Hamsters have been common household pets for nearly a century now.
There’s still a lot that most people need to know about hamsters, though.
Hamsters are a VU species
As difficult as it may be to believe of the creature that’s extremely popular as a pet, hamsters are only rarely found in the wild anymore. Officially, their conservation status is on record as vulnerable – a step down from the endangered level. Like many other species, hamsters in the wild have suffered greatly due to loss of habitat.
Hamster = Mr. Saddlebags
Hamsters are loved for their cartoonish cuteness. They’ve been appropriately named, too. The term hamster derives from the phrase in Arabic that means Mr. Saddlebags. The saddlebags are a reference to the hamster’s cheek pouches. Since hamsters are easy prey to predators, they can’t be seen outside foraging for food much. They need to get out of their borrowers, quickly stuff their cheek pouches with whatever food they can find and hurry back inside to eat in peace.
Hamsters are reproductive machines
Hamsters hold a fearsome record – they have the shortest gestation period of any placental mammal. When a female hamster becomes pregnant, it takes no more than 16 days for the litter to arrive. Hamster litters are large, too – 20 pups are usual.
Hamsters can actually get pregnant while they nurse an earlier litter
Most mammals do not get pregnant while they nurse their young. Hamsters are different, though. Not only can they get pregnant while they nurse, they can hold the pregnancy in and not deliver until they are satisfied that their current litter has had enough nursing.
Hamsters have other reproductive magic up their sleeves
Hamsters can be very sensitive to overcrowding. In overcrowded quarters sometimes, one female will release special pheromones that signal to all other females in the area that they need to stop mating. Right away, they all fall in line.
Hamster mothers will help each other out by taking care of one another’s litter. If a hamster mother dies before her young are fully weaned, a neighboring hamster mother will take over.
Like many other animals, hamster mothers tend to eat their young if they are stillborn or born week
Out in the wild, a dead creature can be a terrible risk – the scent of a weak or dead creature can attract predators. When a predator finds a week or stillborn creature, it will usually look for the other members of the litter who might still be living. They could be easy pickings. For this reason, hamster mothers usually eat up the evidence to protect the members of her litter that still live.
Hamsters have terrible eyesight
Hamsters dig deep underground mazes of burrows and live in them. They sleep through the day and only surface for short periods of time at night to forage for food. For this, evolution gives them keen eyesight that goes out a few inches. They can barely see anything clearly a foot ahead. Since they are mostly active after dark, they lack color vision, too. For this reason, hamsters tend to be constantly nervous of threats coming in. They can only use their poor eyesight to detect sudden movement. When they detect anything like it, they bolt or bite, whichever they can.
Hamsters go into such deep hibernation that their owners often wonder if they are dead
Some hamsters come from a very warm part of the world – the Middle East. This means that they cannot take deep winter. Nevertheless, evolution gives them a way to protect themselves, should they find themselves in such an environment. When the temperature drops past a certain point, their bodies automatically go into hibernation mode. This isn’t something that hamsters can’t control.
Hibernating hamsters breathe so little and go so cold, their owners frequently wonder if they are dead. It might be possible to detect faint breathing or faint heartbeat, though. You could also take your hibernating hamster to a vet to have it checked out. Alternatively, you could merely try warming it up. To begin, you can place the hamster on a hot water bottle filled with lukewarm water. If it’s hibernating, it should wake up after a while. You can give your hamster a little warm water to drink then.
Hamsters don’t just look cartoonlike – they are built that way, too
People love hamsters for their cuteness and their fun, birdlike movements. They happen to actually be built like cartoon creatures, too – they only have four toes on their front paws. One species of hamster is actually known as the teddy bear species.
Hamsters think big
According to the Humane Society of America, hamsters cannot possibly have too much space. They are happiest when they have unlimited space to run about in. This is why hamster cages need hamster wheels or treadmills to run on. They tend to routinely cover 10 miles in one day.
Getting a hamster that’s just right for you
Only a few species of hamsters exist. Their coats come in a surprising range of colors, though. The Golden hamster, for instance, comes in 40 different colors.
No one needs to feel that their hamsters lack individuality. You can always get a color that no one else has.