Hamsters are mammals that belong to the rodent family having large incisor teeth that continually grow requiring the animal to gnaw to prevent the teeth from overgrowing. The word 'rodent' is derived from the latin word 'rodere' which means 'to gnaw'.
Hamsters form the Family Cricetidae which is broken down into different Genera (including Cricetulus, Phodopus and Calomyscus). Within each Genera are various species of hamster and there are many different species of hamsters throughout the world. Most hamsters inhabit semi-desert areas where they live in burrows that consist of many tunnels and chambers including chambers where the hamster will store food and sleep.
Hamsters are nocturnal, sleeping during the hot days, waking in the cooler evenings and being most active at night. They have very poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell and excellent hearing.
Most species of hamsters have expandable cheek pouches in which they can carry food and bedding back to their burrow where they will store the food collected during the night. The word 'hamster' comes from the German word 'hamstern' which means 'to hoard'.
Only a few hamster species are widely kept as pets but the hamster is the most popular of the smaller rodents kept as a pet in many countries today.