Chinese hamsters are small rodents that belong to the Cricetinae family. They were originally from Mongolia and China, but are now common pets in homes all over the world. Many people say they are rat-like despite being hamsters due to their thin, long bodies, sharp teeth, and long tails. They can be tough to have as a pet because they can suffer from many health issues and they are highly aggressive.
These hamsters only grow to 4 inches (10 cm) in length, making them one of the smaller hamsters. As a result, they cannot be kept in standard hamster cages because they can escape through the gaps between the bars. Thus, mouse cages or aquarium cages or better suited for housing these tiny creatures.
In terms of appearance, most Chinese hamsters are gray and light brown in color, and have a black stripe that extends down their backs. Less commonly, sometimes they are grayish-white all over. However, their bellies are always white or ivory. The rat-like, long tails that these hamsters have are roughly an inch (2.5 cm) long and no hair is found on it. Like all other hamsters, Chinese hamsters are nocturnal, however they can be active for short periods during the day as well. During the winter, they spend most of their time sleeping.
In the wild, Chinese hamsters would feed on seeds, local grasses, and insects. In captivity, they should be kept in cages and fed various fruits, vegetables, and grains. They do not need any vitamin supplements, but it doesn’t hurt to give them some mineral licks for hamsters to sharpen their teeth and provide calcium.
Chinese hamsters are generally easy to hold and quiet. They frequently grab hold of the fingers of whoever is handling them. Females can get quite aggressive, however. If two females are kept in the same cage, they may begin to fight each other. The most aggressive are pregnant females, especially if young males are in her presence. When threatened, the Chinese hamster will turn onto their backs and bare their teeth, making aggressive noises like hissing, chattering, or grinding their teeth.
Hamsters are capable of mating when they are three or four months old. Pregnant females will build nesting areas for when they give birth. Though the gestation period takes 18 to 21 days, females will not appear to gain any weight until they are heavily pregnant. The average amount of pups for a litter is anywhere from five to nine babies. Baby hamsters need to be with their mother until they are at least a month old and can be weaned off.
Unsurprisingly, like all the other hamsters, Chinese hamsters have a short life span. A healthy hamster will live only for one to two years. Chinese hamsters are susceptible to many health issues. The most common one is diabetes, which is hereditary and something that is difficult to control. If exposed to cold drafts, they can easily catch cold. Some additional common problems are skin and ear mites, bowel issues, and cancer.