Hamsters are mammals that belong to the rodent family having large incisor teeth that are continually growing necessitating gnawing 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. There are many different species of hamsters throughout the world and most hamsters inhabit semi-desert areas where they live in burrows. These burrows consist of many tunnels and separate chambers including chambers where the hamster will store food and sleep. Hamsters are nocturnal, sleeping during the hot days and waking in the cooler evenings. 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 food. 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.
List of hamster species with common and scientific names.