With five domesticated breeds of hamster to choose from, it can be hard to know which one to get. Especially for a first-time owner.
The trick is knowing what you’re looking for. Let me explain!
What is the Best Hamster to Get?
Just as we discussed in this post, there are five breeds of hamster that are kept as pets:
- Syrian hamster
- Roborovski hamster
- Chinese hamster
- Campbell’s Dwarf hamster
- Winter White Russian dwarf hamster
It can be difficult to know which one of these to get, especially if you haven’t thought things through. Start by asking yourself these four questions:
- Do I have previous experience?
- Do I plan to get more than one (in the same cage)?
- Are small children supposed to handle the hamster?
- Do I mostly want to watch the hamster, or do I mostly want to handle it?
Keep those questions (and answers) in the back of your mind while you read the descriptions of each breed. You will definitely get a better idea which hamster to get.
The Syrian hamster is the most common hamster pet, and it’s known by several different names – for example Golden hamster, Fancy hamster, and Teddy Bear hamster.
It’s a solitary animal that fiercely defends its territory. If you try to introduce another hamster in the same cage, it will end in a bloodbath. So be wise and don’t get more than one.
The Syrian hamster is the largest breed (5-7″ long and 125 g in weight), and it’s quite docile and easy to handle. The combination of its relatively large size and calm nature makes it a great choice for small children and unexperienced owners.
Because of mutations, Syrian hamsters exist in a wide variety of colors (40+). Plenty to choose from!
The Roborovski hamster (Robo) is the smallest of the 5 domesticated breeds, with adults up to 2 inches in length and 25 g in weight.
Although Robos are quite sociable and friendly (bites are rare), they can be difficult to handle since they are very active and energetic, and also because of their small size.
They are fun to watch and a good alternative for those of you who are more into watching and less into handling and petting.
They work well in pairs or small groups (make sure they are all of the same sex), but it’s still important to pay attention to early signs of aggression, in case you would need to separate them.
The main color variation of the Robo is sandy brown with a white stomach and white spots above the eyes.
Robos usually live for around three years.
The Chinese hamster – sometimes called the Striped or the Chinese Striped hamster – is fairly small for not being a dwarf hamster. It’s usually between 3.2 and 5 inches long, and it can weigh up to 45 grams.
The Chinese hamsters are quick and can be fun to watch, and once they have been tamed, they are quite gentle and timid towards people. But not so much towards other hamsters as they can fall out and become aggressive. If you are unexperienced and not willing to supervise a lot, it’s best to keep them separately.
It’s not a very common type of hamster to keep as pet due to breeding issues. But if you have tried other breeds already and want to experience something new, a Chinese hamster could be the right choice for you.
Campbell’s dwarf hamster
The Campbell’s dwarf hamster (also called Russian dwarf) is a relatively small and quick hamster that’s social enough to live in pairs or small groups of the same sex.
Adults are normally in the 4-4.5″ region, can weigh 30-45 g, and live for 1.5-2.5 years.
They are not super easy to handle, as they are quick and can nip if they get nervous or feel threatened. So it’s not an ideal pet for small children, but rather more suitable for older children or preferably experienced hamster owners.
A good thing is that the Campbell dwarf hamster exist in many different color variations, which means you can probably find one of your liking.
Winter white Russian dwarf hamster
The Winter White Russian dwarf hamster – sometimes called the Djungarian hamster – is in many ways similar to the Campbell’s dwarf hamster.
The two species have the same speed, size, life expectancy, breeding pattern, and ability to co-exist with other hamsters of the same breed and sex.
There are some differences though. Winter Whites are friendlier and don’t nip or bite when feeling nervous. This makes them easier to handle than Campbell’s.
What is the Best Hamster for Kids?
Ok, time for the million-dollar question. If you’re thinking of getting a hamster for your kid, which is the best option?
Well, in ranking order, this would be my top list:
- Syrian hamster – Being relatively large, docile, and friendly, it’s no surprise that the Syrian hamster is the most popular breed. The downside is that they have to live in solitude.
- Winter White Russian dwarf hamster – They are friendly, don’t nip, and can live together with other Winter Whites. Being quick and small makes them harder to handle though.
- Chinese hamster – When tamed, they are quite gentle and friendly towards people. Downside for handling is that they are small and quick.
- Roborovski hamster – Fun to watch, but harder to handle, as they are very small and very quick and energetic.
- Campbell’s dwarf hamster – Can nip or bite. More suitable for experienced owners.
So, you have decided on a breed, and now you’re eager to buy your first hamster? Great!
But before you run to the nearest pet shop or breeder, there are a few more things to consider.
You have to decide on which gender your hamster should have. According to some breeders, there are differences between the two genders. They claim that males are more docile and easier to handle than the more aggressive females.
That would suggest getting a male is better, but if you plan to breed and get baby hamsters, a female is obviously the better option.
If you want to house more than one hamster in the same cage, it’s best to stick to the same gender, because hamsters generally breed like there’s no tomorrow.
Before buying the specific hamster you’re interested in, you’d want to make sure it’s healthy and in good condition.
Things to check for:
- Shiny fur
- Dry nose
- No hair loss
- Healthy-looking teeth
- Clear eyes
If the hamster passes your examination, and if the seller is serious and well respected, go ahead and buy it.
Good luck to you and your future little friend! 🙂