Finatics enjoys writing about animal care and is "owned" by a guinea pig, four hermit crabs, three African dwarf frogs, and a betta fish.
There are several species of hamsters being kept as pets today, and they all require a bit different care, so it's important to know the difference between the species to know which hamster is right for you. Make sure you know everything there is to know about whichever type of hamster you choose before you buy or adopt them!
Common Pet Hamster Species
- Russian Dwarf
- Winter White
1. Syrian Hamster
The Syrian, or teddy bear hamster, is the most popular species of hamster that is kept as a pet today. They are also the largest, growing up to 6 or 7 inches in length. Because of this, they require a larger cage and wheel and other accessories to accommodate their length.
Syrian hamsters also tend to be the friendliest (which makes them popular amongst kids) and generally allow people to pick them up and pet them without biting. In addition, Syrian hamsters are less active than dwarf hamsters, and this helps make them easier to handle as well. Syrian hamsters have an average lifespan of about three years. They are not social creatures and will attack other Syrian hamsters that are kept with them.
2. Russian Dwarf Hamster
The Russian dwarf, or Campbell hamster, is a very small critter, growing only to about 3 or 4 inches in length. Like the winter white hamster, they have a relatively short lifespan, living for 1 1/2 to 2 years. However, they are packed with personality.
They are much more active than the Syrian hamster, but less active than the Roborovski hamster and therefore easier to handle. Russian dwarf hamsters like to be kept in pairs IF introduced at a young age (housing two hamsters from the same litter is ideal). However, when introducing two male hamsters, it is wise to keep a very close eye out for violence.
3. Winter White Hamster
The winter white hamster is just about identical to the Russian dwarf hamster except for one thing—their fur changes color! As its name suggests, in the winter they grow a white coat, while during the hotter parts of the year, they sport a brown coat that makes them almost indistinguishable from Campbell hamsters.
As they are identical, they also should be paired with caution just like Russian dwarfs. They also grow to the same age and length as Russian dwarf hamsters. Both Russian dwarf hamsters and winter whites are adorable little critters who are fun to watch and relatively easy to cuddle!
4. Roborovski Hamster
This hamster is the smallest, fastest, and hardest to handle. They only grow to be about 2 inches but have a long lifespan of up to 3 1/2 years. They are incredibly adorable and lively, and though they may not be very cuddly, it certainly is enjoyable to watch their antics as they run around their home at light speed. They are very social animals and should be kept with at least one other hamster, but owners should watch for violence in case of an unusually aggressive hamster.
Choosing the Right Hamster
When purchasing or adopting your hamster, there are many considerations you need to keep in mind. What size cage you have, the costs you'd be willing to spend, how long you would want to keep a hamster, and more are all factors you need to keep in mind, but the most important is to make sure your hamster's behavior and personality matches what you are looking for in a pet, and you are willing to give him the best care he could possibly get.
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.
Riley treir on May 18, 2020:
winter white hampster
Melissa on May 07, 2019:
If there is which hamster is most similar to a rabbit I’ve had experience with rabbits before and I have a feeling there similar in ways if there isn’t a hamster that’s similar please tell or if there is a hamster that seems the most similar to a rabbit please someone tell me thank you :)
Evie on February 02, 2019:
I had 7 hamsters and some other pets but of the hamsters are dwarfs. I am very experienced and keep all of them in different cages of course. Recently one of them passed away so I have 6. I am planning to get a new one today but I’m stuck on getting a Syrian or a Dwarf. Any opinions?
Natalia on January 09, 2019:
I had three hamsters but two of them died last year. I had a Winter White and to Robos. All were male I really shouldn’t of kept them together in one cage.
Larisa on October 30, 2018:
zara, would be able to tell me a little more about the Russian hamster? I am looking to get them for my daughter who are 10 and old enough now to take care of them. Are they easy to handle? I know you said yours are 3 years old...is that pretty old for them?
Any special care tips you would like to share before I get them? Any help would be greatly appreciated. I can sen you my email address. Thanks
Shay1234 on July 16, 2018:
I have no experience with hamsters but im stuck between Syrian or robo
zara on June 27, 2018:
Hannah i would get a russian they are the best hamsters to get for me i have 3 of them and know they are 3 years old and they still have lots of energy
Max on March 06, 2018:
Syrian hamsters are 5-7 inches a male is called a boar females are called sows syrian hamsters are very cute have u been to 4-h fairs syrian hamsters canbe orange , black , brown and white , calico and more
Morghan on February 18, 2018:
Oh and I forgot to ask does the color on there fur indicate what there personality is?
Morghan on February 18, 2018:
Ive looked up Russian dwarf hamsters and Syrians so many times because I cant decide if I should get two dwarf hamsters or one Syrian
champion on January 20, 2018:
I think I'm going to get a syrian hamster, as they are much friendlier and easy to handle.
shannon on December 12, 2017:
Hi I would like to ask for your advice I really want a hamster but my mother said no please help me I would like a dwarf hamster
Kailen on November 29, 2017:
Which is better for me 12 yr old with no experience. Syrian Hamster or Dwarf hamster ?(campbell hamster)
Loobieloo on September 09, 2017:
I would say a russion dwarf would be good for you
Hannah on June 04, 2017:
I don't have the space to get a Syrian hamster, so which type of hamster should I get? I have never owned a hamster before, but I do have a rabbit so have some experience with animals.
Ahbs1738 on May 22, 2017:
Well I think maybe you should start giving us ur opinion on things like witch one u prefor.
abbie on April 24, 2017:
Thake you chelsea i will ger the syrian hamster i was going to get a dwarf haster.the syrian hamster seems a lot niser
Kaliyah monday on March 12, 2017:
Is a name
Cutesy Pie 3834 on July 28, 2016:
thanks Chelsea I am totally getting a Syrian hamster. (Because I love to cuddle) thanks
K on October 21, 2015:
Chelsea I loved your comment you should become a poet
idigwebsites from United States on October 13, 2013:
I miss having hamsters! I used to care for many when I was younger. A couple of them even had babies. :)
Camdyn on October 19, 2012:
nice job once again i am always enlightened by your hubs and they're very entertaining keep it up
finatics (author) on October 11, 2011:
Thank you Chelsea. I'm glad you had such a great experience with owning hamsters. And different species of hamster tend to have different personalities, and Robos aren't for everyone. Thanks for sharing!
Chelsea on September 04, 2011:
Hello My name is Chelsea and i think you should get a Syrian hamster
there so cute and they love to cuddle and its always nice to cuddle.
I had a Syrian hamster she was called pumpkin she ways so lovely she meant everything to me ! but then at the age of 3 she pasted away so then i got two Roborovski hamsters called cookie and cream, they were way two fast for me and they were just running all the time so i couldn't cuddle with them so i gave them to my friend and then i got another Syrian hamster I've still got her now shes called Lily and shes 3 months and 1 week old and tomorrow she'll be 3 months and 2 weeks old and she means the world to me ! Its the best thing I've ever done going back to a Syrian there so friendly! x
[I really do hope you choose the Syrian x]