Adopting a new pet is a great responsibility and you need to make sure you are up for the challenge, whether we’re talking about a dog, a cat, a chinchilla or even a hamster. And if the latter is your choice, make sure to check it out here and see which one of the breeds is suitable for you and your family.
Hamsters are not only cute and fun to have around but they are also low-maintenance and compatible with your busy lifestyle. Many people opt for them as “first pets” because they can be left alone for hours and don’t require being taken out for walks. These cute rodents are also resistant and overall affordable to keep anywhere – in dorm houses, in regular houses, lofts or condos.
Another reason why people choose hamsters as their pets is because they are social and curious creatures that can develop a special bond with their owners, provided they have enough time to adjust.
There are 18 species of hamsters known today, classified in seven genera. However, the most popular breeds kept as small house pets include the golden Syrian hamster, the winter white dwarf hamster, the Roborovski hamster, and the Campbell dwarf hamster.
These animals are mainly crepuscular and nocturnal, meaning they prefer being active during the night and sleep or rest during the day. Thus, despite the fact that they are affordable and low-maintenance, they may not be the best option for families with small children.
Hamsters mainly feed on fruits, seeds, veggies, and occasionally they eat burrowing insects, especially if they live in the wild. Dry pellets bought from the local pet shops are usually enough to meet all their dietary requirements and also contain up to 20% proteins, which keep your hammies strong, healthy, and active.
However, make sure the food you buy is specially intended for them and not for other animals like chins or rabbits.
It is important to know that each hamster breed comes with its own characteristics and you should take into account your pet’s personality if you want it to live a long and happy life as part of your family. Here is how to choose the perfect breed and individual that will match your lifestyle.
They are the most common and recommended breed for new pet owners because they are curious, fun, and easy to look after. The color of their fur varies, covering almost all tones from off-white to dark grey, brown, gold, and even black.
Syrian hamsters have a lifespan of 2-3 years but they can survive well after their fourth birthday in captivity. They measure 6-7 inches and are best kept alone in their cages due to their territorial behavior.
They are fluffy and usually feature a golden-brown coat and a white belly, which is why most owners consider them irresistible. They are very curious by nature and love a good challenge, so make sure their cage is full of tubes, huts, chewing toys, and exercise wheels to keep boredom away.
They are fun to interact with and create a strong bond with their owners after a while. A Syrian hamster’s personality is usually good-natured, slow-paced, easy to tame, and calm, which makes it suitable for training and interacting with both adults and children. However, as we previously mentioned, it is best to keep them alone and limit their interaction with other pets, including other hamsters.
Syrian hammies make perfect first pets and can help your children grow into responsible young adults. They are larger in size than dwarf breeds, which makes them easy to handle and pet even by children. The main disadvantage is that, similar to almost all other rodents, they prefer being active at night, which may disrupt your child’s sleeping patterns if they live in the same room.
Campbell’s dwarf hamster
The most common type of dwarf hamster found in pet shops all around the world, Campbell’s measures approximately four inches in length and has a relatively short lifespan of 1-2 years, slightly more if it lives in captivity.
Out of all the dwarf hamster breeds, this one is the biggest but doesn’t weigh more than two ounces. It usually has a grey or brownish fur and a distinctive stripe down the spine. In terms of behavior, it is probably the most outgoing and curious breed of hamsters. It is a social creature and prefers the company of same-sex individuals and humans.
Like most other hamster breeds, Campbell’s dwarf rodent is mainly nocturnal, being active after six in the afternoon. It can become nippy, especially around strangers or if it feels stressed or threatened. Nevertheless, it creates a special bond with its owner and enjoys being gently pet.
Due to its small dimensions and active lifestyle, this dwarf hamster breed is not recommended for children or those with small hands as it can easily slip through your palms and get lost in the house.
These rodents require a big cage, preferably a two-story design that comes with various tunnels, ladders, huts, and exercise wheels to burn off extra energy. They also love storing food in their cheek pouches, meaning they can easily get overweight or obese if they don’t have enough space to run and exercise.
Dwarf hamsters can live in any room or house as long as their cage is kept away from direct sunlight and high temperatures in the summertime.
Roborovski dwarf hamster
Sweet and docile, these adorable nocturnal creatures rarely bite. The “Robo hamsters” as they are usually called are the smallest hamster breed and rarely grow more than two inches in length. They weigh less than an ounce at maturity and they should be handled with great care.
Similar to other dwarf hamsters, the Roborovskis aren’t exactly the best pets for teenagers or children. Although they live around three years or even more in captivity, they should be mainly kept as observation animals due to their small size. You should avoid grabbing them or petting them too in order not to stroke too hard and cause damage.
These small and cute rodents can display a wide variety of fur colors but they are usually brown with a white side and a white belly. They are extremely active and curious, so it’s not a good idea to take them out of their cage and leave them unattended, even if it’s just for a couple of seconds.
Regular wired cages won’t work for these hamsters either as they can easily escape through the bars due to their small dimensions. We suggest keeping them in large plastic cages or in glass terrariums with no possibility of escaping.
Don’t forget that they enjoy some good entertainment, so you need to provide them with lots of chewing toys, tunnels, and at least one exercise wheel to burn some calories.
Much like the Campbell hamster, the Roborovski can live alone or with other same-sex individuals from similar breeds. However, if you plan on keeping more than one pet in the same cage, make sure to introduce them before they reach 12 weeks of age.
They are also nocturnal so don’t expect too much interaction with them during the day. However, they are easy to attend and their cages don’t occupy too much space, meaning they can become suitable pets for active, busy grownups.
As we previously mentioned, dwarf hamsters are not suitable pets for children or toddlers because they are small, fast, and quite hard to tame. Despite being low-maintenance, they still require your love and attention, so make sure you can commit to them before adopting.