Hamsters are stout-bodied, omnivorous and cute-butt rodents with much more to them than just running on their wheels or being experimented on in scientific laboratories. The following are some facts about these much-in-demand and adorable rodent pets.
The discovery of the first ‘one of a kind’ pet
Even though all of them look similar, there actually exist 25 different species of hamsters. The Syrian hamster was the first hamster to be discovered in the Syrian Desert, North of Israel in 1839 by British zoologist George Waterhouse, who saw an old lady naming her pet hamster – a Syrian hamster. In the 1930s, hamsters were shipped to laboratories all around the world, the first ones being the Golden (or Syrian) hamsters, sent to UK in 1931. Today, they are the first of the top three species of domesticated hamsters, followed by the Dwarf Campbell Russian hamsters and the Dwarf Winter White Russian hamsters.
Food hoarding – the trait that runs deep
This is the most dominant and common behavioural trait in all these rodents of the subfamily Cricetinae as is very evident in their name itself; the word hamster is derived from the German word ‘hamstern’, which means ‘hoard’ (Talk about meaningful names!). This trait is characteristic of every hamster – wild and domesticated, alike. In fact, if your leftovers at home are disappearing, you really need to keep an eye on the activities of your pet hamster or maybe even check its cage or cheek pouches!
Hamsters are crepuscular
Yes, indeed. These chubby rodents stay underground during the day (mainly to escape predators) and leave their burrows only after sundown, but return before night. This makes them primarily crepuscular and not nocturnal as was earlier believed. This trait is also often found in domesticated hamsters as well.
PeeWee – the smallest Hamster
No, it’s not a typo. PeeWee is the name of the world’s smallest hamster, born in 2003, weighing less than an ounce and just 0.9 inch tall. PeeWee who was born with five siblings but ceased to grow just 2 to 3 weeks after birth. His siblings on the other hand went on to grow up to 4 or 5 inches tall.
Solitary Social behavior
Quite contrary to their friendly mien, hamsters in reality are solitary creatures who love being on their own. At around 7 to 10 weeks of age, they are mandatorily separated from their mothers to prevent causing them anxiety. If housed together, they are inevitably stressed and these subdued and calm creatures might actually fight fiercely to defend their own territories. They have some “serious space issues”. Their ability to be on their own, coupled with their low-maintenance requisites, accounts for them being coveted pets.
Monogamy for life
Hamsters of all species especially Russian hamsters form a close monogamous bond with their mate. They consummate and breed with just one mate throughout their lives and, separation from their partner (once they have found one) may lead to depression (excessive eating, obesity and inactivity being some of the major depression symptoms) particularly in males. Despite this fact, separation of the couple after mating is recommended and practiced since the females (mainly the female Chinese and Syrian hamsters) are extremely likely to turn hostile, often resulting in the death of the male counterpart or, both the male and the female might attack each other resulting in death of either or both.
Architect mind at work while at work
Like all other rodents hamsters too are excellent diggers. Besides this, they have a keen and sensible sense of construction while digging their burrows, which are usually at a depth of approximately 1 metre. In addition to having two openings, their burrows also have a steep entrance (about 3-5 cm in diameter), a nesting and hoarding chamber and a blind-ending branch where they can urinate.
So, now that you know these facts, do observe your hamster for, more than often (or not) it might amuse you with its activities and, if you don’t have one, you certainly have reasons now to have one as a pet.