Hamsters are small, curious creatures that make excellent pets. If well cared for, they are friendly, sociable, and don’t require a lot of attention. Hamsters receive most of their exercise by running on a wheel and are fairly inexpensive to own. They also require minimal space and are the perfect pet for individuals living in small homes or apartments.
One of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make after deciding to adopt a hamster is what type you’ll be purchasing. According to National Geographic, there are more than 20 species of hamsters; however, only five are commonly adopted as pets. Here’s a look at the most popular hamster species kept as pets and why you may want to bring one of these adorable critters home.
Roborovski Dwarf Hamsters
The Roborovski dwarf hamster also referred to as the Robo, is the smallest species in the dwarf hamster family. These tiny rodents are quick and always on the go but can also be timid at times. What makes the Robo dwarf hamster a great pet is that they are full of personality and love to explore their environment.
Although Robos generally do not like to be held, they do enjoy interacting with others of their kind. As they are less cuddly, this species is best suited for families that would rather watch their pet play than hold it.
Roborovski dwarf hamsters can be found in a variety of colors, such as sandy (light brown), pure white, platinum, or “husky” (white face with a dark body). Robos have a fairly long lifespan compared to other species of hamsters, living an average of 3 to 4 years in captivity. Diet, genetics, stress, environment, and other factors can influence the lifespan of a hamster.
Campbell’s Dwarf Russian Hamsters
The Campbell’s dwarf hamster is a small, round-bodied critter with tiny ears and a brownish-gray coat. This species also has a distinct dark stripe that runs down its back. Campbell’s dwarf hamsters are very fast and relatively easy to care for. They have a simple diet and require standard enclosure cleaning. These low-maintenance pets are also affectionate but do require socializing to avoid behavioral nipping.
Like other species of hamsters, the Campbell’s dwarf Russian is nocturnal, meaning it is mostly active at night but maybe awake during periods of the day. They are fairly small in size, ranging between 2 to 4 inches long on average and weighing just 1 to 2 ounces.
Campbell’s dwarf hamsters make a good pet for older children who can carefully handle this delicate species. These hamsters can be comfortable with gentle handling but do not like to sit still for long.
Syrian (Golden) Hamsters
The Syrian hamster, also known as the golden hamster, is one of the most popular hamster species. They are entertaining to watch, easy to tame, fairly low-maintenance, and are a great choice for beginner hamster owners. Most Syrian hamsters are golden brown and have a light-colored belly. However, they can sometimes be found in other colors and patterns.
As Syrian hamsters are larger than other species, they tend to be more resilient, making them a better option for families with small children. They are also the most docile and enjoy being held once tamed.
Syrian hamsters are clever critters and enjoy running through tube mazes and other tunnel toys. They are also smart and will usually choose one corner of their habitat, furthest from their sleeping area, to use the bathroom. This allows you to spot clean this area and avoid frequent full cage cleanouts. Unlike many dwarf species, Syrian hamsters are solitary, territorial, and do not usually get along with other hamsters.
Dwarf Winter White Russian Hamsters
Dwarf winter white Russian hamsters are known for their social personality and docile nature. Due to the speed and small size, they can be difficult to hold; however, they do tend to be more tolerant of handling compared to other species.
The dwarf winter white Russian hamster is a relatively social species, meaning they can be kept in small groups or same-sex pairs when introduced at a young age. They are relatively low-maintenance pets that mostly involve regular cleanings and feedings.
This species of hamster typically grows to around 3 to 4 inches long and weighs just 1 to 2 ounces. Dwarf winter white Russian hamsters are a great pet for families with older children who know how to handle these quick, small critters.
Chinese hamsters are a docile species that are easy to tame. Due to their small size, these tiny critters do not require a lot of space and are relatively low-maintenance. The Chinese hamster is generally brown with a black stripe that runs down the back. They are also known for having a longer tail than other types of hamsters.
The Chinese hamster ranges between 3 and 5 inches in length and weighs approximately 1 to 2 ounces. They have a quiet temperament and can be easily handled with proper training. One of their most enduring traits is that they cling to your finger with all four paws.
Like many other species of hamsters, Chinese hamsters like to burrow and create main living quarters and separate chambers in their environment to nest and store food. As this species is very territorial, they are best kept alone.
Choosing a Pet Hamster
While there are many types of hamsters, not all species are suitable as pets. When choosing a hamster, you’ll want to take into account age, size, temperament, care requirements, and similar aspects. With proper planning, you can bring home a pet hamster that is just right for your family.