If you’re like me, you think all of your animals need a friend because they’re lonely. Surprisingly, many species prefer to be loners despite how they are portrayed. An excellent example of an animal who loves to be an “only” is a Syrian hamster. Why do Syrian hamsters prefer to be alone at home? Actually, they have a very interesting history!
If we picture ourselves on a dark desert highway, cool wind in our hair… No, no, no. That’s a hotel in California, not the Middle East. Ok, let’s start again.
Syrian hamsters (known by many other names) really did originate in the Syrian and Turkish deserts. They are known as one of the most solitary and territorial species on our planet. In short, hamsters do not get lonely. Considered a “vulnerable” species, European doctors initiated a breeding project to maintain their existence. While they’ve been fully domesticated and aren’t “endangered” anymore due to breeding programs, they’ve maintained their solitary and territorial temperaments.
Unfortunately, when you see hamsters for sale at pet stores, they’re normally in an enclosure with a lot of companions. This also perpetuates the misnomer that they prefer to have lots of friends around.
The hamsters on display are typically very young and can co-exist peacefully. However, when they enter adulthood (8 to 10 weeks), having multiple hamsters together is asking for trouble. Occasionally, they can live together, but it causes significant stress. Stress decreases their already shorter lifespan of 3 to 4 years. Also, at any time, they can decide to stake out their territory. Defending their turf leads to vicious fighting, even to the death. Finally, female hamsters are very aggressive towards the males when they are in heat. Keeping your hamster in a private enclosure prevents unwanted pregnancies and battles.
The Perfect Hamster Hamlet
One on one, Syrian hamsters are very friendly and loving. Simulating a spacious desert environment, they need a large, tall enclosure with plenty of places to hide. To keep your hamster happy, you’ll want something at least 2 feet long, 1 foot wide, and 1 foot high. Bigger is acceptable, too!
To create suitable hiding spaces, they’ll make burrows in their bedding. What kind of bedding should you use? You can see which kind they prefer or mix it up. Fabric or cotton bedding isn’t recommended (choking hazard).
Don’t think your little one is going to hide all day, though! Hamsters love to run and play. Toys such as exercise wheels, tunnel toys (also good for hiding), and plant/wood-based chews keep them healthy and prevent boredom. Lots of love and attention are also essential for a happy hammy, so don’t hesitate to pet and interact with them regularly.
Like all animals, hamsters need an unlimited fresh water supply. The best way to keep your hamster hydrated is through a vacuum-action water bottle.
Hamsters are omnivores who like to store their food in their cheeks! (It’s always good to stash food and treats for later.) Typically, hamsters eat nuts, grains, and seeds. They also like fresh fruit and veggies such as apples, broccoli, cauliflower, and pears. Always keep in mind that fruit has a lot of sugar, so limiting their fruit intake is wise. We’ve got all kinds of healthy snacks and treats for hamsters, which you can find right here.
Again, Syrian hamsters are perfectly content with hoomans as their companions instead of another hammy. Caring for them as we’ve outlined here will keep them happy and healthy.