The 5 Most Popular Hamster Breeds for Pets

Golden hamster in cage

If you're considering buying a hamster, these charming little critters make excellent pets. There are 24 different types of hamsters, but only five are frequently kept as pets. Some hamster species are excellent lone pets, while others thrive in a community setting. Some breeds are better suited for handling while others like to play on their own if you're seeking for a hamster to hold and engage with.


Over time, you may form a relationship with a hamster. Be patient, don't push handling, feed on a regular schedule, give out-of-habitat playing, and communicate softly with your new pet. Eventually, a hamster will identify your scent and speech and perceive you as a source of comfort.

Species Characteristics

Short tails, tiny eyes, and black, brown, gray, white, yellow, or red hair characterize pet hamsters, which range in length from 2 to 7 inches. Food is collected and transported in huge cheek pouches. They have broad feet with four front toes and five hind toes. Hamsters' front teeth are huge and chisel-shaped, and they continue to develop throughout their lifetimes. Larger hamsters prefer to live alone; for example, if a group of male Syrian hamsters is put together, they would almost certainly battle for control and try to kill each other. Dwarf hamsters of the same gender appear to be able to live peacefully together. When it comes to humans, hamsters are normally gentle and rarely bite. All hamsters are nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day and wake up at night.

These five hamster breeds tend to make great family pets.

  • 01 of 05

    Dwarf Roborovski

    Dwarf Roborovski (Phodopus roborovski) hamster on wheel

    The Roborovski dwarf hamster (Phodopus roborovski) is the tiniest of the major hamster breeds, reaching just 2 inches in length. These hamsters live for roughly three years on average. Because this breed is so little, it's preferable to keep them in an aquarium with a mesh top. They may easily get out of wire cages due of the space. The Roborovski hamster is a fast-moving creature. It is a fast-moving breed that enjoys being active. Make sure this hamster has lots of toys and activities to keep him occupied.

    Although these hamsters can be handled, they prefer to be left alone. They can quickly squirm out of your grip and get due to their small size and nimble nature. As long as they are appropriately introduced, they may be sociable and perform well in same-sex groups. The dwarf Roborovski is an excellent choice if you want to have numerous hamsters.

    Species Overview

    Length: 2 to 3 inches

    Weight: 0.7 to 1 ounce

    Physical Characteristics: Sandy brown fur with white bellies and white markings around their eyes

  • 02 of 05

    Campbell’s Dwarf Russian

    The Campbell's dwarf Russian hamster (Phodopus campbelli) reaches a maximum size of 4 inches and has a two-year lifespan. As long as the hamsters are properly introduced, this is another gregarious breed that may be kept in same-sex groups. The Campbell's dwarf Russian hamster is a swift tiny mammal that can bite if it feels threatened or scared. They are sociable hamsters who don't mind being handled correctly. Despite being nocturnal, these hamsters may wake up for brief periods of time throughout the day.

    Species Overview

    Length: 2 to 4 inches

    Weight: 1.5 to 2 ounces

    Physical Characteristics: Grayish-brown body fur, white belly fur, and a darker stripe down their backs with furry feet

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    Syrian (Golden) Hamster

    The Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus), sometimes known as golden or teddy bear hamsters, is the most popular pet hamster, especially among youngsters. They range in length from 5 to 9 inches and have a two- to four-year lifetime. This hamster comes in a variety of colors and coat lengths because to careful breeding, however the most common hues and coat lengths are golden-brown and white.

    The Syrian hamster is the easiest to work with. It is the easiest of the popular pet hamsters to tame, the slowest, and the least prone to bite. They are amiable with people but possessive with other hamsters, therefore they should always be kept alone. If they are housed in groups, they will fight. The Syrian is a nocturnal creature that is rarely seen during the day. The best times to engage with this hamster are early in the morning or late in the evening.

    Species Overview

    Length: 5 to 9 inches

    Weight: 5 ounces

    Physical Characteristics: Golden brown with a lighter belly, although several variations in color, pattern, and hair length exist

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    Dwarf Winter White Russian

    The Campbell's dwarf Russian hamster (Phodopus sungorus) is comparable to the dwarf winter white Russian (Phodopus sungorus). They average 3.5 to 4 inches in length and have a two-year lifespan. Their faces are broader and shorter than the Campbell's. In the winter, its fur might turn white. The dwarf winter white Russian hamster is extremely placid and less prone to bite than other hamster species. They are swift and nimble, and youngsters may find them challenging to handle.

    As long as they are properly introduced at a young age, you can maintain this hamster breed in same-sex couples or groups. Even hamsters bred together can become territorial, and as they become older, they may need to be separated. This little breed should be kept in an aquarium tank with a mesh cover since it can slide through standard wire cage spacing.

    Species Overview

    Length: 2.7 to 3.5 inches

    Weight: 0.7 to 1.6 ounces

    Physical Characteristics: Round bodies, short faces; dark gray fur, white bellies, and a black stripe down their backs; fur can turn white in winter

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Cricetus griseus, the Chinese hamster, can grow to be five inches long. They have a three-year lifespan. If they are routinely tamed and handled from a young age, this species is noted for being amiable and comfortable with handling. They can be shy and scared if they aren't used to being handled, which can lead to nipping. They're small and nimble, and they'll slither right out of your grasp. When handling a hamster, always be cautious and conscious of how high you are holding them. To avoid high falls, stay close to the ground. Another friendly species that may be kept in same-sex groups or pairs is the Chinese hamster.

    Species Overview

    Length: 3.2 to 5 inches

    Weight: 1.1 to 1.6 ounces

    Physical Characteristics: Brown fur with a black stripe down their back and lighter colored fur on its underside; has longer tails than most hamsters

Hamsters to Avoid

If you have cats or who have an overabundance of curiosity in little furries, or if you have a noisy household with young children who may struggle to carefully handle these vulnerable creatures, avoid any hamsters. You'll also need to create a specific location for the hamster to sleep quietly throughout the day if you have an active household during the day. If you can't locate a peaceful place to keep hamsters, a diurnal or would be a better option.

If you want to handle your hamster, then avoid the three dwarf species. They are quicker, more agile, and quite slippery—most likely to escape and suffer an injury from a fall from your hands.

  • How many hamster breeds are there?

    There are 24 hamster species.

  • How can you identify a hamster's breed?

    Identifying a hamster's breed is all about the markings and the size of the animal.

  • What is the rarest hamster breed?

    The world's rarest hamster is the European hamster, which could be extinct within 30 years.