It comes in handy in my field of business.
You Have No Idea How Hard It Is to Get a Hamster Drunk
“You just put a bottle of unsweetened Everclear on the cage and they love it.”
The heaviest drinkers in the animal kingdom are punier than you might expect. Elephants, for example, are massive, but they are relative lightweights—they lack a gene for alcohol metabolism. Humans actually rank pretty highly, thanks to our ancestors’ propensity for picking fermented fruit off the ground. But to find the real champs, you have to think smaller.
“You just put a bottle of unsweetened Everclear on the cage and they love it,” says Gwen Lupfer, a psychologist at the University of Alaska Anchorage who has studied alcohol consumption in hamsters.
They regularly down 18 grams per kilogram of body weight a day, the alcoholic equivalent of a human drinking a liter and a half of 190-proof Everclear. In the wild, hamsters hoard ryegrass seeds and fruit in their burrows, and they eat this fermenting store as it becomes more and more alcoholic over the winter. In the lab, well, they’re pretty happy with Everclear. Given the choice between water and alcohol, they go for the booze.
Humans have known about hamsters’ affinity for alcohol since at least the 1950s, when scientists in Texas found that hamsters could outdrink the common lab rat. Rats can be made to drink alcohol—either by selectively breeding genetic lines or by feeding them a mix of sugar and ethanol until they develop a taste for the latter. (Ethanol is the specific type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks.) But with hamsters, “you could take a hamster right from the pet store and give it grain alcohol,” says Danielle Gulick, an addiction researcher at the University of Florida. “It would happily drink.”