Hamsters have been domesticated hundreds of years ago but it wasn’t until about a century ago that they started being considered as suitable companions for people of all ages, including children. Warm, funny, curious, and clever – make sure to read our recent article to find out more about these creatures and what makes them great pets.
Hamsters are small mammals of the rodent order and are often referred to as “pocket pets” because of their small dimensions. Contrary to popular opinion, these creatures are more crepuscular than nocturnal, meaning they are mainly active around dawn and dusk. In their natural habitat, they remain underground almost the entire day to avoid being caught by predators.
Their diet mainly consists of dry food, seeds, fruits, and vegetables but can occasionally include an additional source of proteins to keep them strong and healthy. Similar to other rodents, they are known for their large cheek pouches which they use to store food. Because of that, they are often overfed by owners, leading to obesity and even diabetes.
There are various species of hamsters and their individuals vary in size, weight, and color. Let’s take a closer look at each of the most important hamster breeds so you can find out which one would be the best match for you.
Often referred to as the golden hamsters, Syrians are the biggest of their kind. They measure up to 8 inches in length and can weigh several ounces. They are the most popular hamster breed in the world, with over 80 million individuals owned in the United States alone.
Syrians hammies are generally friendly. However, they can be extremely territorial so it is best to keep these individuals separated if you own more than one. If you adopt a Syrian from the earliest stages of its life, chances are you are going to make a new friend soon. They may take a few weeks to warm up to you but, essentially, these animals are easy to tame and form a strong bond with their owners.
As opposed to other hamster breeds, Syrians are heftier and slower, which means they won’t have the same energy to run or jump from your hands when holding them. For this reason, they represent better choices for families with children.
They are easy to look after but still require a large cage for a healthy life. Keep in mind that Syrians can overeat and gain weight fast, so you need to make sure they engage in physical activities as well.
Placing an exercise wheel in your hammy’s cage is mandatory but make sure it suits its size and workout needs. Running balls can also be a good option when taking the pet outside its cage, as long as you will keep an eye on it and avoid stairs or bumpy surfaces that might harm the animal.
Since these hamsters don’t have a partner, they will rely more on their interaction with their owners, meaning they will develop a closer bond with them. Out of all hamster breeds, Syrians seem like the friendliest and the best pet choice for people of all ages.
However, don’t forget that they are active early in the morning and late at night, so placing their cage in your bedroom might wake you up or prevent you from sleeping at all. If you’re a light sleeper, you may want to keep the cage in the living room.
Similar to the Syrians, these are territorial creatures too but this doesn’t mean you can’t keep them in small groups or pairs. The key to successfully place two or more hamsters of the same sex in the same cage is to have them stay together from the earliest stages of their lives to get used to each other.
Smaller in dimensions than the Syrians, the Chinese hamsters are faster. They are usually described by their owners as rather shy, at least in the beginning. They are also harder to hold, so you need to make sure they trust you first. Keep in mind that they will most likely try to run away, biting or nipping their owners at first.
It takes several weeks to create a bond with them, meaning you always have to be gentle when it comes to your moves. Once they are familiar with your hand and your smell, they can be easily tamed, especially if you bring treats into the equation. They are great companions but, because of their breeding difficulties, they are not the most common hamster pets.
Chinese hammies are extremely curious creatures so they will need a lot of space to explore. Make sure their cage is suitable for their needs and equipped with tubes, tunnels, huts, and chewing toys.
Since they live in small groups, they will tend to rely more on individuals of the same breed, meaning they will take longer to get used to their owners and create a bond with them. Nevertheless, they are social and kind creatures and you will have the chance to become friendly with them throughout their two and a half or three years of life.
There are two main breeds of dwarf hamsters that are characterized by their curiosity, agility, speed, and small dimensions. These breeds don’t measure more than five-six inches in length, with the smallest ones being only two inches.
Small, adorable, and affordable, these rodents prefer living in pairs. They are fast and may nip when scared, annoyed or frightened. They are mainly active during the night, which makes them more suitable for teenagers and young adults who are known to go to bed late.
However, Russian hamsters are most active in the evening, which is great for students who go to classes during the daytime. They are sensitive creatures that require proper care and affection. Although they prefer living in pairs this doesn’t mean that they won’t get attached to their owners in time, especially when you handle them sweet treats.
The Roborovski hamsters are amongst the latest to be domesticated. They are small and quite difficult to handle so they don’t make great pets, especially for children.
The smallest breed of hamsters only measures two inches in length and weighs less than one ounce for each adult individual. They are extremely curious and quite fascinating to observe, so they can make great pets for those who don’t have too much spare time. They are gentle and they rarely nip although they don’t particularly like to be held.
If you want to own a Roborovski hamster you need to make sure you buy a suitable cage. They are fast and enjoy running and stretching their paws, so it is mandatory for them to have enough space and at least one exercise wheel. They are curious and need to be entertained constantly, so the best place to keep them is in the living room, where they can take part in the action and interact with all the family members.
Surprisingly for creatures their size, these hamsters get to live around four years in captivity as long as they are properly looked after. This means sticking to a strict feeding schedule and building habits that last. Since they are small and fast, we recommend keeping them in large terrariums rather than plastic cages they can chew on.
As we previously mentioned, they don’t enjoy being held so you need to limit your interactions with them. You can still gently pet them inside the cage or terrarium and pair them with other individuals of the same breed. They are not as friendly as the Syrians hence they are less popular amongst pet owners.