Wondering if your hamster is going to get along with a cat ? Or maybe you have a cat and want to know if she’ll be okay with a hamster ? These are always delicate situations, and it’s good to know beforehand.
So let’s see if cats and hamsters can live together, and how well that kind of relationship can go down.
So can cats and hamsters live together ?
It depends on the cat. There is no straight yes or no answer to this. Cats are predators, and will hunt everything they can, sometimes just for fun. Hamsters are prey and will naturally be afraid of cats.
But not all cats are proficient hunters. Some are lazy, or maybe just scared, or possibly don’t care about the hamster. The hamster, small as he is, can’t leave his cage and will be on one place. He can’t influence the cat to come looking for him.
Still, there are stories and examples where a cat and a hamster got along well enough, and there are sad stories of hammies being eaten by curious cats. Or scared to death by them.
But to know more about whether your particular cat and hamster will be okay with each other, we need to know more about hamsters and cats, in general.
About the hamster’s personality
A hamster is an animal that is widely hunted in his natural habitat. His normal reaction any most creatures is to run and hide. This means that he will panic at the sight of a cat, and even at the sight of a human.
That’s part of what makes hamsters harder to tame than other animals.
Still, not all hamsters are equal. Some are hardy and will (try to) fight anything that gets too close. My Teddy (male Syrian) is one of these Rambo types.
Other hamsters are just veeery relaxed and mellow, and won’t really mind anything at all. A family friend of ours had a hamster named Oscar (also Syrian male hammy) who was like this, and he never minded anyone, or anything. Including the cat.
Still, other hamsters will be just too shy and panicky to even come out of their hideout when they know someone is around. They each have different personalities.
Running and hiding is hardwired into hamsters, and it’s a reflex that’s kept them alive in the wild.
If your hamster has a hideout (or several other hidey holes) to dart into when the cat would come close, he would be fine. As long as the cat can’t reach into the cage, the hamster will be safe.
Some hamsters might get too scared by the cat, and get stressed as a result. Stress can lead to a host of health problems like wet-tail, fur loss, digestive problems, and a very grumpy hamster.
About the cat’s personality
A cat is a predator, and as such will hunt for anything. Not necessarily to eat, since we’re talking about domestic, house cats. However the cat will still want to hunt the hamster, simply because it’s there, for sport. Even if She won’t eat the hamster, hunting him appeals to her instincts.
Just crouching and listening for soft rustling sounds is a big part of cat life. In a home where the cat has easy access to food and not many opportunities for adrenaline, a skittish hamster will be incredibly interesting.
Cats are also very curious, and ingenious too. They will keep trying, and they will knock down everything the have to in order to get to the hamster.
But cats can also be lazy, so if they learn that there’s no way that cage will open or they can’t get their paw through, they’ll eventually stop.
Still, expecting your cat to behave herself and play nice is unrealistic. You’re asking her to deny herself what she was born to do. Hunt (and possibly eat) small animals that hide in dark, tiny corners.
Some cats won’t acre about the hamster. But their default setting is to investigate and find the source of those odd, soft rustling sounds from under the sofa. Even if it’s just a plastic wrapper.
What to look out for when you own a cat and a hamster
All of that above doesn’t mean that hamsters and cats can’t ever live together. It sounds a lot like it, yes, but there are steps you can make to try and make things a little easier for everyone. So let’s see what those steps are.
1. Make sure the hamster’s cage is secure
This means a very good, closed cage. I would not recommend a wired cage if you’re going to have a cat and a hamster, simply because cats are so damn curious and determined.
They will stick their paws into the cage as far as they can, and even draw the cage closer to them. This means that will even pull/push it off of the table or shelf if they can get a good grip on it.
Once the cage falls, it can break open and the cat can find the hamster. Also terrifying, the hamster can injure himself when the cage lands. So you need a cage that is pretty much cat proof.
This means either an aquarium (or an Ikea Detolf) or a plastic cage. More on hamster cages here.
Now, an aquarium would be the best bet, seeing as it’s heavy and the cat can’t really move it. It’s also got smooth panes of glass so the cat can’t really hook her claws onto them and pull.
A plastic cage on the other hand is going to give the cat almost as much trouble trying to open it, but is lighter in weight. Still, there are some air holes the cat can use but they provide less of a grip than the wired cage.
Using a plastic cage will also make it easier for the hamster to be in a higher place, out of the cat’s sight. Possibly in a cupboard, with almost all the sides of the cage covered by the cupboard walls.
Be very sure the lid is tightly shut, and can’t be opened
If you get your hamster an aquarium or Detolf, it will need a mesh top. Make sure that lid is very well fixed in place, and can’t be easily opened.
The same goes for other doors of the cage (like sliding doors to put food in). Make sure they locks and closing mechanisms are well made, keep shut, and are childproof if possible.
Most cages have these things already, but you should check, just to be sure.
2. Have a place to put the hamster’s cage so the cage sides are covered
Where you put the hamster’s cage matters here. Cats usually patrol on the ground level, but they will also use ledges. Like the top of a dressed, the last shelf of a bookcase, a windowsill, the literal top of the door even.
