4 Common Misconceptions About Hamsters

Discover the facts about hamsters sharing a cage, biting, being held and how hamster color relates to personality.

Hamster being held in hands
Many hamsters don't like to be held in hands, so keep your hands open and let your hamster walk onto your palm or move from palm to palm. SergeyKlopotov/iStock/Thinkstock

By Martha Boden

Think all hamsters can share a cage or that a hamster’s personality depends on the color of his fur? Think again. We clear up four common misconceptions about hamsters.

1. Hamsters Can Share A Cage

Some hamsters can share a cage, some can’t. Syrian hamsters must never be caged together once they reach 5 weeks of age. Syrian hamsters are territorial and will fight, sometimes to the death of one or both. If you want two or more Syrians, get a spacious cage for each one. Each hamster should have its own exercise ball, as well.

Dwarf hamsters can often share a cage if they’re introduced to their future cagemates at an early age. If serious fighting occurs, however, the combatants must be placed in separate cages.

Note: Syrian hamsters are sometimes called Teddy Bears or Black Bears. They’re still Syrians, so the same rules apply about not caging them together.

2. All Hamsters Bite

Correction: All animals bite — if provoked! Animal behavior is always unpredictable, which means it’s important that you learn proper handling to help your hamster feel safe. Hamsters have weak eyesight and will often explore a new object with their teeth. Washing your hands before handling a hamster, especially if you have recently held food, can reduce the likelihood that your hamster will mistake your fingers for food.

Be sensitive to your hamster’s schedule and respectful of its time in its nest. Allow it to wake up fully before attempting to get it out of its cage. If the hamster seems frightened, running away from your hands or raising its paws in front of its face, give it some time to settle down before attempting to pick it up. Sometimes allowing your hamster to climb into a cup or its exercise ball to lift it out of the cage will help it calm down enough to walk into your hands.

3. Hamsters Don’t Like To Be Held

It isn’t so much that hamsters don’t want to be held as that their bodies are designed to be in one of two states: asleep or moving.

Attempting to confine a hamster in your hands is frightening to a hamster whose life depends on its ability to run away for safety. If you keep in mind that an awake hamster is active, you can be prepared for its antics in your hands. Keep your hands open when handling your hamster, allowing it to walk from hand to hand, or from your hand to your lap and back.

Create a play area by using a plastic wading pool or a dry bathtub filled with toys, wheels, sand bowls, tubes and boxes that allow your hamster to move about freely and explore while you closely supervise its fun time. Make sure other household pets do not have access to the hamster’s play area.

4. Different Hamster Colors Mean Different Personalities

Some people may try to convince you that a particular coat color on a hamster ensures you will get a certain personality. New owners have been convinced to pay higher adoption fees for supposedly “new hamster breeds with guaranteed temperaments.” Oftentimes “European Black Bears,” “Albino Black Bears” and “Pandas” are simply black, white or black-and-white Syrian hamsters.

Hamster personality is established through breeding for good temperaments and proper handling after weaning. Select your hamster based on its overall health at the time of adoption, not its color.

Excerpt from the Popular Critters Series magabook Hamsters with permission from its publisher, Lumina Media.

Article Categories:
Critters · Hamsters