Temporal range: Middle Miocene – Recent
|Campbell's dwarf hamster|
Hamsters are rodents belonging to the subfamily Cricetinae. The subfamily contains about 25 species in six or seven genera. They have become established as popular small house pets. They are a bit like a mouse. Wild hamsters live in the desert, but people all over the world keep domesticated hamsters as pets.
In the wild, hamsters are crepuscular and stay underground during the day. They feed on seeds, fruits, and vegetation, and occasionally eat burrowing insects. Hamsters are distinguished by their large cheek pouches, and relatively short tail. They use their long cheek pouches (extending to their shoulders) to carry food back to their burrows.
Hamsters as pets[change | change source]
There are six main types of hamsters: the Syrian hamster (the kind most people have as pets, winter whites, campbells, the Russian dwarf hamster (a hybrid of winter white and campbell hamsters, winter whites and campbells are two type of Russian despite what many pet shops say), the Chinese hamster, and the Roborovski hamster. All Syrian hamsters are the descendants of 12 baby hamsters found in Syria in 1930.
Pet hamsters like to live in cages with wood shavings or recycled newspaper (only if non-toxic). Fluffy bedding is dangerous for hamsters. Plain toilet paper is also a cheap, safe option, but not straw as it is very dry and they may choke on it. Hamsters eat mostly hamster food sold at a pet shop, but they also eat almost any vegetables and fruits in very tiny portions. Hamsters store food in the sides of their mouths. They cannot eat chocolates, lemons, watermelons, grapes, candy, or garlic(but check before giving your hamster a new food that it is safe.) They need a water bottle with fresh water to drink from, and something to chew on to trim their teeth. Hamster teeth grow constantly. Wooden blocks and some hard food (they do not do a better job than an chewing block) can be used for this. Toilet paper rolls and pieces of cardboard are not advised, as the hamster may choke or try to eat it. Most hamsters also have a wheel to run on for exercise. ( if a hamster has to bend its back to use the wheel it may get back problems, so a 6 inch (Syrian) wheel is recommended for most dwarfs and at least an eight inch wheel for Syrians) Some people get other kinds of exercise equipment for their hamsters, like an empty ball that the hamster can roll around the floor or a long network of tubes with air holes for it to crawl through. When using the hamster ball, let the hamster roll in it for 15 to 20 minutes. If they roll too long, they might get too tired and overheat. They should live in an aquarium (without water) or cage. When letting your hamster out always keep an eye on it. Hamsters may look slow, but are truly very fast. Keep your hamster away from any electric wires, since they like to chew on them. Hamster are not recommended for young children.
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