You’ve probably seen a hamster before. But what exactly is a hamster? The golden hamster is larger than a mouse but smaller than a guinea pig. It owes its name to its golden brown fur.
In general, hamsters are active at dusk and at night and therefore want to be left alone during the day. But as soon as the little ones are awake, they turn out to be very active and curious little animals.
In this guide you will read everything there is to know about golden hamsters!
Name: Syrian golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus)
Classification: rodents / mouse relatives
Weight: 100-220 grams, females are usually slightly heavier than males
Length: females approx. 18 cm / males approx. 19 cm
Lifestyle: solitary / crepuscular and nocturnal
Life expectancy: 2-3 years
Special feature: Teddy hamsters are golden hamsters with long hair, whereby males are completely long-haired and females only have increased hair growth in the rear part.
Note: Many hamster owners wake the hamster several times a day because they want him to be more active during the day. For the hamster, however, this procedure means pure stress, which is why the rodent should only be brought out of deep sleep in an absolute emergency.
Origin and history of the golden hamster
The Syrian hamster was first discovered in 1839 by the British zoologist George Waterhouse in the Syrian city of Aleppo. At that time the very small animal was called “Circetus auratus” which means “golden hamster”. A few years later, around 1930, a hamster den with young hamsters was discovered during an excursion in the Syrian desert. The professor of leadership took the small family of 12 animals. Unfortunately, only four of the rodents survived the transport. It was quickly found out that hamsters multiply very quickly. So many little animals soon found a nice home with a family.
At the end of 1930 the animals were given their final name: Mesocricetus auratus, golden middle hamster. The term “medium hamster” came about because golden hamsters are smaller than field hamsters but larger than so-called dwarf hamsters.
But the little ones only came to Europe after the end of the Second World War. Due to the easy-care species, the rapid reproduction and the easy taming, the little animals are very well known in this country. They are also often used for medical experiments.
Hamsters are divided into two types:
- Syrian golden hamster
- Campbell Hamster
- Chinese striped hamsters
- Djungarian hamsters
- Roborovsky dwarf hamster
You can find out more about the individual hamster species and their characters under the hamster species.
The senses of the hamster
With his protruding, black eyes, he does not see very clearly, but he has a large visual angle (108 degrees). This allows him to recognize dangers early and flee. However, hamsters are height blind, so they seek safety in burrows.
Hamsters hear very well, even in the ultrasonic range. In addition, hamsters can recognize people by their voice, which is why they notice strangers quickly and are often less trusting there.
With their whiskers, hamsters are good at detecting obstacles or checking whether they can fit through narrow crevices and cracks.
This sense is extremely well developed in hamsters. They recognize humans and other creatures mainly by their smell.
The cheek pouches
A hamster’s cheek pouches are stretchy skin sacs located on the sides behind its mouth. In them, the hamster transports food that it does not eat up immediately. He can store so much food in them that the size of his head doubles when full. The cheek pouches are also used to impress its opponent, for this purpose the hamster inflates them with air. This makes him appear larger, and enemies will retreat more quickly because of that perceived size.
Hamsters have 2 strong incisors and 6 adjacent molars. Unlike humans, for example, the incisors never stop growing. They continually wear themselves down while eating and are constantly sharpening themselves. As rodents, hamsters also have particularly well-developed chewing muscles.
The stomach is divided into two chambers. In the forestomach, the food is already partially decomposed. It is then fully digested in the main stomach.
The hamster uses its muscular front legs to climb and dig. The weaker hind legs are useful for support when climbing and digging. He often supports himself with these and grabs with his front legs.
The hamster purchase
Before you decide to make a purchase, you should be aware of the consequences. The following things are particularly important:
Hamsters are nocturnal, which means they prefer to be left alone during the day
It takes a lot of time and patience to tame a hamster
The pee corner and the feeding chamber must be cleaned regularly. In addition, the sand should be sieved from time to time.
You should also think carefully about where you want the hamster from. You must be aware that if you buy a hamster from a pet store, you are encouraging unnecessary reproduction. Alternatively, it is therefore advisable to look for a good breeder or foster home on the Internet.
If you have decided to buy it from a pet shop anyway, you have to make sure that the animal is doing well. You can tell a healthy hamster by its smooth, shiny fur. The eyes are blank and have no discharge and the nose is dry. In addition, a clean anus opening is important. The hamster should make a lively impression on you, although this is not always granted directly after deep sleep. When choosing a pet shop, you should also make sure that hamsters are only sold in the evening so that the rodents can sleep through the day.
This is different for breeders and foster homes, they make sure that the animals are only released healthy and happy and inform you if the animal is not doing well. They can also inform you about the character of the animal. You can also give an emergency animal a new home.
If everything is correct regarding the first impression of the animal, you have to decide which gender you want to have. It is said that males become hand tame faster and females are more active, but not a very big difference is known. The gender of hamsters therefore hardly plays a role, which is why you should choose the hamster that appeals to you the most.
Once you have decided on an animal, it is important that you take the nest you have built and some of the bedding home with you. This makes it easier for the golden hamster to settle into its new home.
