Hamsters

Biological data

Syrian Hamster Chinese Hamster Russian Hamster
Average life-span 1½ – 2 years 2½ – 3 years 1 -2 years
Adult weight Male: 85 – 130g
Female: 95 – 150g
Male: 30 – 35g
Female: 27 – 32g
Male: 40 – 50g
Female: 30g
Sexual Maturity 6 – 8 weeks 7 – 14 weeks 6 – 8 weeks
Gestation period 15 – 18 days 21 days 18 days
Litter size 5 – 9 4 – 5 4 (on average)
Weaned 21 – 28 days 21 days 16 – 18 days
Weaned 21 – 28 days 21 days 16 – 18 days
Can be Housed Together? Solitary Pairs/small groups Pairs/same sex

Housing

Your hamster needs a cage that is resistant to gnawing. It should also provide the hamster with exercise, by using wheels and other toys. Tanks with screen tops, conventional cages (wire with plastic base) with several floors or solid plastic caging with plastic connecting tunnels can be used to house hamster. They should have a nest box to retreat to with hay or paper as nesting material, (cotton or nylon material should be avoided as these can cause cheek impactions or get tangled around limbs). This should be cleaned regularly as hamsters hoard food. Hamsters are burrowing animals and like a deep layer of bedding such as wood shavings.

Feeding

Pet hamsters are usually fed a complete hamster mix which can be supplemented with fruit, vegetables and nuts. For maintenance a hamster’s diet should ideally be 16% protein. Old food should always be removed as hamsters store food.

Common Problems

  • Dental disease – Anorexia, weight loss, swelling and excess salivation can result from overgrown incisors. These will need to be trimmed.
  • Cheek pouch impaction – Impaction is usually presented as large persistent swellings on one or both sides of the face. These can be emptied under general anaesthetic and the pouches flushed.
  • “Wet Tail” or Bacterial enteritis – Early signs are lethargy, anorexia and ruffled coat, followed by diarrhoea. Sadly the outlook is poor.
  • Respiratory disease – Hamsters seem more resistant to infectious respiratory disease than other rodents.
  • Reproductive disease – Female hamsters can develop womb infections and will need to be spayed. They can also get cancer of the uterus though this is rare.
  • Hormone Disease – Diabetes mellitus has been reported in Chinese hamsters. Hamsters can also develop Cushing’s Disease which results in hair loss, skin thinning, excessive thirst and appetite.
  • Skin Disease – Mange due to Demodex mite is the most common parasite found in hamsters. Affected hamsters have hair loss and dry scaly skin. A diet too low in protein can cause skin disease.

Neutering

Males and females can be neutered under general anaesthetic. Castrated males should be kept away from intact females for 3 weeks.