Common wild hamster (Cricetus cricetus) is the only real representative of a kind of Khomyakov family and lives free in its natural habitat. About the features of his appearance and life, as well as the possibility of detention at home later in the article.
What does a wild hamster look like?
The wild hamster has the following distinctive features:
- body length reaches 27-34 cm;
- average weight – 700 grams;
- muzzle of moderate length;
- auricles are relatively short, covered with thin dark hair;
- the tail is thick at the base, tapering to the end, 3-8 cm long. Covered with short stiff hair;
- hand and foot are wide, fingers have developed claws;
- limbs are short. Sometimes it seems that the hamster is crawling;
- body hair is dense but soft.
There are exclusively black specimens (melanists), there are black with white spots in the area of the legs and throat. Color brightens from north to south within the range.
Where do hamsters live in the wild?
The hamster prefers meadows, grassy steppes and forest-steppes. The distribution range extends from southern and central Europe in the west to the Minusinsk steppe zone in the east, and in the south down to Northwest China. The expansion of the range due to deforestation is observed.
The animal does not rise high in the mountains, the maximum height above sea level where you can meet it is 1.5 kilometers. The hamster does not shy away from human proximity, can arrange a home in the garden, vegetable garden, sometimes in residential premises.
Lifestyle and character
The animal is endowed with decent dimensions and reaches the dimensions of a large rat. He leads a lonely, more twilight lifestyle, likes to make new moves in the mink of his life, makes food supplies for the winter.
He likes dry, sandy soils of steppes and forest-steppe regions, where he does not need much effort to dig underground passages in a hole. Often found also in meadow and agricultural areas, it can adapt to existence in mountain areas.
In cold wintertime, he hides in a deep mink underground (where there are pantries and bedroom furniture) and falls into hibernation, but can wake up to eat. For convenience, the hamster is lined with chambers by grass, which changes as it gets dirty.
What does an ordinary hamster eat?
The animal has excellent appetite and is not picky about food, but animal feeds prevail in its diet. In the spring-summer period, the hamster loves to feast on insects, their larvae, does not disdain small mice, reptiles, amphibians (small vertebrates).
In the autumn-winter time, he switches to food from different types of seeds and tubers, whose reserves in sufficient quantities (from 0.5 to 16 kg) are in his bins. In some cases, pantries with supplies up to 90 kg were found.
Grains of wheat, rice, millet, buckwheat, lentils, lupine, as well as potatoes, carrots, peas, and corn predominate in bins. The animal eats them at the moment of temporary wakefulness from hibernation and in early spring until the appearance of young green shoots.
Special bags behind the hamster’s cheeks are adapted for short-term storage of feed. He is able to transfer about 50 grams of grains (other feeds) to his home more than a kilometer away, supporting the bags with his front legs, and he takes out food from them with them.
Often, the cheeks hang down to the shoulders of the animal due to overfilling of the sacs.
The hardworking thrifty hamster also divides the grains into varieties and puts each separately.
The process of food absorption occurs sitting on its hind legs, and the hamster eats with the front ones: it pushes the food over one cheek, then over the other and quickly chews the contents.
The life span of the described animal reaches four years in natural conditions, and in captivity – six.
The breeding season begins in April and ends in October. The female is ready for mating at the age of 2.5–3 months. Since the embryos stay in the womb for only 16 days, for the indicated period of time the female manages to bring 2-3 offspring.
The number of babies varies from 8 to 20, but often stops at 10. Males appear in the burrows of females only for mating, immediately leave their partner and do not take part in raising offspring. The weight of newborns is only 4-6 grams.
Kids develop extremely fast. The lactation period lasts 3 weeks, but after a week the cubs are able to take solid food (for example, grass). Two-week-old hamsters open their eyes and become covered with dense fur. Mom is responsible for the safety of the babies.
In case of danger, the female carries the babies to a safe place in the cheek pouches.
Often the young offspring give birth to their children by the end of summer.
Soft-haired animal until 1960 was the object of fur trade in Czechoslovakia, Germany and the USSR. A sharp decline in numbers forced to stop harvesting furs in the middle of the XX century. Western European countries have approved national conservation programs for this species.
Of these, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, France, Belarus and Ukraine are distinguished. It is also protected in five subjects of the Russian Federation.
The number of animals is unchanged in Siberia and Kazakhstan, and the number of animals in the Krasnodar Territory, the Azov District of the Rostov Region causes significant damage to agriculture. Although the total number of species continues to decrease.
Is it possible to keep in captivity
An ordinary hamster is extremely unpretentious. A low cage of medium size made of metal is quite suitable for him, while a wooden cage can not resist a gnawing animal. Liberation threatens you with spoiled furniture, gnawed books, shoes, clothes.
The animal arranges comfort in his home according to his taste and the degree of illumination of the room. The dark place will belong to the recreation area, the light to the toilet, and opposite it he will arrange a pantry (often next to the nest).
He will do the rest himself, just put pieces of cloth, cardboard, soft paper. You only need to cover the floor with small sawdust.
Omnivorous hamsters, except for cereals and tubers at home, like to enjoy bread, low-fat cooked meat (raw can not be), sometimes you can offer unsalted lard. Add oily solutions of vitamins A, D, E once a week, drop by drop, to one animal.
For convenience, install a feeder and a drinking bowl. Change the water to clean daily.
Put a sleeping house in a secluded place in your home – make it out of a wooden box with a side entrance corresponding to the size of a hamster or adjust an inverted beaten clay flower pot.
Thrifty hamsters continue to arrange grocery stores, even when this is not necessary. Food-filled feeders empty out not only in the process of feeding, but also putting aside the necessary in the pantry.
A clean hamster loves cleanliness and maintains it. He arranges a toilet in one place, uses it carefully. Cleaning the cage and the contents of the toilet should be carried out regularly and in a timely manner – at least once a week, the toilet more often.
Do everything calmly, without sudden movements and noisy exclamations. Bad odors can be eliminated with 0.2% bleach solution.
Plant foods (predominant in the animal’s diet) contain a lot of potassium, but no sodium. Salt eliminates this drawback, as it is sodium chloride. In addition, chlorine and sodium are present in the blood. Buy a stone with a special attachment to the cage – so it will be cleaner.
Having obtained the necessary knowledge with the help of our article, apply it in practice – and then hamsters will delight you with their presence and excellent health for a long time.