Hamsters are wonderful creatures and, since they are rather easy to look after, they make wonderful first pets for small children and teenagers. Check out this following article to find out more about the most popular hamster breeds, how to look after each of them, and how to choose the perfect cages for hamsters.
If you want to get more information on the differences and similarities between the pet hamster breeds available on the market, make sure you read the following lines. There are five popular hamster breeds today that are mostly nocturnal and can be kept in small groups, except for the Syrian hamster, and most of them can be tamed easily.
Hamsters have been around for a long time, and although there are many hamster breeds around the world, only a few of them became part of our homes and lives as beloved pets. What makes them special? They look cute, are friendly, can easily get tamed, and proved to be quite adaptable to living with people.
Hamsters were first domesticated in 1939, after almost a decade of attempts, as the first hamster to be captured in the wild was a Syrian hamster, and that happened in 1930. They were first bred by the University of Jerusalem, and from there on they rapidly became the popular household pets we know today.
To many of us, who are no hamsters experts, all pet hamsters might look the same. But things are very different when you look closely at the many differences between the various hamster breeds. You might be wondering what these breeds are, so here they are!
Also called “Golden hamsters”, these are the most popular breed of pets, as they are quite friendly, easily tamed, and will adapt to most living conditions across the world. Syrian hamsters are also the largest of the bunch, as they grow up to seven inches in length. Their life expectancy is around four years, but can sometimes exceed that age.
Originating from the Syrian Desert, the downside of Syrian hamsters is that they must be kept alone in the cage. You can never pair them up with other hamsters, not even Syrian ones, as they will viciously fight, and someone will definitely get seriously hurt. This is because they are very territorial animals, and will not accept anyone else in their home.
This breed comes in a variety of colors, such as the golden ones, black and white colors, or the black bear Syrian hamster, that has the same colors in his or her fur as a black bear. Lengthwise, Syrian hamsters can have short coats, long ones or umbrous coats. An umbrous coat means that the tips of the hairs are colored gray.
Syrian hamsters that are well looked after, and have all of their basic needs and requirements met, do not bite or nip unless you disturb them during their sleep in a way that makes them get scared. As they are nocturnal animals, it is quite hard to handle them during the day without causing them quite an inconvenience.
Because they are larger, their cages, toys, and accessories should also match their size. That being said, hamsters from this breed enjoy exercising and being active, so consider purchasing a two-story cage, filled with toys, running wheels, and a hut for it to nap and rest.
Although most hamsters are nocturnal creatures, Syrian females tend to be more active, including during the daytime, which makes them more suitable as pets for small children.
Dwarf Campbell Russian Hamster
If the name seems hard to remember, you can simply refer to it as the Russian hamster. It obviously originates from Russia and it is also named the Campbell hamster after the first man who captured it in the wild, a man named W. Campbell.
The Russians are quite small creatures and seem like miniatures compared to their Syrian cousins. This is the most popular breed of dwarf hamsters, as these tiny, cute-looking animals make good pets for children that are just now learning what caring for another living being means. As opposed to the Syrian hamster, Campbell hamsters will only grow to be approximately four to five inches long. However, they only live for about two years.
However, unlike the Syrians, the Russian hamsters can happily live in a group or in the same cage as same-gender adults, without fighting over the territory.
They are social creatures but tend to be more panicky than other hamster breeds, so you’ll need to supervise their interactions with other animals or with your children.
Since Russian hamsters don’t live more than two years, we don’t recommend them as pets for small children because, once they get attached to their owners, a breakup caused by death will be painful for your kids.
With this hamster breed, in particular, you need to carefully watch their daily diet, as they are prone to become obese and suffer from sugar-related diabetes, which only comes to shorten their lifespan, which is already not that long. The last thing you want to deal with is the sudden death of your kid’s best buddy, and having to explain that to him or her.
Yet another thing to be considered with Campbell hamsters is the type of cage you are housing them in. They have particularly tiny feet that can easily get stuck in their cage wires or playtime accessories, therefore it’s best to choose dwarf-hamster-appropriate items only. In case they get stuck, they might bite as you attempt to free them, and they can hurt their feet and paws.
As they are totally nocturnal, it’s best to keep them in small groups of same-sex hamsters, to give them the balance of social life, as they will have very little interaction with their owners. Also, they come in a variety of colors, from agouti and black to cinnamon and opal. They are very beautiful animals that are a delight to own and watch.
Dwarf Winter White Russian Hamster
Although it was initially believed to be a subspecies of the aforementioned Campbell Russian Hamster, geneticists have shown that there are enough differences between the two to be considered entirely different breeds.
Another similarity to the Russian hamster is that the Winter White also has various names, such as the Djungarian hamster (named after a region in Mongolia where it was discovered) or the Siberian hamster (named after the region of Siberia in Russia, where it originates from). Thus, it’s easy to mistake these two species.
