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Safe Hamster Cagemates

Get the answer to two common questions about whether hamsters can share a cage.

Martha Boden
Posted: May 27, 2014, 4 p.m. EDT

hamster on sweater
© Isabelle Francais/I-5 Publishing LLC
You are the best companion for your Syrian hamster, as this species of hamster must live alone.

Q: Is it possible that I can put a dwarf hamster with a Syrian hamster? Our veterinarian said that female Syrians can live with female dwarfs and that my Syrian may need a companion. Should I get a dwarf hamster like she said or leave my Syrian be?
Q: Can a Chinese dwarf hamster live in the same cage/large container with a hedgehog?
A: Syrian hamsters live alone in nature as soon as they are weaned and no longer need their mother’s care. After that, they seek one another out only for brief periods of mating. Our pet Syrian hamsters have all these same instincts, even though they no longer need to fight for territory or scarce resources. Mere decades of living as pets haven’t changed what is so deeply and essentially a part of being a Syrian hamster.
While pet Syrian hamsters are gentle creatures with people, all of their instincts tell them that any animal seeking to share territory and food is an invader. Syrian hamsters can’t escape an invader in captivity, so even the most mild-tempered will have no other recourse but to dispatch the newcomer at some point, often in horrifically swift and violent ways. The minutes or hours or days leading up to that end will be unnaturally stressful, and needlessly so.
The gender of the Syrian hamster doesn’t matter, nor does the species of the proposed "companion.” Syrian hamsters must live alone. It is their nature and their overwhelming need. It is the only safe and compassionate way to house a Syrian hamster.
Dwarf hamsters can live in small groups, but only one species to a cage. Each species has its own way of relating to and communicating with one another, and while we may not observe all the finer points of these distinctions, they do. Similarly, housing any hamster with an animal of any another species is simply not something either is equipped for. These forced pairings don’t provide meaningful companionship — only stress and very real danger.
Thanks for sharing these very important questions! It's clear you want the best for the little ones in your care, and it's natural to think that our pets share the same sort of emotional connections we do. Syrian hamsters don't, but they do bond strongly with the humans who take care of them. The most important thing to remember is that you're the biggest part of your pet's world, and she understands what you mean to her. Pets put themselves willingly in our hands. You're doing right by asking questions and placing your little friend's best interests first. It should make you really happy to know that you're all the companion she needs to enjoy a full and healthy life!

Like this article? Check out:
Keeping Two Or More Dwarf Hamsters, click here>>
Hamsters And Other Pets, click here>>

See more hamster questions and answers, click here>>
See hamster health questions and answers, click here>>
See Martha Boden's author bio, click here>>

Posted: May 27, 2014, 4 p.m. EDT

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