We all know that certain species of hamster, such as Syrian and Chinese, are solitary pets and should therefore not share a cage. Some dwarf species of hamsters, such as Campbells, Roborovskis and Winter White hamsters prefer the company of others and if introduced at an early age can live a harmonious life together. But what if you bring a hamster into a home where another pet already resides?
Keeping your hamster safe around other pets
It is important that your hamster does not coexist with other pets in your house as it could cause them harm and distress. Ideally, you should keep cats, dogs and other pets in separate rooms for the safety of your hamster.
In the wild feral cats and dogs hunt small rodents such as hamsters for food, so introducing another family pet such as a cat or dog into your hamsters’ personal space, is not a good idea. No matter how calm you think your cat might be or how dopey your dog reacts around you; their basic instincts can not be trusted as they may think your hamster is prey.
How to tell if your hamster is distressed
Due to their poor eyesight, hamsters have a strong sense of smell and hearing and so can easily detect if a predator is in the room. And, if they feel threatened, then they are likely to become distressed.
Even if you think your hamster is not bothered by barking, mewing, strange smells and sudden movements; your pets have the potential to cause your hamster to suffer severe nervousness, even if they are safely cossetted within their cage.
You will be able to tell if your hamster is anxious as it will start to spend more time along the walls of the cage, where they feel more protected and, just like a child playing with their hair or biting their fingernails, hamsters have a habit of continually washing their face. This is a habitual activity that they often use in order to calm themselves down.
Some hamsters will urinate or defecate when frightened or distressed whilst others bite to signify their bad mood. You should keep a close eye on any noticeable changes in behavior to check that your hamster is at ease around other pets.
Do dogs and hamsters like one another?
We recently had some family over who bought their very cute, fluffy dog with them for the day. Whilst Oscar and the bouncy pup were never nose to nose, the dog did show an interest, pressing its face against the hamster cage and barking. For a good couple of days following this brief encounter, our otherwise happy hamster became withdrawn and did not want to venture out of his cage for a play.
It is really important that if you have a dog and hamster in the same household, that you try and control the barking. This high pitched shrieking sound can irritate a hamster’s sensitive hearing and seriously stress them out. You should also keep the cage above your dog’s eye level, so the hamster is not able to be watched.
If possible, keep them in different rooms altogether, especially if your hamster is out of their cage or in an exercise ball. You do not want your pet dog to paw your hamster, no matter how well-intended it is trying to be.
Can cats get on with hamsters?
Tom and Jerry were entertaining as cartoon characters, but in reality, your cat chasing your hamster around the house wouldn’t be fun – especially for your terrified pet hamster.
Just like dogs, it is important to make sure that your hamster’s cage is in a secure environment, placed high up within your house. The door or lid of the cage should always be completely closed and locked if possible, and I would advise against using a modular cage with outside tubes. Cats are crafty and have been known to bat these loose in order to get inside or set the hamster free.
Make sure that there is no space for your cat to sit and watch your hamster play in its cage as this can be unsettling for a hamster – especially when the cage is meant to be its secure and personal space.
Can other small pets get along with a hamster?
Although some hamsters enjoy the company of other hamsters, it really depends on personality, and friendship should not be assumed.
Other small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils and rats are all completely different types of animals, and therefore should never be placed together with a hamster. Most animals are territorial and will attack if they feel threatened in their own surroundings.
Ways in which to enjoy your pets together
There are a number of things that you can do to help you enjoy having both a hamster and other pets together in your home.
You may hear stories of dogs and hamsters being best buddies, but it is not a risk worth taking for your hamster. Instead, you should look to teach your animals to respect your hamster and protect your hammie from harm.
There are many ways in which your hamster and other pets can live in the same household acrimoniously providing you: –
- Keep your animals separated from your hamster wherever possible.
- Do not have an open-topped cage – always make sure it has a lid and ideally, that the cage itself is lockable.
- Try to avoid modular cages with tubes joining them together. Certain animals such as cats can pop these out with their claws.
- Make sure to reward your pet for staying calm around your hamster.
- Never leave pets unsupervised in the same room as your hamster.
- Place your hamster’s cage well out of harm’s way, up high and out of sight from predator’s eyes.
- Play with your hamster in a separate room, well away from other pets – especially if you are using an exercise ball.
Hamsters know what they like and what they don’t like, including most common household pets, and sometimes even other hamsters. While many dwarf hamsters will welcome a friend, it is always best to introduce a second hamster of the same gender into your home and keep a close eye on them whilst they start to interact.
It is also possible to keep hamsters and other pets together providing you take care to keep them separated at all times and look out for any signs that your hamster may be distressed. Remember, in the wild hamsters would not naturally mix with cats, dogs and rabbits, for fear of being eaten, so don’t expect them to be best friends at home.