Types of Hamsters

Hamsters are common family pets. They’re distant cousins of mice and rats. Their small size and cleanliness make them easy to care for. Hamsters are good pets for children or first-time pet owners. They are affordable pets, but it’s important to consider their short lifespan before buying.

Syrian hamsters are the most popular pet hamster. Different dwarf breeds and long-haired breeds of hamster are common, too. Some types of hamsters may be more suitable to your family than others. 

Syrian Hamster. These popular hamsters are also known as Teddy Bear Hamsters. They’re friendly and easy to care for. They live for about two to three years. This hamster breed should live alone because they can be aggressive towards other hamsters. These hamsters make great pets for children of all ages and are good for families.

Chinese Hamster. These hamsters have a longer tail than other breeds. They are good for children and can be easy to handle. They are very quick and agile. They live for about two to three years. They can get along with other hamsters but prefer to live alone. Children will need supervision when handling them because they like to escape.

Campbell’s Russian Dwarf Hamster. These small hamsters can be quick and challenging to handle. They are social and will get along with other dwarf hamsters. They live for about one to two years. Because these hamsters can be challenging to handle, they make better pets for older children and adults. 

Winter White Dwarf Hamster. These hamsters are the second-smallest breed. Their fur changes color from white in the winter to gray in the summer. They can be difficult to handle and are not great for small children. They live for about one to two years. They are social and if introduced early can live in groups of the same sex. 

Roborovski Dwarf Hamster. This is the smallest type of hamster. They are more inclined to bite and should be handled with care. Their biting doesn’t make them great options for small children. They live for about three to four years. You can house them in a pair or groups of the same sex. These hamsters make good pets for older children and adults.

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Tips for Choosing a Pet Hamster

Hamsters are easy to care for compared to other common pets. You will need to consider which type of hamster is best for you. Here are some things to consider before choosing to bring a hamster into your home:

You can afford to buy and maintain a hamster. Hamsters are affordable pets. They do have a larger startup cost than maintenance cost. Before bringing your hamster home you’ll need the following: 

  • Cage or some kind of enclosed habitat
  • Bedding and nesting material
  • Nest box or enclosed area to rest
  • Exercise wheel
  • Water bottle
  • Food dish
  • Food
  • Toys

Hamsters can carry diseases. Salmonella and Lymphocytic choriomeningitis, which cause flu-like symptoms, can be spread from hamsters to humans. Young children and older adults can be at greater risk of contracting these diseases. You’ll need to take caution when cleaning your hamster's living space. Children should wash their hands after handling pet hamsters. 

There’s space for your hamster. Happy hamsters will need a big enough cage to run around and burrow in. Hamsters are nocturnal and active mostly at night. Cages with tunnels and extra space to roam will make your hamster happy. Hamsters can sometimes be escape artists and require secure cages. You’ll want space for your hamster in your home away from bedrooms and other sleeping areas. Their activity can keep you up at night. Hamsters can get stressed in busy and noisy areas of your home. They’ll need a quiet, private area to rest. 

Hamsters can bite. When stressed or frightened they get defensive and bite. Hamsters will bite when being restrained or scared when held. This can be a shock for children. Children will need to learn proper handling and care for their hamsters. This will reduce the chance of being bitten. Children need supervision when handling small pets. Leaving them unattended can be dangerous for the child and pet.

Your family will help you. Caring for a pet can be a fun bonding experience for your family. You'll want less aggressive hamsters if you have small children. Hamsters are low-maintenance pets but will need extra care. Your child can help feed your pet. This is a daily responsibility. Hamsters also need their cages cleaned weekly. To stay healthy, they need clean bedding to burrow into. The type of hamster you buy or adopt should depend on you and your family's lifestyle. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kathleen Claussen, DVM on July 08, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

The Humane Society of the United States: “Is a hamster the right pet for you?”

Merck Manual: “Introduction to Hamsters.”

My Family Vets: “Different types of hamsters: the ultimate guide.”

PDSA: “The ideal home for your hamster.”

PetMD: “What Type of Hamster Should You Get?”

Troy Animal Hospital & Bird Clinic: “Which Hamster Breed is Right for You?”

VCA Hospitals: “Owning a Pet Hamster.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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