Hamsters are a very common pet to own. When I first got my Teddy, I’d heard of and seen hamster pets before, but never had one myself. I didn’t know if Teddy would make a good pet, but I wanted a cute hammy running around the house in his exercise ball.
Then, once I got him I figured out just how good of a pet he can be, and hamsters in general. My Teddy is an adult Syrian hamster, but this will apply to Dwarf types as well.
So why are hamsters good pets ?
Hamsters are good pets, for the most parts. They have their good and their bad sides, and I’ll tell you both. Here’s why hamsters make good pets:
- They’re low maintenance – not hard to look after
- Funny even when not handled – they make the weirdest faces and do the silliest things
- Take up little space – a hamster’s cage is the only thing taking up space, and that’s not much
- Clean animal – hamsters groom themselves as much as a cat does
- Cheap to keep – will not burn a hole in your wallet
- Cuter than most pets, being so small – a hamster will always have that ‘baby animal’ face
- Short lifespan, not a long term commitment – only 2-4 years
- Do not need much exercise from you – they exercise on their own, if given a running wheel
- Do not shed – no allergies, and minimal cleanup
- Quiet most of the time – hamsters rarely make any noise, and sleep most of the day
- They stay where you put their cage – you won’t trip over them when you get out of bed or go down the stairs
- Accepted in no-pet buildings or apartments – this is a big plus for most city dwellers !
Alright, those are some pretty good reasons to get a hamster, I’d say. But let’s talk about why hamsters make good pets in more detail, so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
Hamsters are low maintenance pets
This is something I imagined would be the case when I got my Teddy. I mean, it’s a pet that spends most of its time in a cage, and half that time it sleeps. Now much maintenance can it need ?
To be fair, there is a bit of work involved, like changing the bedding, and feeding the pet daily, along with playing with it whenever you can.
But aside from that hamsters are very easy to take care of. If you want more info on how often to change the hammy’s bedding, and which type of bedding is best for him, then you should read this.
There are people who say that hamsters aren’t really that easy to keep. I’d argue that they’re wrong. Sure there are certain things to consider – like the temperature to keep in the room for the hamster, or what to feed the hamster.
But when you compare a hamster with a shedding cat, a dog that needs regular walks and trips to the vet, and a squeaky parrot that you need to constantly clean up after, a hamster is just breezy.
My girlfriend’s parents have a couple of cockatiels and they’re a chore. Lovable and fun, but still a lot of cleanup and upkeep.
They’re funny on their own
My Teddy does the weirdest things in his cage. I think most hamsters do, aside from the extra lazy ones. But even those are funny.
For example Teddy sometimes pushes his hideout to the side in order to get a better look at us. Like he doesn’t have the rest of the cage to see us, but okay.
And he does it in the most complicated and backwards way possible. He gets on top of the hideout, then kind of… melts between his hideout and the cage bars. Then he shoves his little face in that small space until he moves the hideout.
You’ve maybe seen videos of hamsters flying off their running wheels because they stopped randomly. Or maybe hamsters falling asleep and actually falling over. Even when they suddenly stop and listen for something, they have that ‘did I leave the gas on ?’ face about them.
Funniest of all, hammies can and do fart. They’re just embarrassed you’d find out so they only make a faint whoosh sound. No really, they do fart. They also blink like lizards, one eye at a time. It looks like the world’s slowest wink.
You can also name your hamster whatever you think suits him or her. I’ve met hamsters named Oscar, Hamster-boy, and Peanut. They’re a lot like cats in this respect, so their name can be anything you like.
The hamster’s cage will not take up much space
A hamster’s cage is basically the only thing taking up space in your home. Depending on what kind of cage you get your hamster – like a cage or a large glass tank – you might have more or less space taken up.
But the end result is the same, your hamster will only take up that much space, ever.
As for how large a hamster’s cage should be, I’ll link you to an article about exactly that. You’ll find out how large a hamster’s cage should be, and what kind of cage suits him best.
As always with hamsters, even if they’re such small creatures, they need more space than you’d think. So always go for a bigger cage. Never buy those tiny, square, cramped cages you see at pet shops.
Hamsters are very clean animals
It might come as a surprise to you or not, but hamsters are very clean animals. They clean and groom themselves regularly. Almost obsessively.
If you’ve ever seen a cat spend 20 minutes licking and cleaning itself, a hamster will do the exact same thing. Minus the hairballs. And it will take less time since he is much smaller than a cat.
But still, a very very clean pet all around. Even in their hideout, hamsters keep their pile of food well away from droppings, and only pee in the opposite corner of the cage. As far away from their hideout as possible.
