Hamsters are popular pets as the first pet in a family.
There are many reasons for this, but one of the major reasons is the low commitment both in terms of years (they typically live 2-3 years) and their low daily time requirement (30-45 minutes attention a day is usually sufficient).
And amongst hamsters, the Syrian Hamster is the most popular breed – to a large part because of its teddy bear appearence.
In this guide we are going to cover everything about the Syrian Hamster including its many cute looks, how to properly care for it, what toys it needs and much more.
So whether you’re new to Syrian Hamsters or you’ve had one for years and want to take even better care of there is new information for you in the guide below.
Where does the adorable syrian hamster come from?
The Syrian Hamster, also known as the Golden or Teddy Bear hamster is the largest and most popular hamster as a pet. This small rodent is known for its golden fur coat, hence the nickname, Golden Hamster.
Since being captured by Professor Aharoni in Aleppo, Syria in 1930, and subsequently introduced as household pets, they have grown tremendously in popularity.
As their name suggest, these adorable critters are native to Syria and wider parts of the Middle East including Israel.
Teddy Bear Hamster color and looks
Through breeding, the Syrian Hamster comes in a variety of colors including white, brown and gray with a white belly.
The color they usually come in however, is their “trademark” golden-brown coat, which has given them their nicknames, Golden and Teddy Bear Hamster.
In terms of body shape, the hamster has a stout, stocky body with a little tail barely visible underneath their fur.
- Syrian Hamsters typically grow to a size of 5-7 inches (12-17cm) in length. This is roughly the same size as a human hand.
- At that size they will have a weight of 5-7 ounces (120-160g).
- The Syrian Hamster has large eyes and small tulip shaped ears that are covered with fur.
- The jawbone and their ears will often be dark brown.
- The fluffy cheek pouches are used to store food!
Syrian Hamsters as pets
Syrian Hamsters are generally slow paced, good natured, calm and easy to tame and handle. These factors combined make them relatively easy to train.
Further, their fluffy appearance and teddy bear like look make them a favorite for many families.
Luckily, Syrian Hamsters are excellent pets for people of all ages, and their slow pace and size make them a perfect handful to handle – not too small or too large, but for the smallest of children.
Also, it is a solitary animal that should always be housed on their own. This makes it easier to keep them as you will never worry about having more than one.
Finally, they are nocturnal, meaning they spend most of the daylight hours sleeping in their hut. They then become active at night making them great pets for people who spend the daylight hours at work or in school.
This allows ample time to bond in the evening before us humans head to bed and our hamster heads to its wheel for some good, solid exercise.
The downside to this is the smallest children will usually go to bed too early to play with the hamster.
Syrian Hamster life span and other facts
Another attractive feature of the Syrian Hamster compared to other pets is their relatively short life span. This means you can expect an average healthy Syrian Hamster to have a life expectancy of 2-3 years.
While this may sound short, this is actually especially attractive for first time pet owners, who will maybe not be ready for a +10 year commitment of a dog.
As such hamsters will often be the first pet in a family in which it can be “tested” whether the family is ready for the commitment that a pet is.
Of course, there are many factors influencing the life of a hamster. These include:
- Sickness (make sure not to keep it in a draft)
- Diet & nutrition
- How much it exercises
- Housing environment
- Level of happiness
The oldest we know a Syrian Hamster to be is 6½ years, but this is the exception from the norm.
Long haired Syrian Hamster – be prepared to groom it
The first hamsters introduced as pets had short hair, but with some advanced breeding techniques, there are now four types of coat types: Short, longhaired, rex and satin.
After the short haired hamster, the most common Syrian, which is the typical teddy bear hamster (also known as Angora Hamsters).
Unfortunately, only male hamsters can have long fur often reaching 3 to 4 inches. This will give it a skirt effect around their bottom, whereas female hamsters will keep their normal, fluffy look.
If you decide to get a long haired hamster you should be prepared for giving it more attention. The long coat will become matted, tangles up easily and things will stick to the coat.
To combat this, you can give the coat a gentle grooming with a toothbrush or a small flea comb.
Rex hamsters – the new hamster
These types of hamsters are relatively new in North America but have been common in Europe for many years. They have a curly, crimped and wavy whiskers with a coat typically short and dense. It is not necessarily easy to spot the difference between a “normal” Syrian and a rex Syrian.
Satin Syrians – the shiny hamsters
Arguably the most beautiful and definitely the most shiny hamster. Satin Syrians have a glossy sheen to their coats where some fur shafts are hollowed out which gives an ultra-shiny look.
