While it might seem “lonely” to us, many hamsters thrive when living alone. However, is this what’s really best for them, and can dwarf hamsters live together?
Hamster owners are divided on this topic, with some stating that dwarf hamsters should never live together and others asserting that dwarf hamsters do exceptionally well in pairs or groups. We’ll address both sides of the argument and let you know our opinion here.
- What Are Dwarf Hamsters?
- Keeping Dwarf Hamsters Together: Yes or No
- Can Winter White Hamsters Live Together?
- Can Campell’s Dwarf Hamsters Live Together?
- Can Roborovski Hamsters Live Together?
- Male vs. Female Dwarf Hamsters Living Together
- How Do Pet Stores Keep Hamsters Together?
- What if You Already Have Two Dwarf Hamsters Together?
- Do Dwarf Hamsters Get Lonely?
- Keeping Dwarf Hamsters Together: The Cons Outweigh the Pros
What Are Dwarf Hamsters?
For this article, we’ll be discussing “dwarf hamsters,” which refers to three species of hamster:
- Winter white or Djungarian hamster (Phodopus sungorus)
- Campbell’s dwarf hamster (Phodopus campbelli)
- Roborovski hamster (Phodopus roborovskii)
Both Chinese and Syrian hamsters are more well-known to be solitary species and shouldn’t be housed together.
Keeping Dwarf Hamsters Together: Yes or No
Despite what you’ll often read on major pet blogs and websites, the general consensus amongst real hamster owners is that dwarf hamsters should not be housed together.
Technically, dwarf hamsters are social species, but this doesn’t mean they get along well in captivity. It also doesn’t mean that they need the social interaction of other hamsters to be happy.
In the wild, dwarf hamsters live in loose colonies, which means they have plenty of space to be by themselves. They generally live in close proximity to each other for safety and for mating, rather than for regular social interaction.
This is different from species like gerbils and mice, which are highly social and need the interaction of other members of their species to be happy.
Dwarf hamsters from the same litter
When dwarf hamsters have been able to successfully live together in captivity, they have typically been hamsters from the same litter.
Two dwarf hamsters of the same sex that have lived together since birth have a much better chance of living harmoniously than two dwarf hamsters from different litters. This means you should also avoid keeping a mother/daughter pair or a father/son pair of dwarf hamsters.
Introducing two dwarf hamsters
Although you can find guides for introducing two dwarf hamsters, we do not recommend this. Forcing two hamsters from separate litters to interact or even live together is more likely to end badly than to end well.
This is because the hamsters are completely unfamiliar to each other, so they’re likely to view each other as competition rather than companions.
Can Winter White Hamsters Live Together?
According to research, winter white (Djungarian) hamsters have a better chance of living peacefully together than Campbell’s hamsters. This is especially true of female winter white hamsters.
However, almost all “winter white hamsters” today are actually hybrids of winter white and Campbell’s dwarf hamsters. So it’s hard to tell whether they would get along well together as some winter white hamsters do, or whether they could be more aggressive like many Campbell’s hamsters.
Winter white hamsters also do not need the companionship of other hamsters to live happily in captivity. So even if you have two purebred winter white hamsters, keeping them together may not be the best choice, as the potential cons can outweigh the potential pros.
Can Campell’s Dwarf Hamsters Live Together?
Campbell’s dwarf hamsters are generally more aggressive than winter white dwarf hamsters. But as mentioned above, you’re very unlikely to find a purebred Campbell’s dwarf hamster in captivity.
So if you own what you believe is a Campbell’s dwarf hamster, it’s almost definitely a hybrid of winter white and Campbell’s. This means that the behavior of two hamsters together is very unpredictable, and each hybrid hamster can have very different reactions to living in close proximity.
Campbell’s dwarf hamsters can theoretically live together, but they don’t need social interaction with other hamsters and would usually do just as well on their own, if not much better.
Can Roborovski Hamsters Live Together?
Roborovski (Robo) hamsters have been observed living in pairs or small groups in nature. However, this is usually a breeding pair or small group, and they do not always stay together after breeding.
In captivity, a pair or small group of same-sex Robo hamsters from the same litter can live together successfully. But you should always be prepared to separate the hamsters if any fighting begins.
As with winter white and Campbell’s dwarf hamsters, we recommend keeping Robo hamsters solitary because they get very little if any benefits from living together, and the potential danger outweighs the potential benefits.
Male vs. Female Dwarf Hamsters Living Together
Research shows that female Campbell’s hamsters may be less aggressive than female Djungarian hamsters. On the other hand, male Campbell’s hamsters appear to be more aggressive towards one another than male Djungarian hamsters.
