campbell's hamster

Let’s take a moment to talk about hamsters, one of the most surrendered small animals at ACS.

Cricetinae Critters
The animals we call “hamsters” are part of the rodent subfamily Cricetinae, made up of 25 species, about 5 of which are common in the pet trade. Those species include:
- C. griseus, the Chinese hamster
- P. roborovskii, the Roborovski hamster
- P. sungorus, the Djungarian or Russian hamster
- P. campbelli, the Campbell’s hamster
- M. auratus, the Golden or Syrian hamster
While most outside of the Syrian hamster are referred to in the pet trade as “dwarf” hamsters due to their size, the Chinese hamster is not technically considered a “dwarf” like those in the Phodopus genus, but rather belong to a group called “rat-like” hamsters.

Widespread (Misunderstandings)
Hamsters are both widespread in the pet trade, and widely mismanaged in captivity. They are often marketed in a way contrary to their social needs, space requirements, dietary preferences, etc. For example:
- The RSPCA recommends a bare minimum international standard of 360sq in of unbroken floorspace for a single hamster, with bigger always being better. The most popular hamster “starter” cage in the US, the CritterTrail, averages a meager 160-sq inches of unbroken floorspace.
- Syrian and Chinese hamsters are solitary at maturity and may fight to the death over territory if housed together. Even dwarf hamsters, which are considered more social, often need to be separated from life-long cage mates as they age. Despite this, most are housed and marketed in groups at pet stores. Some stores even house multiple species together, which is a deadly risk to take.
- Hamsters are omnivores that (optimally) require a varied diet consisting of grains, seeds, vegetables, greens and grasses, and insect matter. Most commercial seed mixes are insufficiently varied and contain fatty or sugary ingredients; many commercial pellets do not have adequate protein levels.
- Hamsters are burrowers and require a deep substrate to comfortably create tunnels and cache food. Most commercial hamster cages offer an inch or less of space for substrate.
- Hamsters have sensitive respiratory tracts and organ systems. Some popular softwood beddings, such as cedar, contain aromatic compounds called phenols that can be toxic to hamsters with chronic exposure. Paper-based beddings are safest, with Aspen a wood alternative for animals with no known individual sensitivities.
- Hamsters are considered exotic pets. This means they need exotics vets when they get sick - which isn’t cheap. Don’t think common availability = common care.

Take One Home For The Kiddies?
Despite being sold as a popular childrens’ pet, hamsters are not an optimal choice for young children for a variety of reasons:
- They are physically fragile. Hamsters are small animals that can easily be wounded by mishandling. A short drop or a slight squeeze can spell death.
- They have delicate constitutions. Hamsters rapidly dehydrate, become hypoglycemic, or starve if they do not have constant access to food and water - something a child should never be the only one to oversee.
- They are cranky. Okay, maybe that isn’t fair, but compared to mice and rats, they are relatively prone to startling and biting. Don’t blame them; they’re prey animals!
- They require patient socialization. Hamsters who are not carefully, gently socialized by humans on a routine basis do not make good pets, especially for children who will want to hold and stroke and carry their pet as soon as they get it home.
- They get bored. Hamsters who aren’t given adequate space, activity, and outlets for natural behaviors such as chewing become destructive to their environment and sometimes to themselves. Many develop stereotypical behavior such as bar-biting.
- They are most active at night. There is some debate as to if hamsters are strictly “nocturnal,” but there is no arguing the fact that much of their activity occurs at night or in the early hours of morning - which means activity and noise while your child is sleeping, and a tired, cranky hamster when your child is awake.
- They are a life-long commitment. That life may only be two years, but many children will grow bored with a hamster before then, especially if it isn’t being properly cared for, which often leads to neglect and abandonment.

In short: there are more to hamsters than meets the eye. As with all companion animals, don’t assume you know how to care for one properly based on, “well, when I was a kid…” or “well the pet store said…” Do your research before buying or adopting, and make sure you have the appropriate resources before bringing your new companion home.

“Psikologlar buna ‘hedonik adaptasyon’ diyor. Aslında ‘hedonik çark’ diyenler de var. Çarkta dönen hamster gibi arıyoruz mutluluğu. Müthiş çaba harcıyoruz, mutluluk getireceğini sandığımız şeyler için ama hep aynı yerdeyiz. Hiçbir yere varmıyoruz. 

İki psikoloji uzmanı Philip Brickman ve Donald Campbell, insanın yanlış yollardaki bu nafile mutluluk arayışını şu şekilde özetliyor: Dış dünyada mutluluk ve haz arayışına çıktığımız her zaman aslında hamster çarkına girmiş oluyoruz. Sahip olduğumuz birşeyin, örneğin para ya da makam, daha fazlasını elde ettiğimiz zaman, önce kendimizi mutlu hissediyoruz. Ancak çok kısa süre sonra, elde ettiğimize alışmaya başlıyoruz. 

Önceden ‘talih’ olarak gördüğümüz şimdiki seviyemiz yeniden ‘yetersiz’ gelmeye başlıyor. Ve, tattığımız mutluluk hissini sürdürebilmek veya yeniden kazanabilmek için yeniden bu kez daha fazlasının peşine düşüyoruz. Alıştığımız için, artık mutluluk için çok daha fazla şeye ihtiyaç duyar hale geliyoruz.”

Cemal Tunçdemir - ‘’ Piyangonun gerçek talihlisi kim? ‘’