The Syrian Hamster (Mesocricetus auratus, Family Cricetidae, Order Rodentia) also called Golden Hamster is a small friendly rodent that is very popular in the Netherlands. The Syrian Hamster comes, as its name suggests, from Syria and southern Turkey. The animals live there in dry steppe areas and clay soils, in which they dig beautiful burrows and tunnels.
Head-body length : up to 18 cm
Body weight : up to 180 g (females are slightly heavier than males)
Life expectancy : 2 to 3 years
Syrian Hamsters are really nocturnal. The animals sleep during the day and emerge late in the evening to search for food. However, there is a difference between males and females. The females are more active than the males. Females also sometimes emerge during the day.
Females need more of a challenge than males, if they get bored they can show problem behavior. A cage with bars is not recommended because Golden hamsters can quickly start gnawing on bars.
Tame and familiarize the Syrian Hamster
First read carefully whether a Syrian Hamster is the right pet. It can be disappointing, especially for children, if it turns out that the hamster is only active when everyone is in bed. Obviously not every Golden Hamster has this rhythm, but unfortunately most do. This must be taken into account at all times. The animals should also not be woken up during the day, because this can cause them to experience stress, become really grumpy and even bite.
Although the Syrian Hamster looks very cuddly, he does not always like to cuddle and he finds being picked up very scary, especially in the beginning. Because the animals do not see depth, they can run away from your hand if they are startled, so it is important when children handle the animals that there is always a parent present who can help and support.
A new resident should be approached calmly, especially during the first few months. The animal must first become familiar with its own enclosure and feel safe in it before it dares to approach people. Of course there are also daredevils who immediately walk up to you and are social, but most hamsters are a bit shy at first. Give the animal time and try to make contact calmly by talking to the hamster. Giving treats out of hand often works well to gain the animals' trust.
Tip! Syrian Hamsters love pumpkin seeds.
Housing the Syrian Hamster
Golden hamsters need a spacious enclosure of at least 100 x 50 cm ( LICG ). A good enclosure gives the animals the opportunity to dig. In the wild, hamsters build beautiful corridors and they would like to continue to do so in captivity. A castle in the wild is located at a depth of at least 1 to 2 meters and is approximately 1 meter long. The depth of the castle depends on the ambient temperature. As temperatures rise, the hamster will dig deeper underground to reach the cool earth, a kind of natural air conditioning.
Hamsterscaping is therefore very fun for Syrian Hamsters.
At our home this translates into a spacious accommodation with digging possibilities! A terrarium is the best choice thanks to its closed nature. It is important that a terrarium allows good ventilation, so preferably it has two grilles (top and bottom). This is especially important in summer when temperatures rise above 25°C.
Golden hamsters cannot tolerate high temperatures in combination with high humidity, so a temperature between 20 - 24°C and a humidity below 70% are recommended. You can use a hygrometer to measure these values.
House for a Syrian Hamster
Syrian Hamsters need a larger hamster house than dwarf hamsters. That sounds logical, but unfortunately manufacturers do not make a distinction here. Fortunately, we do this. We use logos to indicate whether all houses are suitable for a Syrian Hamster or only for a Dwarf Hamster. Syrian Hamsters are prey animals and do not like to walk around the enclosure openly, but if they occasionally come across a shelter they feel a lot safer. Our advice is therefore to have at least two houses for the hamster. A house for the hamster to sleep in and another one for him to hide in. At least one of the two houses must be larger so that the hamster can also store its food supplies in it. Not being able to put away food supplies can cause stress for the animals.
Exercise wheel for a Syrian Hamster
The hamster exercise wheel is a very important part of the design of the hamster enclosure. Syrian Hamsters are active animals that like to run at night. This is because they naturally run a lot during the night in the search for food. So this is, as it were, in their DNA. In addition, scientific research has shown that running on an exercise wheel makes hamsters happy, digestion is promoted and the animals generally remain in good condition.
An exercise wheel for a Syrian Hamster must have a diameter of at least 30 cm and consist of a closed running surface.
Ground cover for Golden hamsters
It is important that the ground cover is diggable for hamsters , which means that they can make holes and holes in it, which preferably remain standing. This can be achieved by choosing ground cover that is already diggable in itself or mixing ground covers with each other so that they are diggable. Examples of excavable ground cover include Humus and Holenzand , but also Cotton & Cotton . A nice mix is, for example, the mix of Cotton & Hemp Fiber , Cotton & Wood Fiber or a mix of Wood Fiber , Hemp Fiber and Hay. Ground covers such as Back 2 Nature are not suitable because animals cannot dig in them. An ideal height of the ground bed for digging is around 20 and 30 cm.
Long-haired Syrian Hamsters and bedding
Not every bedding is suitable for long-haired Golden Hamsters because it can become tangled in the fur and cause matting. Depending on the thickness and density of the coat, ground covers made of thicker material such as: Cotton, Paper or Humus/Cave sand are suitable.
It is also good to brush the longhair's coat regularly. This can be done with a rodent brush, but a toothbrush is also very pleasant to use for this.
