Whether you are new to hamster keeping or are already a seasoned veteran, this blog is written for you. But if you prefer to watch a video, check out this awesome hamster fact video.
We’ll talk about hamsters, their behaviour, temperament, lifespan and more! So let’s start with a bit of hamster history. Experts say that the origin of hamsters can be traced back to Syria.
They were once considered pests, farmers trained dogs to hunt them down, and some even sold hamster fur to make money. The hamster population steadily declined until they became extinct. Or so they thought.
In the 1920s, Aaron Abrahams, an archaeologist, discovered a nest of hamsters. He brought the hamsters to Jerusalem, bred them there, and sent a couple of hamsters to other countries; the rest is history.
MUST-READ: Crash course on proper hamster care
19 FUN AND INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT HAMSTERS
ALSO READ: How much does owning a hamster cost? Here’s our rundown.
Hamsters are nocturnal/crepuscular animals
Hamsters are nocturnal or crepuscular animals, which means they are more active at night than in the daytime or, more specifically, during dusk and dawn. This is the reason why it isn’t a good idea to disturb them in the mornings when they are in the hamster dreamworld.
Disturbing their natural sleep cycle may cause them stress and even health problems. If you want your hamsters to be as healthy and happy as possible, let them play at night and rest during the day. Here’s a guide on how to tell if your hamster is happy or not.
It’s not uncommon, though, that hamsters adapt to a different sleeping pattern like any animal. Female hamsters in the wild are even diurnal – which means active during the day.
What’s important to know to remember is to know your hamster’s sleeping pattern and don’t disturb them during this time.
Do hamster hibernate
One of the big misconceptions about hamsters is hibernation. To simply answer this, hamsters do not hibernate. However, hamsters can fall into a state of torpor. Hibernation is when an animal can enter dormancy during extreme cold and wake itself up once the temperature is warm enough.
While torpor is when an animal sleeps and lets its body slows down due to cold temperature. Torpor is a state of regulated hypothermia and an endotherm. Wild hamsters can handle and have the ability to be “torpid”.
However, it’s the opposite for domesticated hamsters. If a domesticated hamster goes torpid, it can be fatal for them.
To avoid your hamster falling into a torpid situation, ensure that your hamster’s cage is in the warmest part of the house, especially during winter. You can place blankets around the cage (but don’t distract any airflow), you can also plat a hot bottle and wrap it with a towel and place it by the cage. Don’t use direct light in the cage.
They have poor eyesight
Because hamsters do not need to possess a good pair of eyes just to get by in the dark, they were cursed with poor vision by evolution; the good thing is, they were gifted by mother nature with a keen sense of smell and hearing.
Using their other senses is how they can navigate and survive in the natural world. It is one of the reasons why hamsters sometimes bite their owners when they are held or touched, especially if the hand smells like food.
A hamster can only see a few inches far from his or her nose. That’s how bad their eyesight is. This is why experts are discouraging hamster owners from using a cage with multiple levels, as they may fall and hurt themselves because they cannot sense height accurately.
This is also why it isn’t a good idea to hold a hamster high; they may suddenly jump, resulting in broken limbs and even internal damage.
They are very active animals
Hamsters in the wild tend to run here and there and to and fro, gathering food and digging the soil to create a hiding place from their predators. That’s a good thing in the wild, but it can be irritating for us humans.
The sound of the squeaking wheel may not be the most calming sound out there. However, you can’t blame them for their instinctive behaviours. Hamsters in captivity will still behave pretty much the way they do in the wild.
They need 3-7 hours of running each day, and they can run up to 21 kilometres a day, so if you take their squeaky wheel away, it can affect their health in the wrong way, i.e., hamster paralysis. This is precisely why hamster wheels are placed in their cage; they need to be hyperactive to stay fit. Learn more through this post why hamsters run on wheels.
If they get bored, they will try to escape. If that happens, here are ways on how to find an escaped hamster. It’s very important that you keep your hamster busy and active to burn all the extra energies they have.
The ability of their pouches
One of the most famous traits of hamsters aside from their cuteness is their cheek pouches; it even makes them cuter when they fill them with food. Their pouches can carry as much as 20 per cent of their own body weight. How cool is that? The purpose of their cheek pouch is to carry food. In the wild, they have to look for food to bring and store in their burrows.
Their pouches help them efficiently collect food, minimizing the number of trips they have to take.
