Exotic Pets: Teddy Bear Hamsters 101

By Michele Robert Poche

Teddy Bear hamsters, also known as Syrian or golden hamsters, are the largest and most commonly sold of their species.  Their size and calm, friendly nature make them great pets for adults and children (ages 8+).  With round black eyes, small pink noses, round ears and stubby tails, Teddy Bear hamsters have impressively stretchy cheek pouches that can expand to twice the width of their heads and hold half their body weight. 

Diet.  As omnivores, hamsters thrive on a diet of dry hamster seed mix as well as fresh fruit and vegetables (in limited quantities), bits of hard-boiled egg (a weekly treat) and mealworms.  Citrus fruit and onions are too acidic for their systems and should be avoided.  As with all pet care, fresh water should be provided daily.

Schedule.  Often mistakenly classified as nocturnal, Teddy Bear hamsters are actually crepuscular, meaning they’re more likely to be awake and active at dawn or dusk.  Handling them outside of their comfort zone could result in a grumpy pet that could nip your finger.  So it’s good to respect their sleep schedules whenever possible.

Cage.  Teddy Bear hamsters are solitary creatures.  To avoid fighting, they’re best housed individually in cages lined with all-natural wood and paper shavings that provide not only nesting material but also ample place to hide and store food reserves.  Hamster wheels, both the type secured within the cage and the free rolling style for around the home, ensure that your pet gets plenty of exercise. 

Health.   A hamster’s cage should be kept clean to avoid bacterial disorders such as wet tail and salmonellosis.  Other health complications that can affect them include diabetes, bladder stones and cancerous tumors.  With proper care, Teddy Bear hamsters can grow to approximately six inches long with an average life expectancy of 2 to 3 years.  

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