If you’re looking to get a rodent, but can’t decide between hamsters, mice or rats then this article will help you sort that out. Unfortunately they can’t be all kept together, you need to pick just one kind of pet.
But they’ve all got different needs, even if they are so similar. Let’s see a bit about each rodent, so you know which would be the best pet for you. If you want to know how a hamster would fare if he were to live in the same cage as a rat or mouse, then you should read this article here.
About the hamster – general info + personality
A hamster is very small, can be as small as 2 inches/5 cm, and as large as 5 inches/13 cm. He doesn’t need as much room as a rabbit, and usually stays put.
Hammies don’t like to share and generally should not be housed together. The only exceptions are the Dwarf types, who can live with a sibling or two of the same sex. This is only true for siblings that have never been separated and live in a very large cage, so they won’t fight over food and toys and general resources.
Even so, I recommend keeping any and all hamsters alone, one hamster per cage. This reduces the hamster’s stress levels and this way you make sure there are no unnecessary fights, which can sometimes be deadly.
Hamsters are prey animals, so they’re used to running away and hiding. Their cages need to have plenty of hiding places, so they can feel safe.
This also means that taming the hamster will not be as easy as taming a puppy. He will take anywhere between a few days and a few weeks to trust you. And that trust can always be lost, or forgotten if you stop interacting with him for a few days.
Still, hamsters make for very entertaining pets. It’s just that the vast majority of hamsters only come out of their hiding place at night. This means that if you go to bed before 10 PM you might just miss their waking up. And if you wake up around 6 AM, they’ve just gone to bed.
So I’d only recommend a hamster to a person who either stays up very late, or works night shifts and can catch the hamster awake more often.
They’re also very sensitive animals, in that there is such a thing as handling them too much, and too little. They get grumpy if you wake them up, they won’t always want to stay in your hands… okay, they rarely want to stay put. They want to explore and see everything.
Their personalities are not obvious from the start, when they’re babies. But once they grow up (3 months-ish) you’ll realize you’ve either got a Rambo type (all over the place, exploring, trying to intimidate you, not staying still) or the world’s laziest and relaxed furball. There is no in-between.
All hamsters mellow down once they become old, it’s just that some are absolutely spastic when they’re young.
About mice – general info + personality
Mice are very social animals, and will generally do better if they’re kept in a small group. For example 3 females, or 2 males seems to be the best kind of match. There will always be one mouse trying to be the dominant one.
Mice are much smaller than hamsters – smaller than a Dwarf sometimes – and are so much more agile and quick. This means that trying to handle a mouse is very hard, since he’ll be all over the place. This doesn’t mean they’re impossible to tame. But it is much harder than with a hamster.
Usually mice are kept as pets to look at, rather than play with. Even if you do manage to hold onto one, he’ll almost immediately want to go exploring. Mice, like hamsters and rats, have poor eyesight and as a result they can’t really judge distances and heights.
All 3 will try to jump off of ledges or out of your hands if they’ve had enough, but mice and hamsters are just plain terrible at this. They will jump from high places, even if they’re too high. Mice are only a slight bit smarter in this area.
Still, seeing a small colony of mice interact and build their own little nests, and lay with every little toy is going to be fun. They’re almost always unpredictable, and seem not to care if they survive a climb or any special endeavor.
Given how shall mice are, even the mellow, chill ones will seem skittish. That’s just the way mice are. They can get along with each other, but it’s a lot like with Dwarf hamsters. They must be siblings, and never been separated at all. Even then, they might argue from time to time. What sibling doesn’t, though ?
About rats – general info + personality
A rat is a very opportunistic animal, and a smart one at that. Of the 3 rodents we’re discussing today, the rat is the smartest. They’ve often been compared to dogs in terms of affection and comprehension of human intent.
That being said, rats make for good pets, it’s just that they need lots of handling or a buddy. They’re highly social animals, and they like playtime. They’re able to learn tricks and they get bored easily if not given enough stimulation. So they’ve got a big advantage over hamsters.
Actually rats bond with their owners much more than hamster or mice, and actually like it when their owners hold them.
