All hamster species are adorable, so how do you pick one? First, look at the different types of popular pet hamster breeds that are commonly available and compare their personalities for pet potential. Once you’ve narrowed down your hamster breed options, you can visit a pet store or a breeder to select your new furry friend.
Popular pet hamster breeds
Despite the fact that only five hamster breeds are kept as pets, there are approximately 20 species of hamsters worldwide. European hamsters, Russian hamsters, and Turkish hamsters are commonly used as test animals in laboratories but are not kept as pets due to their temperament.
Due to the docile personalities of these hammies and the variety of coat types and colors available, the Syrian hamster breed is the most popular with pet owners. These furry hamsters range in length from 4 to 7 inches, and an adult will take up your entire palm. The average lifespan is approximately two years.
★ Syrian hamster coat colors:
Syrians are commonly sold in pet stores under a variety of names based on their colors and patterns. These are not official variety names; they are simply marketing tools used to make these adorable little pets more appealing. The most common are golden hamsters, but there are several other color varieties to be aware of, including:
- Teddy Bear hamsters: Long-coated, fluffy hamsters in shades of white and cream, cinnamon, brown, different shades of gray and black; requires coat grooming.
- Fancy hamsters: This term is generally used for any type of Syrian beyond the common golden.
- Panda Bear: These black and white hamsters have a color pattern similar to their namesake.
- Black Bear: They are either all black, or black with some white on their bellies and feet.
Syrian hamster coat varieties include the following:
- Short: The fur is very fitted and plush.
- Long: The fur trails off the rump and males have longer, silkier coats than females.
- Rex: Not common in the United States, this coat stands on end, and the whiskers are curled.
- Satin: Satin coats have a beautiful sheen and can be long or short.
- Umbrous: This type has a dark gray wash over the ends of the fur.
★ Pros of Syrian hamsters:
Syrains make great pets because:
- Syrians are more laid back than their dwarf relatives, so they are easier to pick up and hold.
- They are also less nippy, especially if they are handled and socialized when they’re very young.
★ Cons of Syrian hamsters:
- Because they are nocturnal, they sleep during the day and are most active at night.
- They cannot be kept in a standard cage because they can slip through the bars more easily than any other dwarf species.
- They should also be housed separately because they will fight to the death.
The Chinese hamster is also known as a Chinese dwarf hamster, but it is not a true dwarf variety. They are tiny and grow to be about 4 inches long. These hamsters are initially fearful of being handled, but they quickly calm down and appear to enjoy being held by their human companions. Their average lifespan is nearly three years, but they can live for much longer if well cared for.
★ Chinese hamster coat colors:
There are two coat types associated with the Chinese dwarf hamster:
- Normal: This coloration on the upper body is brown at the base with black tips. The cheeks, chest and underside is white with a gray undercoat. A black stripe stretches from the animal’s forehead to the bottom of its tail.
- Dominant ppot: The hamster’s base coat is white with patches of normal coloring and a brown stripe from that runs from the forehead to the base of the tail.
★ Pros of Chinese hamsters:
Chinese hamsters are fun to care for:
- They are easily tamed and rarely nip once tamed.
- Once bonded, many will cling to their owners’ fingers.
- They are very intelligent and entertaining to watch as they scurry around their tanks.
★ Cons of Chinese hamsters:
They do require a little more care than the hardy Syrians.
- They’re prone to diabetes, which can be controlled with a sugar-free diet and plenty of water.
- They can also pick up cold viruses from their humans, so wash your hands before handling one if you’re sick. Better yet, avoid handling your pet until you’re well.
- All you can do is give it a try to see how they get along and separate anyone who gets picked on.
- They’re small enough to slip through the bars of the average hamster cage, so they must be kept in glass tanks with lids.
Campbell’s dwarf hamsters
Campbell’s dwarf hamsters, one of three Russian dwarf species, are among the most popular dwarf hamsters. Adults reach a length of about 4 inches. These adorable dwarfs have a life expectancy of 18 months to 2 years.
