Syrian Hamsters: A Complete Guide to Care and Ownership

The Syrian or golden hamster, also known as Mesocricetus auratus, comes from Syria and usually lives in dry, not-too-hot areas in parts of southeast Europe and Asia Minor. The hamster is a small furry animal with a short, smooth coat and a tiny, stubby tail. 

They usually have reddish-gold fur on top and a grayish-white belly. Some hamsters come in different colors like cream, albino, piebald, and cinnamon, and their fur can be longer or shorter. Hamsters also have pointy ears with dark coloring, and their eyes are small. 

Syrian Hamster Profile

Origin:  Syria

Scientific Name: Mesocricetus auratus

Size: 6–8 inches (Adult)

Weight: 110 and 140 g

Color: Cream, albino, piebald, and cinnamon

Life Span: 2-3 Years

Syrian Hamster Overview

Before bringing a Syrian hamster into your home, it’s essential to be fully aware of their unique characteristics. They have specific traits and behaviors that you should understand to ensure a harmonious relationship with your new pet.

Solitary Nature

Syrian hamsters are known for their solitary nature, both in the wild and as pets. It’s essential to house them alone, as even young hamsters that tolerate cage mates may become aggressive as they mature, potentially leading to serious fights. Additionally, it’s wise to keep other household pets away from your hamster to prevent any harm to either animal.

They are territorial mammals and tend to become aggressive toward each other once they reach maturity, usually between 8 and 12 weeks of age. It’s essential to never keep Syrian hamsters in pairs or groups once they are mature. Even the presence of another adult hamster in the same vicinity can lead to stress and conflicts. Therefore, it’s best to keep only one Syrian hamster as a pet.

Nocturnal Habits and Commitment

Syrian hamsters are nocturnal animals, meaning they are most active during the night. Their typical lifespan ranges from 1 to 2 years, although some have been known to live longer. While their lifespan may be shorter compared to other pets like rabbits or cats, they still demand a significant commitment during that time. Syrian hamsters require daily attention and care, including feeding and cleaning their enclosure, so it’s essential to ensure that your lifestyle can accommodate this commitment before bringing a hamster home.

Ideal Syrian Hamster Home

For a Syrian hamster, providing as spacious an enclosure as possible is the key to a happy and healthy life. The cage serves as their primary area for exercise and exploration. At the very least, the cage dimensions should be 1 foot by 2 feet, with a height of at least one foot. When selecting a cage, you have two main options: one with wire on top and a plastic base or a standard glass or plastic aquarium with a tightly fitting mesh top.

Wire cages offer superior airflow, although they may provide less insulation against drafts. Inside the enclosure, it’s essential to include a variety of hamster toys to keep your pet mentally and physically engaged. An exercise wheel with a solid surface (not bars) is ideal, as it reduces the risk of injuries. You can also add tunnels and bridges for hiding and climbing, as well as wooden chew blocks to promote dental hygiene. Don’t forget to place a cozy nest or sleeping hut (available at pet shops in various designs) in one corner of the enclosure to ensure your hamster has a comfortable place to rest. 

Bedding and Cleaning

To provide a comfortable and clean living environment for your hamster, start by lining the enclosure’s bottom with a layer of bedding, typically a couple of inches deep. It’s best to use paper or aspen bedding products for this purpose. Avoid cedar or pine bedding, as the strong odor can be harmful to your hamster’s health.

Maintain the bedding by daily scooping out any wet spots to keep it dry and fresh. Additionally, aim to change all the bedding on a weekly basis. During this weekly cleaning routine, thoroughly scrub down the entire enclosure using soap and water to ensure your hamster’s home remains a hygienic and welcoming space. 

Diet and Feeding Habits

Feeding your Syrian hamster is straightforward. Their diet consists mainly of nuts, grains, and seeds found in commercial food blends. You can add variety with fruits and veggies like apples, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and pears. Since Syrian hamsters are omnivores, the occasional hardboiled egg or feeder insect can give them an extra protein boost. Just remember, if you’re using a commercial food blend, these supplemental foods should make up no more than 10 percent of their overall diet. Consult your vet for specific quantities, as it can vary by age and size.

Keep a bowl of dry food in their enclosure, but be sure to remove any uneaten food after 24 hours. Hamsters like to graze and store food in their cheek pouches for later. When offering fresh foods, do it separately in the evening when your hamster is active. Remove any uneaten fresh food after a few hours to prevent spoiling.

