Reproductive biology

Hamster are sexually mature at a very young age, soon after they are weaned. Typically, males and females come together only to mate. The gestation period is quite short, ranging from 17 to 22 days. Litter size ranges from one to 16 pups with the average litter size around 11; females have eight to 17 nipples depending on species. In the wild hamsters may have two to four litters per year but species kept in captivity reproduce more frequently.

Hamsters are born hairless, with their eyes and ears closed and legs still somewhat undeveloped. The young do have teeth at birth, however, and eat solid food at seven to 10 days. They are weaned at 21 days.

Though most male hamsters play no role in raising the young, male Dzhungarian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) are at-

tentive fathers that assist at births, lick newborns clean, help keep them warm, and care for them when the female leaves the nest to feed. Like their mouse relatives, most hamsters live one to three years.

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