The Golden Hamster has many coat colors
Besides the different coats, Syrian hamsters also come in many colors. Below we have listed the most common colors including gray, black, yellow and red. Many Syrians will also be a mix of some or all the colors!
The cream color comes in many sub varieties and is quite common. The cream color ranges from sandy to orange-cream and there are further subtypes to the color.
These sub-categories are determined by the color of the eye.
- Black eyed creams typically have dark gray ears
- Red eyes creams have flesh colored ears
You’ve probably already guessed it – black Syrians have a black coat! Not surprisingly, they have a consistent black coat, with some white on the paws and the belly.
When this type of hamster was first discovered in 1975, it was mistakenly labeled as a black hamster.
The reason for this is it has a black topcoat and an ivory cream undercut. Besides this, it has a black belly, black eyes and dark-gray ears, with ivory cream color around the eyes.
The beige Syrians are rare, as they are bred from two types of hamsters that themselves are rare.
A beige hamster will often be somewhat smaller at birth and may have a kinked tail.
Syrian Hamster cages
Unlike dwarf hamsters, Syrian Hamsters are highly territorial. While easy for humans to be around, they should always live in solitary confinement.
In other words, the rule is one cage per Syrian Hamster!Otherwise, the hamster will get stressed, and fights with other hamsters will break out. In the most extreme cases these could be fatal and at the least, your hamster will get very stressed.
The territoriality of the Syrian Hamster has led to them having a reputation for being nippy. While they can be nippy they are so no more than other types of hamsters (which is not a lot!)
Syrian Hamster cages: Bigger is always better!
For a Syrian Hamster you need a large hamster cage with a floor space of at least 360 square inches (30×12 inches) (2,300 square centimeters) and a total area of 2 cubic feet (55 liters). The space between the bars should not be more than half an inch apart (1cm).
However, this is the minimum cage size and we recommend having larger hamster cages.
Below we have listed our three top picks for Syrian Hamster Cages:
If you want more in-depth information about hamster cages check out our guide here.
When you have found the cage you want, it’s important to have a dedicated place for your hamster to eat. For that you should get a food bowl with a size that’s large enough to prevent it from tipping over. We recommend getting one made of ceramic or stainless steel as these materials cannot be chewed up and on top of that are hygienic.
Besides food, your hamster will also need water. We recommend getting a water bottle. This is again to ensure your hamster doesn’t tip it over and suddenly have to make do without any liquids.
Finally, you should design an area within your hamster cage where the hamster sleeps and relaxes. There are some very cute options out there for hamster huts and we especially love this option for Syrian Hamsters.
Bonus tip: When buying a hut for your Syrian Hamster it’s important to check it’s large enough. Many are made for the smaller dwarf hamsters.
Bonus tip 2: If your hamster ever starts gnawing the bars of the cage it means the cage is either too small, has too few toys or both. If it happens you should take action immediately.
Teddy Bear Hamster care
First of all: Basic hamster care is not complicated, and hamsters can become tame if you train it to be so.
There are five basic steps when it comes to taming your hamster:
- When bringing your hamster home give it 2-3 days where you don’t handle it and allow it to adjust to its new surroundings
- Start speaking with your hamster and put your hand in the cage. Do not put your hand over your hamster
- Start touching your hamster and make it comfortable with you touching it
- Start picking up your hamster, cupped in the palm of your hand
- Become best friends with your hamster and make it tame by playing with it daily (or close to it!)
For a more in-depth guide to taming your hamster you can click here.
A final note on taming your hamster: You should never wake up your hamster when it sleeps!
This will lead to a negative response and will make the taming process significantly harder.
The other thing to note about Syrian Hamsters is while they are clean animals you still need to clean the cage. You should do this once a week where you remove all the bedding, clean the cage and put new bedding in.
While doing so, it can be beneficial to have a hamster ball or a playpen to keep your hamster in check.
Wheels, toys and tubes your Syrian Hamster will love
Besides playing with an entertaining your hamster, you should also make sure it has a lot of toys and tubes to play with.
Some good cheap hamster toys include cardboard boxes, toilet roll tubes and cereal boxes. The reason for having these toys is your hamster’s teeth are always growing and this helps keep them at a reasonable length.
Also, we recommend having some wood in the cage it can gnaw on at all times as well.
Mimic your hamster’s natural instincts with the hamster wheel
Besides something to gnaw on your hamster needs exercise – lots of exercise!
That’s why it’s absolutely fundamental that you invest in a hamster wheel.
In the wild, hamsters basically run all night to find food and we need to mimic that in their cage – and that’s where the hamster wheel comes in.
