Syrian hamsters (the most common breed) are solitary creatures and prefer to live alone, but dwarf hamsters breeds (like Siberian, Roborovsky’s Djungarian and Chinese) are social and prefer to live in same-sex pairs. The typical lifespan for a hamster is about 2-3 years. Hamsters are nocturnal rodents, and can become a little agitated when handled during the day. Children should be supervised at all times with family pets, and very small children may not make the best companions for a hamster.

Hamsters are omnivores. A typical hamster diet includes:

  • Fresh water
  • Fresh pellets (main food supply)
  • Fresh fruits & veggies
  • Treats, like mealworms, crickets, eggs, bird seed, fish liver oil or even a dog or cat treat (in moderation)

Your hamster’s cage may be a wire enclosure (recommended for ventilation), or a plastic or glass aquarium. It should be large enough for your hamster to stretch and exercise comfortably. The cage should be placed in a warm space, away from direct sunlight (remember – nocturnal).

Cage contents:

  • Bedding (timothy hay, aspen shavings, shredded paper or pelleted bedding – no pine or cedar chips!)
  • Heavy ceramic food dish
  • Glass or plastic water bottle with a metal spout
  • Exercise wheel
  • Cardboard tubes (and/or specially-made hamster tubes)
  • Chew toy (any piece of untreated wood)
  • Small boxes (for burrowing)

Hamsters are family members too!

  • Clean out discarded food, soiled bedding and pellets daily.
  • Once a week, remove and replace all of your hamster’s bedding, after first scrubbing and drying her cage.
  • Provide something for her to gnaw on at all times (any small piece of wood that hasn’t been chemically treated).
  • Handle your hamster regularly.
  • Provide regular veterinary care.

The best way to pick up our rodent friends is to scoop them into cupped hands and hold them close to your body. Never wake a sleeping rodent!


  • As rodents, hamsters’ teeth grow continuously, so they need something to gnaw on all the time.
  • Hamsters are nocturnal and active at night, so the bedroom may not be the best place for your pet.
  • The name “hamster” is derived from the German word “Hamstern” which means “to hoard” – because that’s what they will do with any extra food that they find!
  • A hamster can only see 6 inches in front of her face.
  • The native habitats of hamsters are the deserts of Asia.
  • Hamsters love to burrow, providing them enough bedding or items that they can burrow through will help them to feel more comfortable.

Please note, articles in the Animal Resource Library are for reference only, and are not meant to diagnose or treat any medical or behavioral issues your pet may be experiencing.