The Chinese hamster is a charming intelligent species of hamster. Its body proportions, compared to other hamsters are "long and thin" and they have (for a hamster) a relatively long tail. The wild colour is brown with a black stripe down the spine, black and grey ticks and a whitish belly. This coloration, combined with their lithe build and longer tail, makes them look "mousy" to some eyes and, in fact, they are members of the group called ratlike hamsters. Besides the wild colour, a well-known variation is the white-spotted Chinese hamster, which often is grayish white all over, with only a dark stripe on its back.
In the wild Chinese hamsters live in burrows which they dig themselves. These burrows can have only one entrance or more. These hamsters are very territorial, although they often build their burrows very close to each other. This often gives the wrong impression of them living in colonies. When foraging, Chinese hamsters collect food in their pouches and carry it to their burrows to eat in safety. In the wild, these animals do not actually hibernate. They wake up from time to time to eat stored food. When the weather becomes colder, they enter into a torpor and wake up rarer.
Little is known about the mating system and reproductive behavior of Chinese hamsters.
Chinese hamsters are very popular as pets. They can be nippy, but quick to be tamed. Once successfully tamed, these hamsters are easily handled. One of their endearing traits is that of clinging to a finger with all four paws, rather like a harvest mouse on a corn stalk. Chinese hamsters can be quite nervous as youngsters but, once they are tame, can display an endearing calmness and gentleness of character.