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50 Fascinating and Fun Hamster Facts You Never Knew

Nicole Cosgrove

Hamsters are those tiny, lovable animals that many people have owned at least once. They’re cute and full of sass and sweetness, making the great pets. There are lots of interesting things about hamsters that you’ve probably never heard, so let’s get into the fun and fascinating hamster facts you didn’t know before now.

divider-hamsterWhat Are Hamsters?

1.

Hamsters belong to the family Cricetidae, which is the second-largest family of mammals in the world. There are over 600 species in the family, including mice, lemmings, and voles.

2.

They were first catalogued by scientists in the 1700s, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that hamsters began being used as lab animals. Shortly after that, they became popular pets.

3.

It’s believed that all domesticated hamsters are descendants of two hamsters that were bred in 1930.

white hamster
Image Credit: Marcela Arrubla, Pixabay

Types of Hamsters

4.

There are around 25 species of hamsters, including Roborovski, White Winter Dwarf, and Syrian.

5.

Syrian hamsters are the most popular species of hamster kept as pets. They are also sometimes referred to as “teddy bear hamsters”.

6.

In their native habitat, Syrian hamsters are considered endangered.

7.

Long-haired hamsters are a type of Syrian hamster. Their long hair means they require routine grooming to prevent mats and waste collection around the back end.

8.

Hamsters have short tails, differentiating them from the similar looking Gerbil, which has a long, mouse-like tail.

9.

Chinese Dwarf hamsters have longer tails than other species of hamsters, making them more agile at jumping and climbing, and meaning they are often confused for mice.

10.

Some Dwarf hamsters only reach 2 inches when full grown, while the larger Syrian hamster tops out at around 6 inches.

11.

European hamsters can exceed 12 inches when full grown.

12.

It is extremely rare for European hamsters to be kept as pets. It became even more rare when they were added to the IUCN list of critically endangered animals in 2020. They could be extinct by 2050.

Habits, Feeding, and Development

13.

They are omnivores, primarily eating plants and grains, but hamsters will also eat animal proteins, like insects and eggs.

14.

They are naturally crepuscular, which means they are most active during dawn and dusk and sleeping through much of the day and night.

15.

Hamsters are fast runners, able to clock in over 5 miles of running in a single night.

16.

They use scent glands to mark their space and to help find their way. Some of these scent glands are located on their back.

17.

They breed easily in captivity, which is part of the reason they are popular as pets and lab animals.

18.

In captivity, hamsters can live 3–4 years with excellent care.

19.

Hamsters have very poor eyesight and are color blind, so they rely on their noses to find their way. They have a great sense of smell, though!

20.

They are born completely blind and develop their eyesight as they age.

21.

They are born with a full set of teeth.

22.

In the wild, hamsters dig large, elaborate burrows. These burrows can reach around 0.5 meters in depth and often include multiple “rooms” and offshoots.

23.

In the wild, hamsters will hibernate during the colder months.

hamster using a hamster potty
Image Credit: Victor FlowerFly, Shutterstock

Cheek Pouches

24.

The word “hamster” originated in the German language with the word “hamstern”, which means “hoard”. This is because hamsters hoard food in their cheeks and burrows.

25.

Did you know hamsters’ cheek pouches have a name? They’re called displostomes and can stretch to allow a hamster’s cheeks to be 2–3 times the size of its head.

26.

Displostomes aren’t just for food. Mother hamsters can carry their young in their displostomes in case of danger.

Interactions

27.

Although they are popular pets, hamsters do startle quite easily and may bite if startled. It’s recommended to talk to your hamster and approach it slowly to avoid startling it.

28.

If startled, you may hear your hamster squeal or scream.

29.

They are intelligent animals that are even capable of learning their name. Talking to your hamster builds trust and teaches your hamster to form associations between words and items or actions.

30.

While rats tend to get all the credit, hamsters are capable of working mazes and puzzles.

31.

Studies have shown that hamsters have different moods that directly correlate to their health and enjoyment of their environment.

hamster bedding 3_ sipa _Pixabay
Image Credit: sipa , Pixabay

Health and Wellness

32.

Their teeth never stop growing, so they should always have chew sticks and toys available to help keep the teeth trimmed. If the teeth overgrow, they can be trimmed by a veterinarian.

33.

The teeth can break and may grow in unusual directions, especially if the tooth next to it is broken.

34.

Hamsters are a great pet if you’re looking for a small animal that can be litter box trained. They are very clean and prefer not to potty all over their enclosure.

35.

They can run backwards, which many mammals are not capable of doing.

36.

They can use both their front and back feet to grip, typically using them to hold onto toys or food.

37.

Some hamsters like to take dust baths, much like chinchillas.

38.

Unlike most rodents, hamsters are not prone to overeating. They will often ignore food in their enclosure that they aren’t hungry for or don’t like.

39.

Your hamster should have regular visits to the vet. An annual veterinary visit can ensure your hamster is healthy, especially as it begins to age.

Living With Cage Mates

40.

Syrian hamsters are solitary animals in the wild, so they should not be kept with cage mates in captivity.

41.

Syrian hamsters must be separated from their littermates by the time they are 4–5 weeks old to prevent fighting and injuries.

42.

Some Dwarf varieties of hamsters are highly social animals that appreciate living with a cage mate.

hamster 9_Cindy Parks_Pixabay
Image Credit: Cindy Parks, Pixabay

Males, Females, and Breeding

43.

Female hamsters are usually larger than males.

44.

Baby hamsters are called “pups”.

45.

A litter of hamsters usually consists of 6 – 12 pups, although some litters can exceed 20 pups.

46.

Handling pups for the first few weeks after birth is not recommended. If you touch the pups before they are furred and wandering the enclosure on their own, their mother will kill them.

47.

Mother hamsters nurse their young, like other mammals. To keep her healthy and give her energy while she is nursing, increase her protein intake by including small pieces of cheese, cooked egg white, and even very small amounts of lean boiled chicken.

48.

It is recommended to keep your hamster’s environment quiet and calm after she gives birth. A mother hamster that feels threatened may eat her pups. In the wild, this serves to protect the nest from predation.

49.

It’s not recommended to keep male and female hamsters together because they can breed too much. Breeding may occur before the female weans her pups, which can be stressful for her and may result in the death of the pups.

50.

Male hamsters have no paternal instincts and should not be allowed around the pups. He may attempt to kill or eat the pups, or he may end up in a fight with the female as she attempts to protect her young.

divider-hamsterIn Conclusion

Did you learn something new about hamsters? They are fascinating animals that are often underestimated and believed to be stupid since they’re “just” rodents. However, they are highly intelligent animals with complex social interactions and the ability to learn, solve, and bond. Hamsters will provide you no shortage of interesting interactions over the years, and your hamster will be with you for up to 4 years if you give it excellent care.


Featured Image Credit: mordilla-net, Pixabay

Source: https://lvma.org/LVMA/For_Pet_Owners/Educational_Material/Biology_of_the_Hamster.aspx

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.