Are you interested in learning some hamster facts? You’re in the right place. Although hamsters are one of the most popular pets, most people don’t really know that much about them.
They are fascinating in more ways than one, so prepare to be surprised.
Top 10 Most Interesting Facts About Hamsters
- Hamsters can be found in the wilderness.
- Hamsters are most active at dusk and dawn.
- Hamsters’ front teeth never stop growing.
- Hamsters have a terrible short-term memory.
- It’s illegal to own a hamster in Hawaii.
- Hamster cheek pouches can carry 20% of their weight!
- Hamsters can be good pets for people with allergies to pet fur.
- Hamsters are not suitable pets for young children.
- Syrian hamsters are likely to become cannibals if not kept alone.
- To keep a Chinese dwarf hamster in California or New Jersey, you need a special permit.
General Hamster Facts
If you like hamsters, there are some details and facts you absolutely need to know — some of which might even surprise you. We’ve compiled some of the most intriguing ones, so read on.
1. Hamsters can be found in the wilderness.
They live in Europe and Asia in rocky areas or deserts. These places have something in common — temperature variations that can go from extremely hot to extremely cold.
Needless to say, the hamsters you can buy in a shop are not wild ones. Most of them are bred for sale in the infamous pet mills where pets live in terrible conditions. This is the reason why about 300 cities and the same number of countries prohibit the retail sale of pets.
2. Hamsters are most active at dusk and dawn.
This means that if you buy a hamster, you can expect that it will be most active in the late evenings and early in the morning.
But this doesn’t have to be true for all hamsters. Dwarf hamsters sometimes wake up during the day, while Syrian hamsters, the most common breed, almost never do.
If your hamster doesn’t wake up during the day on its own, it’s essential not to wake them up. Disrupting their natural sleep cycle can lead to many diseases. And no matter how hard you try, they can’t stop being semi-nocturnal animals.
3. Hamsters have a terrible short-term memory.
Their long-term memory, on the other hand, is excellent, but just for survival purposes. They’ll remember everything about their cage, where they should go to the toilet, eat, and play.
They can even recognize you, but you shouldn’t expect them to recognize somebody they don’t see much. This doesn’t mean that they’re not smart. They just don’t remember things not essential to them.
4. Hamsters are short-sighted and color blind.
(Hamsters as Pets)
Like most other pets, they’re born entirely blind. After they start seeing, it doesn’t get much better.
They’re able to see just a few inches in front and in black and white. This is why they should never be in high places or carried around, as they could jump off and get injured.
Their other senses compensate for the bad sight. They can hear sounds that humans can’t, and they can recognize each other by smell.
5. Hamsters’ front teeth never stop growing.
If they don’t nibble with their front teeth, they can grow indefinitely. This is the case with most rodents.
Overgrown front teeth can cause discomfort when eating and can even puncture their tongues. They might also accidentally break their front teeth and not be able to eat normally.
6. Their cheek pouches can carry 20% of their weight!
It would be similar to an average person carrying 30 lbs of food. Amazing, right?
Their cheek pouches are very deep. They can extend halfway down their bodies and expand like balloons.
This is due to the fact that they are natural hoarders. In the wilderness, they have to eat very often — but they can’t forage for food that often. So, they store their food and eat it later in their shelter, where they are safe from predators.
7. Hamsters are easily scared.
(Vet Explains Pets)
Hamsters are afraid of loud sounds, strong smells, and everything they can’t see. If you approach them quickly or talk loudly, they will also become scared of you.
If they bite, hide, don’t eat, or seem to be jumpy, they are definitely scared.
8. The lifespan of a hamster is up to four years.
However, this also depends on the breed. Most dwarf hamsters live only for two years. Regular Syrian hamsters usually live a bit longer, for three years.
Because hamsters are easily scared and can die of shock, it’s not uncommon for them to live a life shorter than two years. They also regularly die from the long-tail disease, Salmonella, and obesity.
So, the longest you can expect your hamster to live is around four years, at best.
Hamsters as Pets
We’ve prepared some facts to help you see how hamsters function as pets. If you ask us, they can be both good and bad pets. It depends on you and your preferences. Check out the facts to see if they fit you.
9. Hamsters can be good pets for people with allergies to pet fur.
Although no pets are truly hypoallergenic, hamsters are as close to hypoallergenic pets as it gets thanks to their short fur. They don’t shed a lot and are generally clean.
However, if you are allergic to anything else connected to pets, like dander or saliva, you’ll still be allergic to hamsters.
10. Hamsters are not suitable pets for young children.
Young children under the age of 8–10 cannot take care of a hamster without adult supervision. Some hamster breeds are not very friendly and can react when touched.
Hamsters can bite children if they are not careful enough. They can also escape and are not easily found afterward.
Most importantly, since they live for only 2–4 years at most, a child will have to go through the death of their pet at a very young age.
11. They are extremely clean animals.
(PBS Pet travel)
Unlike most pets, hamsters don’t need baths. They’re extremely good at keeping themselves clean.
Hamsters also know which part of the cage to use as a toilet and won’t get other areas dirty.
12. It’s possible to train a hamster, but it’s not easy.
You’ll need to spend a lot of time and have a lot of patience when training your hamster. Like with all other animals, positive reinforcement is the way to go.
Due to their terrible short-term memory, they can’t remember everything easily, and might need some time.
Also, some breeds are not interested in being trained and have a more passive nature. Others might be too hyperactive to be trained. Finally, some might have individual traits that make them less interested in training.
