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Hamster History/And Care

Ohio Hamster Breeder
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Looking at the hamster.

Hamster History

The Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus), also known as the Golden hamster, has been extinct in its original habitat (Aleppo, Syria) since probably 1980. But, because of its popularity as a pet, escaped Syrian hamsters have created a large wild population in the British Isles. It was however its use as the fourth most widely used species in research, after rats, mice and humans, that saved the Syrian hamster from extinction. Today all Syrian hamsters are derived from either the original group taken to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1930, or from the group taken in 1979 to the University of Texas-Houston. This is an example of how research can prevent the extinction of a species.

Syrian hamsters are most widely used in research involving chronobiology (study of temporal patterns in biology), endocrinology, and reproduction. They also have the unique characteristic that they are the mammals with the simplest histocompatibility system. One can transplant an organ from one Syrian hamster to another without the need to immunosuppress either one. The transplanted organ survives without any damage to it or the host.

Syrian hamsters are long-photperiod animals. They reproduce during seasons with long days with over 12.5 hours of light per day. When daylight becomes scarce, they will hibernate. This hibernation is not total, and Syrian hamsters are quite cranky during that time. Female Syrian hamsters are the dominant gender, and are larger than males. In captivity, a male should not be housed alone with a female for more than a day. Otherwise the female might kill it. Also, the handling of females with litters should be kept a a minimum. Otherwise they might kill the litter. Since hamsters are dessert animals their waste is very moisture conservative. This allows one to leave the female and her litter undisturbed until the pups are weaned at then end of the third week of life.

Syrian hamsters make excellent pets once they have become used to being handled by humans. However, since they have powerfull jaws, one should be certain that the animal in question is used to humans before handling it barehanded.

Hamster Care

Don’t forget your housekeeping duties! Remove droppings, uneaten food and soiled bedding every day. Every week, remove and replace all the bedding, and scrub the bottom of the cage with hot, soapy water.

The enclosure should be placed away from direct sunlight and drafts, and lined with an absorbent bedding such as timothy hay, aspen shavings, shredded paper or pelleted bedding. Do not use pine or cedar chips, as the fumes from these products can be harmful to your pets.

Hamsters are big on exercise, so please make sure yours has a wheel for running. Hamsters also like to hide and sleep inside enclosed spaces, so you’ll need a small box with an entrance hole or a small flower pot for this purpose. And they love crawling through tubes, which can be homemade (empty cardboard tubes from paper towels and toilet paper!) or purchased from a pet supply store. And finally, you may notice that your hammy is a major creature of comfort. Remember to regularly give him small pieces of paper towel or napkin to shred and make a nest with.

A hamster’s teeth grow continuously, so your pet will need to chew—a lot—to keep his choppers in tip-top condition. Make sure he always has a piece of wood or twig that has not been treated with pesticides, other chemicals or paints. Pieces of dog biscuit will work well, too. 

It’s important to get your little guy (or gal) used to you, and used to being handled. Start by feeding your hamster treats; once he’s comfortable accepting treats from your hand, you can gently and securely pick him up. Hold him for a short time at first, and then gradually increase your time with him.

Once you’ve hand-tamed your hamster, every day you should let him play outside of the cage, in a secure, enclosed area, while you supervise. Be sure to remove any electrical wires from the area, and anything else your curious pet could, but shouldn’t, gnaw on.

Family Raised With Love