Pet Hamsters


If your little one is begging for a family pet, we totally get it if you don’t want to go big or go home. Lots of families are “small pet” families and if your kid has already researched their options, they might know that some types of hamsters are great family-friendly options.

Also known as pocket pets or starter pets, hamsters are beloved for their manageable size and low maintenance. However, like most animals, some hamster breeds are better first pets than others—depending on what you’re looking for.

If you’re thinking about adding a hamster to your family, here are four types of hamster breeds that make good first pets.

Best Pet Hamster Breeds

Chinese Hamsters

Chinese hamsters tend to fare better when caged alone as they are generally more social with humans. They make good companions, especially for kids, because they are a little on the shy side, have a relatively event temperament, and are not known to bite. Chinese hamsters—also known as Striped or Chinese Striped Hamsters—also wake up frequently throughout the day for short bursts of daytime activity. For those looking for an active hamster (as in, not one who sleeps all day) the Chinese Hamster might the the best choice.

Dwarf Hamsters

There are actually two types of Dwarfs: the Dwarf Campbell Russian and the Dwarf Winter White Russian Hamster. While they do have some different qualities, they are relatively similar, so we’ve grouped them into one. Dwarfs are a little on the smaller side—usually growing to only 4 inches—but are considered more social. As in, they won’t kill each other if caged together (but you should note that only Dwarf hamsters of the same sex should be caged together). However, there is a downside to consider: both Dwarf species have been known to nip if they feel anxious or over-stimulated and as such, don’t always enjoy being touched or handled.

While all hamsters are nocturnal, Dwarf Hamsters tend to wake up pretty often throughout the day, which kids will definitely appreciate. However, another disadvantage is their relatively short lifespan—about two years.

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Roborovski Hamsters

The Roborovksi Hamster is even smaller than the Dwarf Hamster, only growing to 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches as full-size adults. But beyond their adorably teensy size, Roborovskis are also social (with people and with other same sex groups of hamsters) kind (they generally don’t bite or nip) and active.

However, they’re really fast and they’re jumpers, so if you are specifically looking for a hamster that enjoys being held, a Roborovski might not be a good fit. They are fun to watch and they are agile, but if handled a lot, you might find yourself looking for them more often than at them.

Syrian Hamsters

You may have heard of the Syrian Hamster before, but under a different name: Teddy bear hamsters! After all, they are the most popular hamster breeds to make as pets because they are a little larger than most other hamster breeds. These hamsters—which generally grow to be four to seven inches long when fully matured—are usually very easy to handle, which is a major plus if you’ve got little ones who can’t wait to hold them all day long.

While Syrian Hamsters are super social with kids and humans, they aren’t so much with each other. In fact, Syrians caged together might fight each other—like, to the death. So, if you’re going to have a Syrian make sure you have only one.

These hamsters also tend to live on the longer side—anywhere from two to four years—which is a plus for children.

More of a dog family? Check out these 50 small family-friendly dog breeds.