The Hairless Syrian HamsterBy jennawing
A Hairless Syrian is born completely devoid of hair. This is due to a genetic mutation that effects the epidermis (the layer of skin where the hair follicles are).
Some Hairless may have very stubby, curly white whiskers, but often lose these as they mature. Their skin is very warm and porous- sometimes feeling a little sticky to the touch. The natural oils in the skin are very apparent and they give off a soft, sweet aroma.
Their bodies are quite beautiful- their muscular shape easily observed, and their ears, tail, and legs appear longer than other Syrians. Basic care of a Hairless Syrian is like any other Syrian. There are a few considerations that should be made:
Delicate skin:Hairless have no protective coat of fur, and can easily get little scrapes from every day activities. Aspen bedding, for instance, can easily scratch their delicate skin, so it is best to keep them in Carefresh, or similar paper pulp bedding. A wire cage may seem above safe for other hamsters, but any little protruding wire- where they have gnawed, or it has been bent- can cause a scratch. Along these lines, a full-grown Hairless will find it impossible to navigate hamster-sized tubes. They have no sleek fur to help them slide along and will either become lodged in the tube, or bruise or scrape their skin trying to get through. Hairless are best kept in a tank or bin with houses and toys designed with generous entrances. Other abrasive things to avoid are grass huts, wooden houses, and sand toilets.
No Warm Coat:Hairless Hamsters feel very warm to the touch- and this is because a hamster's natural body temperature is a few degrees higher than ours. A Hairless's body works hard to keep it warm, though. It requires a much higher metabolism to constantly send heat to the surface. To help them maintain this level, supplement with higher protein food. Cat kibble is a very good source of tasty protein for a Hairless. Check the ingredients for natural preservatives, ingredients such as chicken or turkey, and add in a few pieces with their regular diet. Other high protein foods such as eggs, chicken, or wheat germ can also be given.
Keeping them Warm in Winter:Hairless can be more at risk of going into hibernation than haired hamsters. It is important to keep their cage above 65 degrees F. An undertank heater designed for reptiles is one way. If you use a plastic bin for housing, elevate the bin slightly above the heater so it is not touching for safety's sake. Also, a heating bulb, if it can be placed in a safe place that the hamster cannot possibly touch it directly can be used. And be sure to keep those protien levels extra high in winter.
The Downfalls:Hairless hamsters have a very short life expectancy- about half that of a haired hamster. They also tend to have trouble keeping on weight as they get older, so you may find it necessary to add lots of fat to their diet. Tofu is a favorite and a good source of fat and protien.
No milk for babies:In order to get a new litter of hairless hamsters, a breeder must first breed a hairless male with a haired female. The females of those litters will carry the hairless gene and when bred with another hairless male, some of the litter will be hairless. The same genetic mutation that causes the lack of hair also effects other aspects of the epidermis- namely the mammary glands- where the milk is produced. Female hairless should NEVER be bred, as they cannot produce milk to feed their young. Take care never to put a hairless female in contact with any male hamster. If you see hairless hamsters in mixed-gender cages at a pet store, explain to the store-workers the importance of keeping them separated. Any hamster bred with a hairless father will carry the hairless gene so care should be taken that these hamsters are not bred unknowingly or if further hairless generations are not the intended desire. The new owners of any haired offspring of a hairless hamster should be told and made to understand that their hamster carries the hairless gene. Other than these few things, a Hairless Syrian is just like any other Syrian. They will have their own likes and dislikes- their own personality traits- and their own funny little quirks and nuances just like any other hamster. Given the chance, a 'Nekkid Hammy' will find its way into your heart just as easily as the furry varieties.