human interaction.
Although Syrian hamsters are not known to carry any diseases or parasites, they must be taken to the vet at least once every 2–6 months. They will urinate more frequently than most rodents and develop more teeth than usual; this is due to the fact that their teeth grow throughout the year. If your hamster has stopped eating, do not force-feed him/her. Have your pet checked out by a veterinarian as soon as possible; it may be seriously ill.
In order to own a Syrian hamster, here are the laws you must follow in your location:
- If you are residing in the United States of America, it is legal to own and breed Syrian hamsters
- If you are living in Canada, it is illegal to sell or give away captive-bred hamsters
- If you live in the UK, it is legal to own and breed Syrian hamsters