Although hamsters have some disadvantages (as do all pets!) when it comes to care, they make excellent pets for a variety of reasons. If you’re thinking about owning hamsters but aren’t sure if they’re right for you, here’s some essential information in case you want to get a hamster and why you should keep one!
Should I Get 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 become very stressed if kept in groups. Syrian hamsters must be kept on their own, and Dwarf hamsters that fight ought to be separated too. This solidarity needs to be counteracted by a lot of attention from the owner.
RELATED ARTICLE: Why Syrian Hamsters Live Together in Pet Stores but Not at Your Home
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 end up being very unhappy. Many owners have had a lot of success keeping pairs of brothers or pairs of sisters together as they leave the nest.
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 creatures 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.
Another key difference is within their sleep schedules – hamsters are mainly active at night, but gerbils can be active in short bursts during 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.
Should I Get A Hamster Or A Rat?
The answers to these questions should provide you with a good indication as to which is the best pet for you.
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 have to be kept on their own as they’re quite territorial, but rats need a friend to keep them company.
Second, rats require 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 usually kept in conditions that are too cramped, it is inevitable that battles 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 just two rats, you’ll need at least a cage with four cubic ft of space, and the more area you can give them the better.
Hamsters and rats are very different species, and so require very different things from their owners.
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.
Should I Get 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 creatures and will need a lot of space to roam around in. Mice will jump and climb and skitter all over their enclosure, something that is great fun to watch. These habits mean that they will require a lot of area 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 have to be cleaned out a little more frequently than a hamster.
Depending on the hamster species you select, you may or may not be able to keep them in pairs, and they may be a significantly larger than a mouse. 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. How many pets would you like? How much space do you have? How much time can you offer your pet?
Should I Get Hamster Or A Guinea Pig?
Some of the most important things to consider are:
- How much space do you have?
- Do you have any other pets?
- Can you commit to looking after a pet for more than five years?
- Can you keep more than one animal?
- How much do you want to spend on your pet?
Hamsters and guinea pigs have become different creatures, and so which suits you as an owner requires some careful thought.
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 making use of 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 become kept on their own, these pets need quite a lot of attention from their personalers, and usually either in the early evening or at night, as they are usually 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. When makwithing your decision, it’s wise to think carefully about what you’d like out of a pet, and what in turn you can provide. You will also require to provide a hutch and a run, keep these animals in pairs, and offer them with fresh vegetables on an everyday 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 lots 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 plenty of stress and fear. If you have bigr 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 hamster owners recommend adopting hamsters as pets for kids, but we strongly advise that you prevent children of a very young age from holding any pet, because 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 family pets that don’t need a lot of handling time, like a pair of hamsters. Expert advice is that no child should end up being 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.
Should I Get A Female Or A Male Hamster?
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 femen can to be more boisterous and characterful. When it comes to size, the females of the species tend to be larger than the males, but both genders are extremely solitary and territorial, so will need to be continued 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 must be prepared to separate them permanently if fighting breaks out. To find out more on maintaining hamsters together, check out our ‘Keeping Hamsters Together’ section.
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.
2. Winter White
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 possess 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.
Should I Buy A Hamster?
Whether you adopt or buy your hamster, it’s a big decision ththet requires some careful thought. This section offers advice on the whether you should adopt or buy a hamster, but if you want a few help with making a decision to get a hamster in general, then check out Getting A Hamster.
If you would like to buy a hamster, then it’s a good idea to make sure that you’re not buying one from a breeder or shop that doesn’t have the animals’ best interests at heart. Unfortunately, some people over-breed hamsters and keep them in poor condition. Be wary of purchasing hamsters online or in any place where you can’t see what environment the animals are being kept in. If the vendor is keeping lots of adult hamsters together, such as Syrian Hamsters, then alarm bells should ring – these animals prefer to be kept apart, and this either suggests that plenty have been produced quickly, or that they are being kept in stressful conditions.
Before you buy a hamster, many people first consider adopting one from a sanctuary. Animal sanctuaries are temporary homes for lots of small animals, not just cats and dogs. You can see online if your local shelter looks after small mammals, or call them directly to ask if there are any currently residing in their sanctuary.
Should I Adopt A Hamster?
If you’ve decided to welcome a hamster into your home and have got all the necessary kit, then the next decision is where to get your new pet from. Adopting a hamster is a wonderful thing to do, as there are plenty of hamsters in shelters all over the country that would love the care and attention of an owner. Adopting a hamster instead of buying one is a wonderful way to help out a dog in need, and there are plenty to choose from at your local small animal shelter. By adopting an animal from a shelter, you not only help out the animal, but also the shelter, a charity that may usually be stretched for funds.
It’s worth considering that adopting a hamster rather than buying one may give you better access to advice. Although shopkeepers probably are quite knowledgeable about their pets, the people at the shelter will have looked after your new pet for at least a few weeks – who better to ask for advice?
In terms of cost, there isn’t much difference between buying a hamster and adopting one. If you’re adopting a hamster, how much this will cost depends on how long they’ve been at the shelter, but in general you can expect to pay about five pounds. This may vary a little depending on what center you adopt it from, but if you’re worried you can always have a look on the home’s website or ask a member of staff.
It’s exciting, isn’t it? Check out Things You Need To Consider Before Getting A Hamster.