Hamsters are rodents belonging to the subfamily Cricetinae. The subfamily contains about 25 species, classified in six or seven genera.
Hamsters are crepuscular and remain underground during the day to avoid being caught by predators. In the wild, they feed primarily on seeds, fruits, and vegetation, and will occasionally eat burrowing insects.
They have elongated cheek pouches extending to their shoulders in which they carry food back to their burrows.
Hamster behavior varies depending on their environment, genetics, and interaction with people. Because they are easy to breed in captivity, hamsters are often used as laboratory animals. Hamsters have also become established as popular small house pets, and are sometimes accepted even in areas where other rodents are disliked, and their typically solitary nature can reduce the risk of excessive litters developing in households.
he best-known species of hamster is the golden or Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus), which is the type most commonly kept as pets. 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. Several variations, including long-haired varieties, grow hair several centimeters long and often require special care. British zoologist Leonard Goodwin claimed most hamsters kept in the United Kingdom were descended from the colony he introduced for medical research purposes during the Second World War.