Your cute and cuddly hammies are fighting ! In some cases this can be a nightmare, especially if they were fine until recently. I asked around, and talked to other hamster owners as well about why hamsters fight. Turns out there are a few things to consider before you get a pair of hamsters in the same cage.
Also, not all hamster breeds can live together. Sometimes even those breeds that everyone knows can live together can get into serious fights. But let’s first see why hamsters fight in the first place.
So why do hamsters fight ?
For the most part, hamsters fight over territory. In the wild all hamsters are solitary, and require a certain space of their own. And when they happen upon another hamster, they treat him as a trespasser.
Pet or captive hamsters haven’t forgotten this instinct, and will still fight a new hamster if they ever meet. There are some exceptions, like litter mates that were brought up together, but even then there can be fights.
When it comes to paired hamsters, they can also fight over resources (food, hideout, bedding, toys, etc). We’ll get into more detail with why hamsters fight over territory and how they can tolerate litter mates in the rest of the article.
But first we need to touch on the topic of play fighting, since this can be confused with actual fighting.
Are your hamsters really fighting
This is a topic you can’t really find a lot of answers for. But still, hamsters do playfight. This is mostly as babies, and mostly the males.
It’s a normal part of their upbringing. They learn how to be hamsters, what’s okay, what isn’t, and develop their core personalities.
But what about your adult hamsters, same gender, litter mates, suddenly fighting ? Is it a real fight ? The answer depends a lot on whether they’ve done this before.
Most likely, it’s the beginning of a real fight. Small skirmishes can spring up from nowhere, and they’re largely unpredictable.
If your hamsters are babies, and you’ve only just brought them home, it’s possible that they’re establishing the roles. In a pair one hamster is always a bit more dominant, even if it’s just a little. Supervise them when they’re young, and see if it devolved into actual fighting.
For the most part, hamsters can play fight, or have small arguments. These are usually harmless, even if they are loud. One hamster will jump on the other one, they may squeak and run around, but in the end one will give in.
That’s the submissive hamster, and if they return to whatever they were doing beforehand, it’s okay. If it all turns into biting, cornering, relentlessly chasing and you start to see blood and a bit of stray fur, you need to separate them.
The small arguments are more common when the hamsters are first introduced together in the same cage. Over time they subside, but they can still come up from time to time.
Hamsters need plenty of territory
This is the main reason hamsters should be kept alone. Yes, some breeds are okay with living together with another, but in general they should be alone.
This is because hamsters require a lot of territory to run around, forage, and generally have their own turf. When they share that territory with another hamster, it can become a problem.
So, make sure you get your hamsters a big enough cage – more on that here. In that article you’ll find the minimum cage requirement for a single hamster. But when you have two hamsters, you need to double that.
That means that the minimum for one hammy is 24 x 12 inches, and about 12 inches tall. That’s 61 x 30.5 cm, and about 30.5 cm tall.
In this case, the minimum for 2 hamsters, even if they’re just Dwarf types, is 48 x 24 inches by 12 inches tall. In centimeters that’s 122 x 61, by 30.5 cm tall. Hamsters don’t need a lot of height in their cages, but they do need a lot of floor space.
Always go for a bigger cage. You’re sparing yourself and you hamsters a lot of trouble.
Hamsters tolerate only litter mates they grew up with
As it turns out, not all hamsters can get along. This is aside from the breeds that can’t be housed together. If your hamsters are of a different litter, but still babies, they might still fight.
The younger and more similar the hamsters are, the easier it will be for them to tolerate each other. So it’s best to pair hamsters which are from the same litter. And it’s best to do this before they’re 6-7 weeks old.
That’s when hamsters mature, and maturing together will help your hamsters tolerate each other better.
Even so, sometimes hamsters from the same litter raised together can still not get along. Each pairing can be more or less successful, depending on the hamsters’ personalities. So again, supervise their first interactions and see if they can get along.
Which hamster breeds can live together ?
Of all the hamster breeds, only some Dwarf types can live together. Specifically Roborovski, Campbell’s, and Siberian hamsters can live together and not fight.
This is only true for hamsters that were born in the same litter, so are siblings. If they were raised together by their mother, and brought home in a same-sex pair, and put in a cage together they will most probably get along well.
There is a Dwarf type that should not be housed with another, and that is the Chinese hamster. The Chinese is slightly larger than the other 3 dwarf types, more territorial, and needs to be left by himself.
And finally, Syrian hamsters will be aggressive toward any hamster,ans should always be kept alone. Never get your Syrian hamster a friend, they will fight to the death.
For Chinese and Syrian hamsters, even if you bring home 2 hammies of the same gender and litter, it’s a bad idea. They will fight and this can devolve into actual death matches.
For the most part, no, hamsters do not get lonely. The more sociable ones, like the Roborovski, Campbell, and Siberian can live without their cage mates as well.
As for the more aloof Syrian and Chinese, they definitely do not need a friend.
All hamsters are okay with human interaction, and they will remember their owner. But hamsters do not get attached as much as other kinds of pets do (like a dog, for example).
Still, they will ask for your attention if they see you. This is for the most part curiosity about everything that surrounds them.
So in short – hamsters do not really get lonely. While some hamster types can live together, they do not need to live together in order to feel alright or safe. In the wild they would be living alone.
When to separate hamster babies
Baby hamsters will need to be separated into gender specific groups when their mother weans them. Usually that’s around 3-4 weeks of age.
So it’s important to separate the hamsters into genders for that reason alone. This is also useful when you’re preparing the hamsters to later be kept in pairs.
