If you’re wondering if your hamster get a bit lonely and needs a friend, let’s clear that up. It’s a very common question for hamster owners, and I had that question too when I first got my Teddy (Syrian male hammy).
Here’s what I found out, and whether it’s worth getting your hamster a friend.
So do hamsters get lonely ?
No. Hamsters do not get lonely. They can live in a pair or small group if they have no choice, but there will be fights every now and then, and half the time they need to be separated into individual cages.
If your hamster’s cage mate dies one day, introducing a new hamster is not a good idea. That always ends up with a fight, sometimes lethal. Hamsters are very territorial, and have evolved to protect what is theirs from other hamsters, at any cost.
So let’s take a look into the hamster’s general personality, and why they wouldn’t ever be lonely.
Hamsters are not very sociable animals
While you’ve heard of, or seem people keep pairs of hamsters, that’s not always a good idea. You see in the wild hamsters are territorial – in captivity too – and will protect what is theirs.
This means that every night, when the hamster is up and awake, he patrols his territory. He finds food and dodges predators, and if he ever finds another hamster, there will be a brutal, bloody fight. The only moment this does not happen is if a male meets a female in heat. Even then their mating ritual is fairly violent.
So a pet hamster will pretty much do the same. There are some things you can’t breed out of a creature, and this is one of them. Besides, hamsters have only ever been pets for the last century or so.
Why do pet stores keep hamsters together, you ask ?
Good question, and a very common one. You see, baby hamsters (up to 12 weeks old) are a bit less territorial than adults and will be fairly okay with sharing with their siblings.
However once the hamster reaches 4 weeks, he’s weaned and they can reproduce. So that means splitting into same-sex pairs, for obvious reasons.
Most hamsters get adopted before they reach adulthood (12 weeks), but the closer they get to that mark the more aggressive they become with their siblings.
Pet shops are a bit short on space, and will keep hamsters together as long as they possibly can, until they notice the hamsters starting to fight too much.
So in short, a mix between not enough space, and the hamsters being somewhat docile until they’re adults are the main reasons pet shops keep hamsters together.
This is especially stressful for Syrian hamsters and Chinese Dwarfs, who are the most territorial and aggressive hamsters out there. Those two can never live with another hamster, not even their own siblings.
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Pairing hamsters can be very delicate and is not always successful
You can always get a pair of hamsters, but that means you’ll need to get Dwarf hamsters. Those are the only hamsters that can live with another hamster, and only under certain circumstances.
You see, hamsters are territorial and will not share anything. This is true for Dwarf hamsters too, however they can be a bit more lenient towards siblings they’ve grown up with, and have never been separated from.
So in short the only way you can pair Dwarves is if they’re siblings, of the same sex, and have never been separated. They will need to be introduced to the same cage, at the same time, and the cage must be new (not have any of their scents beforehand).
Even so, there can still be fights every now and then. One hamster can become too dominant and start bullying the other one, who will in turn become stressed. This means a host of health issues for the bullied hamster and behaviors like cage chewing or trying to escape.
There are times when the fights become very violent, and if they ever get bloody you need to separate the two. A bit of sparring and asserting of dominance is normal, but drawing blood is serious business.
Giving your hamsters room to hide and run away from each other is essential, so the bullied one can get free.
A few considerations about the hamster’s cage
A very large cage helps keep a pair of hamsters from fighting too much. Lots of space, plenty of hideouts, food bowls, water bottles and toys, and they should be fine.
They can still fight, but a large cage with many accessories is all you can do to lower the chances.
For example the absolute minimum for a hamster’s cage is 24 x 12 inches, and about 12 inches tall. That’s 61 x 30.5 cm, and about 30.5 cm tall. This is the minimum for a Syrian hamster, and I’d recommend it for a Dwarf pair too. However a cage larger than this is welcome, but hard to find.
Unfortunately most cages on the market are smaller than this, or this size at most. You’re better off looking for the Detolf shelf from Ikea – expensive, yes, but there is no complaining about your hamsters not having enough space there.
If you’ve got a lone hamster – which is what I’d recommend – he will still benefit from a large cage. The more space the hamster has to run around in, play, and generally just be a hamster, the better.
Your hamster doesn’t really get bored either
You might think a lone hamster will get bored. As in, if he’s a lone all day, every day, he’s probably sad and bored all the time. Well, the truth is that hamsters simply aren’t like us humans.
They don’t have big goals, are not trying to build something with their lives, and as such aren’t really bothered by being kept in a cage. As long as the cage has toys and plenty of things to do, he’s just peachy.
A few toys – some DYI some store-bought – will relieve a lot of boredom. Hamsters especially love puzzle toys, like a few bits of food inside a cardboard cube that he’s going to have to tear open to get inside to the food.
Tubes are another option, since they give your hamster time outside the cage, and are also a good imitation of their nest in the wild.
If you get toys for your hamster, make sure they’re made of wood since hamsters love to chew on everything they can, including their own nest.
True, a hamster with a buddy will definitely never be bored. But the risk of them not getting along is high enough that it might not be worth it.
A word from Teddy
I hope your found what you were looking for in this article. I know you mean well, but us hamsters don’t really get lonely. We’re perfectly fine on our own, and don’t really crave company.
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.