Choose the right cage
The cage for a golden hamster must be at least 100×50 cm, with larger always being better. There are four different types of hamster cages:
Not recommended for keeping hamsters, as not enough bedding can be scattered and the hamster can climb up the bars. Hamsters are not climbers and can seriously injure themselves if they fall.
Hamsters are rodents, so expect the wood to be nibbled if it isn’t sealed. In addition, the animals mark their kingdom, which can lead to a foul smell. Another aspect is that a wooden cage is not ventilated well enough, which is why additional ventilation sources have to be built in. Another disadvantage is that parasites can settle in very quickly and the cage has to be completely disposed of in the event of a mite infestation.
With the aquarium you have the advantage that cleaning is very easy and you can distribute a lot of litter. The disadvantage, however, is that you can only reach into the cage from above. This is very threatening for a hamster, since its opponents also attack from above.
This type of cage is also very easy to clean. The only disadvantage is that the bedding edge is often no higher than 10 cm. However, the problem can be avoided by installing a plexiglass pane. Although the cages are a little more expensive, they are clearly the most suitable for the hamster.
Hamsters need to be careful not to let their front teeth grow too long. It is therefore important that you pay attention to the correct materials. You also have to be aware that one or the other will be nibbled and therefore have to be replaced. Plastic objects therefore have no place in the cage.
The right location
A hamster needs rest during the day, so it needs a place where it can dream undisturbed. The ideal room temperature for this is 18-26 degrees. Direct sunlight should be avoided.
It should be ensured that the room does not have drafts, as the hamster can catch a cold very quickly from it. The ideal humidity is between 40 and 60%.
The little house
Hamsters love having a little house in their cage to build their nest in. A wooden house is highly recommended. The most suitable here are so-called “multi-chamber houses”, in which there is no floor and the lid can be removed for cleaning. Alternatively, houses made of clay or ceramic can also be used.
What should not be missing in the cage are different materials such as unscented and unprinted toilet paper and kapok wool, so that the hamster can set up a cozy home.
The small animal bedding available in pet shops is particularly absorbent and free from harmful substances. It is important that you distribute as much of the litter as possible in the cage so that the hamster has enough opportunities to dig holes and passages. The minimum height for the litter is 20 cm for medium-sized hamsters.
Feeding and drinking vessel
A feeding vessel should be made of ceramic or porcelain, and fresh food can be served in it. Alternatively, dry food can easily be scattered throughout the cage, requiring the hamster to earn the food.
A nipple drinker can be attached to the bars as a drinking vessel, whereby a small bowl is better suited for this due to the posture.
Although the hamster likes to climb, there must always be variety in the cage. There are many ways to do this
Scatter branches around the cage and clamp them between the bars so the hamster can climb and explore (care must be taken to use only non-toxic branches such as those from fruit trees, oak, alder, elder or willow).
Caves made of wood, ceramic or clay can be distributed in the cage as shelter (caves need a minimum diameter of 8 cm)
Wooden stairs can be used as a way to higher floors
Wooden toys provide a great variety in the cage
Having exercise in the room is a great experience for every hamster. For this purpose, various objects can be placed on the ground, which the hamster can occupy itself with. Please make sure that there are no cables or sharp objects lying on the floor.
A hamster wheel is a great experience for every hamster. The bike must be given a permanent place in the cage or be provided as an additional highlight at the outlet. The diameter of the wheel should not be less than 28 cm for a medium-sized hamster.
A sand bath is very important for every hamster, as it takes care of its fur. Please use a special bathing sand for rodents and not the coarse-grained bird sand. The minimum dimensions for the base are 20×20 cm, with a minimum height of 10 cm recommended.
The hamster is often confused after the transport and the new environment, which is why you should give it about 5-7 days to itself. It is advisable to cover the cage with a light-colored cloth so that the hamster can explore its new home in peace. To feel at home, the hamster marks its living space with its smell from the side glands.
The Hamster Den
The entrance to the hamster burrow is called a drop tube. These are corridors that lead very steeply into the building. There are also flatter slip tubes, these are also used as an exit. In the den itself there are three important separate areas: the droppings chamber, the living or nesting chamber and the pantry for storing food. Each hamster has its own den as they are solitary. After mating in the burrow, the female immediately drives the male out of the burrow.
As soon as the hamster has settled into the cage, you can start taming the animal. The first thing you can do is simply put your hand inside the cage. Hamsters are very curious animals and will quickly sniff your hand and memorize the smell. You can talk to the animal so that the rodent can get used to the voice at the same time.
As a further step, you can clamp a nut between two fingertips, although you don’t have to let go of them immediately if the hamster wants to take the nut away from you. The rodent will then try to nibble the nut right out of your hand.
Once the hamster has found trust, you can pet it lovingly. However, this must always happen in such a way that the hamster is prepared for it. Never touch the hamster from behind! It may startle him and make him disappear.
It is recommended that you attend to the hamster at about the same time each day in the evening. The little one will give his whole trust very quickly.
