hamster cage climbs up isolated on white background

Do Hamsters Make Good Pets?

On your journey to find the best pet for your lifestyle, you might have stumbled across the ever-popular hamster. These adorable pocket pets are fluffy, silly, and have such prominent personalities. But do hamsters make good pets? As with most pet options, the answer is never quite as simple as yes or no. To see if these adorable little critters are the right pet for you, there are a few aspects you need to examine first. In this article, we will go over how hamsters are as pets and basic care.

hamster being held in two hands
little hamster gently being held

Do Hamsters Make Good Pets?

Hamsters can make excellent pets for the right owner and the right situation. Hamsters are inexpensive, easy to care for, and don’t require a lot of space. Hamsters are most active at dawn and dusk, so they won’t mind being alone during the day when most people are at school or work.

Hamsters are the perfect pet for a first-time pet owner. Since hamsters are not a very needy animal, they do not cost as much as other types of pets. You can expect hamsters to be docile and gentle creatures if appropriately handled and tamed when they are young. If not tamed, you could have a hamster that is purely for looking at, which is ok too since hamsters prefer being alone. Adults worldwide love having these small creatures since they are low maintenance and fascinating to watch.

If you are looking to get a hamster for a small child, we will caution against that. Most children do not know how to handle these little animals that can quickly scurry away. Young children are also prone to squeezing or throwing a hamster if bitten. The perfect age is ten and up. A child that is at least ten years old has better control over hand movements. They also have a better understanding of responsibility, which can make caring for hamsters easier.

Hamsters As Pets Pros And Cons

For you to get a better idea of how a hamster will fit into your life, it is best to look at the pros and cons. Like with most things in life, there are always good and bad aspects to everything. If for you, the good outweighs the bad, then a hamster is a perfect fit!

Pros Of Owning A Hamster

  • EASE – Hamsters are some of the easiest pets to own. They don’t need baths or grooming or even walks around the block. Hamsters are perfectly happy burrowing and stuffing their cheeks with food. Hamsters are great for anyone who has never owned a pet before.
  • CLEANLINESS – Another positive is that hamsters are very clean. They groom themselves often and don’t like to be soiled. They also naturally use one area of the cage for a bathroom. All you need to do is spot clean the designated potty area daily and clean the whole cage once a week. You will never have bad smells from your cage unless it is overdue for a scrub.
  • VARIETY – Something that most people don’t think about is that there are many breeds of hamsters. Each hamster breed is just a little different from the last. They all have different sizes, colors, and temperaments. The more options you have, the more likely you will find one that you just can’t live without.
  • SMALL SPACE NEEDED – Some larger animals take up a lot of space. If you live in smaller quarters having a large animal doesn’t work so well. Hamsters are great to fill the pet desire without compromising your living space or your pet’s comfortability.
  • INEXPENSIVE – Most pet owners are drawn to hamsters because they are so cheap. Most people can get a hamster and all necessary needs for under $150. After the initial costs, you will only have to spend $30-$40 a month on food, bedding, and chew sticks. This cost is something that most people can budget comfortably.
  • QUIET – And finally, the last pro is that hamsters are very quiet. You won’t hear them barking or moving around. They won’t keep your neighbors up or get you in trouble with the landlord. The only noise you will hear is them drinking from their water bottle and running on their wheels.

Cons Of Owning A Hamster

  • The biggest con of hamsters is that they are known nibblers. Hamsters explore the world around them through their teeth, so they are often misunderstood. They will nibble at your fingers to check for food, and if threatened, they will bite. In the case of small children, these bites can be very upsetting. Hamsters are accidentally thrown or squeezed during these panicked moments. These accidents can be lethal to such little creatures, and if they are fine, your child might be timid near them.
  • If you are looking for a buddy to hang out with you during the afternoon, you might want another type of pet. Hamsters are naturally crepuscular, which means that they are mostly active during the early morning hours, and at dusk. This is the time that they love to chew, run, and play on their wheels, so you shouldn’t keep them in bedrooms.
  • The saddest part of owning a hamster is that they do not live long. The average lifespan of a hamster is 2-4 years, and that’s just not enough time with a beloved pet.
  • If you had hopes of having multiple hamsters, we are sorry to say that this isn’t very likely. Hamsters typically do well when very young, but after a few months, they will start to fight. Hamsters prefer to be alone and not in packs like some small animals.
  • Hamsters have deep pouches on the insides of their cheeks. These pouches can reach to their hip bones. In the wild, these pouches come in handy to store food or treats. But in captivity, they could cause a greedy hamster to overstuff. It’s not uncommon for hamsters to get infections within these pouches. These infections are treated easily, but they don’t come cheap.
  • And lastly, hamsters are not the cuddliest of pets. They can enjoy the company, but they aren’t the type to come and want kisses and scratches.

