Wondering if you should let your hamster roam free ? Releasing a hamster into the wild can sound like a good idea, but is it really ?
Let’s see everything we should take into account when we’re thinking about such a big decision. I’ll be honest with you, I sometimes wondered if I should release my own Teddy (male Syrian hammy). So these are the things I’ve thought about before deciding what to do with him.
So should I release my hamster in the wild ?
Short answer – NO. Do not release your pet hamster into the wild.
Long answer – it depends on a series of factors like the area you live in, predators, how easily the hammy can find its food, if it will survive the winter or a storm, and so on.
For the vast majority of people who own a hamster, the outside conditions, even in the countryside, could not sustain a hamster. Some select few could release their hamster and he could live a happy life.
But let’s see what those factors are, and how they could affect your hamster’s lifespan and quality of life.
Hamsters haven’t been pets for very long
Let’s start with the beginning. Where hamsters come from, and where they should go, if you ever want to let them go.
There’s 5 types of hamsters: Syrian or Golden hamster, Roborovski Dwarf, Campbell’s Dwarf, Djungarian Dwarf, and the Chinese Dwarf. These hammies come from a very specific part of our planet.
The Syrian from Syria, Southern turkey and the arid land between them.
The Dwarf types come from the area between Siberia, southern Russia, Mongolia, Northern China.
Hamsters have become pets only in the last century or so, and that means one thing: they’re still very much like their ancestors.
So, in theory, if you were to release your pet hamster in the wild, he would still know what to do. His instincts are intact, even if he comes from a breeder who focused on docile hamsters.
However the problem is that a hamster that’s already an adult (3 months and older) is already used to human interaction, and will be a bit confused for the first few days if you were to release him into the countryside. If he’s an especially docile hamster, he will have a bit more trouble adapting.
You can’t really release a baby hamster into the wild since he will immediately become dog food, There’s also the fact that a baby hasn’t learned everything from his mother yet.
So there’s that, but there are still many things that would be not safe or alright for a pet hamster in the wild.
A hamster’s usual food probably isn’t available in your area
Another concern is that the hamster will probably not have his usual food in the wild, in your part of the world. The thing is, hamsters can and do eat many things.
There he might be able to find some grains and a few veggies to forage. The problem with that is that unless you’re from the origin area of your hamster type (figure out which type you’ve got here), his normal food won’t be available.
If you were to release him next to a corn field, he would indeed find the corn, and also a few other unsafe foods. Hamsters are very curious, and will try anything new that they find. This includes safe and unsafe weeds and plants.
If the hamster were to somehow find the right kind of food, he would be able to survive in the wild. Not a guarantee, but it could be possible, strictly form a dietary point of view.
You probably don’t live in the hamster’s natural habitat
This is the biggest concern I have with releasing hamsters into the wild. As I said above, hamsters come from a very specific area of our planet.
Those areas happen to be very sparsely populated. Most people who own a hamster do no live in the rural parts of northern China, or Mongolia.
Actually many people don’t live at all in those areas, since they’re mostly barren. Some vegetation grows, which is where the hamster will find his food.
But aside from that, it’s very hard living. The terrain is harsh, cold, and stretches on forever. This is one of the reasons hamsters are born to run (aside from predators), so they cover more ground looking for food.
If, however, you do live in an area close to the hamster origin, you could release him into the wild. Again, the area depends on which type of hamster you’ve got. There are indeed differences between the Syrian and Dwarf hammies, and they could not live in swapped homes.
We need to also take into account the difference in weather. It might sound silly, but it’s something that can make your hamster’s life in the wild unnecessarily hard.
For example if you’ve got a Syrian hammy, and you live in the mountainside in France, releasing him there would be a death sentence. The cold would be too much for him, and the rains would kill him as well. Hamsters do not take well to being wet, and they have a hard time recovering from that.
If you were to have a Djungarian Dwarf, he’d be more suited to the cold. The problem is that the terrain is very different from what his ancestors had.
A cold, permanently snowy mountain is very different from the dry, plain tundra of Siberia or Mongolia. Again, the food source he’d find would not be similar to what his ancestors found.
Keep in mind predators and other dangers
Predators are a given. Whether you release the hamster in his normal habitat, or another different habitat, he will still be hunted. That’s just the nature of hamster life.
A wild hamster has a much shorter life span than a pet hamster. A wild hamster has to run for his life nearly all the time, and is going to need all the energy he can muster from those little feet.
In the wild there are snakes, foxes, owls, cats, wild dogs, and so on. They all hunt the tiny hamster, and he will not be safe anywhere. Wherever you release him, he has a very high chance or not making it until for long.
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It’s your decision in the end
After everything you’ve read, do keep in mind that keeping or releasing your hamster is your decision.
When I thought about releasing Teddy, it was when we were making incredibly slow progress with the taming process. We did have a breakthrough in the end and we get along fine now. But I asked myself the same things I’ve shared with you above.
Would he survive in the wild here ? Would he find food ? Could he find a mate ? Would I be sending him to certain death ?
Those are questions I had to ponder, and in the end I decided to keep Teddy. That’s how I decided to make this site, too. To help others understand and care for their little hamster friends, with what I’ve learned from Teddy and other hamster owners.
What got to me the most was the image of Teddy’s hideout, under a tree, with rain pouring down on every side. The poor thing shivering inside his little hut, with barely a few grains he found, and nothing else.
Rainy seasons are fairly long, and I knew that even if he could survive the rains, he wouldn’t survive the cold.
So in the end it all comes down to what you decide. You should weight the pros and cons, although the cons seem to far outweigh the pros.
What I’d suggest, if you do not want to keep your hamster anymore, is to donate him. There are certain sites, or even social media groups dedicated for donations. That’s how we got our pair of guinea pigs, actually.
Or, you could take them to a shelter or pet shop, to be taken in by another owner.
A word from Teddy
I hope you found what you were looking for in this article. I know us hammies might seem like we’d get along fine in the wild, but the truth is if we’re a pet, were probably very far away from our homes.
If you want to know more about us hammies, and how to keep us safe, you can read the related articles below.