Hamsters of any breed make fantastic pets, whether you have a Syrian or a Dwarf hamster breed. They are great pets for all ages and are a whole lot of fun. They can help teach children responsibility and are also ideal for those who live in flats or apartments where space may be more restricted.
However, two important questions remain: which hamsters can live together, and which hamsters are likely to fight?
Which hamsters make the best pairings?
Syrian hamsters must always be kept alone as they are solitary animals, but if you choose a different breed of hamster that prefers a cage-mate, it is important to consider which pairings are best. Did you know that hamsters can reach sexual maturity as young as four weeks old? To avoid unwanted litters, stick to same-sex pairings. Ideally, pairings and groups should come from the same litter as they are more likely to get on. Squabbles and fights can be common however – particularly in males – so careful monitoring is needed in case they have to be separated.
How do you tell a male and female hamster apart?
Reputable pet shops and other retailers should be able to sex hamsters for you before purchase; however, you may need to check the sex yourself if you planning on keeping hamsters in pairs or groups.
Only female hamsters have nipples, but the most reliable way to check is by carefully inspecting the bottom end while the hamster is very gently turned on their back. The space between the anus and genital openings (the anogenital distance) is generally twice as long in males – there is often hardly any distance at all between these areas in females, with the anus and genitals appearing almost side-by-side.
What are the different hamster breeds?
There are five hamster breeds in the UK that are commonly kept as pets. Each breed can have different needs and requirements.
This is the animal that most people associate with the word ‘hamster’, and the breed was originally known as the ‘Golden’ hamster. They are the larger and chunkier of breeds, usually measuring about 4-6 inches in length and they come in 40 different colour variations. This breed of hamster is solitary by nature, so the golden rule for the golden hamster is that you should keep only one Syrian hamster per cage. Naturally these hamsters only meet to mate. Syrians are great pets for all ages, due to their size as they are easy to handle and unlike some of the dwarf hamster breeds, Syrians remain tame even after periods of not being handled, although daily handling of your hamster is highly recommended. Syrians are very friendly creatures and love to interact and explore!
Campbell’s Russian Dwarf Hamster
These hamsters are often known as ‘dwarf’ or ‘Russian’ hamster and grow to 8cm in length. They can live together – either two of the same sex as a pair and sometimes in same sex groups. Same sex pairs can fall out so it is important to keep an eye out for signs of bullying and have the possibility of separating them if needs be. Their coats come in a wide range of colours and can also be Satin coated. Unlike Syrians, Russian dwarfs have furry feet and tails.
Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamster
These little critters are often confused with the Campbell’s hamster as they are also known as the ‘dwarf’ or ‘Russian’. These hamsters have a distinctive Roman nose and are oval shaped which easily sets them apart from other species. Environmental conditions and breeding patterns are very similar to those of the Campbell’s hamsters; however coat colours are more limited.
Like the two Russian Dwarf hamsters these can also live in pairs or small groups but as with other dwarf hamsters, it is best to keep an eye out for any squabbles and separate them if needed. Growing to 9cm they are slightly longer and thinner than the two Russian hamsters. As well as their longer bodies they also have longer tails than other hamster breeds which are also prehensile. This allows the hamster to cling to objects! Their coats come in two or three colour variations.
Also known as the ‘Robo’, the Roborovski’s hamster is the smallest member of the hamster family. As a fully mature adult they rarely exceed 7cm in length from the tip of the nose to their almost non-existent tail! Their care and maintenance is much the same as Russian hamsters. They are sociable and happily live in groups or pairs but be aware of any signs of aggressive behaviour. This breed of hamster very rarely bites, but can be difficult to handle due their extremely active temperaments. These tiny pets only have 1 coat colour variation.
One thing is for sure – owning hamsters can be an absolute delight. Their friendly faces and playful natures make them enchanting furry companions. With prior considerations into breed and pairings, you can make sure your home will be a harmonious one for both human and hamster!
Keen for more hamster-care advice and tips? Check out our expert blogs here.