Are Hamsters Good Pets? [reasons why hamsters are the best small pets]
Hamsters are fairly common and well-known small household pets. Especially popular in families with young children since they are docile, low maintenance and have a fun personality. Hamsters definitely can make great family pets if given the proper care and attention.
Keep reading to learn more about why hamsters make great pets!
Why Hamsters Make Good Pets
Hamsters are the Smallest Household Pets
Hamsters are one of the smallest common pets available in the pet trade. Being small animals they are lightweight which makes them easy to handle and transport.
They will also not need much food due to their small size. Be aware though that they will store some food in their cheek pouches.
Because of their size, hamsters also don’t need large cages. Their cages can easily fit on a small table or countertop and will not need much bedding to fill.
Hamsters make a great choice for pet owners in small houses or apartments.
Hamsters Have Fun Personalities
Hamsters have unique personalities that make them quite entertaining. Though all hamsters are different, many are curious and outgoing.
Hamsters will seek companionship from you and other hamsters.
Other hamsters can be shy. You may want to be careful handling shy hamsters as they may be startled by sudden movements and loud noises.
Though these furry friends may not seek cuddles as much as their peers, they can still be fun to watch play and burrow in their cages.
Hamsters are Good with Small Children
Hamsters tend to be quite docile, making them perfect for families with small children.
This also makes them a great first pet for a child willing to take on some new responsibility.
Their curious nature and drive for exploration make them fun for children of all ages to watch.
Hamsters Don’t Smell
Unlike some other rodents, hamsters don’t carry a bad odor. The only bad smells that may occur would be from not cleaning their cage.
They are very clean animals and frequently clean themselves and their peers.
Hamsters Only Require Basic Care
Hamsters are self-sufficient creatures that require less work than other types of pets. Proper housing, food, and socialization are important for hamsters and don’t cost or require much on the part of the owner.
As stated previously, hamster cages don’t take up much space.
Fitting your hamster’s cage on a table or countertop makes it easy for you to take care of your hamster or watch your hamster play without needing to get on the ground.
Their cage should also have bars with small spacing for efficient airflow, temperature regulation, and escape prevention.
Hamster cages need regular cleaning so hamsters can burrow in clean and safe bedding to sleep. They also need to have plastic bottoms to support hamsters’ feet as wire bottoms can hurt your hamster.
Finally, cages should have places to hide such as tubing either attached to the cage or inside the cage for your hamster to sleep and feel safe.
You can probably deduce from their stuffed cheeks that hamsters love eating.
Though some foods are off-limits for hamsters, they do enjoy food bowls full of hamster pellets, timothy hay, carrot, apple, and other fruits and vegetables.
You will also want to give your hamster fresh water using a hamster water bottle. Hamsters always need freshwater as they may exercise a lot while you are away.
Make sure the bottle is easily accessible to your hamster and securely attached to the side of their cage.
Hamster Socialization & Exercise
Hamsters can be very social and curious creatures. Your hamster will enjoy bonding with you, especially if you handle it properly from a young age.
They usually enjoy cuddling and being pet the same way many other animals do.
Hamsters will need other enrichment outside of holding, petting, and cuddling. Most hamsters will enjoy a running wheel in their cage for exercise.
Outside of the cage, they may enjoy using a hamster ball to explore your home without the risk of escape or injury.
Hamsters range in size and personality depending on their breed. A hamster’s breed will tell you more about its individual needs and common traits.
How Many Breeds of Hamsters Are There?
There are 24 breeds of hamsters, though only five are used as pets.
Common Pet Hamster Breeds
The three most common breeds for pet hamster ownership are the Syrian (Teddy Bear), Chinese, and Dwarf hamsters.
- Chinese Dwarf Hamster
- Russian Dwarf Hamster
- Syrian Hamster
Syrian hamsters are considered the most common in the pet trade. They are commonly called Teddy Bear hamsters due to their larger size and long, soft fur.
They are the most docile and sociable of all hamster breeds, which makes them perfect for families with small children.
