Hamster – Nature

Hamsters are very popular pets especially for children.

Russian or dwarf hamsters and Chinese both like the company of their own kind, so keep a pair of the same sex and do not mix species.

Syrian hamsters or golden hamsters are solitary creatures and must not be housed together because of their inevitable aggressiveness toward each other. Hamsters are very popular pets today because of their availability, affordability, small size, cuddly appearance, often docile temperament and relatively clean habits.

They are not very long-lived, which can be disconcerting to owners (especially children) but some parents feel that having their children experience the relatively short period of companionship and subsequent death is a meaningful way to expose children to the “ups and downs” of life.

Hamsters are primarily nocturnal, though they may exhibit relatively short periods of activity throughout the day. During their active period, hamsters eat and exercise. As with all pets children need to be supervised when handling hamsters and an adult needs to be responsible for making sure the hamster is properly cared for. Because of their nocturnal nature hamsters may not be the ideal pet for children, as hamsters do not appreciate being disturbed when asleep and may become alarmed and as a result bite.

The cheek pouches are a relatively unique anatomic feature of hamsters. They are actually a cavernous out-pouching of the oral (mouth) cavity on both sides, extending alongside the head and neck to the shoulders. These pouches are used to store food and allow the hamster to transport food from where it is gathered to the hamster’s den or nest. The food is then eaten later, at the hamster’s leisure.

Hamster owners not familiar with these cheek pouches often panic when seeing them fully distended for the first time, thinking they represent tumours or abscesses. Another relatively unique anatomic feature of hamsters is the paired glands in the skin over the flanks. These appear as dark spots within the hair coat and are much more obvious in males than females. These glands are used to mark a hamster’s territory and also have a role in sexual behaviour.

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