Always provide clean, fresh water that you change daily. Most people prefer water bottles as they’re easy to keep clean, but you can use a shallow dish until your hamster gets used to drinking from the bottle.

Health Concerns

Syrian hamsters are generally tough little critters, but it’s essential to be aware of potential health concerns. 

  • One common issue is “wet tail,” a gastrointestinal infection often linked to stress and bacterial overgrowth. Look out for signs like lethargy, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and dampness around the tail area. If you suspect wet tail, don’t delay—take your hamster to the vet immediately. This infection can become fatal if left untreated, but antibiotics can effectively combat it
  • Mites can also bother hamsters, particularly when living in unsanitary conditions. If your hamster starts itching excessively or loses fur in patches, it might have mites. Contact your vet promptly to arrange treatment.
  • Some hamsters may develop overgrown teeth, which can make eating a challenge. If you notice your hamster’s teeth looking longer than usual and weight loss, consult your vet. They can trim the teeth and offer advice on maintaining your hamster’s dental health, like adding more chewable materials to their enclosure. Regular vet check-ups can help catch and address these issues early on, ensuring your furry friend stays happy and healthy.

How to Handle Syrian Hamsters

Handling hamsters can be a delightful experience when done right. Here are some guidelines to ensure a smooth and enjoyable interaction with your furry friend:

  • Understanding Hamster Behavior: Hamsters typically don’t bite without reason. With gentle handling and patience, they can become affectionate companions.
  • Clean Hands: Hamsters rely on their sense of smell and touch due to poor eyesight. Before handling, wash your hands to remove any food odors that might tempt nibbling.
  • Wake Them Gently: Since hamsters are nocturnal, they may not be awake when you want to interact. Gently wake them up by talking softly and shifting some bedding before picking them up.
  • Handle with Care: Syrian hamsters are sensitive to touch, so avoid grabbing or poking. Always scoop them up gently with both hands, avoiding their nose and whiskers. If they’re skittish, use a plastic cup to start.
  • Short and Sweet: Begin with short (10-15 minute) handling sessions to build confidence. Gradually, your hamster will feel more comfortable with the process.
  • Respect Personal Space: Hamsters have poor close-up vision. Avoid putting your fingers too close to their faces, as it can startle them and lead to nipping or fleeing.
  • Training Possibilities: Hamsters can be trained with patience. You can teach them their name, basic routines, and even some tricks over time.

How to Train Your Syrian Hamster?

Starting the training process when your hamster is young is key to creating a bond. 

Sit on the floor in a secure area while handling your hamster to avoid any accidents. Offering a favorite treat can make the experience enjoyable for your furry friend. If your hamster becomes stressed, it’s best to return it to its enclosure.

A spacious enclosure and an exercise wheel are essential for your hamster’s fitness. 

Regular exercise prevents obesity and keeps them healthy. You can also let your hamster roam safely in an exercise ball when it’s outside the enclosure, but always keep a close eye on them.

Hamsters are naturally clean animals and groom themselves. 

They don’t require baths with water. However, if they get some dirt or debris in their fur, gently use a damp cloth to help them clean the affected area.

Maintaining a hamster involves mainly food and bedding expenses, and doesn’t take more than $40 per month, depending on your choices. 

Additionally, budget for occasional replacements of items like chew blocks and nests in the enclosure. Don’t forget to plan for annual vet checkups and potential emergency medical costs.

Pros and Cons of Petting a Syrian Hamster

Low-maintenance: Easy to care for and cleanFragile nature: Requires gentle handling
Quiet and peaceful: Won’t disrupt your homeNocturnal: Most active when you’re asleep
Can be tamed for interaction and handlingPotential for biting if not handled gently
Low food and care costsLimited lifespan: Typically 1-2 years
Small and space-efficient: Suitable for small living spacesSolitary animals: Can’t be kept in pairs or groups
Murphy Bernier

Murphy Bernier

Murphy Bernier is a New-York based freelance writer, professional blogger and certified dog trainer. She networks shelter pets to help them find homes and volunteers for rescue groups as she is passionate about dog rescue and adoption. From a very early age, she developed extensive animal handling skills from her dad, and that’s where her love for animals started.

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