When getting a hamster wheel there are two things that are very important:
1: Get a plastic wheel. Metal wheels are made with rungs (like a ladder). Your hamster can fall through the traps and hurt itself.
Further, they often have sharp edges. To avoid this, get a plastic wheel made of one piece molded together.
2: Make sure it’s large enough! Your hamster should not run with an arched back. For a Syrian Hamster that means the wheel should be at least 8 inches (20cm) in diameter.
Below you can see our three recommended options when it comes to hamster wheels:
2 Amazing Syrian Hamster toys
There are essential to prevent boredom in your hamster and will help peek its curiosity, and more importantly, having something to gnaw on will help keep its teeth in check.
You can easily find something in your home such as cardboard to chew on from either cereal boxes or toilet paper rolls.
While these are often good and solid options, there is also a risk these can contain residual chemicals that are not good for your hamster.
And that’s why, we recommend getting “real” hamster toys unless you are sure about your household items not containing anything that can be unhealthy for your hamster.
Stimulate your hamster’s curiosity with wooden ladder bridges
Our favorite hamster toy is without a doubt the wooden ladder bridge. The reason we love these is you can bend them to make any shape which your hamster will love. Further, as it’s made out of wood, your hamster can chew on it – but don’t worry, it can chew on these for many months before the wood spoils! Click here to see our favorite hamster bridge.
We recommend getting a few of these. This ensures you can always alter the look of the cage which will stimulate the curiosity of your Syrian.
Your hamster will love hiding in and exploring wooden tunnels
Another great way to explore the cage is through using wooden tunnels. Hamsters love to hide in enclosed areas and we have had great experiences with these. One or two of these in the cage will give your hamster a lot of ground to play on. Here’s a tunnel we’ve had great experiences with. We also absolutely adore this little tree train / tunnel.
Have your hamster explore your house from the safety of its hamster ball
The final toy we recommend getting is a hamster ball. These are great for having your hamster explore your house.
As an added benefit, the hamster ball is a great place to keep your pet when cleaning out its cage. For that alone, we recommend getting a hamster ball.
When buying a hamster ball, it’s important to buy it in the right size (as with the hamster wheel). This particular hamster ball is great for Syrian Hamsters as it has a good size, ensuring your hamster doesn’t arch its back.
Food, diet and treats for a healthy and varied Syrian Hamster diet
Like us humans, our little Syrian hamster friends eat plants, seeds and meat (insects).
Besides the insects, this is mimicked in the hamster food you can get.
However, there are many types of hamster food out there and it can be a challenge to figure out what is best. Generally, there are two types of food you can buy:
- Seed Hamster Food
- Pelleted Hamster Food (our preferred choice!)
Whatever type of food you decide to buy you should ensure it has the right combination of nuts, grains and seeds with a nutritional balance of 3-6% fat and 12-15% protein. Below we have listed our top three picks for Syrian Hamsters:
Seed food: The historical option
Historically, seed hamster food has been the main choice of food when getting a hamster. While it can be okay, it does risk your hamster being picky only eating its favorite seeds. This will lead to a diet not balanced and worse, your hamster will not get all the vitamins it needs.
Thus, if you go with seed hamster food, make sure the food bowl is empty before giving it more food.
Pelleted hamster food: Ensures your hammy gets the vitamins it needs
Pelleted hamster food is now considered a better option. In it, everything is mixed so every bite your hamster takes is by definition balanced. Pelleted food usually looks like small biscuits, cookies or cereal.
Due to the balanced diet, we also recommend getting pelleted hamster food. We have had great experience with this type of hamster food.
Your hamster will indulge in these treats
Like us humans, “normal” food should be the main part of a hamster’s diet.
With that said, and again, just like us humans, hamsters love treats. Luckily, most common household greens can also be used for hamster treats and hamsters especially love things such as:
There are also many other snacks you can give it and we have covered hamster snacks extensively here. We recommend giving your hamster a treat once or twice a week.
The link above is good for reference, but if you don’t have time for it now, we want you to remember one thing: Do not give your Syrian hamster high acid foods including citrus and oranges.
Facts about the Syrian Hamster
Syrian Hamsters in the wild
As you’ve probably already guessed Syrian Hamsters are from Syria, hence the name. In this hot country, they burrow deep into the ground to have a home that’s sufficiently temperate – and they have been shown to dig as far down as 11 yards (10m)!
This may sound look a lot for such a small mammal (and it is!) but Syrian hamster are excellent diggers.
