Feb 082014
 

Every wonder when and where different breeds of hamsters came from? Although you may not think so, hamsters actually have a long history. Read below to learn more about hamster history.

Hamster history

 

 

 

 

 

Syrian Hamster Discovery

It all began in Aleppo, Syria.  Sometime in the late 1700s the Syrian hamster was documented in a book titled “Natural History of Aleppo” by Alexander Russell and revised by his half-brother Patrick after Alexander’s death.

Credit for the naming of the species, however, goes to George Waterhouse in 1839. At a meeting of the London Zoological Society, he presented the “new” species. As history would have it, his presentation was based on an elderly female hamster from Aleppo, Syria.
Syrian hamster discoverer George Waterhouse

Waterhouse named the species Cricetus auratus. He used the word “auratus” because in Latin it means “gold” or “golden”. That was probably the coloring of the hamster he found in the wild.  So you could say the first hamster known was the Golden Hamster.

The next major event in hamster history was around 1930 when zoologist and Professor at the University of Jerusalem, Israel Aharoni, found a mother and litter of hamsters in the Syrian Desert. Many of these died or escaped. But the remaining hamsters were given to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where they were successfully bred as Golden Hamsters.

They were a bit bigger than the ones Waterhouse found, so they were named Mesocricetus auratus, although they were probably the same species.

The common name, hamster, comes from the German word hamstern, which means to hoard or to hide. As you know, hamsters love to stuff and hide food inside their cheeks.

Importation to the US and Europe

Because Golden Hamsters proved so easy to breed and take care of, they were sent to labs in the United Kingdom in 1931 and seven years later, in 1938, to the United States.

There, the animals became popular as pets, and by the 1950s this rodent had become a craze. Britain, Germany and the Netherlands were the first countries to sell these rodents as pets, but as hamster history shows, they also became a hit with kids in the United States.

All the variants today most likely came from the one litter that was discovered and bred in Syria. The only exception would be those that travelers brought to the US.

Roborovski Hamster History

The dwarf hamster known as the Roborovski hamster comes from the semi-arid areas in Mongolia and Northern China.
Roborovski hamster history

This type hamster was named after its discoverer, Lt. Vsevolod Roborovski who, in 1894, reported seeing them during an expedition to China. Years later, in 1903, they were scientifically studied by zoologist Konstantin A. Satunin.

Time passed again, and it wasn’t until the late 1960s that Roborovskis were imported to the UK. Unfortunately, they did not breed well in captivity. Other European countries, the Netherlands in particular, were more successful breeding Roborovskis. They finally began to be available as pets in the 1990s, reaching the shores of the U.S. in 1998.
Since then, the dwarf Roborovskis have become a very popular breed.

Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster History

The Campbells Dwarf Russian Hamster, like the Roborovski, was named after the person who first discovered it, Thomas Campbell. He discovered the breed in 1905 and it was named Phodopus Campbellis in his honor.

The Campbells was imported into the UK by the London Zoological Society in 1963, where it was successfully bred. However, it didn’t become widely available as a pet until the early 1980s.

Djungarian / Winter White Dwarf Hamster History

The Djungarian hamster, also known as the Siberian or Winter White hamster, was originally found in Siberia and Eastern Kazakhstan.  Interestingly enough, it has a long history, having first been found in 1773.  It was at first thought to be part of the mouse family.

However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that they were bred and studied by scientist Klaus Hofmann in a German laboratory. In the 1970s they began showing up in the UK pet market, then moved on to the U.S. market in the 1980s.

Chinese Hamster History

As you would suspect, the Chinese hamster originally came from Northeastern China. They were first domesticated and used as a lab animal around 1919. This type hamster entered the U.S. around 1948 for breeding in research labs. By the mid-50s, they were being successfully bred at Harvard University.

Beginning in the 1970s, the Chinese hamster became more popular as a pet.

Scientific Research

The hamster is widely used in scientific labs because they breed quickly, have a relatively short life cycle, are not susceptible to diseases, and handling them is easy. Because their cardiovascular system is similar to humans, scientists often use them for cardiovascular research.

As you can see, hamsters have a long history, first as scientific curiosities, then as lab animals, and finally, as the loveable pet we know today.

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Apr 142012
 

Whether we’re 10 or 70, we find hamsters fascinating. What is it about this charming little creature that makes us love it so?

In my opinion it can be put into one word – cuteness.

