Hamsters - Tubby, Bug-Eyed Rodents
The hamster is a tubby little rodent with a very short tail, small fur-covered ears as well as very short wide legs and feet. They have silky, thick fur which can be a variety of lengths, colors and thicknesses. They are from grassland and desert regions in Asia, the Middle East and across into Europe. Their preferred dwelling is the burrow which helps them avoid predators. They are a very common household pet.
They come in a range of sizes and the very smallest have bodies between 2.2 inches (5.5 cm) and 4.1 inches (10.5 cm) long. The biggest can reach up to 13.4 inches (34 cm) long and this doesn’t include their little tail which can be up to 2.4 inches (6 cm).
Their tail is sometimes hidden by their hair due to its small size. There is one exception of this in the small Chinese dwarf hamster whose tail is as long as its body. They are omnivorous but can live comfortably on hamster feed from your pet store and they have incisors characteristic of all rodents. They have very poor eyesight and are in fact nearsighted and completely colorblind. To compensate for this they have an extremely powerful sense of smell and acute hearing.
Their behavior is different depending on the specific species. Golden hamsters prefer to be solitary and if put together can fight to the death. On the other hand, Siberian hamsters form strong monogamous bonds and rely on each other for a happy life. Some dwarf hamsters can live in groups but aren’t dependent on others to survive.
Hamsters breed seasonally and in the northern hemisphere the breeding season falls between April and October. In this period each female can have up to five litters and each litter will contain between one and thirteen pups. The pups are blind and hairless and need to remain in the nest which the mother has prepared for them for at least the first week of their lives. If buying a pet hamster you may find them on sale between three and ten weeks old. If you happen to have a pregnant hamster you need to be careful as when she gives birth she may eat her young if they’re left with her for too long. They need to be separated as soon as is viable so the young survive!
The best known species of hamster is the Golden/Syrian hamster which is a very popular pet.