In their burrows they not only have sleeping arrangements, but also “rooms” for storing food and a blind-ending branch for urination. Often the burrows will even have multiple entrances.
Finally, these deep burrows also keeps the hamster safe from other predators.
Just like when it’s housed as a pet in the comfort of your home, the Syrian Hamster lives a solitary life in the wild.
As for life expectancy, it is a little shorter in the wild. This is mostly due to the threat from other predators as well as more infrequent access to food and water.
What to do if your hamster gets pregnant (babies on board)
When you grow fond of your Syrian hamster it can seem like a good idea to have hamster babies.
However, while it may seem like a good idea we recommend not attempting to have hamster babies. This is due to the American Humane Society advising against it.
The main reasons for doing so are:
- Syrian hamsters may eat their babies
- It is hard to find a new home for the baby hamsters (a Syrian will typically have 3-7 litters) and major pet suppliers like Petsmart and Petco do not purchase or acquire small animals from private owners
With that said, if you have Syrian hamster babies or your Syrian hamster is pregnant, here are the most important pointers:
- Beef up your hamster’s diet by adding calories and more protein
- Clean the cage and remove the hamster wheel and other toys, so the baby hamsters don’t injure themselves
- Leave the cage be for the last couple of days before birth. If a baby hamster gets your scent the mother may reject it
- Labor usually takes 1-2 hours with 15-30 minute intervals between the small pups coming into our world
- Do not disturb or enter the cage for at least two weeks. This again has to do with the mother potentially rejecting the babies if they get human scent.
- Make sure there is enough food and water
- Seperate the hamsters at the age of 4-5 weeks
Syrian Hamster breeders / adoption / price
Syrian Hamsters generally cost between $5-$20 and as such, are relatively cheap to acquire.
However, before going to a pet store we recommend looking at adopting a hamster instead. Our two main reasons for advising that are:
1: Shelters are generally better at caring for hamsters compared to pet stores.
As an example, many pet stores will have Syrian Hamsters in cages where they are with other hamsters, which they under no circumstances should be.
This does not happen at shelters and humane societies, where the well being of the animal is top priority.
2: Shelters will sex the animals to make sure no one accidentally gets pregnant.
Again, this is not necessarily the case at pet stores (it is hard to determine the sex of a hamster) and there have been stories, where people have brought home a pregnant hamster from the pet store.
For more on hamster adoption you can check our hamster adoption guide right here.
Syrian Hamsters and hibernation
As we’ve already mentioned Syrian Hamsters are from Syria…
Here it is hot in the day but due to most of the country being a desert, it can also get cold at night. If it gets cold a Syrian Hamster might go into hibernation.
As a rule of thumb, a Syrian can cope with temperatures between 60-78f (15-25c) easily without any adverse effects.
However, if it drops below these temperatures in the room its cage is in it may go into hibernation.
But why does my hamster need to hibernate?
Hibernation is actually a very smart ability of some animals. The reason for going into hibernation is that cold weather typically signals less food.
Instead of having the same calorie intake when there is less food, some animals simply has the ability to shut down to a minimum calorie need. The most well known example is bears, but hamsters have the same ability.
If your hamster goes into hibernation you might mistake it for being dead, as its breathing will be very slow and almost motionless. Further it will not react to sound, light or being touched.
So how do I wake my Syrian up from hibernation?
It was actually only a half truth it won’t react to being picked up. If you pick it up and handle it gently, warming and stroking it, you will wake it up.
This tells the hamster “yay, it’s Spring time” and its organs will “wake up” again.
Syrian Hamsters and their ever growing teeth
Hamsters are mammals which belong to the rodent family. In short being member of the rodent family means its teeth are always growing.
In other words, hamsters are born with their teeth that keep growing through their entire life.
Where us humans brush our teeth, hamsters take care of their teeth (and keep their size in check) by gnawing on stuff.
If there isn’t anything to gnaw on in the cage, the hamster will simply start gnawing the cage instead – a sure sign that something’s wrong.
Syrian Hamsters vs dwarf hamsters
When we decide to get a hamster, the choice is typically between a Syrian hamster or a dwarf hamster.
So what are the main differences between these two types of hamsters?
- Syrian Hamsters are larger than dwarf hamsters
- The Syrian Hamsters comes in many more varieties in terms of pattern and colors compared to dwarfs
- Further, their coat can be both long and short
- Syrians should always live alone, whereas dwarf hamsters can also live in same sex pairings
- Syrians are slower
- Syrians cam remain tame even if they haven’t been attended to for a few days. Dwarf hamsters need attention daily