Big drinkers apparently come in small packages.
University of Alaska researchers have discovered that hamsters are the heavyweights of the animal kingdom when it comes to handling their hooch. While the research came out several years back, it’s currently making waves as social media marvels at the fun-size animal’s predilection for liquor.
“They love it so much they prefer to drink 15% ethanol instead of water, and can tolerate relative quantities that would kill a human,” UK doctor Tom Lawton recently tweeted in a viral thread about the raucous rodents.
He was referencing studies conducted by Gwen Lupfer, a psychologist at the University of Alaska in Anchorage, who found that these hairy drinkers can imbibe 18 grams per kilogram of body weight a day, the Atlantic reported on Sunday. That’s the equivalent of a human downing a liter and a half of 95% alcohol.
The findings jived with the rodents’ habits in the wild, where they’ve been known to hoard ryegrass seeds and fruit and allow them to ferment over the winter, like miniature moonshiners.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, a series of 1950s studies found that these wheel-running winos can drink common lab rats under the table, the Atlantic reported. And while the latter can acquire a taste for bubbly via selective breeding or regular drinking sessions, any pet store hamster could be given grain alcohol and it would happily drink it.
“You just put a bottle of unsweetened Everclear on the cage and they love it,” gushed Lupfer.
To gauge how much tipple it takes to get a hamster tipsy, the researcher and her team fed dwarf hamsters alcohol and rated their inebriation levels using a wobble scale, per the findings published in the journal Behavioral Processes in 2015. Scores ranged from zero, aka no wobbling, to four, indicating they fell over and didn’t get back up.
They found that the rodents never averaged above 0.5 on the wobbling scale, even when imbibing the highest oral concentrations possible. They chalked up the phenomenon to the fact that hamster livers process alcohol so efficiently that only small traces end up in their bloodstream.
In fact, when the researchers injected the animals with the same or lower doses, they wobbled and fell over — as the alcohol had bypassed their booze-processing organ and went directly into their blood.
It’s yet unclear why hamsters are so immune to hooch, although researchers suspect that they drink it for calories rather than to remain hydrated or get tipsy, RT reported. In fact, Danielle Gulick, a University of Florida addiction researcher, found that administering the critters sucrose water could curb their alcohol consumption, while calorie-free water had no effect.
Either way, these little lushes are apparently not laying off the sauce anytime soon.
In 1994, researchers tried to get hamsters to stop drinking by offering them a choice of beer or water, per Lawton’s tweet stream. However, the attempt backfired after the itty-bitty bingers went for the “booze with great gusto, and were happily chugging along at an equivalent of 90 pints of beer a day.”
Attempts to get them to detox with “tomato juice (Hunt’s No Salt Added), sugar water, peach and mango” similarly fell flat on their face.
The only surefire way to keep hamsters sober appeared to be giving them chocolate milkshakes. However, in this event, the hamsters reportedly “gorged themselves on chocolate and liquor, and basically stopped eating.”