The teddy bear hamster, or Syrian hamster, is the most popular species of hamster in the pet trade today.
Syrian hamsters got their start as laboratory animals. But it didn’t take long for the lab assistants to realize how cute and personable these hamsters are and the pet life soon followed.
Today, teddy bear hamsters are popular companion rodents all around the world. In this article, learn fascinating facts about the Syrian hamster and discover if this is the pet for you.
Teddy Bear Hamster Facts
The teddy bear hamster, or Syrian hamster, is the original pet hamster.
Teddy bear hamsters take their nickname from their cute cuddly bear-like appearance. But they must live alone or they can get very territorial and aggressive.
This is just one of many fascinating facts about teddy bear hamsters that you will learn by reading this article.
Learn Pros and Cons of Choosing a Teddy Bear Hamster
In this YouTube video, you can learn more about the teddy bear hamster, which is better known as the Syrian hamster.
There are always going to be pros and cons to choosing any species of pet. This is why it is so important to consider whether the pros outweigh the cons for you personally.
By taking time to learn about teddy bear hamsters, such as needs, personality traits, habitat and food requirements, and lifespan, you can decide if this is the right pet for you.
All Teddy Bear Hamsters Can Trace Their Lineage Back to One Family
Genealogical research is all the rage today – and not just for people.
Today it is possible to learn all sorts of intriguing information about the origin and history of nearly any animal we have an interest in. The teddy bear hamster is no exception.
As Med Vet for Pets explains, nearly all modern pet hamsters can trace their origins back to just three Syrian hamsters!
How could this possibly be? Let’s take a quick look at hamster history to find out.
National Geographic states that in 1930, researchers went to Syria to learn more about the rodent an earlier researcher had named the “golden hamster.”
The leader of the research team enlisted the help of local experts to help him find a golden hamster. The search yielded a mother hamster and 11 babies.
A number of mishaps later, four of the babies remained and promptly interbred. The young from those litters were sent to different research institutions for further study.
In 1938, the teddy bear hamster made its debut in the United States.
There Are Four Teddy Bear Hamster Breeds Today
Teddy bear hamsters, which you now know are also called golden hamsters and Syrian hamsters, are now bred with four coat types according to the UK National Hamster Council.
Shorthaired teddy bear hamster
The shorthaired teddy bear hamster looks the most like the original Syrian hamster. The coat is short, flat, and even in length.
Longhaired teddy bear hamster
The longhaired teddy bear hamster is going to look different in males and females. Only male longhaired teddy bear hamsters actually grow the fully long coat. This coat can get as long as four inches and looks like a skirt when viewed from the back.
The females will grow a shorter coat of three inches or shorter and tend to look more fluffy.
The longhaired Syrian hamster is the type that gave rise to the nickname “teddy bear hamster” because of their long, fluffy coats.
Satin teddy bear hamster
As the name implies, a satin teddy bear hamster is going to have a shiny soft coat that resembles satin material.
The shine comes from unique hollow hair shafts that reflect the light.
Unfortunately, satin teddy bear hamsters cannot be bred because there is a risk the babies will come out bald or very thinly coated.
Rex teddy bear hamster
The rex teddy bear hamster has a crimped or crinkly-curly looking coat. The whiskers on the rex also have this crimped look.
Teddy Bear Hamsters Are Endangered in the Wild
According to Animal Facts Encyclopedia, the Syrian or teddy bear hamster is now considered to be endangered in the wild.
These hamsters come from Syria and Turkey and today it is thought that as few as 5,000 may remain in their native wild territories.
As with so many species today, human predation and encroachment is thought to be the primary cause of dwindling numbers of wild Syrian hamsters.
Teddy Bear Hamsters Must Be Housed On Their Own
As PetMD explains, teddy bear hamsters are less cuddly than their nickname implies if you house them together with their own species.
Midland Hamster Club explains that males and females may get along for short periods required for breeding, but should be immediately separated after that.
Syrian hamsters are well known to be territorial and will fight to the death if housed together. They must always be kept alone.
Teddy Bear Hamsters Are Completely Nocturnal In a Captive Setting
As the ASPCA highlights, teddy bear hamsters are a fully nocturnal species of rodent when they are kept as pets.
So you can expect that your pet teddy bear hamster will be most active in feeding, foraging, playing, and running on their wheel when everyone else is asleep for the night.
This means that if you are a light sleeper, you may want to consider where you will put your busy teddy bear hamster while you are asleep!
In the case of the teddy bear hamster specifically, The Royal Society Publishing Biology Letters states that wild Syrian hamsters are actually diurnal.
Humans are also diurnal, which means we are the most active during the daylight hours.
The study indicated that morning and afternoon were the times when wild teddy bear hamsters were most active, even though total visible (out of burrow) daytime activity was less than an hour and a half total.
This brings up interesting questions about why captive teddy bear hamsters have evolved to display such different behavior than their wild relatives.
The Word Hamster Means To Hoard
We have Live Science to thank for the fascinating fact that the word hamster comes from a German word, hamstern, which means “to hoard.”
Syrian hamsters have enormous pouches inside each cheek. Because hamsters cannot safely stay out for very long, they will quickly stuff food into their cheek pouches and run back to their burrow with it to eat and then store the rest for later.
Researchers have discovered that these pouches are so large that they actually are twice as wide as the hamster’s own head and shoulders!
Teddy Bear Hamsters Have Relatively Short Lifespans
As Blue Cross for Pets explains, the teddy bear hamster has a relatively short life expectancy of just two to three years.
This places the Syrian hamster in the middle of the life expectancy for the hamster species. The tiny Robo, or Roborovski, the hamster has the longest life expectancy at four years.
Teddy Bear Hamsters Are Helping Researchers Learn About COVID-19
As the respected PNAS journal (PNAS is the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) explains, researchers are using Syrian hamsters to better understand how to develop a vaccine for humans.
This is in keeping with how teddy bear hamsters were first discovered.
In fact, The Scientist explains that Syrian hamsters are quite susceptible to many of the same viral conditions that affect people, which is why they are so valuable in laboratory research.
Syrian Hamsters Live in Burrows in the Wild
In a wild setting, a teddy bear hamster will spend nearly all its time living in an underground burrow, according to the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association (LVMA).
True to their captive-bred personality, Syrian hamsters also live alone in the wild, occupying a burrow on their own and defending their territory fiercely if disturbed.
These burrows help them stay hidden from potential predators, allow them to cache food stores for lean times, and provide protection from the heat of their arid desert home.
In a captive setting, a teddy bear hamster needs to have a habitat that is secure, escape-proof, and provides several levels with lots of bedding to tunnel and burrow into.
It is more important for a teddy bear hamster’s cage to be multi-level than it is to provide a lot of flat surface area to move about.
Is the Teddy Bear Hamster the Right Pet for You?
Teddy bear hamsters are the most popular pet species of hamster in the world. They are also easier to handle and tend to be friendly towards humans as long as they are handled gently.
But teddy bear hamsters, like most small vulnerable “pocket pets,” are not a great pet choice for young children or for people who are light sleepers.
Teddy bear hamsters are cute, smart, endearing pets for the right person.