Hamsters are excellent pets for thousands of people all over the world. They are surprisingly characterful individuals capable of developing strong bonds with their owners. Hamsters are relatively easy to look after, but they’re not for young children, and even if the child is over the age of ten or eleven, parents need to bear in mind that they will always need to be involved to make sure that this little being is looked after properly.
First,Hamsters can be very affectionate pets and are fun companions for all the family, but there are some things to consider before you commit to keeping a live animal. Firstly, everyone involved will want to be committed to having the pet before you all collectively take the plunge. Although they take up little space, hamsters need daily care and require cleaning out on a regular basis. Fortunately, with more modern cages like our Qute, this process takes as little as one minute.
Secondly, you’ll want to consider the fact that hamsters are actually nocturnal animals. Although some can acclimatise to getting up in the late afternoon or early evening, they shouldn’t be woken during the day, as this can be very stressful and upsetting for them.This means that if the pet is intended for a child, then their sleep cycles may be out of sync, severely limiting interaction time. Hamsters are better suited towards people who are perhaps up a little later, so they can properly bond and play with their pet. This interaction is important for both parties – hamsters are unusually dependent on their owners for entertainment and companionship if, as many need to be, they are kept on their own.
Thirdly, hamsters will need to be tamed. They need to become used to being around and being handled by humans. Depending on what species of hamster you choose, this can be a quick or a lengthy process.
A Hamster Or A Gerbil?
Although they are both small rodents, there are some vital differences in how these animals should be kept that mean they require different things from their owners. Whichever you choose should depend on your circumstances – who is the pet for? Do you mind a nocturnal pet? Do you want to be able to keep two or more of these animals? Although hamsters and gerbils have similar food and housing requirements, we’ve identified some key differences in their requirements as pets, and outlined them below.
Some species of hamsters must be kept on their own. Although some of the pet species can be kept together, hamsters are very territorial and can be very stressed if kept in groups. Syrian hamsters must be kept on their own, and Dwarf hamsters that fight should be separated too. This solidarity needs to be counteracted by a lot of attention from the owner.
Hamsters are nocturnal animals, and at the earliest they will be awake in the late evenings. This means that (among other reasons) they aren’t great pets for young children, as there won’t be much time for the child to play with their pet, and the animal will lead quite a lonely, solitary life. These pets are a better option for an older owner, such as a teenager or an adult. These animals can expect to live for roughly two to three years, and they will need a big, solid cage, and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables throughout their lives.
Gerbils have very different needs as pets and live for slightly longer, for four or five years. Unlike hamsters, gerbils will absolutely need to be kept in pairs, as alone they will be very unhappy. Many owners have had a lot of success keeping pairs of brothers or pairs of sisters together as they leave the nest.
Another key difference is in their sleep schedules – hamsters are mainly active at night, but gerbils can be active in short bursts throughout the day, too, so not only are they less likely to get lonely than hamsters, but they can bond with their owners for short periods in the daytime. Be careful when you’re purchasing a wheel for these animals – you’ll need to buy one without gaps between the rungs, as these animals have tails that can get caught when the wheel is in motion.
A Hamster Or A Rat?
Hamsters and rats are very different species, and so require very different things from their owners.
First and foremost, rats need to be kept in pairs or groups, rather than singly like most hamsters. Keeping a rat on it’s own is likely to lead to a very upset pet. Lots of hamsters need to be kept on their own as they’re quite territorial, but rats need a friend to keep them company.
Second, rats need a very large home so that they don’t fight amongst themselves. In general, rats are a lot larger than hamsters and therefore need a lot more space. If they are kept in conditions that are too cramped, it is inevitable that fights will break out.
Rats are far larger than hamsters, and always need to be in pairs or groups. Do you have enough room for two rats? The general advice is that each rat will need about two cubic feet of space at the very least. So, for two rats, you’ll need at least a cage with four cubic feet of space, and the more space you can give them the better.
Some owners claim that rats are more affectionate than hamsters, but this is likely to vary on a pet-by-pet basis. Rats can be extremely affectionate pets, bonding strongly with their owners and actively seeking their affection. Rats are extremely intelligent creatures and they can make very entertaining pets.
A Hamster Or A Mouse?
Both mice and hamsters are really great pets, but there are some differences in temperament and how they will need to be kept, that require some careful consideration.
Mice, unlike hamsters, shouldn’t be kept on their own. They exist in groups, and so to keep these animals happy you’ll want to keep them in mischiefs (groups) of two or more. Despite being a lot smaller than most hamsters, they are very active animals and will need a lot of space to roam around in. Mice will jump and climb and skitter all over their enclosure, something which is great fun to watch. These habits mean that they will need a lot of space to run around in, and this will increase as the size of the mouse does.
