Like the guinea pig, the hamster is a small rodent. Their care and problems are similar but here are some differences. The hamster is a nocturnal and solitary animal with a life-span of 1-2 years. Two or more will always fight, regardless of sex. The most common is the golden hamster originating in Syria.
The young begin eating solid food when 7-9 days old and drinking at 10 days. Coprophagia in the adult is normal. Estrus occurs every four days. Mating occurs at night and male and female should only be together when the female is in heat or they will fight. The gestation period is only 15-18 days. Litter size 4-7. The young are naked and develop hair by 7 days and are weaned at 20-25 days. Eyes are open at 5 days.
A female hamster with newborn young may conceal an entire litter in her cheek pouches when disturbed. If sufficiently upset she may eat her young. They should not therefore be handled for the first 10 days. Fostering of orphan litters is rarely successful and both the adopted and natural litters may be cannibalized. Hand rearing is usually unsuccessful
Usually occurs at 10-15 days of age in hamsters still suckling. Affected hamsters have a large swollen abdomen with a bulging anus. Prompt veterinary attention is required.
Below 40°F (5°C) body temperature drops to 2° to 5°F (1° to 2°C) above the ambient temperature and pulse and respiration fall.
Impacted Cheek Pouches
Empty and flush with water.
Teeth grow continuously and clipping is necessary if the diet provides insufficient wear.
If the environmental temperature reaches 72°-77°F (22°-25°C) the hamster may become stiff and lifeless and if disturbed moves the head from side to side. It will return to normal after 5 minutes. `Apparently dead’ hamsters should be warmed and stimulated prior to disposal.
`Wet tail’ (Diarrhea)
There is severe diarrhea with moistening and inflammation of the anal area leading to death in 2-7 days. Usually occurs in recently weaned animals of 3-5 weeks of age. Prompt veterinary attention requiring electrolytes, antibiotics, and anti-spasmolytics is necessary.
Tapeworm and pinworm are the most common and respond to appropriate veterinary treatment.