The Golden Hamster or Syrian Hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) – rodent belonging to the hamster subfamily, Cricetinae. Their natural geographical range is limited to a small arid region of northern Syria and southern Turkey.
The size of adult animals is around 6 in (15 cm) long, with a lifespan of 2 – 3 years. Body mass is usually in the range of 100–150 grams (3.5 – 5.3 oz), but Syrian Hamsters from private breeders can be in the range of 175 – 225 grams (6.2 – 7.9 oz).
Like most members of the subfamily, the Golden Hamster has expandable cheek pouches, which extend from its cheeks to its shoulders. In the wild, hamsters are larder hoarders; they use their cheek pouches to transport food to their burrows. Their name in the local Arabic dialect where they were found roughly translates to «mister saddlebags» due to the amount of storage space in their cheek pouches. If food is plentiful, the hamster stores it in large amounts.
Hamsters are very territorial and intolerant of each other; attacks against each other are commonplace. Exceptions do occur, usually when a female and male meet when the female is in heat, but even so, the female may attack the male after mating. Even siblings, once mature, may attack one another. In captivity, babies are separated from their mother and by sex after four weeks, as they are sexually mature at four to five weeks old. Same-sex groups of siblings can stay with each other until they are about eight weeks old, at which point they will become territorial and fight with one another, sometimes to the death.
Golden Hamsters in captivity run two to five miles per 24-hour period and can store up to one ton of food in a lifetime. They keep their food carefully separated from their urination and nesting areas. Very old hamsters with weak teeth break this «rule» by soaking hard seeds and nuts with urine to soften them for eating. Hamsters are extraordinary housekeepers and often sort through their hoards to clean and get rid of moulding or rotting food. They gather food in the wild by foraging and carrying it home in their cheek pouches, which they empty by pushing it out through their open mouths, from back to front, with their paws, until it is empty.
Golden Hamsters are popular as house pets due to their docile, inquisitive nature, cuteness, and small size.