Can hamsters be kept together?
You may have heard and been confused by the debate as to whether hamsters can be safely kept together or not. To answer your questions, we have put together an article which serves as a handy guide to whether or not certain hamsters can be housed together, why and why not, and how to go about doing it the right way.
Strictly solitary, relatively tame
Syrian hamsters must always be housed separately in their own cages because they are highly territorial. This behaviour is observed in both the wild and in captivity. A research expedition conducted between 1997 to 1999 found that all the Syrian hamsters being monitored were living in individual burrows, proving that this need for solitude is deeply embedded in their nature.
As a result, Syrian hamsters are known to attack one another. Even siblings from the same litter have been observed to viciously fight each other. Male and females only come in contact to mate and even so, the female can become aggressive immediately after.
Needless to say, such violence often leads to grave injuries and even death. Save yourself the vet fees and heartbreak, and let your Syrian enjoy a cage all to itself.
Strictly solitary, not suitable for children
Much like Syrian hamsters, Chinese hamsters are also solitary by nature and should always be kept individually in their own cages at all times.
Studies have shown that Chinese hamsters have a strong preference for empty nests as compared to occupied ones. They have been also documented exhibiting extreme intolerance of one another.
Although this species of hamster is currently not on the market in Singapore, should they eventually become available, we strongly encourage parents to always house them individually.
Separation recommended, relatively tame
Did you know that dwarf hamsters sometimes share burrow tunnels in the wild to save themselves the trouble of digging their own? There have been reports of dwarf hamsters sharing burrows with other hamsters and even Pikas. The different diets of dwarf hamster versus other hamster species, as well as their relatively bountiful natural habitats, lead to fewer fights over food and territory.
However, it is important to note that not all dwarf hamsters are sociable. Ultimately, the possibility of pairing hinges heavily on the temperament of your hamster and the cage environments provided.
Separation recommended, not suitable for children
Although there have been some rare cases of Roborovskis living in groups in the wild, they are more commonly known for their territorial and aggressive behaviour.
As is the case with hybrid dwarf hamsters, Roborovskis may occasionally tolerate a cagemate. However, fights are likely to occur, as captive environments are very different than in the wild (think surface area size) and, hence, territorial instincts are also quicker to surface.
But pet shops keep them together!
Most of the time, hamsters from pet shops come from breeding mills and are still extremely young, before their territorial behaviour kicks in. These young hamsters are sold at fast rates, entering and leaving the pet shops before they can even familiarise themselves with their environments.
When two hamsters are bought together at a pet shop and brought home to a new and more stable environment, they usually start to fight each other as they mature and their territorial instincts begin to develop.
But my hamsters don’t fight!
Similarly to pet shop hamsters, young hamsters require a bit of time before their territorial instincts take root, and hence may be able to tolerate one another preliminarily. For dwarf hamsters, it is possible that they may ultimately coexist given the proper environment.
However, with Syrian or Chinese hamsters, it is a matter of when, not if, that a fight breaks out.
Always house them separately at all times.
We encourage housing any hamster from all species individually, as pawrents cannot feasibly watch over their hamsters round the clock, which means that, should a serious fight occur while no one is around, the hamsters might harm each other grievously.
Keeping (dwarf) hamsters together
SAME SEX: Ensure that your hamsters are of the same sex to provide unwanted pregnancies. Female hamsters reach fertility as early as four weeks, and are prolific breeders with an average litter size of about seven pups. Unethical breeding is strongly discouraged, as inexperienced breeders risk producing pups with severe health and temperament issues. Ideally, both hamsters should also come from the same litter (i.e. siblings) and have been introduced at a very young age (less than two months). The longer a hamster has been in a solitary environment, the harder it is to adapt to a new cagemate.
TWO OF EVERYTHING: When housing multiple hamsters together, ensure that they have access to their own food bowl, water, wheel and hideouts. This means having two food bowls, two bottles, two wheels and two hideouts. This is to ensure that your hamsters have fewer things to fight over. It also means having double the minimum space requirement for your cage to allow both of your hamsters to explore comfortably. You should only attempt to house a maximum of two hamsters in one enclosure at any time, as with any number greater than two per cage, there is a tendency of the stronger few ganging up to bully the weaker one.
KNOW WHEN TO SEPARATE: Squeaks, blood being drawn, or dominating behaviour being exhibited (i.e. one toppling the top of the other) are all signs of territorial behaviour, so please separate your hamsters immediately if you spot any of these signs. Parents who house hamsters together should also always have a standby cage on hand for this very reason. Bear in mind that even if all these conditions are met, fights can still occur, which is why we strongly recommend always housing your hamsters individually.
Can I house hamsters together?
– Syrian hamsters: No, they’re strictly solitary.
– Chinese hamsters: No, they’re strictly solitary.
– Dwarf hamsters: Highly unrecommended
– Roborovski hamsters: Highly unrecommended
If you want more helpful advice on looking after your hamster, including tips on food, toys, accessories and accommodation, add a comment below to let us know!
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