Do you notice your Hamster’s cheeks? You have already seen your hamster's face deformed by an excessive expansion of his cheeks. Don’t get me wrong. It does not inflate its cheeks to surprise you, worry you or even make you laugh, but rather because it carries its food.
In fact, the cheeks are the two pockets found on each side of the hamster’s head, which are physiologically located between the hamster’s cheek and jaw. These bags are a bit like his lunch box because their main function is to allow the hamster to transport his food to a place that he considers safe and where he can store it and consume it in peace and shelter from predators. This way of accumulating and temporarily storing food in its abacheeks is quite natural in the wild life of the hamster since it constitutes a prey of choice for several animal species. Nevertheless, he knows how to preserve this behavior, even in captivity.
The cheeks are impressive because they can extend from the mouth to the shoulders. It is said that the hamster can accumulate up to 18 g of food, which is still a lot for a small animal whose weight varies on average from 90 to 150 grams for standard breeds. They are even big enough to allow them to hide and transport their young in danger. Nature does things right, doesn’t she?
So, when you see your hamster filling his cheeks, tell yourself that this is a natural way for him to protect himself from his predators, even if with you, these dangers do not remain. Have fun watching him afterwards, heading to his pantry to build up real reserves, in case there are more difficult days…
Sophie Gauthier, agr
Director General Nature Bélisle Division