The only things that will ever smell will be the hamster’s pee corners. Those need their bedding changed more often than the entire bedding. Or, you can use a sandbath in the corner your hammy uses as a bathroom. He will use the sandbath as a litterbox.
Hamsters are cheap pets to keep
As far as expenses go, hamsters are inexpensive. They run around $10 per month, for food and bedding. It’s only the initial costs that can throw you off if you’re not expecting it.
An average budget, for a new cage, wheel, exercise ball, transport cage, hideout, and toys can get to $225. But those are all things you only ever buy once, in the hamster’s entire life. You can find out more about hamster expenses here.
And the hamster itself is incredibly cheap, somewhere between $5-10.
Hamsters are among the cutest pets
You know how cute your puppy was when you got him ? He’s cute now too, all grown up, but he’s not a puppy anymore.
Well, a hamster will always have that kind of ‘baby face’. Especially baby hamsters, they’re even sweeter. But an adult hamster will have the cutest, furriest face you’ve ever seen.
They’re just fuzzy all around, and they have those big black beady eyes. If you look at their wiggling noses, you’ll notice they look a lot like rabbits when they move their noses.
Hamsters never really ‘grow up’, as most pets do. They stay that fluffy, cute little creature you fell in love with when you first brought home.
They have a shorter lifespan than most pets
A hamster’s life isn’t that long. That’s both a downside and a good thing, depending on which way you look at it. I’ve put it as a good thing, because this means the hamster is a smaller commitment than a dog or a cat.
Hamsters only live for 2-4 years, with the Dwarf types living the longest. This is for hamsters kept as pets. In the wild hamsters do no reach such an old age.
So if you’re looking for a furry friend to keep you company for a couple of years, a hamster will be a good match for you. Or, if you want to try your hand at raising and keeping a pet, a hamster is a good starting point.
You will not need to exercise them yourself too much
This is great news for very busy people, and it’s an easy thing to take care of. A hamster will exercise on his own, as long as you give him an exercise wheel and/or ball.
An exercise wheel is the best way for your hamster to let out the immense energy it has. The hamster will have access to the wheel 24/7, since it’s in his cage all day and night.
Also, an exercise ball will be a great help for keeping the hamster from becoming anxious or stressed. All you as a human need to do is help the hamster into the ball, and he will do the rest by himself.
So if you’re a very busy person, and you often work long hours and don’t have a lot of time to walk a dog or play with a cat, a hamster might be great for you.
Especially since most of the hamster’s exercise takes place when he is awake, which is usually at night, when you sleep.
There is no shedding problem
Hamsters do not shed, so if you’ve got an allergy to fur you should be safe with a hamster.
Your clothes and furniture will not need a regular brushing as well, since there are no stray hamster hairs laying about.
The only thing about the hamster is that there will be stray bits of bedding in odd places, but that’s the extent of the ‘mess’ a hamster will make in your home.
Hamsters are very quiet 90% of the time
Most of the time hamsters make absolutely no noise. Sure, you will hear them faintly rummaging in their hideouts, or digging in their bedding. But they don’t get noisier than that most of the time.
So if you’re a very quiet person, and you need a quiet pet that won’t disturb you, a hamster could be for you. Most of the hamster’s activity happens at night.
So while you’re sleeping is when he might make the most noise, but again he makes very little noise. Hamsters are very quiet since they’re prey. So they’ve evolved to be very quiet creatures, and not make noise unless absolutely necessary.
You won’t trip over them randomly
Since most of the time your hamster will be in his cage, you can’t trip over him randomly when getting out of the shower.
If you’ve ever had your dog paw at the door when you’re using the bathroom, or your cat judge you when you’re in the shower, you know what I mean. Hamsters won’t be out unless you let them out, in their special exercise balls.
My girlfriend’s parents have a pair of cockatiels, and they run around the house all day. They’re funny and love to chase you, but you can literally step on them if you’re not careful. Or you’ll find them perched on top of the open door and freak out if you want to close it.
A hamster will not give you any surprises.
Hamsters are okay in no-pet buildings or apartments
Many apartments, or even entire buildings, do not allow pets. This is mainly because of damage to the furniture, noise level, and some types of mess that can only happen with pets larger than a guinea pig.
So a hamster that stays in its cage most of the time, is quiet, and does not make a mess will be okay in those buildings. I guess the same could be said about any pet that needs to be kept in a cage or tank.
Hamsters are also easier to accept by roommates, since they won’t be noisy or messy or smelly. So there is nothing to object to there.
But are hamsters good pets for children ?
You might be wondering if a hamster might be a good pet for your kid. The short answer is no.
The longer one is still no, and here is why. While hamsters are fairly easy to care for, they still need a level of responsibility and patience that a child just doesn’t have yet.
