Hamster Facts: The Nocturnal Rodent
Believe it or not, today’s domestic hamsters come from just one female wild golden hamster and her 12 babies. These original 13 hamsters were collected in 1930 by Dr. Aharoni in Northern Syria. He started a hamster breeding program in Jerusalem, before sending a number of hamsters to the UK in 1931 and others to the United States in 1938. Dr. Aharoni bred these hamsters for use in laboratories, but by 1945 they were available widely as pets.
Sadly, hamsters have very short life spans. In the wild, they generally live for just 18 to 24 months. In captivity, they can live for up to 3 years. Golden-brown Syrian hamsters can live for up to 6 years if well looked after.
Distribution and Habitat
The wild golden hamster lives in North West Syria and were first described in writing in 1839 by George Robert Waterhouse. His original specimen was a female hamster and he named it Cricetus Auratus or “golden hamster”. Now, here’s the science part – since their discovery, Cricetus have been subdivided and separated into genus Misocrecetus, leading to the presently accepted name for the golden hamster of Mesocricetus Auratus (or Syrian hamster).
Hamsters can live underground, despite the temperature being a lot colder than the above ground heat. A hamster’s underground home usually consists of one main chamber and many passageways where the hamster can store food and sleep, they also store food within their cheeks.
Behaviour in the Wild
Although hamsters are occasionally active during the day, they’re primarily nocturnal — which explains why domesticated hamsters like to keep you up by running on their wheel all night. In the wild it is safer for hamsters to be out at night when there are less predators around, which is why they have evolved to be nocturnal over time. These solitary creatures live in burrows in the wild. Hamsters are vegetarians, eating a diet of fruit, seeds and vegetation. They have cheek pouches in which they can store extra food in order to take it into their burrow and store it for future consumption.
What’s it like to own a pet hamster?
- A hamster only requires at least 360 square inches of space for a cage which is less space than a guinea pig.
- Hamsters are cheap to obtain. Usually, they cost 5-10 pounds, depending on the variation.
- Hamsters don’t need to see a vet at all, unless they are really badly sick.
- Hamsters are a very quiet pet (as long as a little spinning on their wheel at night won’t wake you).
- Many breeds of hamsters can be kept alone and don’t require a friend as they are used to this in the wild.
- Hamsters don’t need much care unlike other rodents.
- Syrian hamsters are less likely to bite than other pets. In fact they can be very calm when trained correctly.
- Hamsters tend to keep themselves busy, so you don’t have to spend as much time playing with them if you have a busy schedule.
- Syrian hamsters are fast runners so when you want to clean them out it can be hard to catch them.
- Hamsters are nocturnal which means getting them out in the day time will only frustrate them. They need to be handled in the evening.
- Hamsters have very short life spans, as mentioned above. Therefore they may not be suitable for young children who could quickly grow very attached.
- Hamsters can easily catch diseases if their cage is not maintained properly. Cleaning every couple of days is essential.
- Hamsters can begin to bite a lot if they aren’t handled enough or are handled too much during their sleeping hours.
- Hamsters are very small. If they get loose, they can hide in very small places making it impossible to ever find them.
Did you know?
Hamsters constantly use their sense of smell to find their way around because they have very poor eyesight.
Hamsters eat their own poo to absorb nutrients that were not previously digested! Yuck? No. It’s actually very healthy for them!