Hamster Basics

If you got through the pros and cons list without rethinking getting a hamster, congrats! You are now on the next step of your pet hamster journey. Now we can talk about the basic needs of a pet hamster and how to take care of them.

  • HOUSING– An essential part of owning a pet is where you keep it. Most people think that when they get a hamster that they can go into those cute cages with all the tunnels. But these can be very stressful for your hamster. They are too small and don’t provide enough running space. The tubes can also be problematic and hard to clean. Larger species, like Syrians, can easily get stuck in the small plastic tubes. Specialists in the field recommend having at least 450 square inches of uninterrupted space. Wire cages like the Prevue Pet Products 528 or the MidWest Critterville Brisby give your hamster the fresh air that they need, and space to stretch out.
  • BEDDING AND LITTER – The best bedding for a hamster is a low dust pine bedding. This bedding is cheap and found at almost any pet supply store or feed store. The bedding will need to be at least 3 inches thick to give your hamster lots of burrowing room. This bedding is safe if they chew on it and doesn’t cause them respiratory distress like some paper bedding can. This bedding is also used as a litter. All you need to do is buy a tiny litter box to stick in your hamster’s favorite corner. When it’s time to spot clean the cage, you can easily dump it and refill it.
  • DIET – Choosing a diet for your hamster can be difficult. There are so many brands of food, and they all might seem like a great choice. But, truthfully, hamsters need a mixture of food to keep them happy. Their primary diet should be a seed diet without corn or peas. Corn and peas are a popular ingredient because it is cheap and makes a great filler. But recent studies have found that these ingredients can lead to diabetes in hamsters. In addition to seeds, hamsters will need protein to fulfill their nutritional needs. You can either give your hamster the occasional mealworm or cricket or add in a block pellet food.
  • EXERCISE – The primary source of exercise for a hamster is in its wheels. These wheels should be large enough that they can fit comfortably without bending their backs. Wheels should be at least 6.5 inches for dwarf hamsters and up to 12 inches for larger ones. Another way to exercise your hamster is by letting them free roam in a designated safe pin. These smaller hamster pins have small bars and can give them some freedom. Stay away from things like balls. These balls get hot and humid inside, which can make it hard to breathe. Hamsters also have small toes that get stuck in the tiny air slits. It isn’t uncommon for hamsters to get hurt playing in these.
  • CHEW STICKS – Hamsters, like other rodents and lagomorphs (rabbits and hares), have teeth that continually grow, which means they need a way to keep them filed down. That is where the chew sticks come in handy. These sticks can make fun toys for your hamster and does an excellent job of keeping dental health.
collage of 3 different hamsters

Hamster Breeds

Now that you know the basics of having hamsters as pets, its time to choose one. We have listed below the five hamster breeds and what makes them different.

BreedAverage SizeAverage Lifespan
Russian Dwarf Hamster~3.5 inchesabout 2 years
Syrian Hamster5-7 inches2-3 years
Robo Dwarf Hamster1-2 inches3+ years
Winter White Hamster3 inchesup to 3 years
Chinese Dwarf Hamster3-4 inches2-3 years

Russian Dwarf Hamster – These hamsters are great pets for the first time owner. They are small, docile, and cute creatures. The Russian Dwarf only gets to be about 3.5 inches long and lives for about two years.

Syrian Hamster – These hamsters are larger than most other hamsters that can get 5-7 inches long. Syrians come in a variety of colors and even in longer haired versions. The average lifespan of these hamsters is about 2-3 years.

Robo Dwarf Hamster – These small hamsters with cute eyebrows are the smallest. At only 1-2 inches long, these cuties will steal anyone’s heart. And these babies can live three years or more.

Winter White Hamster – These hamsters get their name because, during the warm months, their fur is brown or grey. And during the winter, their hair can change completely white. It can be a fascinating thing to watch with older children. These hamsters can live up to 3 years and top out at 3 inches long.

Chinese Dwarf Hamster – These hamsters are very calm creatures. They tend to be a little shy, but curious in their own ways. Chinese hamsters can live 2-3 years and get 3-4 inches long.

Hamsters As Pets

Now that you know the basics, you are prepared to bring home your first hamster! You will love having these adorable balls of fluff. They are perfect for a first-time pet owner, and can quickly become a great hobby. You might even find yourself with several cages and breeds once you are addicted.

Related Question

How Long Do Hamsters Live?

The lifespan of a hamster is a good deal shorter than most other common household critters. Of the five common species domesticated hamsters they all will generally live for two to three years.

Do Hamsters Smell?

Hamsters don’t typically stink but, if you aren’t good at staying on top of cleaning their cages, they sure will! A hamster’s cage needs daily cleaning of their potty area and a full cage cleaning where you dump all the bedding and wipe down the entire cage at least once a week. 

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