25 Fun Facts About Hamsters

Hamsters are cute and furry, but there are plenty of other things you should know about them before you bring one home. Here are some informative and fascinating tidbits that might just help you bond with your pet and understand more about their needs.

  1. “Hamster,” from the German word “hamstern,” means “hoard,” which is a favorite pastime of our hamster friends.
  2. The hamster is a rodent whose scientific name is “Cricetinae.” It contains 18 species in seven different genera and includes lemmings and mice among others.
  3. The Syrian hamster is the most popular pet hamster. Often referred to as teddy bear, short hair or fancy hamsters they are known to be very docile and enjoy being held.
  4. The first hamsters came from Syria, but they have lived all over the world in places like Greece, Belgium and northern China.
  5. With proper care and attention, a hamster can live to be 2 to 3 years old.
  6. Since hamsters are nocturnal, they naturally sleep more during the day and are more active at twilight. Don’t wake them up to play. Instead, plan your interactions for late afternoon or early evening after they’ve had their proper rest.
  7. Hamsters generally enjoy the companionship of their pet parent and love to be let out of their habitat to play. Enhance their fun by constructing a maze for them to navigate, getting a hamster ball or putting them in a safe, enclosed area with hamster toys.
  8. Hamsters are intelligent creatures who can even learn their name. If you talk to your hamster and use their name frequently enough to get them used to hearing it, they might even learn to come when called.
  9. A hamster’s teeth are constantly growing. To keep them at their healthy, length, provide plenty of chew toys and chew sticks to help naturally wear them down.
  10. Hamsters tend to keep their habitats tidy, generally relieving themselves in one or two specific corners, making it easy to litter box train them or at least scoop out soiled bedding every day to keep their spaces clean.
  11. Most hamsters are very fast runners, and the shape and size of their hind feet allows them to run backward as well.
  12. Hamsters naturally like to hide. Provide them with plenty of substrate for burrowing under in their habitat and a hollow hideaway where they can relax.
  13. Dwarf hamsters are only 2 to 4 inches long, while a Syrian hamster can grow to be about 6 inches long.
  14. Hamsters can be easily startled. Always approach your hamster from the side, use your voice and call their name to alert them that you are approaching.
  15. A well-rounded diet hamster diet included fruits and vegetables in moderation. While treats like these should only make up about 10 percent of a hamster’s total diet, a few bites of banana, strawberry or carrot can make a healthy treat. Remove any old food from their habitat after 24 hours.
  16. Hamsters are fastidious and like keeping themselves clean. You can do your part by washing their entire habitat once a month with warm, soapy water (avoid irritating ammonia-based cleanser). Some hamsters benefit from a dust bath. A small dish of small animal dust for them to roll around in helps remove oils from their fur. Remove the bath after 12 hours.
  17. Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which may be toxic to hamsters. Also avoid feeding your hamster caffeine or alcohol.
  18. Hamsters are born blind, and even as adults can only see a few inches in front of their nose.
  19. Smell is one of their most important senses. They rub their scent glands on objects to help them smell, and this will be one of the first tools they’ll use to navigate their habitat and to get to know you. Help your hamster out by refraining from wearing strong perfumes or lotions.
  20. Hamsters have cheek pouches, called displostomes, that they use for storing food. So while it may appear that your hamster is eating a lot, they are likely just storing some of it in their cheeks to transport around their habitat and keep in their burrows. These large cheeks can actually make a hamster’s head look double, or even triple, its actual size.
  21. Unlike other animals, a hamster will not usually eat food just because it’s in their habitat. Since this animal doesn’t tend to overeat, that means that extra food could sit around for days untouched. Remove old fruits and veggies or soiled food and debris daily, and make sure they always have plenty of fresh options available.
  22. Hamsters are solitary animals who should be housed singly in their habitat.
  23. Hamsters use their front and back paws like humans use their hands, mainly to grip their food and toys.
  24. Although hamsters are relatively healthy creatures, annual veterinary visits are recommended.
  25. Hamsters have moods. According to one study, hamsters with plenty of toys and cozy bedding made more optimistic choices. In other words, you can help keep your hamster happy by providing plenty of fun, enriching opportunities.

Learning more about your hamster is the best way to ensure you are providing them with everything necessary for a happy life. Find out more about normal hamster behavior at your local Petco store.