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Critters USA: The Hamster Decoded

We’ve got the answers to the most common care and behavior questions.

By Gerry Bucsis & Barbara Somerville

Although hamsters have been kept as pets for decades, many misconceptions still exist about their behavior and care requirements. Here are some of the common questions people ask about hamsters.

I’d like to buy a hamster but don’t know whether to get a Syrian hamster or one of the dwarf varieties. I know there’s a size difference. Are there any other differences?

Yes. One big difference between Syrians and the dwarf varieties is that Syrians must live alone. Most dwarf hamsters, on the other hand, can live together in pairs or groups of the same sex, as long as they’re from the same litter or introduced at a very young age (less than 8 weeks old).  However, be aware that dwarf hamsters sometimes start fighting as they get older. They’ll need to be housed separately if battles begin.

Syrians (Mesocricetus auratus) are the most common pet hamsters. Because they are larger than the dwarfs, they’re easier to handle. Dwarf species include Campbell’s (Phodopus campbelli), Winter White (P. sungorus), Roborovski (P. roborovskii) and Chinese (Cricetus griseus).  Dwarf hamsters are small and quick. They can be difficult to catch and hard to hold, so they’re not ideal pets for everybody.

**For the full article, pick up the 2008 issue of Critters USA or click here to buy the issue.**


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