Biological Facts


A behavioral characteristic of hamsters is food hoarding. They carry food in their spacious cheek pouches to their underground storage chambers. When full, the cheeks can make their heads double, or even triple in size.

Social Behavior

Most hamsters are strictly solitary. If housed together, acute and chronic stressmay occur, and they may fight fiercely, sometimes fatally. Some dwarf hamster species may tolerate consspecifics. Russian hamsters form close, monogamous bonds with their mates, and if separated, they may become very depressed. This happens especially in males. Males will become inactive, eat more, and even show some behavioral changes similar to some types of depression in humans. This can even cause obesity in the hamster.


Hamsters are omniovores. Although pet hamsters can survive on a diet of exclusively commercial hamster food, other items, such as vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts, can be given. Hamsters in the Middle East have been known to hunt in packs to find insects for food. Hamsters are hindgut fermenters and eat their own feces (coprophagy) to recover nutrients digested in the hindgut, but not absorbed.


Hamsters become fertileat different ages depending on their species. Both Syrian and Russian hamsters mature quickly and can begin reproducing at a young age (4–5 weeks), whereas Chinese hamsters will usually begin reproducing at two to three months of age, and Roborovskis at three to four months of age. The female’s reproductive life lasts about 18 months, but male hamsters remain fertile much longer. Females are in estrus about every four days, which is indicated by a reddening of genital areas, a musky smell, and a hissing, squeaking vocalisation she will emit if she believes a male is nearby.

When seen from above, a sexually mature female hamster has a trim tail line; a male’s tail line bulges on both sides. This might not be very visible in all species. Male hamsters typically have very large testes in relation to their body size. Before sexual maturity occurs, it is more difficult to determine a young hamster’s sex. When examined, female hamsters have their anal and genital openings close together, whereas males have these two holes farther apart (the penis is usually withdrawn into the coat and thus appears as a hole or pink pimple).

Preventive Care
  • Physical examination every 6-12 months
    • Consult a veterinarian with experience treating exotic companion mammals if you have any questions or concerns about your hamster’s health.
    • Examination by a veterinarian within 48 hours of purchase
    • Fecal examination for parasites annually
    • Examine teeth regularly
Common Medical Disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Tumors
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Heart disease (dilated cardiomyopathy)
  • Overgrown teeth
  • Hair loss, itching, mites
  • Diarrhea (“wet tail”)
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