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A hamster is a small furry animal which is similar to a mouse, and which is often kept as a pet.Hamsters are rodents (order Rodentia) belonging to the subfamily Cricetinae, which contains about 25 species classified in six or seven genera. They have become established as popular small house pets, but, because they are easy to breed in captivity, hamsters are also often used as laboratory animals.

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Rodentia
  • Family: Cricetidae
  • Subfamily: Cricetinae

Hamsters are popular pets for children. They are small rodents that typically live about two years, are usually best if housed alone, and come in a variety of colors and breeds. Different breeds are known for different traits and any potential owner should learn about the choices they have before picking one out to take home.


With 24 species of hamsters, these animals come in a wide range of sizes. The European breed can grow as large as 13.4 inches (34 centimeters) long and are some of the biggest varieties of hamsters. The dwarf hamster lives up to its name. These tiny hamsters grow to around 2 to 4 inches (5.5 to 10.5 cm) long.


Although the Syrian hamster or golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) was first described scientifically by George Robert Waterhouse in 1839, researchers were not able to successfully breed and domesticate hamsters until 1939.

The entire laboratory and pet populations of Syrian hamsters appear to be descendants of a single brother–sister pairing. These littermates were captured and imported in 1930 from Aleppo in Syria by Israel Aharoni, a zoologist of the University of Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem, the hamsters bred very successfully. Years later, animals of this original breeding colony were exported to the USA, where Syrian hamsters became one of the most popular pets and laboratory animals.


Hamsters are omnivores. Although pet hamsters can survive on a diet of exclusively commercial hamster food, other items, such as vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts, can be given. Hamsters in the Middle East have been known to hunt in packs to find insects for food. Hamsters are hindgut fermenters and eat their own feces (coprophagy) to recover nutrients digested in the hindgut, but not absorbed.

Hamster habitat

The first hamsters were discovered in Syria, though they also live in Greece, Romania, Belgium and northern China. In the wild, they like to live in warm, dry areas, like steppes, sand dunes and the edges of deserts.


  • They like to sleep during the day and play at night.
  • Hamsters are friendly. While they like to live alone, they do enjoy your companionship.
  • If you talk to your hamster frequently, she’ll get used to hearing her name.
  • Hamsters’ teeth are always growing. They require chew toys, sticks or chews to help keep them worn down.
  • Hamsters will relieve themselves in one or two corners of their habitat. Use a scoop to remove soiled bedding each day.
  • Do not place their habitat in direct sunlight or near heating or air conditioning vents.
  • Be sure she has a wheel in her habitat. Supplement her daily “spins” with a supervised in-house field trip in her hamster ball.
  • When they sleep, hamsters like to burrow or hide under a hideaway.

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