Syrian hamsters, also known as golden hamsters, were introduced as pets by the American highway engineer Albert Marsh, who started a hamster breeding business in the 1940s. The Syrian hamster remains the most popular choice of pet hamster due to its low cost, ease of care and the many different variations available, although the various species of dwarf hamster and chinese hamsters are also commonly kept as pets.
Learn about the differences between each type of hamster and the care each requires before choosing the one that is best for you and your family.
The Syrian hamster, or golden hamster, is the most popular choice of pet hamster due to its low cost, ease of care and the many different color variations available. They are also generally easy to tame and, due to their large size, they are the easiest hamster to handle.
However, they are not sociable and fighting will occur if they are housed together. They should therefore be kept as a single pet or kept in separate cages.
Dwarf hamsters are gaining in popularity as pets and provide a smaller alternative to Syrian hamsters. Unlike Syrian and Chinese hamsters they can often be housed together in small same-sex groups of the same species if familiarised with each other while they are still young.
Although if you are planning to house two or more dwarf hamsters together then they will need to be roughly the same age and size, while they should also have been living as part of a group when bought.
The Campbell's Russian is the most common type of dwarf hamster available.
The winter white Russian is a very similar hamster to the Campbell's Russian.
The Roborovski is the smallest dwarf hamster, and combined with their speed and agility, this makes them very difficult to handle.
The Chinese hamster is less common than the other types of hamster. They are similar in size, speed and agility to dwarf hamsters but are easier to handle as they will grip onto your fingers with their paws.
However, unlike dwarf hamsters they are not normally sociable and so in most cases they should not be housed together.