Syrian Hamsters

Golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) in pot with plant, studio shot
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Mesocricetus auratus

Other Names:

Golden hamster, teddy bear hamster (long haired), black bear hamster, European black bear hamster, fancy hamster, standard hamster, and the hairless variety is sometimes called the alien hamster.

Expected Lifespan:

2.5 - 3 years.


Syrian hamsters usually about 6-7 inches (15-17 cm) in length.

Behavior and Temperament:

Syrian hamsters are nocturnal but may wake for short times during the day.

They are generally quite good-natured and easy to tame and handle. They have a reputation for being nippy, but that is usually due to lack of handling or trying to handle them during the day when they would rather be sleeping.

Social Characteristics:

Syrian hamsters are solitary and territorial. They should always be housed alone. They may tolerate other hamsters when they are young, but by the time they reach 8-10 weeks old, territorial fighting usually starts and may be fatal.


The natural coloration of Syrian hamsters is golden brown (technically agouti, meaning the hairs are banded with darker and lighter colors), with a lighter belly. They also have a dark marking on the cheeks, extending from the jaw up toward the ear. Through selective breeding, there are a number of variations in colors and patterns.

Notes about Care:

Basic care is like that of other hamsters. I usually recommend avoiding modular plastic cages for Syrian hamsters due to concerns with ventilation, size, and ease of cleaning.

A simple wire cage or aquarium is preferable. Feed a good quality hamster food supplemented with small amounts of fresh foods. See Hamster Care for more detail.

Additional Notes:

This is the most common kind of hamster kept as pets.