Syrian Hamsters are the friendliest of the hamster family. They are very popular children's pets
and treated properly become very good companions. It's important to handle them daily. A baby may be a bit nippy to start with, but this soon wears off once it knows you can be trusted. Although nocturnal they will wake up during the day and will adapt to your lifestyle very well. My daughter plays with hers in the morning and after school and he is always awake and ready to play. At other times he doesn't mind being woken up for a play. This obviously depends on the individual animal. Some people don't like to be woken up and are very grumpy when done so, it is just the same with animals.
The Syrian hamster is also known as the Golden Hamster, although they do come in a variety of colours including gold, black, white and combinations of the three. Their coats may be long or short haired and can also have a satin effect.
There is a great range of hamster cages on the market. Lots are great fun and designed with children in mind. Hamsters like to be able to be able to amble around, they love tubes and particularly wheels. It is up to you how much or how little you want to spend and how elaborate the cage is, but remember you need to be able to clean it easily and more importantly to catch the hamster. The kits available where you add extra rooms via tubes are great fun, but difficult to clean and the tubes make annoying escape routes for a hamster who doesn't want to be handled. The cage doesn't need to be big, but a wheel is very important. A hamster will happily spend all night on one, climbing on and off when it wants. They don't seem to mind they aren't going anywhere!
Put sawdust in the cage, enough to dig in, and bedding of tissue paper or toilet roll. They will rip this up themselves. Don't use the cotton wool type bedding brought in pet shops. This can be very dangerous. Even though it is sold for hamsters there are lots of cases of accidents with it getting wrapped around legs and caught in pouches.
Plastic beds tend to be a waste of time. Mine never use them , preferring to make a bed where they want to. Toilet roll cardboard tubes are a favourite toy, as are wooden ones they can climb in.
I don't like the plastic balls that are sold for hamsters to play in. They are designed for you to put the animal inside and let it roll around the room.
Hamsters are very simple to feed. Shop-bought food and small amounts of fruit and veg treats are all they need. It is important not to over feed a hamster as they will pouch all the food in small bags in their cheeks (which grow to an alarming size when full) and store it away somewhere "safe". In time this will start to go off, so should be checked regularly. They eat very little but the dish may be empty every day. If so check for a food store in the cage..
It is very important to supervise matings. The female must be put in with the male (not vice versa) and only when she is in season. Syrians have to live on their own and will fight to the death if you let them. You can tell if she is in season as she will emit a musty smell and will have a milky discharge. Put her in with the male and she will stand for him if she is ready. If not take her out immediately and try again the following day. Do this daily until they have mated.
The gestation period is 19 days. The babies are born naked and blind but within days are moving around .The nest should not be disturbed at all for the first couple of days. If you can't resist having a quick peek don't touch the babies unless you have a good, trusting relationship with the animal.
The babies will grow very quickly and in most cases can be re-homed at 4 weeks old, though older is better. The sexes need to be separated at an early age and then individuals need to be separated at around 8 weeks old as they will start to fight after this. Once they reach sexual maturity they will fight to the death.
Unlike Dwarf Hamsters, Syrians must be housed singly. As I have already mentioned, they will fight to the death, even siblings or a pair. The female will probably kill the male. On there own they are delightful animals, which makes these nasty habits quite unbelievable!
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