13. It’s Illegal to own a pet hamster in Hawaii.
Hawaii’s dry and warm climate is ideal for hamsters. Since hamsters breed easily, two pet hamsters that escape can disrupt the natural balance. This is why the authorities don’t want hamsters on their islands.
It’s the same in other warm and dry places, like Australia, where you also cannot own a hamster.
Facts About Hamster Breeds
There are around 20 hamster breeds of regular and dwarf sizes. Each of these breeds has some distinct features. Keep reading to learn more about them.
14. Dwarf hamsters are more social than Syrian hamsters.
(Pet Supplies Plus)
Syrian hamsters are not extremely friendly and don’t like to be around other hamsters. Dwarf hamsters like to be with other hamsters, but mainly those that come from the same litter or enclosure.
It’s also advisable to get a pair of the same sex — unless you want to breed them, of course.
Just keep in mind that there is no guarantee. Most dwarf hamsters will accept company, but some might still prefer to live alone.
15. The Syrian hamster is the biggest breed, growing up to 8 inches.
The Syrian hamster is what most people have in mind when thinking about hamsters. It’s bigger, growing almost double the size of dwarf hamsters. It’s short-haired, typically light brown, resembling the color of a teddy bear.
Other names for Syrian hamsters are short-haired, teddy bears, and golden hamsters, because of their fur color.
16. Syrian hamsters are likely to become cannibals if not kept alone.
This happens only in captivity, as Syrian hamsters are solitary creatures. They don’t like any company in their cage. If you introduce another hamster, they can become highly aggressive, kill their cage mate, and eat them.
This can happen with dwarf hamsters too. They become aggressive when they don’t like their cage mate. But, with them, the cases of cannibalism are less common.
17. Black bear hamsters can grow to be obese.
(Little Furry Pets)
It’s due to the fact that, like other Syrian hamsters and their sub-breeds, black bear hamsters don’t like to move a lot. They are not as active as dwarf hamsters.
Since they don’t move much, they can have many health problems. Feeding them a balanced diet and providing them with plenty of toys is essential if you want to prevent this.
18. Winter white hamsters change color twice a year.
(Wide Open Pets)
This unique hamster breed is white in the winter and grey/brown during the rest of the year.
It changes the coat color to adapt to the winter snow. So, if you live in warmer conditions, it can stay gray throughout the year, as there would be no need for the change.
19. Campbell’s dwarf hamsters are prone to diabetes.
(The Spruce Pets)
Since they can easily get diabetes, it’s essential to notice the symptoms early on and change their diet.
Campbell’s dwarf hamsters that are especially low in energy, drinking and urinating too much, and shivering often, most likely have diabetes.
20. To keep a Chinese dwarf hamster in California or New Jersey, you need a special permit.
(The Spruce Pets)
Chinese dwarf hamsters are considered to be exotic animals in California and New Jersey. So, like with most exotic animals, you need a license for keeping it.
So, if you wish to have a Chinese dwarf hamster as a pet, you have to report it and get permission from the authorities.
21. Roborovski hamsters are the smallest and fastest hamster breed.
(Dwarf Hamster Guide)
Robo hamsters grow only up to 3 inches — the size of an average thumb!
Because they are so small, they are incredibly agile and playful. They are also fast and almost impossible to catch when they escape.
Although they don’t like to be held, they are friendly with other hamsters and entertaining to watch.
What can hamsters eat?
Hamsters can eat seeds, fruits, vegetables, and some nuts. They usually eat packaged food that combines hamster-friendly ingredients, but they can also eat fresh fruit and vegetables. Eggs are also given to hamsters for protein intake.
However, you shouldn’t give your hamster almonds, peanuts, garlic, onions, eggplant, citruses, and tomatoes. You should also avoid anything too sweet, like chocolate, bananas, or dates.
But be careful to feed them in moderation, as they can become obese easily.
Which hamsters are the friendliest?
Syrian hamsters are the friendliest with humans, while Roborovski hamsters are the friendliest with other hamsters. On the other hand, Syrian hamsters don’t like other hamsters, and Roborovski hamsters are not that interested in humans.
(Animal Club, Dwarf Hamster Guide)
Do hamsters recognize their owners?
Yes, hamsters can recognize their owners. After they’ve heard your voice and sensed your smell for some time, they’ll be able to recognize you and might also react to you.
What kind of smells do hamsters hate?
Hamsters hate all strong smells. Their least favorite is the smell of citruses. Also, essential oils, air fresheners, fabric softeners, and perfumes can all irritate hamsters.
So, before handling your hamster, you should wash your hands with perfume-free soap.
An interesting fact is that Syrian hamsters don’t even like the smell of other hamsters.
How long can my hamster be left alone?
You can leave your hamster alone for some time. The limit is usually two days, but it all depends on how friendly and close to you the hamster typically is.
If you’re leaving for a longer time, it’s a good idea to have somebody check on your pet from time to time.
Although some people consider hamsters boring, they are brilliant and exciting animals that many people love having as pets. There’s definitely more to these fascinating animals than what meets the eye.
We hope our hamster facts helped you understand these small creatures better and appreciate them even more.
- Animal Club
- Animals HQ
- Business Insider
- Dwarf Hamster Guide
- Hamster Club
- Hamster Guru
- Hamsters as Pets
- Little Furry Pets
- PBS Pet travel
- Pet Keen
- Pet Supplies Plus
- Rodent Life
- The Spruce Pets
- The Spruce Pets
- Vet Explains Pets
- Wide Open Pets