I keep hamsters and have learned a lot about introducing them to one another through trial and error.
If you already have one dwarf hamster and are thinking about adding a friend to make things cozier, there are two extremely important steps that must be taken:
- First, make sure you are prepared to have two separate cages. This is just in case the two decide they definitely don't care for each other's company.
- The next thing to be sure of is that you get another hamster of the same sex.
Once those first two considerations are out of the way, you're ready to begin the introduction process. Please keep in mind that when I talk about dwarf hamsters, I'm speaking from the viewpoint of someone who only owns females.
I've found that the best way to get your current dwarf and a new dwarf used to each other is by putting them both into a strange environment together, so neither one has established the place as its home.
If you put a new dwarf into a cage with the one you already have, you're asking for trouble and a big fight. By fight, I mean to the death. A dwarf hamster can kill another dwarf. I've seen it happen. Your current dwarf gets acclimated to her home and her scent gets on everything. Then when the newbie is introduced, it's an invasion of your current hamster's space. That is why the neutral territory method is best for introducing a newbie is best.
I mainly use the bathtub in my spare bathroom. I plug the drain and put both of the dwarfs in the tub at the same time. This creates a bit of a shock effect to their territorial instincts. Both are in unfamiliar surroundings. At first, they will be more busy checking out the place than each other. Eventually, they will come face to face and there will be a bit of a showdown.
Dominance and Fighting
The first time you see and hear your dwarfs fight it can be alarming. Don't panic and separate them right away. Watch the behavior of both. You'll find that one will tend to be more dominant, and one will be more submissive. The submissive one will flip onto its back with its mouth open, and lie still in a sort of "I give up and don't want to fight" pose. After watching this type of action for a while, you will learn which behavior is real fighting and which behavior is related to dominance. You'll know when it's really time to separate the two.
I've had dwarfs do the dominance fighting thing a couple of times and get along perfectly from then on. I've also had times where I've had to keep them separated and do the neutral territory bathtub thing a couple of times a day for a week or so.
An alternate method that I use when two dwarfs are really fighting is to put them in a smaller strange place together to force them to get along. This can be seen in the photo above. I use a really large popcorn or salad type bowl. Make sure the sides are high enough that they can't jump out. You can even put a small amount of food in the bowl to give them something to do.
Putting Them in the Cage Together
Since the scent of the dwarf you had first is in the cage, clean the cage thoroughly to get the scent out of everything. Change the litter and food too. Once that has been done, take the old and new dwarf in the same hand and put them in the cage together.
Be prepared to see the same type of dominance fighting as you did in the neutral territory test with the bathtub or bowl. Like I mentioned, you'll start to learn what fighting behaviors you need to be concerned about, and which are just a power struggle for dominance. Having more than one place for a dwarf to go is beneficial in this case. If one is rolling over and submissive, at least there is a place to flee to.
Patience and Time
If you're not willing to repeat the above steps and work with your dwarf hamsters, I would recommend sticking with only one. If you ever see that fighting has drawn blood, I would separate them at this point and try the neutral territory thing over and over if needed.
I've only had one instance of two dwarfs not being able to get along when introduced patiently over time. She lives in a separate cage and is put in with the others occasionally just to have some "hammie" time with her own kind. Like a good thing, it doesn't last forever and she goes back into her own home.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2010 steven62
Ellie on July 25, 2018:
I’ve had a female Russian dwarf hamster since March and I’m going to get another female russian in a few days .. will they get along in the same cage? It’s quite a big cage and I have a spare just in case.
Mateo Andrade on June 14, 2018:
I have had a robo for 8 months and thinking about adding a young robo is that ok
Jenn on March 10, 2018:
Hi, if you have a hamster living by itself for a couple of days don't add another. When a hamster gets comfortable by itself anything new provokes a territorial issue. I tried introducing another hamster who had cagemates at the pet store to my hamster, which i had a week and they seemed ok but I found the new one dead the next morning. It's horrible. I didn't even want to keep the one I had because it killed another. If you're going to have more than one hamster get them at the same time, from the same cage and make sure there are no signs of injury on either of them. Go to a pet store you trust keeps good care of their animals.
Anna on February 16, 2018:
Can i put an adult hamster with a young one? Will the adult hamster fight with the young one or will they be cool
Natalie on August 27, 2017:
Dwarves should should never be put together unless they are cage mates, or be prepared for them to potentially fight to the death. This is an ill informed and misleading article. Don't do it people!!
kirby on January 22, 2017:
will this work to introduce a buddy to a 1 1/2 years or plus Robovoski hamster she seems I might lonely in that big cage of hers?
marian on August 28, 2016:
redwolf on April 03, 2015:
I've got a 1.5 year old Chinese, I want to get a baby one to keep her company, can I?
Charlotte on November 08, 2014:
I have a female Russian dwarf hamster I've had her for about 5/6 weeks she has never bitten me but lately she has been escaping from her cage I think it's due to loneliness and I would love her to have a friend but I already have three hamsters including her (two are Syrians who live in separate cages ) so if they don't get along I don't have any space to set up the spare cage I have please answer Asap
David on March 14, 2013:
I tried this but it failed for me after multiple attempts and I had to separate the hamsters.
Jenn on January 01, 2013:
You have no idea how many times I have looked at this article! I have an adorable Russian Cambell hamster named Black Bear. Hopefully if I ever get a second hamster they wont pick their favorite cage and never travel into the other one. The only reason I don't have a second cage yet and 2nd hamster is the fact that I am only 12 and my mom isn't a big fan of rodents. :))))
Kezia on June 04, 2012:
I have a male russian dwarf called Nugget, and i've had him for almost a year now.. i'm getting a new and bigger cage and i'm thinking about getting another male russian.. i've been told they will fight to the death so i'll try this.. my hamster is a bit bitey sometimes so i'm worried he won't like the new room mate..
chelsey on April 10, 2012:
i have a male Russian dwarf hamster named Chester i have had him for a few weeks now so i want to get him a buddy will the two hamsters fight even if they are from the same litter
Harley on April 01, 2011:
I have a male Chinese hamster called Oscar and I have owned him for a long time now but he is no where near a year old yet. I am thinking about getting another male Chinese hamster in a few weeks but I am really worried that they will end up killing eachother because of the massive age gap. Will they both be okay or is fighting just common in females or something? I will try your bath tub idea but please can you reply to this because I really need some more information, thank you.
Kendal on October 24, 2010:
I just got a new hamster and have put it with my old hamster to see how they get along it seems as though they just need to get to know each other. I'm going to try this activity and see how it works.