Chinese Dwarf Hamster
Chinese Dwarf hamsters are the second most common hamster in the pet trade. They are much smaller in size than Syrian hamsters, closer to that of a mouse.
Chinese hamsters can be more nervous than other hamsters but are still docile enough to be handled.
Russian Dwarf Hamster
Russian Dwarf hamsters are the third most common hamster in the pet trade. Like Chinese Dwarf hamsters, they are a very small breed of hamsters with lots of energy.
They too can startle easily, so adult supervision is best when being handled by small children.
Is Having Just One Hamster Ok?
Though some breeds of hamsters prefer to spend time with others of their kind, many hamsters are perfectly content to live alone.
This is especially true for Syrian hamsters, as they tend to be more independent and self-sufficient.
This reduces the cost of care for hamsters as well as the responsibility that comes with owning more than one animal.
Why Hamsters Are Not Good Pets
Hamsters Don’t Live Long
Compared to other pets, the average lifespan of a hamster isn’t very long. According to the RSPCA, hamsters only live around two years depending on the breed.
If you want a furry friend that will be by your side for a long time, you might want to reconsider a hamster.
Hamsters are Nocturnal
If you want a pet that you can watch play all day long, you might want to pick something besides a hamster.
Hamsters are nocturnal so most of their activity occurs at night. Though hamsters can still be active during the day, most will sleep and rest throughout the day when you are not actively playing with them.
Some Foods are Toxic to Hamsters
You need to be careful with feeding your hamster. Depending on the type of hamster you have, many hamsters are allergic to various foods found in your home.
These foods include raw potato, almonds, onion, and citrus.
To avoid your hamster getting ahold of these foods, make sure you supervise your hamster when out of the cage.
Hamsters should only be given hamster pellets, timothy hay, and occasional treats such as eggs, nuts, or other nontoxic vegetables.
Hamsters are Escape Artists
You’ve likely heard a story about an escapee hamster before. Because hamsters are small, nimble creatures, they can easily escape cages with loose doors or over-spaced bars.
How to Stop Your Hamster from Escaping
Pick a cage that is certified for use specifically with hamsters to reduce the chances of them escaping from the cage itself.
Also be sure to supervise your hamster anytime it is outside of the cage to make sure it doesn’t run off into another area of your home, or even outside.
Using a hamster ball is also an effective way to make sure your hamster can safely play outside its cage without being able to quickly escape.
How to Find Your Lost Hamster
Your hamster will likely try to find a safe place to hide once it runs away. The first place to look will always be back at its cage, then move outwards from there.
Check any hiding spots your hamster may have picked outside of its cage. Hamsters may hide in warm, dark places like tissue boxes or shoes. They might also hide underneath furniture such as dressers or beds.
If that doesn’t work, put seed out in a safe place to try to lure your hamster out. You may want to also put down flour to check for hamster tracks, or tin foil to listen for their feet. This is best done at nighttime since hamsters are nocturnal.
Hamsters are Prey Animals
Before bringing a hamster home, consider any other pets you have in the house.
Because hamsters are so small, it is important to keep them away from any larger animals in the home that might see them as prey, such as cats or dogs.
Make sure your hamster has its own safe space in your home and a cage that prevents accidental escaping.
Hamsters are Prone to Specific Medical Problems
There are many health conditions that may affect hamsters more than other animals. Please note that we are not medical professionals. Always consult your veterinarian for guidance.
The below information is to provide you with guidance in your decision to get a hamster.
Hamster Health Issues
Hamsters are prone to a number of skin conditions including ringworm, hair loss, and tumors.
Hamsters may get ringworm from improper bedding and may lose hair from rubbing against their cage.
Tumors can arise on any part of the body but are predominantly found on or around the scent glands.
If you notice any growth or discoloration on your hamster’s skin, take it to a vet for a diagnosis.
Some tumors may be removable with surgery, but it is best to consult with your vet about your pet’s specific needs.