Hamster by narumi-lock, on Flickr

If you want the main reason for this cuteness, just look at a hammy’s face. The eyes are large and seem to have a naturally curious expression. Then there’s that little button nose and pointy ears that stick up and move around to hear what’s going on around it. This is a totally perfect face with an expression that seems to say “Let’s have some fun.”

Another thing that contributes to hamster cuteness is its overall size. Even a “big” hamster like the Teddy Bear or Golden, still only 3 to 5 inches long, is a great size for fitting in the palm of your hand. And the smaller dwarf hamsters are a perfect fit for smaller hands. What’s more, you can get two dwarfs in one nice sized palm.

Helping the hamster stay small is the fact that, except for the Chinese hamster, they have a little nub for tails. That makes the hamster round and compact, making him or her easier to hold in your hand.
That small size makes hamsters a great pet for keeping in a small space. Even if you use a large hamster cage, this type hamster habitat fits nicely on the top of the table in even a small room. The hamster, then, is a great pet for people who live in the city.

Another reason we love hamsters is because of the fact that these little creatures like to take care of themselves. You will see them standing there constantly grooming themselves. It happens before they run, after they run, before they eat, after they eat, before they drink… Well, you get the idea.

That means you don’t have to worry about washing them or taking them to a groomer. They are quite happy to keep themselves clean.

And they are easier to take care of than some other animals. A little food and water, a few toys, and a place to run usually keep them pretty happy. This means you can come home and either play with or watch your hamster without having to plan on taking them out for a walk or chasing them around the house. Unless, of course, your little hammy escapes from its cage.

Another reason we love hamsters is that they are a fun pet to watch. Sure, they sleep a lot. But when they’re active, they really go at it. They run around their exercise wheels like little madmen. And they love to explore. They crawl around any hamster tubes you put in their hamster cage or they push around an exercise ball. Even when they’re not running they can be active. They may be chomping on a food treat or stuffing it in their cheek pouches.

If properly trained, you can also enjoy the hamster interacting with you. It will let you pet it and hold it in your hand. You can hand it a treat and let it sit in your hand while it holds its food in its paws and munches on it. And who hasn’t enjoyed little hamster’s feet tickling you as it runs up your arm.

They’re cute, they’re small, they’re easy to keep, and they’re fun. So it’s easy to see why everybody loves hamsters.


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Mar 192012
 

When your pet hamster is left alone or every time you look in on it, do you notice that your hammy is gnawing on the wires of its hamster cage? This cage bar chewing could be a problem you need to fix.

Hamster Gnawing

Hamster Gnawing the Bars by LuLu Witch, on Flickr

Hamsters need to gnaw because their incisors are continually growing, like human fingernails. If the incisors begin to grow too long, they can cut through your hamster’s cheek and lead to other health issues. So your hamster needs to keep gnawing to prevent overgrown teeth.

But too much gnawing can:

  • Cause hamster teeth to break
  • Get the teeth out of alignment with each other

These issues can result in your hamster having eating problems.

Another potential problem with too much gnawing is hamster brain damage. This can occur if the wire bars have paint with lead in them.

So if you see your hamster spending a lot of time biting on his or her cage bars, you should try to figure out what’s causing the extreme gnawing.

Causes

Two reasons for a hamster chewing too much on his or her cage are:

  1. Not enough to chew on
  2. Boredom

Here are some actions you can take to address these causes and help stop your hamster from cage bar chewing.

More to Chew On

It’s easy to provide your hamster with things to chew on. All different kinds of wooden chew toys are available including small houses, blocks and colorful sticks. You may also use cardboard tubes, like the kind you find under all that toilet paper or paper towels. chew toy

Some hamsters can be picky about what they chew. So if one type of chew toy doesn’t work, try a different one.

Food is also good for a hamster to chew on. Some people have found success with unflavored hard dog biscuits. Then there are treat sticks and drops that hamsters can chew on, as well as the seeds you normally feed your hamster. Be careful not to overfeed your hammy, though.

Stop Hamster Boredom

Boredom is another cause of bar chewing. Hamsters need to run and keep active, especially at night.

Every hamster cage needs an exercise wheel so your pet can get its running in. But your hamster may get bored running only in its exercise wheel. Try putting some hamster tubes inside the cage so your hamster can do some extra running. Or you can build a hamster maze out of tubes to give your hamster a fun new activity. hamster exercise ball

Another good idea is to let your hamster explore some new areas outside its cage by putting it in an exercise ball.

