Do Hamsters Make Good Pets?

If you're interested in getting a pet but feeling like you want to go in a direction other than a dog or a cat, you might want to consider adopting a hamster. Hamsters are cute, small, and very curious. However, just because they are little and can seem like an easy pet, there are some important factors that you should consider when you are deciding whether a hamster is right for you.

Golden Hamster
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How long do hamsters live as pets?

Hamster lifespans range from approximately 2.5 to 3 years. This can be difficult if you want to have a pet for a longer period of time, especially if you have small children who might have a hard time with the death of a pet. Otherwise, the shorter lifespan can be good for someone who cannot necessarily have a pet with a longer lifespan.

What do hamsters eat?

To make sure that your hamster has a complete healthy diet, it's recommended that you feed them complete meals in pellet form, which you can find at your local pet store. Sometimes complete hamster food can come in the for form of seed mixture, but your hamster can pick around these options and miss important food groups. Hamsters can be picky eaters, too, and the best way to make sure they have a nutritious diet is to make sure they eat all their hamster food groups.

Hamsters can also snack on certain fruits and vegetables in moderation, like:

  • Celery
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumbers
  • Raspberries
  • Mango
  • Carrots
  • Grapes
  • Peeled Sweet potatoes (unpeeled can pose health risks for your little hamster)
  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Cantaloupe

However, foods with high sugar content like grapes and carrots should be given sparingly because they can cause diabetes in hamsters. It is safest to consult with your vet on how much of these foods your hamster can ingest based on their breed and size.

Avoid feeding your hamster tomatoes and other foods in the nightshade family, as those can cause neurological and digestive tract issues.

Girl Holding First Pet Hamster
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How much space do hamsters need?

You should aim for a minimum of twenty-four by twelve-inch cages. And if your hamster is active, you should get a larger cage to keep your hamster active and happy. The more floor space the better. A lot of hamster cages are designed for Dwarf hamsters, but if you have a Syrian hamster these cages are usually too small. Consider the amount of floor space that your hamster will need to run around in addition to the wheels and upwardly built space, because the more space your hamster can get, the better.

Syrian hamsters like to live alone and are very territorial. If you have more than one hamster, they have to have their own spaces. If they are kept in the same space, they can become very aggressive and inflict harm on one another. Female Syrian hamster will kill and eat their babies if the babies are disturbed. It is also not recommended to breed hamsters. However if you have Dwarf hamsters, they can live in the same space as long as they have been introduced and allowed to adjust to one another.

What are hamster personalities like?

Hamsters are active, curious, and pretty independent. They are nocturnal, so keep in mind if you are keeping them in someone's bedroom, they will be playful and awake when all the humans in the house are going to sleep. Hamsters can be pet and gently snuggled, but they are also tiny compared to humans and when startled will bite to defend themselves. They should be handled gently and avoid loud noises, fast movement or rough play. Children should have adult supervision while playing with them because children can unintentionally squeeze them, drop them, or be too harsh with them in other ways.

Little boy peeking through terrarium behind his pet hamster
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Can you train a hamster?

Yes! You can train a hamster! You can teach it to use a litter box and do tricks like roll over, jump or fetch. Once your hamster is used to you and feels safe with you, you can work on teaching it fun little tricks. Just have treats on hand to work with them when they are naturally awake. Evenings are best since they are nocturnal and will naturally be active then.

Bonding with your hamster

How do you bond with your hamster? There are a number of ways.

1.) Gently hold them in your hand. If they do not feel comfortable with that, start by offering treats in your hand, until they feel good approaching and sitting in your palm.

2.) Let your hamster crawl on you so it becomes accustomed to you and your scent.

3.) Teach your hamster tricks!

4.) Spend time gently talking to your hamster in a calm soothing voice.

5.) Stroke your hamster down their back using your index and middle finger gently.

Where is it illegal to own hamsters?

If you live in Hawaii, it's illegal to own a hamster as a pet.

Children feeding a hamster through the door of its cage
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Conclusion

Hamsters are fun and loving, but need time to adjust. It is also recommended that you adopt from a rescue instead of getting one at a pet store since hamsters and other smaller animals can be overbred, which results in them dealing with abuse and trauma from being kept in small spaces with other animals. Make sure you feel ready for a hamster before you get one. If after reading this you feel like a hamster would fit your life, then we say go forth and love a hamster!