Overall, aggression in both species is thought to be higher in males. Campbell’s hamsters are generally more aggressive and territorial than Djungarian hamsters. This differs from Syrian hamsters because female Syrians are generally more aggressive than males.
Because almost all dwarf hamsters in the US are hybrids, it’s impossible to know whether a male or female hamster will act more like a winter white or more like a Campbell’s hamster.
There’s limited research to tell us whether male or female Roborovski hamsters are more aggressive, but anecdotal evidence shows that males might be slightly less territorial.
How Do Pet Stores Keep Hamsters Together?
If you’ve observed hamsters in a pet store, you’ve probably gotten the impression that hamsters can safely live together. However, this isn’t the case.
Hamsters can safely live together when they’re still very young, which is the case for most pet store hamsters. Many of these hamsters are from the same litter, which can improve their chances of living together, as well.
However, if the pet store was to keep more than one hamster together after they’re 8-10 weeks old, those hamsters would begin to show signs of stress, especially in such close quarters. If you see older hamsters in a pet store living together, you might unfortunately notice more signs of stress and even some battle scars from previous fights.
In general, it’s not recommended to follow the standards set by the pet store since these conditions are highly negligent and unsuitable for a hamster in the long term. Just because they appear to be getting along in a pet store cage, that doesn’t mean they should be kept that way.
What if You Already Have Two Dwarf Hamsters Together?
If you already have two dwarf hamsters of the same species living together and they appear to be enjoying each other’s company (not just tolerating each other’s presence), you can consider keeping them together.
Experienced hamster owners have successfully kept two or more dwarf hamsters together. However, you’ll need to take some precautions to try and help them continue getting along.
Provide lots of space
First, you’ll need to make sure that the hamsters have plenty of room (we would recommend at least 900 square inches of space). This will help them get along better and provide enough space for each hamster to seek time alone when needed.
Provide two of everything
Secondly, you’ll need to provide your hamsters with two of everything to prevent fighting over resources. This means you’ll need two of each of the following:
- Water bottles or bowls
- Food bowls if you’re not scatter-feeding
Keep an eye out for fighting
Even hamsters who have lived together their entire lives in peace can start fighting one day for apparently no reason. This is the main reason why most hamster owners advise against keeping hamsters together. They can appear to be best friends one day and cause each other serious harm the next.
If you choose to keep two dwarf hamsters together, you’ll need to keep a close eye on them to watch for signs of fighting and distress. If you see signs that your hamsters are starting to view each other as adversaries, separate them right away.
Have an extra enclosure on-hand
If you need to separate your hamsters at any point, you want to have a suitable enclosure for both of them. For that reason, you should have an extra enclosure on-hand in case you do need to separate your hamsters with little or no notice.
We recommend keeping a spare 40-gallon breeder tank or a similar suitable enclosure on hand.
Do Dwarf Hamsters Get Lonely?
It’s impossible to know whether or not a hamster feels lonely when housed alone, but it’s generally accepted that this isn’t the case. Research shows that hamsters housed socially show some positive health results, but the differences aren’t significant enough to mean that you should always house hamsters together.
This research was done on Syrian hamsters, but the same is likely true for most hamster species.
Dwarf hamsters who are housed alone don’t tend to show the signs of depression or stress that a truly social animal would show. For example, a lone gerbil or guinea pig will almost always show some signs of depression or lethargy if they don’t have a friend. Hamsters, on the other hand, can live solitary lives and display less stress than they would show if housed socially.
Keeping Dwarf Hamsters Together: The Cons Outweigh the Pros
If you take all of the proper precautions and pay special attention to your hamsters’ behavior, dwarf hamsters can live together and may even form a very close bond. However, this typically doesn’t enrich their lives enough to outweigh the potential danger of keeping hamsters together. In our opinion, keeping dwarf hamsters together is not worth the risk.
- Katherine E. Wynne-Edwards and Robert D. Lisk. Behavioral interactions differentiate Djungarian (Phodopus campbelli) and Siberian (Phodopus sungorus) hamsters. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 65(9): 2229-2235. https://doi.org/10.1139/z87-337.
- Appropriate company for hamsters. RSPCA. https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/rodents/hamsters/company
- Kyle SC, Burghardt GM, Cooper MA. Development of social play in hamsters: Sex differences and their possible functions. Brain Res. 2019 Jun 1;1712:217-223. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2019.02.012. Epub 2019 Feb 12. PMID: 30768930; PMCID: PMC6461509. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6461509/