Best 5 Hamster Species To Keep as Pets

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If you’re thinking of getting a hamster, you should know that these adorable little creatures make fun and entertaining pets. There are 24 species of hamsters, but five of them are the most commonly kept as pets. Some hamster breeds are solitary pets, while others are comfortable in groups. If you’re looking for a hamster to keep and interact with, some breeds are better suited for the handling, while others prefer to play alone.

Tip :

You can build a bond with a hamster over time. Be patient, don’t force him to handle it right away, feed him periodically, provide play opportunities outside of his habitat, and talk to him gently. The hamster will probably eventually recognize your scent and voice and look to you for comfort.

Characteristics of the species

Domestic hamsters are 2 to 7 inches long and have short tails, small eyes, and black, brown, gray, white, yellow, or red fur. They collect and transport their food in largemouth pouches. They have wide feet with four toes in front and five toes in the back. Hamsters have large, chisel-shaped front teeth that they grow throughout their lives. Larger hamsters prefer to live alone; for example, conjoined male Syrian hamsters are likely to fight for dominance and try to kill each other. Same-sex dwarf hamsters seem to be able to live together peacefully. Hamsters are usually tame toward humans and rarely bite. All hamsters sleep during the day and become active at night.

These five breeds of hamsters generally make excellent pets.

Dwarf Roborovski

The smallest of the popular hamster breeds, the Roborovski dwarf hamster (Phodopus roborovski) reaches a length of only 2 inches. On average, these hamsters live about three years. Because this breed is very small, these hamsters should be housed in an aquarium with a mesh lid. They can easily escape through the spaces between the lattice cages. The Roborovski is a hamster that moves quickly. He is an agile breed that likes to be active. Be sure to provide him with plenty of toys and activities.

These hamsters can be handled, but it is better to leave them alone. Because of their small size and agile nature, they can easily escape your grasp and get lost. They can be sociable and do well in same-sex groups if properly introduced. If you want to own multiple hamsters, the Dwarf Roborovski is an excellent choice.

Overview of the species

LENGTH: 2 to 3 inches.

WEIGHT: 0.7 to 1 ounce.

BODY CHARACTERISTICS: Sandy brown fur with a white belly and white markings around the eyes.

Campbell Dwarf Russian Hamster

The Campbell Dwarf Russian Hamster (Phodopus campbelli) reaches a maximum size of 10 inches and has an average life expectancy of two years. It is another social breed that can be kept in same-sex groups, provided the hamsters are properly introduced. The Campbell Dwarf Russian Hamster is a quick little animal and can be prone to biting if it feels threatened or scared. They are friendly hamsters that do not mind being kept if done properly. Although nocturnal, these hamsters may wake up for short periods during the day.

Overview of the species

LENGTH: 2 to 4 inches.

WEIGHT: 1.5 to 2 ounces.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Grayish brown fur on the body, white fur on the belly, and a darker stripe on the back with furred feet.

Syrian (golden) hamster

The Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus), also known as the golden hamster or teddy bear hamster, is the most popular domestic hamster, especially with children. It is between 5 and 9 cm long and has a lifespan of two to four years. Thanks to targeted breeding, this hamster can be found in a wide variety of coat colors and lengths, but they are typically golden brown and white.

The Syrian hamster is the most suitable species for breeding. It is easy to tame, the slowest of the popular hamsters, and the one that bites the least. Although it is friendly to humans, it is territorial towards other hamsters and should always be kept alone. If kept in groups, they will fight. The Syrian is a nocturnal animal and rarely active during the day. The best time to care for this hamster is early in the morning or late at night.

Overview of the species

LENGTH: 5 to 9 inches

WEIGHT: 5 ounces

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: golden brown with a lighter belly, although there are different variations in color, pattern, and hair length.

Dwarf Winter Whitefly

The dwarf Russian winter whitefly (Phodopus sungorus) resembles the dwarf Russian Campbell’s hamster. They are usually 3.5 to 4 inches long and live about two years. They are rounder and have shorter faces than the Campbell. Their fur can turn white in the winter. The dwarf Russian white winter hamster is very docile and bites less often than many other hamster species. They are fast and agile and can be difficult for children to handle.

You can raise this breed of hamsters in pairs or same-sex groups, as long as you introduce them properly at a young age. But even hamsters raised together can become territorial and may need to be separated when they are older. It is best to keep this small breed in an aquarium with a screened lid; they could squeeze through a normal wire cage.

Species overview

LENGTH: 2.7 to 3.5 inches

WEIGHT: 0.7 to 1.6 ounces

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: round body, short faces; dark gray fur, white bellies, and a black stripe down the back; fur may turn white in winter.

Chinese Hamster

The Chinese hamster (Cricetus griseus) can be up to two inches long. It can live up to three years. This species of hamster is known to be friendly and does well if tamed and treated consistently from a young age. If they are not used to being handled, they can be fearful and nervous, which can lead to biting. They are small and fast and can easily wring their hands. Always be careful when handling a hamster and pay attention to the height at which you hold it. Stay close to the ground to avoid falls. 

Species Overview

LENGTH: 3.2 to 5 inches

WEIGHT: 1.1 to 1.6 ounces

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: brown fur with a black stripe on the back and lighter fur on the underside; the tail is longer than most hamsters.

Hamsters to avoid

Avoid all hamsters if you already have cats or terrier dogs that have an excessive interest in small furry animals, or if you have a noisy household with young children who may have difficulty carefully handling these fragile pets. If you have an active household during the day, you should also find a place where the hamster can sleep peacefully during the day. If you can’t find a quiet place, you may want to give up the hamster and consider adopting an iguana or daytime guinea pig instead.

If you want to raise your own hamster, avoid the three species of dwarf hamsters. They are faster, more agile, and quite slippery – the likelihood of them escaping and injuring themselves if they fall out of your hands is the highest.

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