Introduction to Hamster

Any of 18 Eurasian rodent species with internal cheek pouches are known as a hamster (subfamily Cricetinae). The golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus), often known as the Syrian hamster, is a rodent that belongs to the Cricetinae hamster subfamily. Their native distribution is restricted to a tiny desert area in northern Syria and southern Turkey. In the wild, their numbers have been falling owing to habitat degradation from agriculture and purposeful extinction by humans. As a result, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has designated wild golden hamsters as Vulnerable. Syria's golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) is popular as a pet. Hamsters have small hairy ears, short stocky legs, and broad feet, and have a tail that is significantly shorter than their body length. Depending on the species, their thick long hair ranges from grey to reddish-brown, while their underparts are white to shades of grey and black. A black stripe runs down the centre of the back of the Dzhungarian hamster (Phodopus sungorus) and the striped dwarf hamster (Cricetulus barabensis).

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Hamster 

Hamsters are rodents (order Rodentia) that belong to the Cricetinae subfamily, which has 19 species divided into seven genera. They've established themselves as popular little pets. The golden or Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus), which is the most often kept as a pet, is the most well-known species of hamster. The three dwarf hamster species, Campbell's dwarf hamster (Phodopus campbelli), the winter white dwarf hamster (Phodopus sungorus), and the Roborovski hamster, are also popular pet hamsters (Phodopus roborovskii).

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Hamsters are crepuscular rather than nocturnal, and in the wild, they spend the day underground to avoid being captured by predators. They consume seeds, fruits, and plants mostly, but will also eat burrowing insects on occasion. They have a stout build and distinctive characteristics such as large cheek pouches that extend to their shoulders, which they use to move goods back to their burrows, a short tail, and fur-covered feet.


History of Hamster

Although George Robert Waterhouse described the Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) scientifically in 1839, researchers were unable to effectively breed and domesticate hamsters until 1939. Syrian hamsters appear to be descended from a single brother-sister couple in both laboratory and domestic populations. Israel Aharoni, a biologist at the University of Jerusalem, caught and imported these littermates from Aleppo, Syria, in 1930. The hamsters bred quite well in Jerusalem. Animals from the initial breeding colony were eventually transferred to the United States, where Syrian hamsters became popular pets and research animals. Domestic Syrian hamsters have less genetic diversity than wild Syrian hamsters, according to research. Behavioural, chronobiological, morphometrics, haematological, and biochemical variances, on the other hand, are minor and fall within the predicted range of interstrain variability in other laboratory animals.

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Classification of Hamster

The most suitable location of the subfamily Cricetinae within the superfamily Muroidea is a point of contention among taxonomists. Some classify it in the Cricetidae family, which also contains voles, lemmings, and New World rats and mice, while others lump them all together in the Muridae family. In Europe and North Africa, their evolutionary history may be traced back 11.2 million to 16.4 million years to the Middle Miocene Epoch; in Asia, it can be traced back 6 million to 11 million years to the Middle Miocene Epoch. Extinct species are found in four of the seven living genera. For example, one extinct Cricetus hamster thrived in North Africa during the Middle Miocene, while the European or common hamster of Eurasia is the sole surviving member of the genus.

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Description of Hamster

Hamsters have tiny, hairy ears, short, stocky legs, and broad feet, and their tails are usually shorter than their bodies. Depending on the species, they have thick, silky hair that can be long or short and can be black, grey, honey, white, brown, yellow, red, or a combination of colours. Two Phodopus species, Campbell's dwarf hamster (P. campbelli) and Djungarian hamster (P. sungorus), and two Cricetulus species, Chinese striped hamster (C. barabensis) and Chinese hamster (C. griseus), have a black stripe running from their heads to their tails. 

