The hamster belongs to the rodent family, having large incisor teeth that are continually grow, which necessitates gnawing to prevent overgrown teeth. The word 'rodent' is derived from the Latin word 'rodere' which means 'to gnaw'.

Most species of hamsters have expandable cheek pouches in which they can carry food and bedding back to their burrow where they store food. The word 'hamster' comes from the German word 'hamstern' which means 'to hoard'.

There are many difference species of hamsters throughout the world and most inhabit semi-desert areas where they live in burrows. These burrows consist of many tunnels and separate chambers to store food or sleep. Hamsters are nocturnal and have very poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell and excellent hearing.

Only a few species are widely kept as pets but the hamster is the most popular small pet kept in many countries today.

Hamsters do not need grooming, with the exception of long haired male Syrian hamsters who may need the occasional brush to remove shavings from their coat. This is best done using a soft toothbrush.

Hamsters do not require bathing as they clean themselves and to bath a hamster removes the natural oils from the coat and there is a risk the hamster will catch a chill.