Syrian hamsters are one of the most popular species of hamster, and probably the one you imagine when you think of a hamster. Here I will explain the basics of:
- Syrian Hamsters Themselves
With links to my in-depth posts on the specific topics which I’ll be listing at the very end!
The Syrian Hamster
Syrians are the largest of the five domestic species, and can grow to 7 inches in length. Females are the larger sex, and go into heat every 4-6 days. During that time they will be more hyper than usual. Male Syrians are usually calmer, but keep in mind that every hamster is different.
Syrian hamsters come in many coat types and colours, and are often given nicknames such as ‘Teddy Bear’ hamsters. These names are not the name of their actual species, but of the coat type.
Hamsters are crepuscular or in some cases nocturnal, which means they are active at dawn and dusk, and sometimes during the night.
Syrian hamsters are prone to Wet-Tail, a stress caused disease. They get diarrhea from stress, and can die within 72 hours of symptoms showing. It’s very rare in hamsters over a year old. I wouldn’t fret about getting a Syrian because of it; just try not to stress them out.
Syrian hamsters are solitary, and will kill each other if they’re housed together!
Overall Syrian hamsters make wonderful pets, and if you’re new to hamster owning I highly recommend them, as they are easier to handle then the smaller, speedier species of hamster available. On average they live one and a half to two and a half years old.
Any hamster species needs (at the bare minimum,) 450 square inches (width times length) of unbroken floor space, and Syrians thrive in 600 or more. The cage base needs six or more inches deep so you can give your hamster the required amount of substrate for burrowing. You may be thinking a cage that big will cost a fortune, but surprisingly it won’t! Say hello to a bin cage, Preview 528 or Ikea Detolf! These cages can all range from 500-900+ square inches for only $20-$70! There are so many hamster cages besides these around the globe that make amazing cages! I have a post all about cages that you can check out to learn more.
Hamsters are very stress-prone creatures, and because of this they do best when their cages aren’t fully cleaned very often. If your cage is the proper size then cleans won’t need to be as often either, so it shouldn’t be a problem. The average owner does bi-daily or weekly spot cleans, bi-weekly rearranges and monthly deep cleans. Cleaning schedules similar to these are known to cause happier, less stressed hamsters, as well as fewer substrate bills and less work for owners. Creating a cleaning schedule is a great way to keep track of cleaning, as well as get into a routine. I have monthly deep clean tutorials available if you’re interested in deep cleans and stunning cage setups!
Hamsters are Omnivorous, meaning they need to eat seeds, nuts, animal proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables. This may sound like a complex diet, but it’s really not, considering how much of the diet is a pre-made seed mix. Your hamster’s seed mix needs whole ingredients, variety and as few fillers as possible. The Guaranteed Analysis needs to be 17%-20% Protein, 5%-7% Fat and 7%-15% Fibre. The simplest way to provide this is sharing some of your food with your hamster and I recommend Higgins Sunburst Hamster/Gerbil diet as the seedmix. For my hamster one bag lasts up to four months. Fruits, veggies and proteins can be served around three times a week. A treat can be given once a week. These are the basics of the diet, to learn more check out my post on diet.
Water is vital to anyone and anything, so it is important that your hamster always has access to water. You can offer your hamster a water bottle, a water bowl, or both. Personally I’m rather paranoid and use both, then if the bottle fails (which it has done) Beanie still has access to water. Hamsters are desert animals, so if your hamster doesn’t seem to be drinking much you shouldn’t need to worry (if they’re not drinking at all then there’s a problem!). The water itself is just plain tap water, with no minerals added or removed. I clean my water bottle weekly with a vinegar solution, and the water dish bi-daily.
When selecting a substrate for your hamster you must make sure it’s safe. Softwood shavings, such as pine and cedar, have naturally occurring oils in them that cause respiratory infections, which require vet treatment to cure. The most popular safe wood shaving is Aspen, which can be found in most pet stores. Unscented paper-based substrates are also safe. In the wild hamsters are burrowers, and live in chambered burrows underground up to ten feet deep! Most people can’t provide that (if you can definitely do that!) so we’ve settled on six inches as a minimum. The more the better, it’s so rewarding to see your hamster burrowing! When you’re setting up your cage my trick is to have an even six inches, because no matter how you adjust it later it’ll be enough.
Hamsters will put materials into their cheek pouches and take it to their hidey or burrow and make a comfortable bed. If you see your hamster ‘eating’ bedding, it’s not, it’s cheeking it. There are commercial cotton beddings available, but cotton kills hamsters, as I mentioned in my Hazards For Sale Post. A much better, safer and cheaper alternative is shredded tissue, which is digestible, warm and safe. If you live in a hotter place then hay makes wonderful, cool nesting material, which they might also snack on.
Hamsters are not items (many people treat them as such), they are living things that need proper care, and part of proper care is enrichment. Enriching your hamster isn’t hard to do. There are several ways to enrich them. The first thing is toys, DIY or commercial. Syrian hamsters in particular enjoy climbing, and providing plenty of things to climb on is a great way to stimulate them and engage them in exercise. You want a semi-crowded cage, which will make them feel safer as well. Scatter feeding and/or use foraging toys is very stimulating, and I highly recommend free roaming them, or having playpen time. And another suggestion is changing the cage setup weekly.
Hamsters, being rodents, have teeth that are constantly growing. It is essential that you provide chew toys for your hamster to wear their teeth down on. There are countless types, sizes and styles of chews! A rule of thumb is to always have five different chew styles/textures in the cage. Hamsters will chew things on their own usually, but if you have a hamster who is reluctant to chew there are ways to motivate them. Smearing peanut butter on the chew or giving them a foraging toy they have to chew through to get food out of are the most common techniques. Hamsters are definitely food-motivated!
And there you have it, my Basic Syrian Hamster Care Guide! I hope you enjoyed and learned a lot about them. This is to give you the basic idea of what it’s like to care for a hamster, so I made it as short as possible. Please research more before getting a hamster!
This writing is all the basic requirements of Syrian Hamsters, with important things I’ve learned from my own experiences with my Syrian Hamster. They have different needs from Dwarf and Chinese hamsters, so please use this information for Syrians only.
If you’re interested in more hamster-related content be sure to like this post and follow the blog, and I’ll be back on Tuesday with more small pet care, DIYs, recipes, cage setups, stories and more, have a ham-tastic day!
- Syrian hamsters are crepuscular/nocturnal.
- Syrian hamsters need 450 square inches of floor space; more is preferred.
- Hamsters need 6+ inches of substrate depth for burrowing.
- The less often you clean your hamster’s cage the less stressed they’ll be (clean as needed is the motto).
- Make a cleaning schedule!
- Hamsters are omnivores.
- A proper seed mix contains 17%-20% Protein, 5%-7% Fat and 7%-15% Fibre.
- Give hamsters 24/7 access to clean tap water by bottle or bowl.
- Cotton nesting materials kill hamsters!
- Offer shredded tissue as nesting material.
- You can enrich your hamster through toys, foraging techniques and out of cage time in the evening/night.
- Hamsters’ teeth are always growing!
- Offer five or more different chew toy styles!
- Research before getting a pet!