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The genus Phodopus has the smallest bodies, measuring 5.5 to 10.5 centimetres (2+14 to 4+14 in) in length; the European hamster (Cricetus cricetus) is the biggest, measuring up to 34 centimetres (13+12 in) in length, not including a short tail of up to 6 centimetres (2+12 in). With the exception of the Chinese hamster, which has a tail that is the same length as the body, the hamster tail might be difficult to detect since it is typically not very long (approximately 16 times the length of the body). The sharp incisors of hamsters are one of their most noticeable characteristics; they have an upper and lower set that develop continually throughout their lives and must be worn down on a regular basis. Hamsters are extremely adaptable, yet their bones are brittle. Rapid temperature fluctuations and winds, as well as intense heat and cold, make them extremely susceptible.


Diet of Hamster

Hamsters are omnivores, so they can consume both meat and plants. Seeds, grass, and even insects are eaten by wild hamsters. Although pet hamsters may thrive on a diet of commercial hamster chow alone, they can also be fed vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts. Although store-bought food is fine for hamsters, fruits and vegetables should be included in their diet to keep them healthy. Even though hamsters can eat both fruits and veggies, it's vital to know which ones they can eat and how much of each. Fruits that don't have a lot of citrus in them, as well as most green leafy vegetables, are excellent for hamsters.

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Junk food, chocolate, garlic, or other salty/sweet foods should not be offered to hamsters. Peanut butter is a favourite of hamsters, but it's vital to offer it to them carefully since it might become trapped in their cheeks. Hamsters in the Middle East have been observed hunting for insects in groups. Hamsters are hindgut fermenters, which implies they eat their own dung (coprophagy) to recover nutrients that were digested but not absorbed in the hindgut.


Behaviour of Hamster

1. Social Behaviour

Fruits that don't have a lot of citrus in them, as well as most green leafy vegetables, are excellent for hamsters. Junk food, chocolate, garlic, or other salty/sweet foods should not be fed to hamsters. Peanut butter is a favourite of hamsters, but it's vital to offer it to them carefully since it might become stuck in their cheeks. Hamsters in the Middle East have been observed hunting for insects in groups. Hamsters are hindgut fermenters, which implies they eat their own dung (coprophagy) to recover nutrients that were digested but not absorbed in the hindgut.

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2. Feeding Behaviour

Food hoarding is a feature of hamsters' behaviour. They carry food to their subterranean storage chambers in their large cheek pouches. The cheeks may make their heads double or even treble in size when they are full. In preparation for winter, hamsters lose weight in the autumn months. Even when hamsters are kept as pets, this happens, and it's associated with increased exercise.

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3. Burrowing Behaviour

All hamsters dig well, constructing burrows with one or more entrances, galleries, and chambers for nesting, food storage, and other activities. Digging is done by their fore- and hind legs, as well as their snouts and teeth. In the wild, the burrow defends against predators by buffering high ambient temperatures and providing generally constant climatic conditions. Syrian hamsters build burrows to a depth of 0.7 m on occasion. A burrow has a steep entry pipe (4–5 cm in diameter), a nesting and hoarding chamber, and a urination blind-ending branch. Laboratory hamsters have not lost their ability to dig burrows; in fact, if given the proper substrate, they will do so with tremendous energy and expertise. Other animals' tunnels are also used by wild hamsters; the Djungarian hamster, for example, uses the pika's pathways and burrows.

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4. Chronobiology

Hamsters are classified as either nocturnal or crepuscular (active mostly at dawn and dusk). "Hamsters are nocturnal rodents who are active at night," argues Khunen, while others argue that hamsters' activity is largely crepuscular since they spend most of the day underground, only leaving their burrows for about an hour before sundown and returning when it becomes dark. Although certain species have been seen to exhibit more nighttime activity than others, Fritzsche stated that they are all primarily crepuscular. Syrian hamsters may hibernate in the wild, allowing their body temperature to drop to near-ambient levels.


This type of thermoregulation lowers the metabolic rate by around 5%, allowing the animal to significantly reduce its food consumption throughout the winter. Hibernation can continue up to one week, although it is more typical for it to last two to three days. Syrian hamsters do not hibernate when kept as house pets.


Reproduction of Hamster

Depending on the species, hamsters become reproductive at different ages. Syrian and Russian hamsters mature quickly and may reproduce at a young age (4–5 weeks), but Chinese hamsters begin reproducing at two to three months of age and Roborovskis at three to four months. The reproductive life of a female hamster is around 18 months, although male hamsters are fertile for considerably longer. Females go into estrus every four days, which is characterized by reddening of the vaginal regions, a musky smell, and a hissing, squeaking vocalisation if she thinks a male is close. 