Hamsters are at risk for a particular digestive condition called wet tail. Wet tail causes diarrhea, loss of appetite, and inactivity and is incredibly contagious.
It is most common in Syrian hamsters but can be caught in any breed of hamster.
Wet tail can cause death quickly due to sudden dehydration in hamsters. If you see signs of wet tail in your hamster, take it to a vet immediately.
Treatment includes antibiotics for the infection and increased water to aid with the dehydration.
Hamsters can also have a number of teeth issues. Since hamsters’ teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, it is important for them to have tough toys to chew on to wear their teeth down.
Proper food such as hamster pellets will also help hamsters wear their teeth down.
Without being able to wear their teeth down, hamsters can have a number of dental problems.
As teeth continue to grow, they can grow downwards through the lower lip or even upwards into the nasal cavity.
Bring your hamster to a vet if their teeth seem too long for proper treatment and filing.
If you have a pet hamster you have to pick a good name for it! Here is a list of some popular hamster names.
Related Hamster Questions
Are Hamsters Blind?
Hamsters are born blind and generally have poor eyesight. It is thought they can only see a few inches in front of their face.
Hamsters use their sense of smell and touching things to get by.
Do Hamsters Smell Bad?
Hamsters themselves don’t smell bad but if you don’t clean your cage on a regular basis then it will definitely smell up your house!
Hamsters actually like to clean themselves on a regular basis.
How Old Was the Oldest Hamster That Ever Lived?
The oldest hamster on record lived to be approximately four and half years old. He is listed as a Guinness World Records holder and was owned by Karen Smeaton in the United Kingdom.
What do Hamsters Like to do For Fun?
Hamsters are energetic and curious creatures, especially when awake at night.
Hamsters may enjoy running on hamster wheels, chewing on wood toys, or exploring in a hamster ball.
Do Hamsters Get Lonely?
Sometimes, but not always! Most hamsters are content to live on their own and enjoy their personal space.
For some breeds, such as dwarf hamsters, it may be beneficial to get two so they can entertain one another.
What do Hamsters Like to Eat?
Besides regular hamster pellets, hamsters love fresh foods such as dandelion, clover, apples, pears, carrots, and cabbage.
Which Hamster is Best for Families with Small Children?
Most hamster breeds could make a great pet for a family with small children.
The most popular is the Syrian hamster, also known as the Teddy Bear hamster or Golden hamster due to its larger size and more gentle nature.
How Much Does a Pet Hamster Cost?
Pet hamsters usually cost between $15 and $25 and can easily be found for sale at local pet stores.
Keep in mind you will still need to buy a suitable hamster cage and hamster wheel in addition to other items to keep your hamster healthy and happy.
Are Guinea Pigs the Same as Hamsters?
While Guinea Pigs and Hamsters are both small rodents they are not the same. Guinea Pigs are generally about two to three times larger than hamsters.
They also come from different continents. Hamsters are from Asia and Europe while Guinea Pigs come from South America.
What are Roborovski Hamsters?
Roborovski hamsters are some of the smallest and fastest hamsters in the world. They weigh less than one ounce!
While some people keep them as pets it is generally not recommended for families with children as Roborovski hamsters do not like to be held.
Can I Use Cat Litter for My Hamster Cage?
Cat litter is not recommended for hamster cages as it is possible your hamster would eat it and that could cause clumping. Clumping is an internal blockage that could require surgery.
What Should I Use for my Hamster Cage Bedding?
Be aware that your hamster may eat its bedding so it is important to make sure you only use a material that is digestible and won’t cause any health issues. Don’t use paper with ink on it such as from newspapers or magazines.
Here is a list of suitable hamster cage bedding.
- Aspen shavings (do not use Cedar or Pine shavings)
- Dried grass
- Hay (Alfalfa or Timothy varieties)
- Paper pellets
- Professional hamster bedding from your local pet shop
- Toilet paper (make sure it is unscented)
Hamsters can be great starter pets for those with small children or small living space for a furry companion.
By giving them proper care and love, you and your hamster can form a strong bond together.