Some other differences include smell. Whilst some owners claim that their pets product little odour, many, especially owners of mice, report that their pets’ cages produce a strong odour if not cleaned out very frequently. Mice scent-mark parts of their enclosure to communicate, but unfortunately this smell is quite pungent and means that they may need to be cleaned out a little more frequently than a hamster.
Depending on the hamster species you choose, you may or may not be able to keep them in pairs, and they may be a significantly larger than a mouse. When making your decision, it’s wise to think carefully about what you’d like out of a pet, and what in turn you can provide. How many pets would you like? How much space do you have? How much time can you offer your pet? The answers to these questions should give you a good indication as to which is the best pet for you.
A Hamster Or A Guinea Pig?
Hamsters and guinea pigs are very different creatures, and so which suits you as an owner requires some careful thought. Some of the most important things to consider are:
- How much space do you have?
- Can you commit to looking after a pet for more than five years?
- How much do you want to spend on your pet?
- Can you keep more than one animal?
- Do you have any other pets?
Hamsters are little animals, who need a much smaller home than guinea pigs, and a lot less food. Hamsters are great pet, and will bond strongly with their owners. These little creatures will be your companions for two or three years. They need a nice, big enclosure, regular feeding and plenty of exercise. Since they need to be kept on their own, these pets need quite a lot of attention from their owners, and usually either in the early evening or at night, as they are nocturnal.
Guinea pigs require a lot of daily care, but are also great pets. It’s generally advised that guinea pigs are better for adults and older children, generally people over the age of ten or eleven. If you do decide to keep a guinea pig, you’ll need to commit to taking care of this little animal for its whole life, which may be seven years or more. You will also need to provide a hutch and a run, keep these animals in pairs, and provide them with fresh vegetables on a daily basis.
Neither a hamster nor a guinea pigs will enjoy living anywhere that has larger pets, such as cats and dogs. Even though cats and dogs may only want to play with your smaller pet, they can cause a lot of damage to them – a paw placed on a guinea pig or hamster to stop it moving could be incredibly painful for the smaller animal, and a large animal staring through the cage at your little pet will cause a lot of stress and fear. If you have larger pets, it’s best to either stick to the large pets, or be sure that the larger animals don’t have access to the outside of the smaller pets’ cage.
If you want a pet for a child, then we advise looking at other options than hamsters and guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are very delicate creatures who will need lots of space, cleaning and feeding, whilst hamsters are nocturnal and don’t like being woken during daylight hours. Some pet owners recommended adopting mice as pets for kids, but we strongly advise that you prevent children of a very young age holding any pet, as they could hold the pet too tightly and bruise it, or drop it on the floor. If your child is very young, then a good idea might be to wait for a few years, then to choose pets that don’t need a lot of handling time, such as a pair of mice. Expert advice is that no child should be given the main responsibility for looking after a pet. Ownership is fun for the whole family, and most people recommend that looking after the pet is a family responsibility.
Male Or Female?
Depending on the species of hamster, males and females can be quite different. Have a look below to find out about any significant differences between male and female hamsters of your species.
In terms of temperament, some owners have found that the males tend to be more easy-going, whilst the females can to be more boisterous and characterful. In terms of size, the females of this species tend to be larger than the males, but both genders are extremely solitary and territorial, so will need to be kept on their own once they’re about five weeks old. It’s worth mentioning that some owners have reported that their female hamsters smell a bit more than usual when they go into heat every few days.
Unlike Syrian hamsters, most people report that there is no major personality difference between genders of Chinese hamsters. Neither is there any significant difference in size. The only thing to bear in mind is that, if you’re intending to keep these hamsters together, some experts recommend keeping males together rather than females, as they seem to be friendlier towards one another. In any case, an owner intending to keep hamsters together needs to be prepared to separate them permanently if fighting breaks out. For more information on keeping hamsters together, have a look at our ‘Keeping Hamsters Together’ section.
Winter Whites have little size difference between the sexes, so whether you opt for a male or a female you’ll likely get an hamster of roughly equal size. Some experts recommend that, like the Chinese hamster, owners intending to keep multiple hamsters should opt for males as they seem to have fewer objections to each others’ company and squabble less than a colony of females.
Less is known about Roborovski hamsters in general, but so far there is little to suggest much difference in temperament between the sexes, be it size, temperament, or otherwise.
In terms of size, there is no significant difference between males and females in this species. However, like many other hamster species, if a hamster is intended to be part of a Campbell group then it’s wise to create a group made up of just males, as females tend to fight more.