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I do not breed hamsters.


But I thought it would be nice to write a little guide on the comparisons between rats & hamsters and share info on hamster care.

I have a pet Syrian long-haired hamster, male, named Jellybean. He is adorable!

Rats VS Hamsters

  • Species and Varieties

Our pet rats are all only one species the Brown/Norway rat

There are several different types of hamsters in the pet world- 

  • Syrian 

  • Campbell's Russian

  • Winter White

  • Roborovskii's

  • Chinese Hamster

  • Groups vs Solo

Rats of both sexes need to be kept in groups always

Hamsters of both sexes must be kept solo always

If you want only one animal get a hamster not a rat!

  • Lifespan

About the same of 2-3 years on average

  • Hands on

Rats are far more hands on and interactive. Rats can be more like a cat or dog in terms of personality

Hamsters can bond to their owners but much more prefer to be watched and fed treats vs handled or snuggled

  • Hours

Rats are more awake at dusk and dawn but tend to follow their owners schedule and IMO tend to be more like cats where they sleep for long hours, awake, sleep, awake throughout the day and night. So you will get chances to see them often and interact.

Hamsters are nocturnal. And since they are true burrowing animals you might never see them if you are only up during the day! It is a common complaint in pet groups.

  • Caging

Both rats and hamsters are fossorial which mean they borrow and floor space is much more important.

But rats can enjoy height and can enjoy climbing

Climbing is dangerous for hamsters who are not the best climbers and prefer to stay burrowed in deep bedding during the day

Hamsters need deep bedding of 6+ inches but up to 10 is ideal

  • Grooming

Both groom themselves and neither should be bathed

Hamsters use sand for sand baths


Basic Hamster care


There is some debate on cage size for hamsters. Depending on who you ask, the cage minimum is between 450-800 square inches (multiple the length x width to get square inches) of floor space. This must be continuous floor space, shelves or upper levels do not count. Some even feel 1000 square inches is the minimum for Syrian!

Bigger is better! Definitely do not go under 450 square inches IMO. 

I have the Ikea Detolf which is actually a display shelf but turned on its side makes a wonderful hamster cage. It is 5' long! For a lid I bought a Rubbermaid closet shelf from Home Depot and had them cut it to 61". You want the one that is 72' by 16'. I wrapped it in hardware cloth and ziptied it to the metal bar to make a hinged lid.

Pics below of my cage


The most ideal diet is Mazuri for rat & mouse paired with Higgins Sunburst Gourmet Blend Gerbil & Hamster Food. These need to be fed together.

Fresh food can also be given in moderation.

Herbs and Sprays should also be given. 


I do a mix of Kiln dried pine, aspen, paper, and hay. This makes an ideal substrate for making strong and secure burrows. This is very important for hamsters. 

Toys and other requirements

A sand bath should always be given. It needs to be SAND and not dust. I use Niteangel brand. I bought a large bowl from Walmart to use as the sand holder.

I prefer to use a water bowl

Niteangel is a great brand for hides. They have many different types, search amazon for Niteangel.

Chews are very important! Having a variety is important as well. The more the better.

Applewood sticks,

Wooden toys

Whimzees dog chews

Wheels are a MUST. Smaller hamster species can use 8+ but 10+ is ideal. Syrian need 10+ with 12 being Ideal.

I use the Niteangel wheel in Large.

Cork logs, grapevine wood, bendable wooden bridges, etc....

My favorite Youtube hamster videos

Victoria Raechel

Munchie's Place

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