If you head to the pet store to purchase a hamster, you’re likely to notice that there’s an enclosure packed with these little rodents. They’re all living together in a tiny little space, running all over each other, but none of them are getting injured. This might make you falsely believe that keeping hamsters together is a perfectly safe choice. After all, if the pet store does it, it must be safe, right?
Unfortunately, that sort of thinking doesn’t get you very far with hamsters. In truth, hamsters are rather solitary creatures. While a few rare types of hamsters can cohabitate, most of the time, keeping several together will spell disaster. Hamsters prefer to live by themselves and can even become very violent when forced to share a space with other hamsters.
Granted, some dwarf hamsters are fine being kept in pairs, and if you play your cards right, you could even keep a group of hamsters together, which is called a horde. But if you do this with the wrong hamsters, you’ll be setting yourself and your hamsters up for failure.
Is it Safe to Keep Hamsters Together?
In general, the answer is no. It’s not safe to keep hamsters together. In the wild, most hamsters live alone and only seek out other hamsters when it’s time to mate. For hamsters in captivity, life should mirror that of a wild hamster as closely as possible. If you break this rule, depending on the type of hamsters you’re dealing with, the consequences could be severe. Many hamsters will fight each other and can cause injury, illness, stress, anxiety, and in extreme cases even death.
To make sure you don’t put two of the wrong hamsters together, we’re going to take a closer look at a few popular species of hamsters to keep as pets and discuss the likelihood of them cohabitating peacefully.
Can Syrian Hamsters Live Together?
Syrian hamsters are some of the largest and most docile of all hamsters that are commonly kept as pets. They’re generally about 5-7 inches long when fully grown and can weigh as much as 6 ounces. While these hamsters are considered to be very friendly with humans, they’re not social with other hamsters. These hamsters only meet up to mate, and in the wild, you’ll never find two living in the same burrow. They’re very territorial, and if you put two Syrian hamsters together, you’re almost guaranteed to see fighting between them. Never keep Syrian hamsters together.
Can Robo Hamsters Live Together?
Roborovski hamsters, more commonly known as Robos, are one of the few hamster species that have been observed in the wild living in pairs. Still, they’re usually found alone, even in the wild, so this is the exception and not the rule. Even so, Robo hamsters are one of the most likely species to get along in cohabitation. If you want to keep more than one hamster in a single enclosure, Robo hamsters are a good choice. Just make sure to provide plenty of space to prevent fighting.
Can Winter White Hamsters Live Together?
Disappointingly, pure winter white hamsters are incredibly rare and you’re unlikely to find them without some serious searching. That said, hybrids of winter whites are rather common, and these hamsters sometimes live in groups in the wild. They can even be found in hordes much larger than just two hamsters, and there have even been cases of winter white hamsters sharing burrows with other animals! Granted, in a small enclosure, creating ample space for two hamsters can be difficult, but if you can provide enough space for them, two or more winter white hamsters should be able to cohabitate without much issue.
Can Dwarf Hamsters Live Together?
There are many types of dwarf hamsters, including winter whites and Campbell’s Russian dwarf hamsters. Even though most full-size hamster species can’t be kept together for their safety, many dwarf hamster species can cohabitate with success. This includes the Campbell’s Russian dwarf hamster, which you’ll often find hybridized with winter whites. Similarly, these hamsters can also be kept in pairs or even small groups.
That doesn’t mean that all dwarf hamsters are good candidates for cohabitation though. Chinese hamsters are dwarves as well, but these are solitary hamsters, unlike winter whites and Campbell’s Russian dwarf hamsters. Chinese hamsters will fight if kept together, even if you’re just keeping one male and female together. They will need to be kept in separate enclosures and only put together for mating purposes.
Rules for Setting Up Successful Hamster Cohabitation
Even if you pick a hamster species that can do well with multiple animals in the same enclosure, there are extra steps you’ll have to take to set them up safely. You can’t simply throw two hamsters in a small cage and expect things to work out. Instead, you’ll need to follow these guidelines to ensure that your hamsters have everything they need to cohabitate in peace without fighting.
1. Start them Together Young
If you attempt to introduce two adult hamsters, they’ll almost always fight. Hamsters become territorial, so you’ll be best off introducing two young hamsters together in a shared enclosure. They’ll learn to adapt to each other as they age, preventing a lot of the territorial and dominant behaviors you’d see when introducing two adults.
2. Same-Sex Pairings
For mating purposes, you’ll need to keep a male and female together. However, females can become extremely territorial and aggressive after giving birth. They might even eat their own young! When this happens, other adults in the same enclosure are also at risk. But if you keep two hamsters of the same sex together, be it two females or two males, you’re far less likely to see fighting between them.
3. Same-Species Pairings
It might seem like two dwarf species are close in size and similar enough to keep together, but this is rarely a good idea. Though they’re similar in size, temperaments can differ greatly. Not all dwarf species agree with cohabitation, even if some do. As a general rule, only keep hamsters of the same species together—if at all.
4. Prepare Backup Enclosures
Even if everything seems like it’s going smoothly, things can change. Your hamsters might get along just fine one day but be at each other’s throats the next day. If this happens, you’ll need to have a backup enclosure prepared where you can move one of the hamsters to keep them both safe.
5. Provide Ample Resources and Space
If resources are scarce, it could cause fighting among your hamsters, even if they usually get along well. You’ll need to make sure there’s plenty of space in the enclosure; two hamsters need a lot more space than one. Also, ensure there’s enough food and water to go around without the need for fighting over resources.
Don’t let the hamster enclosure at the pet shop trick you. They might keep all of those hamsters in the same cage, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for you to do the same. Most hamsters are solitary creatures and will become territorial, aggressive, and violent when introduced to other hamsters. Still, there are a few species that can be safely housed together, provided you take some sensible precautions such as providing ample space and resources and only keeping together hamsters of the same sex and species.
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Featured Image Credit: Natalia Kopylcova, Shutterstock