They are also used to carrying their babies if need be. Some species of hamsters even use their pouches as a buoyant to help them swim in the wild, but please DO NOT test this at home!
Even if this is one of the most surprising facts about hamsters, it is only observed in the wild. You don’t want to drown your domesticated hammies accidentally.
Diseases they are prone to
Like any other type of animal, Hamsters are also prone to diseases. Some of the most common ailments that may affect hamsters are the Wet Tail (diarrhoea which makes a hamster’s tail wet), skin diseases caused by mites and other parasites, respiratory infections, and infections in their cheek pouches.
These diseases are often caused by poor cage set-up, poor cage sanitation, diet, and even chemicals such as perfume or antibiotics.
Be wary if you notice that your pet hamster suddenly loses its appetite, or is being unusually lazy because it is a symptom of a disease. Other symptoms to watch out for are frequent sneezing or coughing, liquid discharges from the eyes, diarrhoea, and hair loss. These are the most common signs that your hamster needs medical attention.
Hamsters are also prone to diabetes and obesity; therefore, it is vital to watch the food that they take. An owner must know that a balanced diet for their hamsters. Read this list of common hamster illnesses.
Hamsters have a short lifespan
Hamsters can live up to 3 years of age on average. Experts say that 13 hamster days is equivalent to 1 human year.
Do you want to determine the hamster age to the human age? It’ll be fun! First, we must take the average human expectancy of 80 years and the average hamster lifespan of 3 years. We’ll multiply 80 years and 3 years by 365 days, and we’ll get 29200 (human) and 1095 (hammy). We will then divide 29200 by 1095, and the quotient will be 26.7.
We can, therefore, conclude that 26.7 human days is equivalent to 1 hamster day. If we divide 365 by 26.7, we’ll get 13.67, which means that a year to a hamster is just 13.67 days to a human. That means that when your pet hamster reaches 2 years of age, your hamster is already considered very old.
Hamsters reach sexual maturity between 6 and 7 weeks old, but the best time to mate with the opposite sex is between 10 and 15 months. When the female enters her estrus mode (sexual receptivity), she will be ‘in heat’ for 12 hours once every 4 days.
The signs of pregnancy will typically manifest between 10 and 18 days, anytime after mating with her partner. Symptoms include stomach swelling and unusual hyperactivity.
The gestation period typically lasts from 16 to 22 days, and the mama hamster can have up to 8 baby hamsters! What’s impressive is that the mama hamster can get pregnant again 24 hours after giving birth! You can imagine how fast they can reproduce, typical of the rodent family!
Hence, it is important to separate the sexes if you have two hamsters of two different genders. Lousy breeding can cause short life spans and diseases. It’s best to leave breeding to the experts and licensed professionals.
Hamster’s teeth and nails
A hamster’s frontal teeth continuously grow, they never stop growing as long as they are alive! That’s why they have formed the habit of chewing on anything they can chew to keep their incisors short.
Having nothing to chew on can give your hamsters a problem. Imagine having a pair of frontal teeth that continuously grow until you can no longer close your mouth!
When your hamster’s teeth grow long enough, it can injure its tongue, gums and even its cheek pouch, which can cause bleeding, and, worse, an infection. Giving them something to chew on, like a piece of wood or toys specifically designed for hamsters is always a good idea.
If, despite being given something to chew on, their teeth still managed to overgrow, then you’ll need the help of a veterinarian. Never attempt to clip your hamster’s teeth by yourself, seek help from the professionals like veterinarians.
ALSO READ: Why biting the bar is bad for your hamster and How to stop your hamster from chewing bar cage
The same goes for a hamster’s nails. They grow forever, therefore, trimming their nails at least once in 4-6 weeks is needed. We don’t recommend you to cut your own hamster’s nails for the first even though you have experience doing so.
You can place and arrange stones to help trim your hamster’s nails, here are some rocks for the hamster’s cage.
At this time, you and your hamster are still learning, getting to know each other, and building trust. Hence, we only recommend you bring your hamster to the vet the first time. Here’s our guide on hamster nail care.
Hamsters are very moody
Here’s another interesting fact about hamsters: according to studies, hamsters are quite moody creatures. You need no further convincing if you have been bitten by a hamster you’re just trying to pet, but at the same time, this is one of the reasons why hamsters shouldn’t be given as a surprise gift.