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A sexually mature female hamster has a trim tail line when viewed from above, but a male's tail line bulges on both sides. This may not be readily apparent in all species. Male hamsters have abnormally big testes in comparison to their overall size. It is more difficult to establish a juvenile hamster's sex before sexual maturity. Female hamsters have their anal and genital apertures near together when inspected, but males have them further apart (the penis is usually withdrawn into the coat and thus appears as a hole or pink pimple).

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Facts about the Hamster

  • Syrian hamsters are the largest hamster species, reaching sizes of up to 30 cm. The tiniest hamsters are Roborovski hamsters.

  • Hamsters are solitary animals who prefer to be solitary. They are fiercely territorial and can turn violent if another hamster enters their domain.

  • The majority of hamster species are sprinters. Because of the form and size of their rear feet, many of them can sprint backwards as well as forwards. This is critical because it allows them to flee to their burrows if they are threatened.

  • Burrows for hamsters have a variety of tunnels and chambers, as well as distinct feeding and sleeping spaces, similar to human homes. Some of them are almost a metre deep.

  • Hamsters are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night.

  • Even if they have been separated for years, hamsters can remember their family members.

  • In the wild, hamsters will stay in their burrows and block the exits with earth, despite not being real hibernators. They sleep in grass-lined nests and only come out once a week to devour the food they've accumulated during the autumn. The Golden hamster’s pulse decreases from 400 beats per minute to merely 4 beats per minute while "hibernating." They only breathe once every minute.

  • Hamsters, unlike other animals, are born with a complete set of teeth. They will keep the original set for the rest of their lives.

  • The word hamster is derived from the German word hamstern, which means to store food. In their cheek pouches, hamsters can carry their own weight in food. When they're out foraging, they save food in their pouches to save for later. They preserve hidden food stashes to ensure that they are prepared for any period of time when land is available.

Conclusion

The golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) is a rodent that belongs to the Cricetinae hamster subfamily. Their native distribution is restricted to a tiny desert area in northern Syria and southern Turkey. Hamsters have small hairy ears, short stocky legs, and broad feet. Hamsters have tiny, hairy ears, short, stocky legs, and broad feet. Extinct species are found in four of the seven living hamster genera. Their evolutionary history may be traced back 11.2 million to 16.4 million years.


Hamsters are omnivores, so they can eat both meat and plants. Fruits that don't have a lot of citrus in them, as well as most green leafy vegetables, are excellent for hamsters. Peanut butter is a favourite of hamsters, but it's vital to offer it to them carefully. Hamsters are classified as either nocturnal or crepuscular (active mostly at dawn and dusk) Syrian hamsters may hibernate in the wild, allowing their body temperature to drop to near-ambient levels. Other animals' tunnels are also used by wild hamsters, the Djungarian hamster.

FAQs on Hamster

Q.1) Are Hamsters a Good Pet?

Answer: Many people consider hamsters to be wonderful pets. They don't require much attention, receive enough exercise when running on their wheel, and are adorable, cuddly, and enjoyable to hold. For some youngsters, they can be a great first pet.

Q.2) Are Hamsters Smelly?

Answer: Hamsters don't stink, but their cages will if you aren't careful. At least once a week, a hamster's cage should be thoroughly cleaned. Remove all of the bedding and clean the enclosure with a mild detergent and warm water before re-lining it with fresh bedding.

Q.3) Can a Hamster Bite Kill You?

Answer: All hamsters have the potential to bite. Rodent bites are usually minor and superficial, although they can result in severe puncture wounds. All bite wounds should be cleansed thoroughly with soap and water very once, and symptoms of infection should be constantly watched. Commensal bacteria from the hamster's mouth or the skin of the person bitten typically cause infection. Rabies, Francisella tularensis, and possibly lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus can all be transferred by a bite from an infected hamster, however this is extremely unusual.

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