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As Syrian hamsters are such antisocial little creatures with regard to others of their own kind, mating and breeding is not straightforward, and should not be attempted by the first-time owner. A female hamster will never allow a male into her territory, and so the pair will have to be introduced on neutral ground. Even then, fights can easily break out, and it is usually the poor male that gets the worst of it. It is advisable to supervise the meeting with thick gloves close by, so that the hamsters can be separated quickly if fighting does start. If the female seems to welcome the advances of the male, they should be left together for about 20 minutes for mating to occur. The male is then removed, as he will play no part in rearing the young. The female should be given plenty of extra bedding and nesting material to construct a nest during pregnancy, and she will start to eat and drink more than normal. A small amount of milk, preferably slightly sour, will help to provide the extra minerals that she needs at this time.
The litter
The gestation period for a hamster lasts just sixteen days the shortest of any mammal and the young are born blind, completely hairless, and unable to do anything other than feed. An average litter will contain about six youngsters, but more than twelve is not unusual. Because the youngsters are so small, the mother almost never has any problems giving birth, a process that will usually take place during the night. It is important that the nest not be disturbed for the first couple of weeks, as the mother may turn on the young and kill them if she becomes upset. THe babies develop very rapidly, growing fur by the time they are a week old, and beginning to emerge from the nest and take finely chopped solid food after two weeks. They are generally fully weaned by the end of the fourth week and can be separated from their mother at this stage. By six weeks of age, they will need to be housed separately, before they begin to fight with each other. The Dwarf Russian and Chinese hamsters tend to have smaller litters than the Golden, averaging around four. Mating is easier, as they will usually live together in mixed-sex colonies. The male should not be separated from the female while she is rearing her litter, or he may never be accepted back again. Unlike the Goldens, the males will lend a hand around the house, helping to keep the young warm while mom is away, and sometimes they will even bring food to the nest. Gestation is a little longer, averaging 21 days, and the females may remate and become pregnatn again within 24 hours of giving birth, thus producing two litters in the space of just six weeks. It is obvious, therefore, that a colony of dwarf hamsters can multiply at an alarming rate, and unless you know a very large number of people willing to give a good home to a hamster, you will very soon have to separate them into single-sex groups.

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