Wondering if a hamster is a rodent ? You’re not alone. A lot of our friends have asked us the same question, when they heard we’d got a hamster.
So, let’s settle this and get to the bottom of the issue. We’ll cover how your hamster’s going to behave as a rodent pet, and the differences between hamsters and other pet rodents as well.
Table of Contents
So are hamsters rodents ?
Yes, hamsters are rodents. Hamsters are rodents, like rabbits, mice, rats, guinea pigs, squirrels, ferrets. There are many more rodents out there than that, but those are the most common ones kept as pets.
They belong to a very large family, with several sub-families and classes, into which I won’t get right now. You can read much more about the exact scientific classification of hamsters right here.
A hamster’s behavior as a pet, given that he’s a rodent
A hamster, as a rodent, will behave in a certain way.
Rodents in general are prey animals, so they all have a reflex to run and hide. That reflex kicks in very fast, and they’ll often jump out of your hands before you can react.
So expect your hamster to be jumpy, not sit still, and look panicked half the time. They’re also incredibly easy to scare, since they’re on high alert most of the time. Who knows when a owl might swoop into your living room and take them away ?
Jokes aside, that run and hide reflex is what saves hamsters from extinction in the wild. As a pet though, they can be hard to handle, especially the smaller breeds like the Dwarf types.
Very small and wriggly, the Dwarf hammies are all over the place and you should not handle them away from their cage.
Another thing about hamsters being rodents, is that they will have this instinct of burrowing. If you give them enough bedding to dig into, you will lose sight of your hamster very fast. You can find out more about bedding for hamsters and how to pick a safe one right here.
Finally, as rodents hamsters have a different need for affection that other pets. They’re not keen on snuggling, like a dog or cat for example.
But they do enjoy your company, and can let you handle them. Even if it’s just for a short few minutes at a time, hamsters can be handled.
If you want to know more about how to successfully tame your hamster friend, you should check out this guide right here. It’s got addendums for Syrian and Dwarf types as well.
What hamsters eat, as rodents
As rodents hammies will eat mostly grains and veg, with a couple of insects or worms here and there.
In the wild hamsters rely on grains, seeds, and some edible roots. But kept as pets, hamsters have a much wider variety of foods available for them.
You can find here a good list of safe and unsafe foods you can give to your hamster. Some of them are already in your pantry or fridge.
Or, if you want to be specific about it, you can check out each food group in particular. You can find out more about what kind of meat/protein your hamster can eat here. Another article about what kinds of dairy hamsters can eat is right here.
Finally, more about hamsters and bread can be found right here.
Another option is feeding your hamster commercial food mixes, which already have a healthy mix of all the nutrients your hamster needs for a good, long life. And you can add some safe foods you’ve already got around the house to that food mix, if you want to.
But in general, hamsters will enjoy most of the things us humans can eat too. Do keep in ming that they love to chew and gnaw on things a lot.
Do hamsters need to chew a lot ?
Yes, hamsters have front teeth that keep growing. They never stop growing.
This is why your hamster need a lot of chew toys – more on that here, and how to DYI some or buy them. Otherwise, your hammy will end up chewing whatever he can find, like the cage bars.
My Teddy used to do that sometimes, and you can find out more about hamsters biting their cage here, and how to stop them. Or, at least make it happen mess frequently.
Hamsters need to chew a lot, to keep their front teeth from overgrowing. They can develop a whole host of dental problems if their teeth aren’t kept healthy.
So always make sure your hamster has something safe to chew on, like chew toys. And remember that he will chew on everything, including his own hideout, the food bowl, and whatever else is in his cage.
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Difference between hamsters and other rodent pets
Hamsters aren’t the only rodents people keep as pets. As such, there are a few differences between hamsters and other pet rodents. So let’s get into those differences, so you can see if a hamster is a good pet for you or not.
Mice are much smaller than hamsters. They can be kept in small packs as far as I know, and they do have similar life spans to hamsters (2-3 years)
However if a hamster is hard to hold onto, a mouse is much harder. A mouse is much smaller, and will definitely not sit still.
Also mice smell much more than hamsters. That’s not to say they stink, but a hamster only smells if he’s sick. The female hammies come into heat every few days, and can develop a smell. But as a whole, hamsters are clean and not smelly at all.