However, they cannot be easily found in pet shops so, if you’re lucky enough to adopt one, make sure it has everything it needs to live a long and happy life.
You would think they are all white, but they come in three color varieties, all including grey. They only grow to be three inches in length and live for about two years. They are very delicate animals, so it’s best to keep them in a glass tank, with plenty of ventilation and proper lids, to be able to both enjoy their beauty and behavior while keeping a close eye on their health status. They’re more active than other species of hamsters and love exercising, so you’ll need to provide them with plenty of toys, exercising balls, and running wheels to keep them busy.
They are also sociable creatures and love spending time with their kind, so you might want to adopt a same-sex partner if you don’t want to throw baby showers in the future.
As small as they are, Winter Dwarfs love being handled and are very playful, energetic pets. It’s mandatory that you provide them with many playtime accessories, such as wheels, tubes, ladders, and hide-outs. Otherwise, they will get irritated, keep to themselves in one corner of the tank, become stressed, bite you, and eventually get sick from the lack of activity.
Their small size and delicate bodies make them unsuitable for very young children, that might hurt them accidentally. Also, their fur might trigger allergic reactions in some kids and adults. So, it’s best to visit someone that already has them before getting one for yourself, just to make sure you and your children are safe from any possible allergies.
The interesting fact about Winter Whites is that they make high-pitched squeaks when something is not quite to their liking. So, if you are keeping a small group of them in your bedroom or the bedroom of your kids, there is a high chance they will wake you up at night. Keep in mind they are fully nocturnal, so all of their activities go on while you are asleep.
Roborovski Dwarf Hamster
Also known as the Mongolian hamster, this one originates from Mongolia, a territory in South-East Asia. It’s even smaller than other breeds and doesn’t exceed two inches in length, meaning you should pay attention to the type of cage you’re buying if you don’t want to look for your hamster all over the house.
The drawback this hamster breed comes with is that they are escape artists. They will always be on the look-out for their next escape and will seize every opportunity they have. So, unless you want to spend part of your spare time organizing lost hamster search parties in your home, this breed might not be the right one for you.
They are the smallest of the group, measuring up to 2.5 inches in length. However, they are also the cutest of the bunch, and one of many people’s favorite hamster pets. One main advantage Roborovskis come with is that they stay up during the day too, so it is quite easy to interact with them, as they are also very friendly animals, that are easy to bond with.
We suggest looking for a plastic cage or a glass aquarium as they are large enough to satisfy your pet’s needs of physical activity without endangering it and exposing it to the threats of your apartment. Keep in mind that Roborovski hamsters are good at escaping, and this is why it will be difficult to tame them or cuddle them. This is also one of the reasons why they don’t make great companions for children.
Their lifespan is yet another advantage that this breed comes with, as they often outlive Syrian hamsters, meaning they will live for more than four years. Their coat is sandy brown, with white bellies and feet, and two white spots above their eyes that make them look incredibly cute. They can also come with a white face, but that is quite rarely seen among them.
They are also social creatures and, as long as they lived in groups when growing up, the Roborovski hamsters enjoy the company of a partner or even a group. However, if you decide to adopt more than a pair, make sure you have enough space and exercising wheels for each individual – they are known to be excellent runners. As they are social pets, it’s best to keep them in same-sex small groups, to keep them interested and playful, as they engage in playtime with each other when their owner is not around. This is an important aspect of this breed, in particular, because they are highly active animals that thrive when they are active and live balanced lives.
Chinese hamsters have a black stripe running down their back, which is why they are sometimes referred to as “striped hamsters”. They grow up to 4 inches in length, originate from Southern China and will live for about three years. At first, you might get them confused with regular house mice, as they look very much the same, both color and size-wise.
It’s best to keep these little guys in a glass tank, in small groups and watch them play and have fun as they go about their regular activities of the day, as they really don’t like being touched or handled and they will make a run for it the first chance they get. This trait also makes them highly unsuitable for families with small children.
You can easily identify the Chinese hamsters through their brown backs and ivory coloring. Due to their rather small dimensions, they are agile and extremely quick, which means they don’t make suitable pets for children. However, if you do decide to adopt a Chinese hamster, make sure all the interactions between the rodent and your children are supervised.
Chewing toys, snacks, treats, and exercise wheels are mandatory to keep your pet’s teeth healthy and its body weight within reasonable limits. Although they are quite hard to tame, they are very clever animals, and if you like watching their everyday activities, they will amaze you with their tricks. Also, if you do manage to tame them and get them used to be handled, they will make great buddies that you can have a lot of fun with. Just make sure you do not drop them around the house by accident.
Their food is something you need to keep a close eye on, as they are prone to diabetes and other food-related health issues. The best way to go about this is by seeking advice from renowned Chinese hamster breeders and vets that will teach you exactly how to care for them to make sure you enjoy their presence and lovely personalities for as long as possible.