Your hamster may also be bored because its cage is too small. You may want to try a larger cage that has additional levels for your hamster to climb. Or you can connect two cages to give your hammy some extra room.

Another option is to change the type of cage you use. I don’t recommend all hard plastic cages because of ventilation issues, but you can try a bin cage in which you have drilled plenty of ventilation holes. These cages mean your hammy will have no wires to chew on. plastic bin cage

Or you can switch to an aquarium that doesn’t use any wire bars. aquarium

Finally, if you have a dwarf hamster, you may want to add another hamster to the habitat so your hammy can have a friend to play with.

 

Experiment with new activities or new chew toys to get your hamster to stop gnawing too much on its wire cage bars.


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Mar 162012
 

Do you need a new living environment for your hamster? Are you tired of having to buy new hamster cages? Then a hamster bin cage may be your solution. It’s an affordable yet easy way to create a habitat for your hamster.

To prepare this type of cage for your hamster, all you need is a plastic storage bin, a few basic tools, and enough patience to complete the project. Rather than spending a small fortune on a prefabricated hamster cage, you can create a wonderful hamster bin cage yourself.

 

What Is a Hamster Bin Cage?

In case you aren’t familiar with it, a hamster bin cage is simply an enclosure for your pet made from a plastic storage container. If the container doesn’t come with a lid, you should purchase a lid that fits snugly over its top.

With its convenient size and shape, a ready-made storage bin makes an outstanding hamster cage. It can allow enough floor space for your pet, whether Syrian or dwarf, while keeping costs to a minimum.

Benefits of a Hamster Bin Cage

There are numerous benefits of this type of hamster cage.

  • It can be done as a do-it-yourself project.
  • It is easy on the wallet.
  • By using a plastic storage bin that is clear or translucent, you can see in and your hamster can see out.
  • It’s unlikely that your hamster will chew through the plastic and escape.
  • Because it is a single unit, it becomes easy to lift, carry, and move around. It doesn’t require elaborate accessories or come with tubing that may dislodge or become loose.
  • Because of its height, it’s unlikely that your hammy will be able to kick bedding out the side.
  • You won’t need to be concerned about your hamster outgrowing the cage as you might with a pet store cage. If you need more room, you can add a connecting bin.
  • You have options for bin cage ventilation. You can use a mesh top, cut a space for mesh in the top of the storage unit, or drill holes in the top cover. You don’t have to worry about making mesh windows that your hamster might be able to crawl out of.

Bin Cage Dimensions

The size of the bin you build will depend on the type of hamster you have.

For one dwarf hamster you can use a smaller bin such as 18 inches long X 12 inches wide X 12 inches tall. (45.7 X 30.5 X 30.5 cm).

If you have two dwarfs, think about using a little larger bin, such as 24L X 20W X 24H inches. (61 X 50.8 X 61 cm)

For Syrians, or very active dwarfs, think about going to 36L X 24W X 24H inches. (91.4 X 61 X 61 cm)

In the U.S., these sizes may be stated in terms of quarts, with approximately the following measurements:

  • 30 quart = 18 inches long X 12 1/8 inches wide X 12 inches tall.
  • 66 quart = 24 ¾ inches long by 16 3/8 inches wide by 12 3/8 inches high
  • 71 quart = 23.3 inches length by 18.7 inches wide by 12 3/8 inches high

As with any hamster cage, you want to opt for plenty of floor space. Remember, you will still need to put in an exercise wheel, food bowl, toys, and water bottle.

Materials to Use for Building a Bin Cage

Typical materials for building a hamster bin cage include the following: Drill bits

  • Drill and drill bits
  • Utility knife, box cutter, or hacksaw
  • Picture wire, flexible wire, or twist ties
  • Wire cutters (for cutting wire mesh)
  • Wire mesh, also called hardware cloth. Get the kind with very small spaces (1/4 inch) so your hamster can’t squeeze through.
  • Glue gun
  • Nuts, bolts, and washers
  • A permanent marker

Building Your Bin Cage

Ventilation is critical! Just as when you use an aquarium for a hamster cage, you need air to circulate throughout the cage or ammonia will build up.

You need to prepare the top of the cage for ventilation. There are a few ways to go.

For wire mesh: You can tape it to the top and use it instead of a lid. The tape must be on very tightly and should not be able to be eaten by your hamster.