Having their cage mate with them from the very beginning will be much easier for both hamsters.
Always get same sex pairs, unless you want a new litter. If you do want a new litter, you must separate the two because the female will go into heat every few days. Also, she can become pregnant right after giving birth, so it might even slip your notice.
Best to be safe and get all male or all female pairs, and house them together in a very large cage.
How to find your hamster’s gender
A hamster’s gender is easy enough to tell, but some breeds are harder to figure out. Those are the Dwarf types (Robo, Campbell, Siberian, Chinese) since they are so small and wriggly.
For more info on how to find your hamster’s gender, you need to read this article. You’ll get info on how to handle untamed hamsters as well, and this is crucial when you’ve got baby Dwarf hamsters.
In short, you need to look for the genital area of your hamster, and notice the differences.
On males, you will notice that the genital opening and anal opening are farther apart, and have a patch of fur between them. If you hold the hamster and tilt him on his back a bit, you will notice that his testicles will show more clearly.
On females, the genital and anal openings are almost the same, in that they are extremely close together. You might even have trouble telling them apart. Females will have 2 rows of nipples running down their abdomen.
When you’re holding your hamster he will most probably try to wriggle out of your hand. That’s normal, no hamster likes to be handled like that.
So make sure you keep the process very short, so as not to irritate the hamster. Now that you know all of this, let’s talk about how to house the two hamsters properly.
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How to house 2 dwarf hamsters
You will need a bit of patience and a sharp eye for this process. It can work out half the time, but the other half is not too pretty. Let’s see how to introduce the hamsters first.
You can only do this with baby hamsters. Adults (6 weeks and up) of any kind will fight ferociously !
Introduce the hamsters
If you’ve got hamsters from the same litter, so sibling hamsters, this will be easy. Simply place them in a cage large enough for both of them as adults. That’s a cage 24 x 12 inches wide, and about 12 inches tall. That’s 61 x 30.5 cm, and about 30.5 cm tall.
That is the absolute minimum, and you’re better off with a glass tank for Dwarf types. They are so small they can escape through the bars of a normal cage.
If you’ve got 2 different hamsters, from 2 separate litters, you need to be careful. Get 2 cages, and keep them close together so that the hamsters can see and smell each other regularly.
After a couple of days, if you see them trying to interact with each other, you can move them in together. If they ignore each other, they might not get along if you try to put them together. But if they are curious and sniff around a lot, you can try putting them together.
But this requires a third cage, that smells of neither of them. Clean, fresh bedding, clean toys, food bowls, and hideout and wheels as well. This way they won’t have ‘personal’ belongings, and will learn to share more easily.
Your hammies might ignore each other, or they might be very curious. A bit of sniffing and play fighting is normal, until they get used to each other.
Intervene if you notice them fighting too hard
The hamsters will do a lot of pouncing on each other, and will interact a lot. In the beginning, when they are just getting used to each other, and their personalities are developing, this is normal.
They’re also asserting their dominance and trying each other out. As long as it doesn’t get bloody and vicious, it’s alright. It will be loud, and it will involve a lot of chasing around. Again, another reason to get the hamsters a large enough cage or glass tank.
If the hamsters have small arguments what come out of nowhere and go away in a couple of seconds, that’s alright too. As long as they don’t devolve into something worse, it’s still play fighting.
Your hamsters will have short bursts like this every now and then, but they should be fairly rare. However if they are consistent and start to last longer each time, it’s a sign that they’re not getting along.
If you see one of the cornering the other hamster, biting, scratching, even blood – definitely separate them.
When separated the hamsters should be very far apart, even in different rooms. They can still hear and smell each other, which will stress them out.
Handle the hamsters so they get the same attention
If your hamsters get along and are okay, then great. Handling them will need to be done with care. Since hamsters are so sensitive to smell, having your scent on just one of them will increase the tension between the two.
So, try to handle them at the same time or in the same amount. Pick them up from their cage together, feed them together, and make sure they both get just as much attention from you.
This also means that you will need to do this daily, since Dwarf hamsters have a shorter memory. They need constant stimulation, and will forget owners after a few days.
Set up the cage for the hamsters’ comfort
Getting them 2 of each will mean that they have less opportunities to argue over who gets what. Hamsters are very territorial, and will argue over lots of things. Even if they’re siblings.
Another thing to be very careful for is how you set up the cage itself. Make sure that there are no blocked corners than your hamsters can get stuck in. When they chase each other around it’s important that they can actually run away.
Also, get them hideouts with at least 2 exits, so they can never corner one another. If their relationship devolves to bullying, the victim needs to have opportunities to flee. That means that long tubes or cramped corners should not exist in the cage.
Should you even keep hamsters together at all ?
In my opinion – no, you should not. Even Dwarf types, who can live together with another hamster of their kind. Hamsters are very territorial, and will eventually fight over many things. Small things like squabbles add up over time, and build tension.
Hamsters are so very sensitive to stress, and can develop all kinds of problems based on stress. So, for the hamster’s health, and your ease of conscience, you I recommend you keep all hamsters alone.
They live alone in the wild, and they are perfectly okay living on their own. They get a lot of love and affection from you, and even that can be too much sometimes. They can hide from you if they want. But another hamster in their cage can happen upon them at any time, whether they like it or not.
A word from Teddy
I hope you found a lot of useful info on here. I know a lot of people keep us hammies together, even if it’s not the best idea. If you do want to keep us together, make sure we’re Dwarf types and you give us a very very very large cage.
If you want to know more about us hammies, like why we’re scared of your sometimes, or how long we can go without food and water, you can check out the articles below.