- The Animal Encyclopedia for Kids


Hamster Facts

Size Dwarf hamsters: 3-6 in (8-15 cm);
European hamster: up to 13 in (34 cm)
Speed Up to 3.7 mph (6 km/h)
Weight 0.2-1.9 lb (100-900 g)
Lifespan 2-3 years
Food Seeds, grains, fruits
Predators Owls, falcons, snakes
Habitat Syria, Europe, Siberia, Mongolia, China
Order Rodents
Family Cricetids
Scientific name Cricetinae
Characteristics Small rodent, short tail

Main Characteristics

Hamsters are little rodents that are closely related to mice. Hamsters are little rodents that are closely related to mice. There exist about 20 species – from dwarf hamsters to golden hamsters and European hamsters.

Anatomy and Appearance

The Largest and the Smallest Hamster

With a length of up to 13 inch (34 cm) and a body weight of up to 1.9 lb (900 g), the European hamster is the biggest species. The smallest is the dwarf hamster Phodopus with a length of 2 inch (53 mm) and a weight of 0.84 oz (24 g).

Hamsters Have „All You Can Eat“ Cheek Pouches

Many fast food chains attract their customers with „All You Can Eat“ offers. Yet, after two pizzas the trousers are getting uncomfortably tight and you drag yourself home with a bloated stomach. Hamsters use another technique: They have cheek pouches to store all the food they cannot or do not want to eat right now. When filled to the brim with food, the pouches can be twice or three times as big as the head of the hamster.

Cream Syrian Hamster Cream Syrian Hamster - Photo: Stanislaw Sulica/Shutterstock

Senses and Abilities

Hamsters Are Sniffing Experts

When hamsters dare to explore unknown areas, they rub their bodies against many different things. That is nearly the same as with Hänsel and Gretel. But while the fairy-tale characters leave bread crumbs as a trail, the hamster leaves a scent trail. To follow this trail is a piece of cake for the hamster as it has a very fine sense of smell.

Do Hamster Have a Good Eyesight?

If hamsters didn’t have such an excellent sense of smell, they would have to visit an eye doctor. They can just see objects up to a distance of 6 inch (15 cm) and only perceive movements and differences in brightness. In addition to this, the little cuddly animals are also color-blind.

Chinese Dwarf Hamster Chinese Dwarf Hamster - Photo: gulserinak1955/Shutterstock


Hamsters Love to Dig

Hamsters like to burrow and dig. In the wild, the rodents love to dig branched burrows. A sign saying “home sweet home” at the entrance of the burrow would be quite appropriate, as hamsters like to have it really cozy underground. Through little bolt-holes and tunnels they reach sleeping spots furnished with grass upholstery and larders lined up to the ceiling with food. The hamster does not even forget to equip its burrow with a toilet as it hates bad smells in its home.

European Hamsters Hides Away During the Winter

Brrr! When it starts to get colder, wild European hamsters are getting nervous: In order to gather food to survive the cold winter months, it even treks distances of up to 8 miles (12 km) per night. In its shopping ... er ... cheek pouches, it carries up to a total of 11 lb (5 kg) (!) of food into its home. As soon as those treasures are safe, the hamster withdraws to a frost-free spot in its burrow, which can reach up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) deep into the ground.

During his winter rest, the pulse rate of the hamster slows down from 400 to 4 beats per minute. Its body temperature also decreases: from 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) to 39 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). Every few days the hamster wakes up and enters its larder to enjoy a delicious meal.

European Hamster European Hamster - Photo: Allocricetulus/Shutterstock


Where Do Hamsters Come From?

All golden hamsters originate from the Syrian hamster.

The Hamster Is Related To:

  • Gerbil
  • Jerboa

Animals in the Same Biome:

Syrian Hamster Syrian Hamster - Photo: Alexruss/Shutterstock

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