Sand bath for Syrian Hamsters
Syrian Hamsters like to take a sand bath every now and then. Sand has a degreasing and therefore cooling effect. Because sand has a degreasing effect, it also has a drying effect. Animals with skin problems should therefore not be given a sand bath. If the sand dries out the skin too much, it can become itchy, causing the animals to bathe even more. It is therefore important to keep an eye on the hamsters' bad behavior and to remove the sandbox if there are signs of skin problems (red spots, bald spots, scabs, wounds).
Hibernation in Syrian Hamsters
If the ambient temperature is below 15°C for a long time, the animals can go into hibernation. It is very important to recognize this correctly, because it is often thought that the animals have died, with all the consequences that entails. A hamster that is hibernating feels cold and sometimes even a little stiff. Take the animal in your hands and let it warm up and wake up in your hands.
On the one hand, hibernation is triggered by a drop in temperature, but on the other hand, food scarcity can also play a role. If the animals are malnourished and it is slightly colder, but warmer than 15°C, they can also go into hibernation. The length of the day also plays a role here. If it also starts to get dark at 5 p.m. for the hamsters, the body can receive a signal that winter has started.
Syrian Hamsters are nest builders
Syrian Hamsters are real nest builders, they always need nesting material so that they can line their hole with it. Making a nest is therefore part of a hamster's natural behavior. Therefore, always give the hamster 15-25 grams of nesting material.
Hamster nesting material must be nice and soft, absorb moisture and have fragile fibers so that the animals cannot become entangled in it. Materials such as cotton, hemp, toilet paper and hay are ideal.
Syrian Hamster/Golden Hamster food
Hamsters are granivores (seed eaters). The diet of Golden Hamsters consists mainly of seeds and a little bit of vegetable food in the form of herbs , but also animal proteins. Hamsters catch small insects in the wild, so it is good if their diet also contains animal proteins.
Syrian Hamsters carry their hamster food in their cheek pouches. What you see is that the Hamster stuffs his food in his cheek pouches and quickly takes it to his house or pantry. Carrying food in the cheek pouches is also called "hoarding". Thanks to the cheek pouch muscle, the food is held in the cheek pouch and the hamster can transport it safely and quickly.
Dental formula: 1013/1013 (Ratio of incisors at the top - bottom = 1: 2-3) Incisors continue to grow
Molars do not continue to grow: The large cheek pouches that extend to the shoulder blades are a flexible protrusion of the buccal mucosa.
Stomach: consists of two chambers: the anterior stomach and the glandular stomach
Small cecum: with limited ability to process crude fibers. Protein-rich cecal droppings are only eaten in case of food shortage
The percentage of crude fiber in the diet should be a maximum of 10% for optimal digestibility and absorption of the diet.
Gnawing material to wear down the teeth
Syrian Hamsters have a natural need to gnaw. This is because Hamsters are rodents and have continuously growing incisors. It is therefore necessary for Hamsters to be able to gnaw on something to wear down their teeth. If Hamsters have too few opportunities to wear down their teeth, the teeth can become too long or grow crooked, with all the consequences that entails.
Gnawing wood is used by rodents to wear down their teeth. Because rodents' teeth are always growing, they need to be gnawed regularly so that they do not grow too long and crooked.
Some Hamsters gnaw on wood very actively and others not at all. On the one hand it is a matter of taste, but on the other hand it is a matter of need. If a Hamster has no need to gnaw because its teeth are kept at their length through food, hay or other nibbles, it will gnaw less on wood. It is good to always provide natural gnawing wood so that the animals can always gnaw when they need to gnaw.
Dental problems in Hamsters
If you notice that your hamster is very enthusiastic about taking the food, but then does not eat it, there may be something wrong with its teeth. Drooling can also indicate dental problems. If you suspect that there are dental problems, it is best to contact your veterinarian.
Reproduction of the Syrian Hamster
Syrian Hamsters are solitary (live alone) and only come together during mating season. Once young are born, the mother takes care of them until they are old enough. Then they are chased away into the pasture world.
The female is willing (in heat) and ready to mate every 4 days. This takes about 12 hours. If successful mating has taken place on these days, the young will be born after approximately 18 days.
The difference between males and females can be seen in the distance between the genital opening and the anus. This distance is greater for a male than for a female.
Sexual maturity : females after 4-6 weeks, males after 6-7 weeks
Breeding maturity : females after 8 - 10 weeks, males after 10-12 weeks
Number of litters : 3-4 per year
Litter size : 7 (max. 12) babies per litter
Gestation period : 15-18 days
Birth weight : 2-3 g, nest stayers
Weaning time : from week 4
Health of the Syrian Hamsters
Syrian Hamsters are generally healthy animals. The most common health problems are dental problems and diarrhea (wet tail). We therefore recommend checking the teeth of the animals regularly to detect any dental problems in a timely manner. To prevent digestive problems, a well-balanced and complete hamster diet is essential.
Young golden hamsters can transmit LCM pathogens to humans. Use caution in pregnant women.
It is not necessary to treat the animals preventively with anti-parasite. It is not necessary to provide extra vitamins with a complete hamster diet.
It is wise to consult a vet if you have the following symptoms:
Drooling, moist nose and eyes, protruding teeth, not eating, losing weight, eating foreign materials that are softer than the food.
Bald spots, lots of scratches, scabs, wounds, bumps and lumps
Wet and dirty ass, drinking a lot, falling over, lethargy, different shape and color of the feces