What does the social behavior of a hamster actually look like? Do the animals live in a pack and need a partner animal?
If so, can hamsters become lonely without a partner?
In this article we tell you everything about the social behavior of the animals, so you can choose the ideal housing and make your hamster a happy roommate.
Can hamsters become lonely?
No, hamsters actually prefer to be kept alone. Even in nature, they prefer to stay out of each other’s way because of their territorial behavior. Exceptions are dwarf hamsters and couples ready to mate.
Social behavior of hamsters
Surely you have already asked yourself before the acquisition whether you should not rather keep a pair or perhaps even more hamsters instead of a single animal. After all, the rodents might otherwise feel lonely and bored due to the lack of interaction with conspecifics.
Your hamster, however, sees it quite differently due to its innate social behavior!
Hamsters are very territorial.
The reason for this can be found in their origin. As desert animals, they live in areas where vital resources are scarce. Food, water and a safe nest are therefore defended by them – if necessary – to the death against conspecifics.
This is often the case even when they could easily escape over a wide area.
An exception is when a male smells a female that is ready to mate.
Female hamsters in the heat mark the way to their nest for this purpose.
However, even mating is aggressive and injuries cannot be ruled out. In addition, the female does not tolerate the male in her territory for a short time after reproduction.
Exception: Dwarf hamsters
Another exception are dwarf hamsters.
They are clearly more social and are occasionally found in pairs or groups.
However, they also usually separate before winter or when the group becomes too large.
So they are not dependent on constant company either.
Nevertheless, it is not impossible to keep several animals together. However, you have to consider some points.
What are the dangers of keeping hamsters in pairs?
Due to their origin and the instincts that have developed with it, hamsters defend their territory violently. Congeners perceived as intruders are therefore driven away or eliminated by all means.
Bloody fights or a fight to the death are not uncommon in nature.
In a cage or small hamster home, the risk of this is even greater.
It is true that resources are not limited, but are available at all times in the form of food, water and shelter. However, there is not enough space for evasion and escape. Conflicts between animals therefore become more serious more quickly.
Bloody wounds, falls due to escape attempts and constant stress are frequent consequences. Deaths are also not uncommon.
In addition, there is the risk that hamsters can reproduce almost uncontrollably if you keep a male and a female together. Due to the short gestation period and the rapid onset and frequent mating, two animals can quickly become 20 or 30.
However, it is not so easy to place the rodents. Cannibalism can reduce the number of offspring, but it is a sign of stress.
So you are not doing your hamster any favors by forcing them to be kept together with conspecifics. On the contrary, you can increase the stress level, risk the health of the animals and create dissatisfaction.
Are lonely hamsters bored?
That depends on you.
But one thing first: A hamster kept singly is not lonely if you spend time with it.
As a pet, he is used to the presence of people and may be tame after sufficient settling in. In these cases, he may seek interaction, enjoy petting, or beg for food.
It’s even possible to teach your hamster little tricks while letting him work out food. This brings us to boredom.
Hamsters in the wild are primarily concerned with ensuring their survival. The animals:
cover long distances
search for food
work out food and access to water
watch out for predators
want to reproduce
defend their territory and resources
Playing or interacting with conspecifics in a friendly manner is not part of the normal social behavior for adult hamsters of most species.
The advantage of this is that you can easily provide species-appropriate housing and occupation and thus prevent boredom. This can be achieved by the selection and design of the hamster home.
Learn more about this now in our tips.
7 tips to prevent your hamster from becoming lonely
If you’re worried about your hamster becoming lonely, you obviously want to provide the animal with a species-appropriate home and a happy life.
However, this is possible even and especially without conspecifics if you follow the tips below.
Tip 1: Bigger is better
When choosing a cage or hamster home, the more space available, the more comfortable your pet will feel.
In addition, more space also offers more design options, which brings us to the second tip.
Tip 2: Movement
Hamsters travel several kilometers per night in search of food and potential breeding partners.
Of course, this is not possible in a tiny commercial cage.
In addition to the largest possible floor space, you should offer your hamster several floors and an exercise wheel.
Make sure that the wheel has a large diameter and that the wheel is completely closed along the running surface and one side. This allows the hamster’s back to remain straight during use and reduces the risk of injury.
The individual tiers should also not be too far apart to prevent falls or unsuccessful jumps.
A thick layer of bedding for digging, a sand bath and tubes also provide exercise.
Tip 3: Employment
In the wild, hamsters spend much of their time foraging for food.
In a cage, however, food and water are placed right in front of them. This eliminates a valuable opportunity for occupation. This is true at least when food is given exclusively in the dish.
Hiding dry treats like mealworms or carrot chips, hanging vegetables or offering seeds in a small cardboard box encourages your hamster to search and makes him work for his food.
Whether he has to climb for the piece of fennel or dig the mealworms out of soil, the main thing is to provide the animal with species-appropriate variety and activity.
Tip 4: Play and get used to you
Taming a hamster is more or less difficult depending on the breed, age and already existing imprinting. Some are more trusting on their own or already well accustomed to people. With others, you will have to be very calm and patient to gain their trust.
The slow acclimation itself is already a challenge for the shy rodent and prevents boredom as well as loneliness.
If your hamster is tame, you can add petting, brushing and games to the schedule.
You can even teach the animal tricks through rewards: Roll over, walk through a cardboard roll, or respond to “come” are all possibilities.
In addition, the joint activity is good for your bond.
Tip 5: Offer variety
New smells, new nest material, new climbing possibilities – even by making small changes, you can give your hamster great pleasure. Exploring in their own cage keeps them busy and is effective against boredom.
Adding leaves, twigs, branches, bark, stones, different bedding and offering variety on the menu doesn’t require much effort. However, it enriches your hamster’s life immensely.
Tip 6: Recognize the limits of socialization
If you have decided to keep two or more hamsters or if problems have already occurred, you should consider some points.
- Everything double and triple: Double the size of the cage, two food bowls, two drinking bottles and many hiding places should be a prerequisite when keeping pairs. For groups, this applies on an even larger scale, as each animal needs its own equipment and territory. This also includes toys and running wheels. By doing this, you can greatly reduce the potential for conflict and fighting.
- Known animals: Keeping two or more hamsters works best in the long run if they are littermates that have never been separated. Even then, however, lifelong harmony between the animals is not guaranteed.
- Have a second cage ready: At the latest when fights produce bloody wounds, you need to physically separate your hamsters. Keep a second cage ready so that you can react immediately in case of emergency.
Do not fall for instructions that guarantee a successful socialization. There is a whole series of quite adventurous descriptions of these online.
If the hamsters do not have clearly separated and secured areas, these attempts often only mean stress.
Tip 7: Do not be fooled
The question of a second or third hamster may have occurred to you, because in pet shops whole groups of rodents are kept together.
There it works finally also, why then not with you at home?
Quite simply: Because they are young animals.
Until the third or even fourth month of life, young hamsters are much less territorial and thus react less aggressively to conspecifics.
However, this can change rapidly as they get older!
So don’t rely on the fact that the animals in the pet shop got along so well and even played with each other. Although the chances are better in this case, the rodents still need sufficient space and their own resources.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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