Also called a golden hamster, a teddy bear hamster is a type of Syrian hamster, a short-tailed rodent, common to the pet trade. Long-haired, these hamsters are desired particularly for their lush coats. The scientific name for the teddy bear hamster is Mesocricetus auratus.
The most common species of hamster kept as a pet, the teddy bear hamster is golden colored. Their upright rounded ears, puffy cheeks, and small dark eyes, give them a superficial resemblance to a teddy bear. These hamsters usually average about 5 inches (12.7 cm) long, but their fluffy, 1–2 inch (2.54–5 cm) long coats add to their overall size. Teddy bear hamsters live about two to three years.
Although hamsters groom themselves, occasional brushing may be needed to remove difficult tangles. A toothbrush can be used as a brush. Hamsters should always be handled gently and is prone to bite or nip if not socialized often from an early age.
Teddy bear hamsters should always be housed alone since they tend to fight when placed with other hamsters. They can be housed in a variety of environments, including plastic and glass, but must have enough space to exercise. The hamster's environment should also have a solid bottom lined with recycled materials or wood shavings. Cedar should not be used, however, as it can be harmful to the hamster. The hamster should be kept in places where the temperature is relatively even and out of direct sunlight or drafts.
In addition to dried hamster food, teddy bear hamsters can eat fruits and vegetables, as well as timothy hay. Caffeine and chocolate should be avoided since both cause medical issues. Care should also be taken to limit the amount of lettuce and similar vegetables fed to the hamster because too much can cause diarrhea. High fiber diets also help prevent diarrhea in these hamsters.
Teddy bear hamsters are also prone to malocclusion, or overgrown teeth. Providing the hamster with chew blocks, as well as high quality food, is necessary to allow the teeth to wear before becoming overgrown. If the condition is allowed to manifest, teeth may grow so long the hamster can no longer eat properly.
Mites are a common problem for the teddy bear hamster as well. Owners who find their hamster infested with mites should take it to the vet for prescription miticides. The bedding should also be changed and the housing thoroughly cleaned before the hamster is returned to its environment.