“Hairless hamster” is the name given to Syrian hamsters that have a genetic mutation which causes the absence of hair. The gene affects the epidermis which is where hair follicles are rooted on the skin.
As can be expected, this mutation results in an odd-looking hamster that has earned an additional nickname – “The Alien Hamster”. It sometimes also has curly, stubby whiskers that fall off as it reaches adulthood. Its skin is warm and slightly oily, given the lack of hair.
Breeders found ways to reproduce the hairless mutation in these Syrian hamsters by breeding a hairless male to a furred, hairless carrier female. This will result in a litter of pups with hair and without, but all carrying the hairless gene – meaning that they can potentially produce hairless pups in their future litters. Important consideration must be given when attempting to breed hairless hamsters.
Female hairless hamsters should never be bred, as the same genetic mutation which causes the lack of hair also contributes to a lack of milk. Without milk, females can never lactate and therefore any future litters that they have will almost certainly perish.
Responsible breeders know this fact and are careful to encourage good breeding practices. As a responsible owner, never purchase a female hairless hamster.
Many believe that hairless hamsters make great pets for people that are allergic to hair but studies have shown that there is no discernible difference between a hairless and a regular hamster in regards to triggering allergies. The reason is that most allergies are not actually caused by the hair itself, but from a chemical that is secreted by the skin.
Q: “Where can I get one?”
Hairless hamster breeding is generally discouraged but a select few breeders are considered trustworthy enough to selectively breed them. They should never be purchased from pet stores as the breeders that supplied them are most likely running puppy mills and have a whole plethora of illegal and irresponsible practices under their belt.
Online hamster communities are good sources of information. Although most members frown upon the breeding of hairless hamsters, certain ones will allow you to purchase them only after a thorough background check has been completed to ensure that the alien hamster is taken to the home where it belongs.
The hairless hamster is not available in all countries, as there aren’t enough breeders that are interested in replicating the mutation.
Q: “How do I take care of it?”
Basic care should be the same as with other Syrians; with only a few considerations. Having no fur, the hairless hamsters are at the mercy of the elements.
Special care must be taken to protect their delicate skin and keep them warm. Sadly, these little critters only have half the lifespan of regular hamsters.
Due to their lack of hair, these hamsters can get scratched or cut easily. To avoid this, make sure to prepare their living area in advance and remove any sharp objects or items with sharp corners. Use a tank instead of a cage. Bent or chewed wires can scratch their skin. Contact with abrasive surfaces is strictly prohibited.
Adult hairless hamsters have difficulty playing in regular hamster houses and tube rolls. Due to their lack of smooth hair, they can’t effectively slide through and will likely get stuck inside. Check their shelter carefully and introduce toys that they won’t get stuck inside of.
Hairless hamsters may need a heater during winter or very cold climates. An under-tank heater or overhead bulb will work well in keeping the cold away. Make sure that the source of heat isn’t too close though, to avoid any potential burns. Lack of a warm coat also means that the hamster needs to eat more protein in order to send more heat to the surface of its body.