★ Campbell’s dwarf hamster coat colors:
Campbell’s dwarf hamsters come in many colors and color combinations including, but not limited to:
- Albino hamster: This hamster is white with red eyes.
- Agouti: This is a blend of grey and brown with a white underbelly.
- Black: The hamster has black fur and black eyes.
- Cinnamon: Also referred to as argente, the fur is cinnamon brown and the hamster has red eyes.
- Opal: This hamster has a blue-grey color with a white underbelly and red eyes.
★ Pros of Campbell’s hamsters:
Lively little Campbell’s hamsters are charming.
- Campbell’s dwarfs can usually live together in same-gender colonies if they are introduced to each other at a very young age. Some individuals can be kept together while others prefer to live alone.
- Unlike the nocturnal Syrian hamster, these dwarfs are generally most active around dawn and dusk, which gives you more opportunity to observe and interact with them.
- They are very active and entertaining to watch.
★ Cons of Campbell’s hamsters:
There are some challenges to keeping them, including health issues:
- This type of hamster tends to have poor eyesight and is prone to developing cataracts.
- Like the Chinese hamster, the Campbell is also prone to diabetes.
- Campbell’s also tend to be nippy, perhaps due to their poor eyesight and being startled easily.
- They can escape wire cages easily, so house them in a large glass tank or plastic tub with a secure, ventilated lid.
Winter White dwarf hamsters
Winter whites are another type of Russian dwarf hamster, and they are so similar to Campbell’s dwarf that it can be difficult for non-experts to tell them apart when the winter white is not in its winter coat color. They typically grow to be 3 to 4 inches long and live for about 2 years.
★ Winter White dwarf hamster coat colors:
Winter Whites get their name because they molt to white during the winter and blend in with the snow. They are, however, available in three standard colors. A few more color mutations exist, which may or may not be the result of crossbreeding. The following are the standard colors:
- Normal: This is a mixture of black and gray that’s characteristic of these hamsters as they’re found in the wild.
- Sapphire: This is a bluish-gray color.
- Pearl: This coat is white with darker-colored tips.
★ Pros of Winter White dwarf hamsters:
Just a few reasons to select this hamster include:
- Winter whites are reasonably easy to tame if you approach them slowly, handle them carefully, and feed them favorite foods from your hand.
- The color change keeps things interesting, although many won’t go through the change since they live indoors.
- While they may still nip from time to time, they are less likely to nip than other dwarf species.
- These little cuties are also said to be a bit friendlier than their Russian counterparts.
- Like the Campbell’s dwarf hamster, these hamsters may also be active early and late in the day.
★ Cons of Winter White dwarf hamsters:
A few reasons to avoid selecting a winter white dwarf hamster include:
- Winter Whites are known to let out a high-pitched squeal when something disturbs them, and this can be quite startling for their owners.
- The average hamster cage found at pet supply stores usually has bar spacing that’s too wide for these dwarfs.
Roborovski dwarf hamsters
Roborovski dwarf hamsters, also known as “Robos,” are the last member of the Russian dwarf hamster species. They are smaller than the other two species, measuring about 2 inches long, and are generally quieter and more timid. Their lifespan is usually 2 to 3 years. Roborovski dwarf hamsters, also known as “Robos,” are the last member of the Russian dwarf hamster species. They are smaller than the other two species, measuring about 2 inches long, and are generally quieter and more timid. Their average lifespan is 2 to 3 years.
★ Roborovski dwarf hamsters coat colors:
Robos are sandy brown with a white underside and legs. They also have white spots above their eyes and, unlike the other Russian species, lack the dark stripe on the back. There is also a white-faced variety, sometimes referred to as a Husky.
★ Pros of Roborovski dwarf hamsters:
These little hamsters have a lot to offer:
- Robos can be extremely active when they are awake, so you’ll have plenty of time to watch.
