Hamsters are Nature’s Heaviest Drinkers

  • It’s pretty humiliating to lose in a drinking contest to a hamster.

Do you fancy yourself as somebody who can hold their liquor like a champion? Well, we have bad news for you — there’s animal that could drink you under a table without even trying.

But what is this animal? It has to be something huge, right? Maybe an elephant or a giraffe or something?

Nope. It’s a hamster.

We know, it sounds ridiculous. But researchers have found that hamsters can down relatively ridiculous amounts of booze without getting more than just a bit tipsy.

Not only are hamsters drinking heavyweights — they also absolutely love alcohol. Tom Lawton, a UK doctor, said on Twitter that the tiny rodents will pick alcohol over water, given the chance.

Our only question is, why are researchers giving hamsters booze to chug? Suppose it helps us understand animal biology.

“You bought booze, right?”

I’m Fine, This is Just My 17th Drink

Of course, the amount of alcohol wouldn’t likely get a human being even slightly buzzed (unless you’re a total lightweight). Relatively speaking, however, they can down absolutely liver-busting quantities of hooch.

According to Gwen Lupfer, a psychologist at the University of Alaska who has researched hamsters and their drinking habits, they regularly consume about 18 grams of alcohol per kilogram of body weight. That’s the equivalent of an average person chugging two regular bottles of 190-proof spirits.

If you’re more of a wine drinker, that’s 21 bottles of wine. Every single day.

Hamsters’ heavy drinking habits aren’t exactly news, though. We’ve known since the 1950s that they love alcohol.

That’s when researchers noticed that they could outdrink lab rats. But alcoholic hamsters aren’t something that you only find in labs.

Even in the wild, hamsters regularly consume alcohol. And since there’s nobody around to hand them a bottle of vodka, they brew the booze themselves.

Over the summer and fall, hamsters in the wild will hoard various seeds and fruit into their underground burrows. Once stored, the sugars in the plants will begin to ferment and turn into alcohol.

Through the winter months, the hamsters will happily snack away of their increasingly alcoholic stash. Come spring, whatever’s left can actually be quite potent.

Water? No Thanks.

As we mentioned, hamsters aren’t just able to tolerate high amounts of alcohol. They also really, really love the strong stuff.

“You just put a bottle of unsweetened Everclear on the cage and they love it,” Lupfer summarized for The Atlantic.

The taste for booze isn’t a feature that’s present in just some hamsters. All hamsters, according to scientists, will grab the bottle.

“You could take a hamster right from the pet store and give it grain alcohol. It would happily drink,” said Danielle Gulick, an addiction researcher at the University of Florida.

In fact, if a hamster can choose between water and booze, it will pick the booze. Researchers have tried to give them all kinds of tasty non-alcoholic drinks, like tomato juice or sugar water, but they always go for alcohol.

The only alternative that’s even remotely worked is chocolate milkshakes. But even that’s won’t sober up the hamsters — they’ll just cut back to an equivalent of 50 pints of beer a day.

Overactive Livers

So, what is the hamsters’ secret? Is there something we can learn from them that can help us drink more when we’re out having a good time?

Unfortunately, no. At least, not unless you somehow dramatically alter your basic biology.

The reason for hamsters’ incredible alcohol tolerance lies in their livers. As you undoubtedly know (or should, at least), alcohol is processed and disposed of in the liver.

Hamster livers are absolute beasts in processing alcohol. Additionally, any alcohol they drink moves straight from their stomachs to the liver, explained Lupfer.

As a result of their ridiculous metabolism, very little alcohol actually enters their bloodstream. This means that a hamster can’t really get drunk.

During her research, Lupfer devised a Wobble Scale to measure hamster intoxication. The scale goes from zero (walking perfectly straight) to four (falling over drunk and refusing to get up).

No matter how much hamsters drink, they will never surpass 0.5 on the Wobble Scale. The only way to get a hamster blasted is to inject alcohol directly into their abdomens.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone, though. Imagine how you’d react if someone pumped a bottle of whiskey directly into your bloodstream.

No, do not try that. You’re not a hamster, you will die.