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Often kept as pets, the Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) is a rodent that when fully grown is 5 to 7 inches (13 to 17 cm) in length and tips the scale at 5 to 7 ounces (140 to 200 grams). In the wild, the omnivorous creature is solitary and territorial in nature, flourishes in humid and arid environments, and typically seeks food at twilight and dawn. Having a life span of two to three years, the Syrian hamster can be traced to Israel and Syria and is often used in scientific research.
Possessing a broad head, small nose, and large eyes, the Syrian hamster owns deep cheek pouches that are capable of storing its food, which may include insects, grass, and seeds. On its hind feet, the creature has five toes, while the front feet have four toes. When found in the wild, the Syrian hamster is typically golden brown in color with a mostly white belly. Breeding and mutations cause the hamsters to have different patterns and different colors, including white, black, gray, and cream.
Generally, the Syrian hamster is bred to have different types of coat. A longhair hamster, sometimes know as the teddy bear hamster, may grow a coat that may be up to 4 inches (10 cm) long. For the most part, only the males grow long coats. The satin or bald coat hamster possesses a glossy coat. Other types of Syrian hamster include the shorthair and the rex, which is known for its wavy pattern of hair.
Female Syrian hamsters may be sexually mature by five weeks old, but generally reproduce at around four months. In the open, a female generally tolerates the male only for breeding. When the female hamster does not depend on the male for breeding, it is not uncommon for her to attack a male. A female will indicate she is ready to reproduce by standing still with her tail and behind sticking straight up.
Typically a female will give birth 16 days after mating. A litter may include as many as 20 young. The young are born hairless and sightless. After about a month, the hamsters no longer depend on their mother. In the wild, a mother may even eat her own young.
Due to their different colors, markings, and coats, the hamsters are often sold as pets. Loners by nature, the hamsters are often kept in cages by themselves. If multiple hamsters are kept together, they may fight to the death.
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