- They’re awake part of the day, which makes it more convenient to interact with them.
- They love to have a good assortment of toys, huts and chews to keep them busy, so you can have fun shopping for them.
★ Cons of Roborovski dwarf hamsters:
Some personality and medical issues potential owners need to be aware of:
- These are one of the most timid and easily startled hamsters of all, so handle them with great care.
- Robos can pick up common viruses from their owners, so it’s best to limit contact with them and their environment when your sick. Be especially sure to wash your hands before refilling their food and water if you’re ill.
- These hamsters are also prone to a neurological disorder that causes them to spin, especially if they feel stressed. Depending on the severity a particular individual is afflicted with, most of these hamsters can still live a decent life with this condition.
Hamsters with red eyes
Red eyes can occur in various hamster breeds for a variety of reasons. Hamster breeders can produce a dark red, “garnet” coat along with cream, cinnamon, mink, or fawn coats in some cases. On the other hand, you can have hamsters with red eyes that are either pink or bright red in color, as well as a pure white coat.
These hamsters are albinos, which can occur in Hungarian and Syrian hamsters and is not a distinct breed. Albino hamsters are uncommon, and they are more prone to developing various health issues such as skin diseases, cancer, and vision problems.
Hamsters with pink eye
If your hamster suddenly develops pink or reddish colored eyes, they are suffering from conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye.” You may also notice that their eyes are swollen and wet, and their eyelids may stick together or give the impression that the hamster can’t open his/her eyes. If the condition worsens, you may notice red, irritated skin around your eyes as well. This is an emergency situation that necessitates immediate veterinary attention.
FAQs about hamsters
Because hamsters are a popular pet breed, many prospective hamster owners have questions about which breed is best for them and how to care for their hamsters in general.
- What is the friendliest hamster breed?
All hamster breeds can be friendly if you work hard to tame them and make them enjoy spending time with you. The Syrian hamster is the most outgoing and friendly of the species. They also have the advantage of being larger and slower than other breeds, which makes picking them up easier and less stressful on the hamster.
Syrians must also be kept separately, with a single hamster in each enclosure. Because they lack other social bonds, they are more likely to seek attention from humans. Syrians are the best breed for children because of their larger size and general friendliness, which make them more tolerant than their more timid and smaller cousins.
- How many hamster species are there?
Although only five breeds are kept as pets, there are currently about 25 species of hamsters worldwide. European hamsters, Russian hamsters, and Turkish hamsters are frequently used as test animals in laboratories but are not kept as pets due to their temperament.
- Do hamsters enjoy being handled?
The enjoyment of a hamster in being held is determined by their species as well as their early experiences with humans. Some hamsters can learn to enjoy cuddling with humans, whereas others find it stressful and prefer to interact with you in other ways. Working slowly with your hamster to get it used to being held, combined with wonderful things like treats, can help your hamster find human contact rewarding.
- Do hamsters react negatively to certain smells?
To compensate for their poor vision, hamsters have an excellent sense of smell. As a result, there are certain common household odors that your hamster will dislike. Strong chemicals, such as household cleaners, as well as scented air fresheners, will irritate your hamster. They also dislike the smell of citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruit.
- Is it possible to potty train a hamster?
Because this is a natural instinct for hamsters, you can train them to eliminate in one area of their cage.
You can buy a small litter pan from a pet store or make your own out of a small plastic container. You can get litter for your hamster’s box from a pet store or use any cat clumping litter that doesn’t contain silica. Add some of your hamster’s urine or feces from his cage to the litter container and then watch him. You want to put him in the box every time he wakes up so that he associates the box with going to the bathroom.
Choosing between all of the different types of hamsters is bound to be difficult. The best thing you can do is spend time with the species that most interest you to ensure you know what to expect from them. One of the various types of hamsters will undoubtedly feel like the best choice, but you can always get multiple types and house them separately as needed. That way, you can have as many hamsters as you think you can care for.
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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