For wire mesh: You can cut out a space in the top lid that’s a little smaller than the amount of wire mesh you’re going to use. Then drill holes in the lid and attach the wire mesh with nuts, bolts, and washers. Some people also use a glue gun and glue to keep the mesh in place.

Wire mesh

For holes: Mark where the holes should go in the top cover, then drill using an appropriate size bit. Do not drill the holes too close together or the top lid plastic may crack. You can also drill some holes near the top of the bin sides for added ventilation.

  1. Drill holes in the bin side to attach the water bottle using ties or wire.
  2. If you want to attach a hamster tube from the side of a bin cage that can lead to another bin cage, use a marker to mark the size of the tube on the side of the bin. Then cut out the hole with a box cutter or drill with special attachment. Use the tube connector to cover any sharp edges on the hole.

Rather than drill a hole for it, use a freestanding exercise wheel.

Build a Bin Cage Videos

Here are links to You Tube videos that show how to put a hamster bin cage together.

How to: Make A Hamster Bin Cage    2:22

  • Text and slides
  • With music

Hamster Bins 101: Part 3 (Making a Basic Bin)    7:54

  • Step by step
  • With narration
  • Shows drilling

How to make a BIN CAGE for hamsters (Sarah’s Way)    9:48

  • The first minute Sarah is looking around the garage for the right tools. After she gives up on that, she goes to the hardware store and the story begins.
  • Step by step video with text titles
  • Good music!

How to make a hamster bin cage and where to get the parts in the UK        6:38

  • Specific the the UK
  • Video with narration

Safety Considerations

When using power tools to modify the cage, make sure that your hands are dry so that any tool you are using doesn’t slip. Also, working with hot glue can be dangerous and cause painful burns. Be careful. Remember, always think “safety first” and use common sense when creating your hamster bin cage.

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Jan 122012
 

A bored hamster is a boring hamster. If you want to keep your hamster active and healthy you need to make sure he or she has some fun things to play with. Three of the most common things you can add to your hamster habitat to keep your hamster busy are hamster tubes, hamster toys, and hamster balls.

Hamster Tubes
hamster tubes
These colorful and round plastic tubes are an inexpensive way to get your hamster moving. Individual pieces or sets usually cost under $10. You can put together a few tube pieces that can fit inside a large hamster cage, or you can go crazy and build extensive mazes outside the cage for your hamster to crawl through. Once you get to the stage where you’re building mazes, the costs can add up.

These funnels as they are called, can also go straight up so your hamster can have some climbing fun. There also tubes with resting places on the top. If you put some bedding at the top, your hamster can get some exercise climbing up then take a little nap when he reaches the top. Some of the tops of hamster tubes open up so you can actually take your hamster out and hold him or her.

Two tips for using hamster tubes. One, make sure you get the right size for the size of your hamster. A dwarf hamster may have some trouble climbing straight up a large tube. Number two is to make sure there are some ventilation holes in the tubes. You want to be sure your hammy has enough air to breathe as he or she is running around its tubes.

For more information, read Hamster Tube Tips.

Hamster Toys
hamster chews
The first kind is the type that the hamster needs to chew on. As you know a healthy hamster needs to keep gnawing so it won’t get overgrown teeth. A good soft wood toy helps your hamster keep his or her teeth in shape.

Then there are hamster fun toys you place around your hamster cage. These are toys that hamsters like to crawl around in.

Hamster Balls and Cars
hamster exercise ball
You will probably have an exercise wheel inside your cage. Your hamster needs this wheel to get in his or her daily running and stay healthy. But for fun you can put your hamster in an exercise ball and let it run around outside the cage.

The balls have vents so your hamster can get air as it runs around. Hamsters love to push the ball around and explore new spaces in your house. hamster exercise ball loop

There are even circular tracks, or loops, that you can put the ball in so you can control where your hamster runs.

Naturally, you should keep your other pets away from your hamster while it’s in its roll around ball. And remember to keep any staircases you have blocked so that your hammy can’t fall down them.

Also available are plastic hamster wheels that fit inside hamster-sized racing cars. hamster toy

When your hamster starts rolling the wheel, it looks like he or she is driving a racing car around. You and your friends can even hold hamster drag races. However, it only goes forward and backward, unlike a hamster ball that can go in all directions.

Summary

Giving your hamster fun accessories such as tubes, toys, or cars lets your pet get the activity and exercise it needs and keeps it from getting bored. You can also get pleasure just by watching your hammy play in its toys.

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