To be clear, I’m talking about children under 12-13 years of age, when they start to become more responsible. A 9 years old might love to have a hamster, but will probably forget to feed the hammy, or close the cage properly, or might scare him just for fun.
A dog or a cat might run away and hide if they don’t like the way they’re treated. But a hamster can’t get very far, and can only hide in his cage.
Aside from that, a hamster is not a very patient pet, and won’t take well to being held wrong or pulled by the ears. It will bite and scratch ad squirm to try to get away, which is no fun for anyone involved.
In general, the younger the child, the worse a hamster will be as a pet for them.
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Downsides/cons of having a pet hamster
There are a few downside to having a hamster as a pet, although the upsides more than make up for these. Still, I think you should know what the cons could be, just so you’re prepared.
A hamster is harder to tame than other pets
Since hamsters are so jumpy, and easy to scare, they’re harder to handle than a dog or a cat for example. Taming a hamster means handling it, playing with it, letting it get used to your scent. Hamsters are much harder to tame than most pets.
They’re not as trusting as dogs, not even cats. Hamsters have evolved to run away from everything, since anything can be a predator for them.
This, combined with the immense amount of energy a hamster has, so restless and jittery, gives you a very active, possibly difficult pet. You need a lot of patience.
It’s very hard to guess their personality when they’re babies
So you won’t really know what kind of hamster you’re getting. And once you do figure out the hamster’s personality, it’s a very strong one anyway. There’s not much changing it.
If it’s a very independent hamster that doesn’t like to be handled, you might dismiss that early on as ‘not yet tame’.
Their personalities are simple enough, but can vary wildly from hamster to hamster. The Syrian hamsters are a bit mellower compared to their Dwarf cousins, and easier to handle.
Hamsters are less affectionate
They’re not crazy about hugs and kisses and cuddles and scratches. Sure, they’ll tolerate them a bit but you can’t hold and cuddle a hamster for a half hour as you could a dog.
So keep that in mind if you’re looking for a cuddly, affectionate pet. Hamsters aren’t the cuddliest, and will not stay long in your hand anyway. They can bond with their owners and come closer when you talk to them. But that’s about it.
This was a big drawback for me initially, since the main reason I wanted a hamster was to cuddle and play with it. My mistake was expecting it to be as loving and playful as a dog.
Hamsters do ask for attention, just not in the same way and don’t need nearly as much emotional attachment.
They’re nocturnal, you might miss them often
This depends on the kind of schedule you have. Pet hamsters are nocturnal, and will come out possibly when you’re getting ready for bed, like 9 PM.
So you might miss out a lot on your hamster’s funny antics. Hamsters are mostly solitary creatures, so they won’t miss you terribly. But still, talking to them and handling them is important to taming the hamsters and keeping them tame.
If you go to bed early and wake early, then a hamster might not be for you. But if you’re awake late int the night regularly, you might get along with a hamster just fine.
To find out more about a hamster’s night routine, you should check out this article.
Hamsters are very sensitive to a lot of things
It’s common knowledge that hamsters scare easily. Well, most rodents do. They can even die of heart attacks from a dog barking at them.
So that’s one thing to be careful about, keeping the hamster from scaring too much. You can find some useful info on that here.
Hamsters are also very sensitive to shifts in temperature, and can easily die of hypothermia. Once a hamster contracts a disease, it needs immediate care or else it has basically zero chances of survival.
There are a lot of things to mind when you’re considering getting a hamster, including how large a cage you can get him. A small cage will make your hamster stressed, which will make him chew the bars and develop a serious case of anxiety.
The same goes for how much exercise your hamster gets. And transporting a hamster is often a bad idea. Best to leave him at home, with someone to check up on him.
This is especially true for Dwarf pairs. You see a cute pair at the pet shop, you get them home, and a couple of weeks later you find yourself with 15 hamsters, not 2.
You see, baby hamsters can breed as soon as they’re weaned – that’s just 3-4 weeks after being born. And if the males and females aren’t kept separate immediately after weaning, they can start to breed, even so young.
Most of the times they’re separated in time. But sometimes it’s too late, or one male gets tagged as female by mistake and put in an all female enclosure. You can see where that can go.
This is possible with every type of hamster, but especially true for Dwarf kinds because only these can be kept in pairs. Syrians need to be alone, and will fight literally anything or anyone put in their cage. So there’s less of a chance of accidental litters.
A word from Teddy
I hope you can get a feel for how it would be to have one of us hammies as a pet. I’ve been a good pet so far, and I think that if you’re a patient, calm person then one of us would be a good match for you.
If you want to know more about us hammies, you should check the articles below.