Cute as a button and adoringly cheerful, Syrian hamsters are sure to steal your heart at first glance. PetPonder dishes out all the lowdown on keeping them as pets, their lifespan, and diet.
Looks can be deceptive!
Hamsters are jovial by nature, but take note that the Syrian species are solitary creatures and should never be kept in the same cage with another hamster(s). They are notoriously territorial, and may indulge in violent fights with other hamsters, sometimes resulting in death.
Syrian hamsters, also known as golden hamsters, belong to the rodent subfamily. These little creatures are incredibly cute to look at, and make wonderful pets as well. However, keep in mind that despite their diminutive stature, one needs to put in a lot of effort and care while keeping them as pets.
Syrian hamsters are about 4-5 inches long, and have a lifespan of 2-3 years. They are quite non-fussy and a delight to have around the house.
All You Need to Know about the Syrian Hamster
►► Physical attributes
• Hamsters are stout, round-bodied rodents with beady eyes and stubby tails.
• They have small, bare paws that have tiny but sharp claws.
• Hamsters have internal cheek pouches, which extend from their mouth to nearly as far back as their hind legs. In the wild, these pouches were used to transport food to their burrows. In fact, they have also been observed exhibiting the same behavior while in captivity. Don’t be too surprised to see your pet hamster pack his food into the pouches and scurry around its cage to find an appropriate hiding place.
• Their teeth keep growing steadily, which makes it important to provide them chew toys to keep the teeth healthy.
• Docile and cheerful, these tiny critters are really non-fussy. Although you must know that they are nocturnal, and are at their sprightliest best after sundown. Therefore, if you are the kind to be bothered by the nightly sounds of wheel running and twitching, hamsters may not be suitable pets for you.
• They tend to take naps and generally rest during the day. Avoid disturbing them as far as possible when they’re sleeping, as they are known to bite in annoyance. Be really careful not to do so, especially if you have young children.
• Give them a little time to get used to you. You may begin by feeding your hamster little treats from your hand. Once he gets used to accepting treats from you, gently pick him up. Hold him for a little while in the beginning, and take it from there. Exercise extreme caution while handling them, as they are quite delicate. Children under the age of 10 should always be supervised when handling hamsters. These pets can surprise you with their speed, so always play in an enclosed area if you are removing them from the cage.
• You can feed him the hamster mix comprising seeds, grains, and cracked corn, which can be purchased at any pet supply store.
• Adding fresh foods every two or three days is recommended. This should include grains, sunflower seeds and nuts (in moderation), alfalfa pellets, fresh fruits, and vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, carrots, and apples.
• Banned food for hamsters include raw kidney beans, onions, raw potato, rhubarb, chocolate, candy, or junk food.
• Fresh, clean water should be available at all times, and must be replaced each day. Ensure that the water is chlorine-free at all times. If you are in doubt, get a dechlorinator from the pet store to cleanse the water.
• You will need to purchase a cage that’s specifically designed for hamsters, and make sure that it is as roomy as possible. Hamsters love to run around in the cage, keeping separate areas for food, bedding, playing, and waste disposal. A 10-gallon glass tank is an ideal-sized cage for one Syrian hamster. There should be enough room to place a running wheel, chew toys, and small cardboard boxes for the pet to play and hide. Note that hamsters are great at chewing their way out of a cage, so ensure that it is secure and locked at all times.
• Specialized bedding can be purchased from the pet supply store. You are expected to inspect the bedding every day to replace the soiled spots, if any.
• You need to clean the entire cage and toys with a spot of dishwashing liquid mixed with warm water twice a week, especially if your pet tends to hoard his food. Daily maintenance should consist of spot cleaning by removing soiled substrate, cleaning the water bowl thoroughly, and wiping the glass clean.
• Healthy hamsters have a chubby body with a coating of soft and smooth fur all over. The fur should not be damp or stained anywhere on the body.
• The eyes should be bright and sparkling. Breathing should be even with no wheezing or gurgling sounds.
• Healthy hamsters have high energy levels and are sprightly, more so during nighttime.
• Biannual checkups are recommended with an exotic pet veterinarian for small mammals. Spotting an illness early on can go a long way in saving the life of your pet.
Tiny they definitely are, but their size takes nothing away from the fact that hamsters make adorable pets. If you’re thinking of getting one, please choose a responsible breeder, or adopt one from a small animal shelter.