Aside from mistaking your hand to be food, they may also bite you intentionally, especially when they are feeling grumpy or threatened. They can quickly enter a bad mood when they are hungry, thirsty, or if they are not feeling very well.
If you want to be able to play and cuddle your hamster, try these taming techniques. However, you should also know when to give up the taming process since it’s already engraved in the hamster’s genes to be moody and defensive.
Why do hamsters love to hoard
Hoarding food is one of the most prevalent behaviours observed in hamsters. Their name came from the German word ‘hamstern’ which means ‘to hoard’ or ‘hoard.’ Their hoarding behaviour is instinctive; their natural habitat is in the northern part of the globe where food availability is limited during winter.
Being such a big prey to many animals, this survival situation limits their chances to go out and find food whenever they feel hungry. So, they have to hoard as much food as they can and as much as possible to prepare for food scarcity.
Even if a hamster is living in the care of humans, it will still cling to its old habit of hoarding, because habits die hard.
Most hamsters are strictly solitary
Almost all species of hamsters are solitary and best to be left alone. House them with another hamster regularly, and you’ll see them fight and hurt each other. Hamsters are very territorial, even towards their own babies.
Housing more than one hamster in one cage can cause aggressiveness and often lead to hamsters biting you or other hamsters in the cage. Read this article about why hamsters bite and how to stop it.
They are territorial
While dwarf hamsters tend to be well-behaved towards hamsters of the same gender, they can be very territorial towards hamsters of the opposite sex. On the other hand, Syrian hamsters should not be mixed with other hamsters, regardless of gender.
They are the more territorial type and won’t hesitate to fight when caged with another hamster.
ALSO READ: Why you hamsters can’t live together
Another reason why you can’t house more than one (1) hamster in one cage is because of how early female hamsters can get pregnant. As early as 16 weeks old, female hamsters can get pregnant.
Therefore, separating them at 2-3 weeks old is important. If you are waiting for an extra cage, make sure to separate male from female hamsters until the new cage/s arrive. Read this accidental pregnancy guide.
Hamsters eat their babies
Hamsters will indeed eat their pups, but for very specific reasons. Mother hamsters are protective of their babies. When a predator invades their living quarters, if the hamster’s mom cannot carry all the babies, she will decide to sacrifice the weakest pup.
Instead of leaving the baby hamster, she will consume it to benefit from the extra protein. This can also result in scarce food being scarce if she doesn’t have enough teats to feed all the pups. You can learn more about hamsters eating babies in our article.
During winter, one of the hamster species, Dwarf Winter White, would change its coating colour. A Winter White would change from grey to almost snow-white during winter, then slowly go back to grey in spring and a darker shade in summer.
But this all depends on a few things, like how your hamster was bred and the lighting and heat in their cages. Many Winter White hamsters are classified in this species, but you won’t see their coat change, most likely because of the way or unethical breeding.
Can Hamster Swim
Technically, a hamster can swim. However, they don’t like it, and they hate getting wet. It can also be stressful and scary for your hamster to be placed in a tub or sink full of water. To keep your hamster clean, use a sandbox and sand bath instead of washing them with water.
You can read more about a hamster, swimming, and how to dry them if they accidentally get wet in this article.
Hamsters need massive space and bigger toys
Despite their size, hamsters actually need a spacious cage and bigger toys. This is one of the most common mistakes new hamster owners make. Most pet shops will want to sell you a colourful critter cage with an awfully sized wheel.
Male hamsters have big cherries
You read that right! Male hamsters have gigantic testes, and I’m not exaggerating. Their balls are about half as big as their head. If it’s your first time seeing one, you would even think that your hamster is ill and needs to see a vet right away. But it’s all normal unless there is some skin infection or infected wound around it.
Learn more about the differences between female and male hamsters.
If you are thinking of having a pet hamster, it’s important that you are ready to provide the best and most suitable enclosure and toys for your hamster. Don’t waste your time and money buying bad hamster cages and unsafe toys. Learn about basic hamster necessities and how to provide ethical hamster care.
These are some of the exciting facts about hamsters that we’ve gathered. While some of these are just for “for your information and entertainment purposes” only, we’ve included a lot of facts about hamsters that are really useful to know, especially for people who are just planning to start caring for hamsters.
That said, a little research is all it takes to make a difference in our pets’ lives, especially hamsters. After all, we want to give our pets the most comfortable life under our care. If you have questions, suggestions or reactions, we’ll be happy to read them in the comment box below!