Hamsters are rodents from the family Cricetidae. There are several
species kept as pets, more common is the Syrian hamster, which
originated from hamsters bred in 1930 at the Hebrw Univerity in
Jerusalem. They are also referred to as 'Golden Hamsters' as this
was their original coat colour. However, today different coat
colour variations exist, for instance grey, black and cinnamon.
The other common hamster kept, is the Russian Dwarf hamster. More
rare species that can be kept as pets are Roborovskis, Campbellis
and Chinese, or Striped hamsters. The Chinese hamster has a longer
tail than other dwarf hamsters and tends to be more aggressive to
fellow cage mates, so is better housed alone.
Hamsters are nocturnal, solitary animals, and will hibernate if
the room temperature is too low. Hamsters normally live for
between 1.5 - 2 years, although the Chinese Hamster will live for
up to 3 years. They reach sexual maturity at 6 - 8 weeks of age,
and pregnancy lasts between 15 - 18 days. Litter size is normally
between 5 - 9 young.
Hamsters require an omnivorous diet that consists of some animal
protein, inverebrates, fresh vegetable material and seed. Most
small animal mixes are low in protein, low in fat soluble
vitamins, low in calcium and low in fatty acids. Feeding nothing
but these mixes can cause nutritionally deficient, undersized
animals. To meet the nutritional requirements you should
supplement these seed mixes by also feeding:
* fresh fruit and vegetables
* vitamin and mineral supplements
* animal protein / table scraps.
Giving, table scraps, whatever you have been eating, provides
variety and will meet all dietary requirements. Also ensure that
you provide plenty of things for them to nibble as this helps to
keep their teeth worn down.