Types of Hamsters
Five types of hamsters are popular as pets according to the Hamster Club . These five types of hamsters are the Syrian, the Dwarf Campbell Russian, Dwarf Winter White Russian, the Roborovski and the Chinese Hamster. Hamsters are a part of the rodent family. Their subspecies has about eighteen different hamster varieties, but only these five are bought and sold as pets.
In Central and Eastern Europe as well as Asia, hamsters can be found living in the wild. Hamsters naturally live in a wide variety of wild habitats including sand dunes, river valleys, shrub foothills and among cultivated crops. Hamsters are a very adaptable rodent. The first type of hamster to be domesticated was the Syrian Hamster. Among the different types of Syrian hamster are the Teddy Bear, Black Bear, and Golden and Fancy hamsters.
In 1930, a litter of hamsters along with their mother was adopted to a home in Israel. The domesticated Syrian hamsters are descended from this historic rodent family. The first pet hamster in the United States came from this line of Syrian hamsters and was transported to America in 1938.
Different hamster types have different habits in the wild. The European hamsters, for example, are loners and tend to be very aggressive. This makes them bad candidates for domestication. In addition, the five breeds that are domesticated tend to be omnivorous which means feeding them is pretty straightforward. They enjoy vegetables, fruits, grains and seeds.
PetSmart is a good resource for purchasing and caring for hamsters. Hamsters are not pets appropriate for everyone, and maintaining domesticated hamsters habitats, feeding them regularly and letting them get enough exercise can be difficult. Like other exotic pets, hamsters are also prone to illness that can be expensive to treat and require specific veterinary intervention.
Wild hamsters that are not bred as pets include:
- Armenian Hamster
- Chinese Striped Hamster
- Ciscaucasian Hamster
- European Hamster
- Eversmann’s Hamster
- Ladak Hamster
- Mongolian Hamster
- Lesser Longtailed Hamster
- Greater Longtailed Hamster
- Mouse-like Hamster
- Rumanian Hamster
- Tibetan Hamster
- Turkish Hamster
Restrictions on Hamster Possession
Domesticated Chinese hamsters are restricted in the state of California. According to the California Fish and Game Code, Title 14, Section 671, Subsection c (2)(J)1b describes the unrestricted hamsters that California owners can purchase: "Domesticated races of golden hamsters of the species Mesocricetus auratus and domesticated races of dwarf hamsters of the Genus Phodopus not restricted."
Restricted means that people who are interested in purchasing or owning a restricted hamster need to apply for permits and indicate why they need to possess the breed; this includes exhibitors, laboratories and veterinarians. Veterinarians can also report an owner for possessing a restricted species if they don’t have a permit or license. The restricted status is due to the breed being harmful to the environment or agriculture of the state.
Pet hamsters are popular with children, but like all pets they should not just be purchased on a whim. A hamster is an investment and requires maintenance of their habitat and their dietary concerns. Parents, who are interested in getting their child a hamster, should research the different breeds, the care and the habitats required.
By Heather Long