Extremely popular as pets, Syrian hamsters (also known as Golden Hamsters or Mesocricetus auratus) are rodents that grow to 5-7 inches (13-17 cm) in length and weight around 5-7 oz. (40-200 g). In their natural habitats, these omnivorous creatures are territorial and solitary in nature. They do well in both arid and humid environments, and being nocturnal, tends to seek food at twilight and dawn. Their life span is only a measly two to three years. Syrian hamsters are originally from Israel and Syria, hence the name, and are used often for scientific research.
Possessing a small nose, broad head, and large eyes, Syrian hamsters have deep cheek pockets that it can use to store food. Their diet consists of grass, seeds, and insects. Its front feet have only four toes, whereas its hind feet have five. Syrian hamsters found in the wild usually have a white belly and golden brown fur elsewhere. Mutations and selective breeding have caused these hamsters to have different color variations, including black, gray, white, and cream.
Usually, breeders like to breed Syrian hamsters to have various types of coats. Longhair hamsters, sometimes referred to as teddy bear hamsters, can grow a coat that is up to 4 inches (10 cm) long. Typically, only males can grow coats that long. The bald or saint coat hamster can have a glossy coat. Additional types of Syrian hamsters include the rex, which is famous for its wavy hair pattern, and the shorthair hamster.
Female Syrian hamsters are capable of mating at only five weeks old, however they generally wait to do so until they are four months old. In the wild, females only tolerate the presence of males when they want to breed. If a female is not in heat and does not want to breed, she will often attack males. Females signal that they are ready to mate by standing still with their tail and behind pointing up.
The gestation period for a Syrian hamster is 16 days after mating. A litter will, on average, have eight to ten pups, however they can have as many as 20. The newborn pups are sightless and hairless. One should leave the pups alone to be with their mother for a few weeks up to a month, when the hamsters are no longer dependent on their mothers to survive. In the wild, a mother may sometimes eat her own young.
As a result of their many markings, coats, and colors, hamsters are extremely popular pets. Syrian hamsters are solitary animals, even in the wild, and each hamster should have their own cage. Placing two hamsters together can be dangerous, as they are also territorial and may fight each other to the death. A popular cage to get a Syrian hamster is a wire mesh cage. For those on a budget, a large plastic bin can be a good alternative, especially if you have many hamsters that each need their own cage.
Photo Credit: pyza*