By Laura Doering
Do you hear the sound of a squeaky wheel during the night or spy an itty-bitty rolled-up ball of fur that is sound asleep? If so, you might very well share your home with a Mesocricetus auratus. That’s scientific talk for Syrian hamster, one of the most popular and commonly available hamster species. And, as their name suggests, these little critters originate from Syria; in fact, the ancestry of today’s pet hamsters can be traced to one mother hamster and her dozen pups that were caught in Aleppo, Syria. Ironically, there are currently so few Syrian hamsters in Syria that they are classified as endangered in their native habitat.
Other common hamster species include Roborovski dwarf hamsters (Phodopus roborovskii); Campbell’s dwarf hamsters (Phodopus campbelli); Winter White dwarf hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) and Chinese hamsters (Cricetulus griseus).
Hamster is the German for “hoarder,” which is fitting for a creature that stuffs and overloads his cheeks with food to eat later. Here’s a look at some of the names hamster enthusiasts have given their little hoarders.
A quick look at the names on a few critter species profile pages shows that Hammy or Hammie is far and away the top pick among hamster owners. Of course, hamsters do know how to ham it up, which, by definition, means to be overly dramatic. Anyone who has seen a hamster chow down on a favorite treat surely can agree that they do eat in a dramatic, memorable fashion (as evident by the ever popular “Tiny Hamsters Eating Tiny Burritos” clip on YouTube!) Hammy can also be a reference to a pig, and, again, hamsters do like to pig out, so this is definitely a fitting name.
Teddy is another popular hamster name. This could very well be a reference to owning a species of hamster nicknamed teddy bear, which is a longhaired Syrian hamster, or it could be a nod to the fact that hamsters are so cute, they look like little teddy bears. (Here’s a fun fact: the teddy bear, as in the plush animal toy, is named after Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th president, whose nickname was Teddy.)
Is your hamster so cute, you could just eat him up? (Figuratively speaking, of course!) Hamsters go by an assortment of edible monikers too. Cinnamon (a recognized color among hamster fanciers) and Butterscotch capture a hamster’s color and perhaps reflect a spicy or sweet personality. Peanut is another top name; no doubt inspired by both the hamster’s color and shape or in honor of his hunkering posture with his favorite treat. Syrian hamsters are also referred to as golden hamsters, which makes Goldie a top name too.
The silver screen also offers up some good hamster names. The animated feature Bolt (2008) features an adventure-driven hamster named Rhino who is sidekick to Bolt, the movie’s canine star. G-Force (2009), a live action movie with a primarily guinea pig cast, has a grumpy and stubborn hamster named Bucky that is voiced by actor Steve Buscemi. Of course, if you have a dwarf hamster, there are seven obvious names from which to choose: Doc, Dopey, Bashful, Grumpy, Sneezy, Sleepy and Happy.
There’s also a gold mine of hamster names from the ZhuZhu line of battery-operated toy hamsters. These mechanical hammies that move around at their own discretion have names like Motley, Harlow, Merrit, YoYo, Butters, Pookie, Scoodles, NumNum, Pipsqueak, Winkie and Jinx, and many more!
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