Syrian Hamsters

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

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.

Size:

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.

Appearance:

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.