Teddy Bear Hamsters
Teddy Bear hamsters are a popular variety of Syrian hamsters prized for their beautiful coats. While females generally have a very plush coat, it's mainly the males that grow a longer skirt of hair around the rear half of their body. Both coats are quite luxurious, but it's the longer coat that draws the most attention and admiration.
All about Teddy Bear Hamsters
Teddy Bears belong to the Golden hamster group, but you'll often find them in pets shops listed under various names such as:
- Long-haired hamsters
- Fancy hamsters
- Angora hamsters
There is another variety of the Teddy Bear known as the Black Bear hamster. This mutation was first discovered in the mid-1980s, and its black fur and white markings are reminiscent of the bears the variety is named after. Today, Black Bears are viewed as a separate breed by many enthusiasts, and most display a gentler temperament than Teddies. They tend to tolerate a cage mate far better, and most allow handling without nipping or struggling.
Teddy bears grow to about five inches in length on average, although their coat makes them look slightly larger. Along with the rest of their Syrian cousins, they are the second largest member of the hamster family. Females mature around six weeks of age, and males mature slightly sooner.
Although there are always exceptions to any rule, most Teddy Bear hamsters have the typical Syrian temperament. They prefer to live alone and may fight with cage mates. They are also prone to nipping unless they have been handled gently from the time they are small.
The Teddy Bear's unusual coat is what draws most people to this pet. It comes in various shades of gold from a light buff to a deep reddish-gold. The length varies from one to two inches on average.
Although hamsters take care of their own grooming for the most part, a Teddy Bear will benefit from an occasional brushing to remove tangles. The best tool for this is actually a clean tooth brush. The bristles are soft enough to avoid scratching the hamster's skin, yet they still penetrate well enough to separate the coat and remove dead hair and mats. The real trick lies in accustoming your hamster to having his hair brushed. It's best to begin while he is young before his full coat has grown in. Just gently hold him in place on a towel in your lap, and lightly brush from the base of the coat outward to the tips. Work from the top, and do not attempt to make your hamster lie on his back. It's often helpful to offer him a carrot to nibble on while you brush so he finds the experience a pleasurable one.
Life Span and Health Issues
All hamsters face health issues, and their life span is relatively short at two to three years. A few specimens live a little longer when provided with exceptional care, but this is the exception and not the rule.
Some common health issues Teddy Bears face include:
- Diarrhea - Loose stools can be caused by a variety of triggers including a diet that is high in lettuce and other "wet" foods and low in fiber. Unsanitary cage conditions can also lead to diarrhea.
- Mite infestation - Mites are microscopic parasites that cause itching. Left untreated, scratching can lead to infections. Treatment consists of using a veterinarian approved mitacide and thoroughly cleaning the entire cage and adding fresh bedding.
- Overgrown teeth - Known as malocclusion, the teeth continue to grow until they no longer fit neatly together. This deformity makes it difficult to impossible to chew food, and if the condition isn't corrected, an affected hamster will slowly starve. This is why it's so important to provide your Teddy with chew blocks and a high quality hamster mix so his teeth will wear naturally.
Overall, Teddy Bear hamsters can make nice pets, but be sure you're ready and willing to provide the extra grooming your pet will need before you bring him home.
By Kelly Roper