But they usually only use the high places in the rooms they spend a lot of time in. Which often end up being the rooms humans spend a lot of time in (like the kitchen or living room). hat’s just cats being cats, the feel a natural need to survey everything, especially when there are other people or movement.
In a lone, quiet room, not so much. As such, the cat will usually just walk into the room and maybe settle into a chair. Putting the hamster’s cage in a higher place, like in a shelf that completely covers the cage sides would be fairly safe.
I know not everyone has this possibility, it depends a lot on the layout of your home and the furniture you have. But if you have a way to keep your hamster’s cage out of the cat’s sight, use that.
Do not close the hamster in a closet or cupboard ! Not only is it unsafe for hamsters (air) but it’s often too chilly.
3. Never let the cat inside the room when you hamster is out of his cage
If and when you give your hamster floor time, or lap time, or just hold him in your hands, make sure the cat isn’t in the room, and the door is closed.
Cats are curious, and will try to see what you’ve got there. Or what’s running around on the floor, and try to catch it.
Again, I know not everyone has this option. But if you can, don’t allow the cat into the room when you’re handling the hamster. This will make everyone more at ease.
And it will keep the hamster calm (as much as a hamster can be) so he will be easier to handle. Some hamsters won’t mind the cat being present, and that’s actually a problem.
A hamster that doesn’t fear the cat will go straight for the cat and try to smell her. This almost never ends well, and should be avoided.
At least only keep the hamster in his exercise ball
If you can’t keep the cat out, another option is only letting the hamster out of his cage in the exercise ball. And also making sure that the ball closes very well.
Do keep in mind that the cat will possibly try and paw at the ball, and spin the hamster inside. While this doesn’t hurt the hamster, it disorients him and it’s up to you if you want to intervene.
4. Try and distract your cat or keep her away from the hamster’s room or cage
As much as you can, limit the interactions between your cat and your hamster. This means keeping the cat away from the hamster’s room or cage as much as possible.
Playing with your cat, or a roommate or family member playing with the cat in a room as far away from the hamster is an option. Or just closing off the room to the cat, if at all possible.
This also depends on the cooperation of the other members of the household, to also keep your door closed when they go into it, or shoo the cat if she tries to open it.
Cats are very smart, and usually find a way to open doors and drawers you thought were closed and secure.
If your cat is also an outdoor cat, and you know she spends several hours at a time outside, you can use that time to your advantage. It can be handling or feeding time for the hamster, when the cat is definitely out of the way.
A family friend – the one who had Oscar – used to keep a close eye on their cat during the day, and during the night they kept the hamster in a room that was closed off. This way they were sure the cat wouldn’t reach the hamster at all during the night.
5. Have reasonable expectations, cats are curious by nature
Finally, do not expect the impossible from your cat. A cat is a cat, and there’s very little chance she will leave the hamster alone. After all, the hamster isn’t all that different from the mouse her ancestors usually hunted.
Even if she’s just mildly interested, this can still spook the hamster. But after a few tries she will back off, and the hamster will figure out that the cat can’t really get to him. This is the case for most cats and hamsters, although there are a few exceptions.
Cats are curious but after a while they lose interest and look for the next fluffy rustling sound. If you distract her well enough, and she becomes lazy, the hamster could survive well enough.
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If everything else fails, consider giving one of them away
You need to be prepared for the extreme and final case of your hamster and cat not getting along at all. If your home arrangement doesn’t leave you options of keeping the cat away form the hamster, then it won’t work.
If you don’t yet have a cat and hamster, but were considering getting either one, talk it over with the house. They might pitch in with some ideas, or they might just refuse to have a cat in the house.
Different people have different opinions, and living under the same roof can be difficult sometimes.
But if you’ve got both the hamster and the cat, and they just can’t get along ? You might have to give one of them up. As to which one, that’s up to you.
I imagine giving up any of your pets could be painful and you’re very attached to them. But it’s really a decision based on your lifestyle, in a way.
Would just a cat be more suited towards your lifestyle ? A pet that wanders the house and will sometimes cuddle with your, leave fur everywhere and hunt your ankles ? A cuddly, purring ball of fur waiting for your to get home ?
Or a hamster, who will stay where you put him, makes the funniest faces, and is scared of the thermostat going off ? The fluffy buddy sleeping the day away and keeping you company at night, running marathons in his little wheel while you wonder how he’s never tired ?
That’s you own decision, and you need to think about it carefully.
If you still want to keep a hamster with another kind of animal, you should see this article on hamsters or gerbils, or hamsters with rabbits, or hamsters with rats and mice, or possibly hamsters and guinea pigs.
A word from Teddy
I hope you found what you were looking for in this article. I know us hamsters are very easy to scare, but we sometimes get along with other animals. Just, maybe not with cats. It depends on the cat, really.
If you want to know more about us hamsters you should check out the related articles below. You’ll learn how to keep us safe and happy, and what we need for a good life.