my best pet ( hamster )
August 30, 2007 4:08pm CST
ùTHe best-known species of hamster is the Syrian or Golden Hamster (Mesocricetus auratus), which is the type of hamster most commonly kept as a pet. It is also sometimes called a "fancy" hamster. Pet stores also have taken to calling them "honey bears," "panda bears," "black bears," "European black bears," "polar bears," "teddy bears," and "Dalmatian", depending on their coloration. There are also several variations, including long-haired varieties that grow hair several centimeters long and often require special care. Other hamsters that are kept as pets are the four species of "dwarf hamster". Campbell's Dwarf Hamster (Phodopus campbelli) is the most common of the four — they are also sometimes called "Russian Dwarfs"; however, many hamsters are from Russia, and so this ambiguous name does not distinguish them from other species appropriately. The coat of the Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamster (Phodopus sungorus) turns white during winter (when the hours of daylight decrease). The Roborovski Hamster (Phodopus roborovskii) is extremely small and fast. The Chinese Hamster (Cricetulus griseus), although not technically a true "dwarf hamster", is the only hamster with a prehensile tail (about 4cm long) - most hamsters have very short, non-prehensile tails. Many breeders also show their hamsters and so breed towards producing a good healthy show hamster with a view to keeping one or two themselves so quality and temperament are of vital importance when planning the breeding. Although breeders of show hamsters specialise in breeding show hamsters, there are also owners who have bred their pet hamsters. These may be the result of a planned or unplanned pregnancy but the hamsters have usually been cared for well and handled regularly, so make very suitable pets. Buying a hamster directly from a breeder means that there is the opportunity to see the parents and know the dates of birth. In Australia it is illegal to keep hamsters as pets as 'escapees' could breed in the wild and become 'feral' pest animals.  Housing Hamsters can be kept both in cages and in terraria, both of which are available in pet stores. Cages are easier to carry; their bars can be used for climbing. On the other hand, glass boxes keep hamsters from ùthrowing litter out of their cages, provide a better view into the hamster's home, and create a quieter and more sheltered interior. Despite the hamster’s small size, appropriate housing should always have a floor space of at least two square feet and a strong top because hamsters are surprisingly good climbers. Glass boxes must not be higher than their width to allow for a sufficient air circulation. Although smaller in size, dwarf hamsters often need more spacious housing than their larger relatives, at least 80cm by 40cm (2 feet by 4 feet) due to their high activity levels. In the case of self-built dwellings, care should be taken to avoid materials that are dangerous to the animals. Plywood and wood from conifers is not suitable, because hamsters gnaw at their houses and both glue and resin are poisonous to them. Using standard water-soluble white wood glue to join pieces of solid wood, such as birch or beech wood, creates a safe environment for the hamster, although it may still chew through the wood. A purchased cage can be equipped with several intermediate levels, connected using stairs. Hamsters do best in a well-lit room of constant, moderate temperature (18 to 26°C, 64 to 80°F), in a place out of strong sunlight that could cause dangerous overheating. The floor of a hamster's residence is generally covered with a layer of litter. Litter made from recycled paper or wood lacking aromatic oils (such as aspen) is healthiest - gnawing and eating cat litter can be deadly, and cedar, pine, or other softwood-based litters may contain phenols that can irritate a hamster's respiratory system, liver, and skin. There is also commercial bedding available, such as Carefresh and Megazorb.