However, you must be aware that not every hamster will become hand tame. Just like us humans, every animal has a different character. In such a case, you can just open the cage door and trail to a small box with some treats. Once the rodent has inspected the box 2-3 times, it can be taken to the exercise room. This procedure is also called “hamster taxi”.
What to do if a hamster bites you?
Especially in the taming phase, it can happen that a hamster bites. You must not be startled and withdraw your hand. The hamster would hide in fear and the taming would have to start over.
If the hamster bites for some other reason, it’s also important that you try to remain calm and not startle the animal. If the rodent is outside the cage, it is advisable to put on a leather glove and carefully return the animal to the safe enclosure.
If you have an open wound, it is important that it is disinfected. If the wound still hurts after a few days or is reddened, you must definitely show the injury to a doctor. There is a risk of blood poisoning here.
Outlet in the apartment
Every hamster must be given regular exercise. A room is perfect for exploring. It is important that you do not leave the hamster alone. You can watch him hide behind objects or try out new toys that you previously provided him with.
It is also important that the hamster does not put himself in danger. Here is a list of things that should not be near the hamster when you go out:
- electric cable
- Containers with water (danger of drowning)
- hot objects (danger of burns)
- Plants (danger of poisoning)
- sharp objects (risk of injury)
What to do if the hamster escapes?
Golden hamsters are very fast and nimble little animals. If one escapes you, it’s difficult to catch it again. The door of the exercise room should therefore always be closed. It is also not advisable to exercise in the garden.
If you don’t know where the hamster is, it makes the most sense to put nuts or something similar in each room and close the door. The hamster is in the room where the food is gone. Now all you have to do is put the cage in with the door open and the hamster will find its way back into its nest on its own. If this is not the case, a live trap can be set up in the sense of a bucket with food. The hamster cannot get out on its own and can thus be transported back.
Outlet in the garden
For the following reasons, you must completely avoid going outside in the garden:
The unfamiliar wind can lead to cold
The temperature outside is often different than inside, which means stress for the hamster
Parasites are picked up faster outside
There are many dangers lurking in the garden, which means stress for the hamster
Hamsters want to sleep through the day and shouldn’t be woken up.
The personal hygiene
Hamsters are very clean animals. After waking up, they first clean themselves very thoroughly all over their bodies. They do this to smooth down their fur and to organize it, because then it warms them up better. They use all their bodies to clean themselves. They use almost every limb to reach every spot, which often makes for a funny picture.
The cleaning of the cage
Hamsters are very clean animals and attach great importance to their home. That’s why they often set up their own toilet corner.
Daily: Clean the corner of the toilet, search the hamster’s nest for leftover food and remove it.
Litter should never be completely removed. Exceptions are parasite infestation or death of the animal.
The correct diet
Pet store mixes often contain too many fatty and sugary ingredients, which can lead to obesity and illness in the hamster. The rodent is naturally used to eating various types of grain, as well as grass, herbs, legumes, and small seeds. It is therefore advisable to order food from specialized online shops.
You can give the rodent about 1-2 tablespoons of food in the cage per day. As in the wild, the hamster has the task of finding its own food and bringing it to safety.
Note: Many hamster owners add a salt or mineral stone to the hamster’s cage. Like us humans, too much salt is not good for rodents. With the right food, the need for salt and minerals is met, which is why such a stone in the cage is completely unnecessary.
Golden hamster health
To prevent hamster diseases, you should avoid various posture mistakes:
- unclean cage
- bad or one-sided lining
- too high/low humidity
- frequent disturbances of rest during sleep
Keeping them in pairs means stress for the rodents since hamsters are individual animals.
If you are careful not to make such mistakes in posture, it will definitely benefit the hamster’s health. But even then, of course, he can still get sick. You can recognize this by the following symptoms, for example:
- bald spots in the fur
- sneezing and rattling
- liquid feces
- Skin redness and constant scratching
- does not eat
Note: Like most pets, a hamster shows its suffering very late. If you observe such phenomena, you should therefore consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Our conclusion on the golden hamster
Hamsters look cute, are nimble, feel snuggly and generate relatively little mess. That sounds like the perfect pet for enthusiastic children’s hearts. Unfortunately, on closer inspection, the little hamsters are not as perfect as they first appear.
Like all hamster species, golden hamsters are nocturnal and many of the small rodents are very sensitive to drafts and temperature differences. You need a lot of patience until hamsters are really tame and trusting, especially in the evening and at night, because they prefer to sleep during the day. In addition, you (or the kids) must make sure that all doors are closed as soon as the hamster is allowed to leave its cage. Even if the little rodents with the thick cheeks seem a bit clumsy at first glance, they can disappear into the smallest corner incredibly quickly.
However, if you are aware that a golden hamster starts the day mainly at night, he loves your attention and a lot of variety and he can get to know you with a lot of patience and care, then the little rodent will certainly feel comfortable quickly . In contrast to many other rodents, the golden hamster has at least one big advantage, it feels very comfortable as a loner alone. So you don’t have to get a hamster group.