When it comes to food, rats will eat almost anything. This means they will eat about equal proportions of meat, grains, veggies, and fresh fruit. They will steal anything if ever left outside of their cage, and let them out your should from time to time.
This is mostly because they need lots of stimulation, and sometimes being kept in their cage isn’t enough. You can always keep just one rat, but you should be warned that you’ll need to interact with him often if you want him to not get bored.
A bored rat is never good news. He will try to escape, chew through a part of the cage you’d never expect, or just wait for the perfect moment when you’re opening his cage to take him out.
But, a rat is a smart animal, and he will be very entertaining. He’ll tend to understand you better, and sometimes even sit still when you need him to, or when you just want to keep him cuddled in your arms.
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Food difference between the 3 rodents (there aren’t any)
When it comes to food, hamsters mice and rats eat pretty much everything. They all eat mostly grains, with some fruit and vegetables thrown in for good measure.
Nuts and peanuts are welcome too, ans so it a bit of meta. It’s okay if it’s mealworms, it can even if a bit of boiled plain chicken.
Do keep in mind that the serving sizes vary from animal to animal. A hamster will need 1 or 2 teaspoons of dried commercial food mix (depending on whether you’ve got a Dwarf or a Syrian). This is per hamster, per day.
A mouse will need just the one teaspoon, once a day, aside from whatever treats you give them.
A rat will need much more, amounting to 2 tablespoons of their commercial mix food. They’re much larger and need more food than the other two rodents.
However all 3 have teeth that never stop growing, and they will need to gnaw on something all the time. This is where the dry grains or pellets come in handy.
Social needs of all 3 rodents and how they get along with owners
Hamsters are solitary animals. If you really want to, you can house a pair of Dwarf hamsters, but that often doesn’t end well. This is mostly because hamsters are very territorial, and they end up fighting over everything, unless they have a very very large cage.
The only way you can keep a pair of Dwarf hamsters is if they’re siblings, of the same gender (so 2 girls or 2 boys), and they’ve never been separated.
Hammies do interact with their owners, but they don’t bond with them as much. They can be rather aloof and disinterested most of the time, unless you’ve got a treat in your hands.
Mice can be kept in more than just pairs, but it’s the same story as with Dwarf hamsters. They should be siblings, of the same sex, and never separated. They’re very skittish and all over the place.
Handling them – and as such taming them – is going to be difficult, like with Dwarf hamsters. They simply don’t sit still, and don’t really like being handled. They bond a little more with their owners than hamsters, but that doesn’t say much.
Rats are social too, but they should be kept with a buddy if you can’t talk to them or handle them often. They can grow bored very easily, and need a whole lot of toys.
Cage size and housing differences
When it comes to housing these rodents, things aren’t very different. For example a hamster can live in a cage of 24 x 12 inches, and about 12 inches tall. That’s 61 x 30.5 cm, and about 30.5 cm tall. This is for one lone Syrian hamster, or two Dwarf types.
This same size is enough for one male rat, or 3 female mice. Mice males need a cage almost as big as a Syrian’s, just for one male mouse. Females live together easier.
When it comes to toys and objects inside their cages, all 3 rodents need plenty of things to play with. Rats need the most stimulation, and will end up getting bored the fastest. This means that giving them plenty of puzzle toys is going to help.
Puzzle toys can be something like a maze made out of an egg carton with holes cut in one end, and a treat at the other end. All 3 rodents are great with mazes.
Another such toys would be a cardboard tube with a treat inside, but very tightly packed so the pet can’t get to the treat easily.
Climbing toys are another object rodents will love, but especially mice and rats since they are used to climbing pipes or small plants. Hamsters prefer the low ground and tunnels. Rats and mice will go for hammocks, or maybe ladders, suspended bridges, and so on.
If it requires a bit of acrobatics skill, it’s a rat or mouse toys, not a hamster toy.
A word from Teddy
I hope you found what you were looking for in this article. I know us hammies sometimes get confused with mice and rats, but we’re a bit different actually.
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.