Mice have the bonus of being much more curious and eager to try new things than a hamster. A hammy si more of a creature of habit than anything.
The rat wins in terms of intelligence here. However few people like keeping rats because of how large and non-cuddly they can look, compared to hamsters.
That being said, rats are able to solve simple puzzles, and are calmer, more level-headed than hamsters. That also means they can get bored, and once that happens they will entertain themselves with the cage bars, or moving the things in their cage.
Of all the mouse-type rodents, rats are the best escape artist. They will find a way.
Rats can sometimes develop tumors, which can shorten their lifespan (3-4 years). The housing situation for a hamster and rat is much different, since a rat need a very large space to run around in, and they’re damn good climbers.
Here it really depends on what you like more. Hamsters tend to be cuter and fluffier than guinea pigs. But guinea pigs are much easier to handle and tame.
Well, a guinea pig is pretty much already tame from the get-go. Both are rodents, but guinea pigs are very very mellow and will generally sit and stay wherever you left them.
They also actually need company, even if it’s another guinea buddy to much a lettuce leaf with and stare at a wall. Whereas most hamsters should be kept my themselves, and can only live together under certain conditions.
A guinea pig however can get smelly, since they pee a lot. So they require much more cleaning and maintenance than a hamster.
Hamster vs rabbit
Aside from the obvious size difference, hamsters can sometimes lose to the rabbit in terms of cuteness. Depends on whom you ask.
While a rabbit can make do with a small enclosure, he needs to be let out often, and in a very large space. So your entire apartment will become his playground.
If you decide to let your rabbit play outside, he’ll start burrowing fast and you have a higher chance of losing him. Once a rabbit decides to sprint, he’s gone.
And we all know how hard it is to catch a rabbit running left and right. Of all the rodent types, rabbits are the best at avoiding being caught.
Smell-wise, rabbits can get stinky fast if you don’t clean their cage every day.
Hamster vs ferret
Ferrets are much, much larger than a hamster. They are much faster, and agile, and need plenty of exercise. While your hamster can make do with his running wheel, a ferret will not.
A ferret will need at least one cage mate, while hamsters need to mostly kept alone.
Conversely, a ferret loose in your home is not alright with other animals. It will possibly attach smaller animals like the hamster, or a rat. And larger pets like a cat or dog can hurt the ferret with sharp teeth and a much larger size.
Both ferrets are hamsters love to try and escape, however ferrets will be trying the sturdiness of their cage and your home at every possible turn. Hamsters are a bit … slower, if you will, and are easily distracted.
Hamster vs squirrel
A squirrel for a pet is nothing to laugh at. I mean they’re funny and have an amazing amount of energy, but compared to a hamster they are much harder to keep.
While a hamster’s claws do very little damage to the human skin, a squirrel has actual talons. Natural, when you think that they’re meant to help the creature shimmy up and down a tree, all day long.
But. this makes a squirrel much harder to hold and play with than a hamster. The space requirement for a squirrel is much larger than a hamster. It needs your entire apartment, and your backyard too if you’ve got a house.
Still being rodents, squirrels will flee very fast, and will hide food stashes wherever they can. You’ve seen the video of a squirrel trying to hide an acorn in a dog’s fur. That’s the level of madness (and cuteness) that is trying to keep a squirrel as a pet.
A word on keeping a rodent as a pet
When it comes to pets, you have to accept that not all pets are the same. If you’re looking for a pet that will cuddle with you, play fetch, and patiently wait for your return home, a rodent is probably not the best idea.
Rodent type pets can bond with their owner, and do like human company. However they’re not as domesticated as cats and dogs, and not suited for families or small children/other pets in general.
That being said, rodent-types are funny, energetic, and make the oddest faces. They’ll always amaze your with their acrobatics, even hamsters. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a hamster trying to jump from a small ledge, and still fail.
Some rodents are quiet, and calmer, like a hamster, a mouse, a guinea pig. While others are all over the place and will need your entire attention. It depends on what kind of pets you’re looking for.
All in all, owning a hamster as a rodent can be rewarding in its own way – more on that here, and how to care for him in general.
They’re not conventional pets, and will require different level of care from you. But they’re cute and funny in their own way.
A word from Teddy
I hope you found what you were looking for here. I know us hamsters can be a bit confusing sometimes, but we’re definitely rodents.
If you want to know more about us hammies, you can check out the articles below.