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What Is a Golden Hamster?

By Thomma Grindstaff
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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A golden hamster, or Mesocricetus auratus, is a type of small rodent in the Cricetinae subfamily, which includes all 25 types of hamsters. Golden hamsters, also known as Syrian hamsters, are often kept as pets. They range from 4 inches (10.2 cm) to 7 inches (17.8 cm) long, and female golden hamsters tend to be bigger than males. Fur color can be golden brown, reddish brown or sable, often mixed with a creamy hue, white or even black in varying patterns.

The native habitat of the golden hamster is the northwestern area of Syria, which is a hot, dry desert environment. These sturdy rodents adapt well to any climate, however, which accounts for their popularity not only as pets but also as animals used in scientific research. Golden hamsters are nocturnal, meaning that they sleep during the day and are active mainly at night. They are extremely territorial and must be kept isolated from one another. If two golden hamsters are placed in a single cage, they will begin to exhibit hostile behavior, which culminates in fighting.

Of all the hamster breeds, the golden hamster is the most popular pet. They are easy to care for and are tolerant of being handled if they grow accustomed to human scent from a fairly young age. The dietary needs of the golden hamster can be satisfied through commercially available food for hamsters, which is comprised of various seeds and grains. They enjoy vegetables such as pieces of fresh carrots or broccoli. Hamsters like bits of apple, too, but they should not be given citrus fruits because of their acidity. Fresh water should be made continually available to hamsters, preferably through a water bottle in the animal's cage.

The golden hamster lives, on average, two to three years in captivity, though a few of these animals have reached five years of age. They need a cage that is large enough for them to get plenty of exercise in during their active periods. While sleeping, golden hamsters do not like to be disturbed, and pet owners should not try to handle them with hands that smell like food, or the hamster might bite.

Female golden hamsters go in heat approximately every four days and, when in season, exude a strong smell. The gestation period of the golden hamster is only 16 days, and a female golden hamster can give birth to a litter of anywhere from eight to 20 pups, though eight to ten pups is the average number. Golden hamsters attain sexual maturity when they are four to five weeks old.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Golden Hamster?

A Golden Hamster, also known as a Syrian Hamster, is a small rodent originally from the Middle East, particularly Syria. They are popular pets due to their docile nature, ease of care, and the fact that they are nocturnal, making them entertaining companions for evening interaction. They typically have golden-brown fur, which is where their name derives from.

How long do Golden Hamsters live?

Golden Hamsters have a lifespan of around 2 to 3 years, which is relatively short compared to other common pets. Their health and longevity can be influenced by factors such as diet, exercise, and living conditions. Providing a well-balanced diet and a clean, spacious habitat can help ensure they live a full life.

What do Golden Hamsters eat?

Golden Hamsters are omnivores and thrive on a varied diet that includes seeds, grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and occasional protein sources like boiled eggs or mealworms. Commercial hamster pellets can provide a balanced diet, but fresh food should also be offered to ensure nutritional variety. Always provide fresh water daily.

How big do Golden Hamsters get?

Adult Golden Hamsters typically grow to about 5 to 7 inches (13 to 18 centimeters) in length and weigh between 4 to 5 ounces (113 to 142 grams). They are one of the larger hamster species kept as pets, which makes them easier to handle for both adults and children.

Are Golden Hamsters good for families with children?

Golden Hamsters can be great pets for families with children, as they are generally gentle and easy to care for. However, they are nocturnal, so they may not be as active during the day when children want to play. Supervision is recommended to ensure gentle handling and to prevent accidental injury to the hamster.

Do Golden Hamsters require a lot of maintenance?

Golden Hamsters are considered low-maintenance pets. They require a clean cage with bedding changed weekly, a consistent supply of food and water, and some toys and a wheel for exercise. Regular, gentle handling can help keep them tame. Despite their ease of care, they do need daily attention to ensure their well-being.

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