The golden hamster is a small pet that can be found in many homes because it is quite easy to domesticate as long as you are gentle with it. Although it adopts a relatively solitary social behavior, it is nevertheless an endearing companion. Let’s discover its main characteristics and its needs in captivity.
Golden Hamster : presentation
The golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) is a rodent that belongs to the Cricetidae family. It is native to Syria, which is why it is commonly called Syrian hamster or hamster of Syria. It is also found in Turkey where it lives mainly in the east of the country. It is also called red hamster. When it has a black and white coat it is more specifically nicknamed panda hamster.
With a length of about fifteen centimeters and a weight of 150 g maximum, it is larger than other species of hamsters. Its coat can be of different colors: chocolate, white, black or gray.
The life expectancy of the golden hamster is about 3 years.
Behavior of the Syrian hamster
In its natural environment, the golden hamster is quite aggressive towards its fellow creatures. To intimidate them, it emits teeth grinding. It also shouts to communicate with other hamsters. The living space of this rodent consists of galleries that can measure between 3 and 9 meters long.
It has scent glands that allow it to mark its territory. They are located on its two sides. We can distinguish them perfectly because they appear as two dark areas without hair.
The golden hamster is a loner and the approach between males and females takes place only at the time of mating. When she agrees, the female deposits here and there a vaginal mucus to attract the male and then adopts a very particular position: she raises her tail and stands still. During this period, she shows herself receptive while the rest of the time, she can attack a male to defend herself.
This rodent is omnivorous. In the wild it feeds on seeds, plants, fruits and vegetables, some nuts and insects. To store food, it accumulates up to 20 g of food such as seeds in its jowls and deposits them in its nest. These small pouches located inside its cheeks are also used to carry its young or to bring back twigs with which it builds the nest.
Reproduction of the golden hamster
After mating, the gestation period lasts from 16 to 18 days. Each litter has between 6 and 8 young, and in some cases up to 16 individuals. The baby hamster weighs no more than 2 g. At birth, it already has whiskers and incisors, but its eyes are closed, its hearing system is still immature and its body is covered with hair so fine that it seems naked. After 9 days, the coat becomes fuller, and it is as of the twelfth day that the eyes open. The little hamsters are suckled for 3 weeks after which they are completely weaned. They then weigh about 40 g.
A female hamster can have a litter every ten weeks on average during 1 year because at this age, she becomes sterile contrary to the male who can procreate throughout his life. The sexual maturity of the female occurs at the age of 40 to 45 days, and in the male at the age of 60 to 65 days.
Golden hamster habitat in captivity
The golden hamster must have enough space, about 0.2 m². The ideal dimensions of a cage are for example 70 x 30 cm. It also needs to exercise. You can therefore install in your house a ramp, a wheel specially designed for small rodents as well as small dedicated ladders. It is necessary to think of placing at its disposal small blocks of mineral salts which it will be able to gnaw with leisure, and of the wadding with which it can make a soft nest.
Toys are essential, as well as a litter box to be changed every day, a feeder in which to put its food and a bottle allowing the hamster to drink. Water must be renewed very regularly.
You can buy or build a hamster house. Plastic is perfect because it is easy to clean.
Food for the domesticated golden hamster
Its food must be perfectly balanced for the little animal to be healthy. The golden hamster is capable of eating a lot, so it is recommended to pay attention to it so that it does not become obese. The food must provide sufficient fiber, fat, phosphorus, calcium and a good proportion of protein.
Protein foods that are compatible with his body include mealworms (once every two days, live or dried), which can be replaced by grasshoppers, shrimp or crickets. Protein can also be provided by a bit of hard cheese, unseasoned chicken or turkey breast, a small piece of beef or a hard-boiled egg yolk, but in this case not more than once a week.
Hamster food can be purchased at a pet store, as well as bags of hay that the animal needs to supplement its food.
Many foods can be dangerous for golden hamsters, such as raw potatoes, chocolate, spices, garlic, pork, almonds and citrus fruits, among others. If you want to adopt a golden hamster, it is essential to ask a veterinarian for advice. In addition, this fragile animal must be monitored regularly.
The golden hamster needs patience to accept to be held. You must therefore be careful when the household has very young children. It’s best to teach them to handle this little companion gently and safely so that it doesn’t fall.