Have you ever stared at a cute, fluffy hamster and thought–is this thing a rodent?
As one of the world’s most common pets, hamsters somewhat mirror the characteristics of the world’s most famous rodents–rats & mice!
Are hamsters rodents?
The answer might surprise you…
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Are Hamsters Rodents?
Yes, hamsters are considered rodents and fall in line with other rodents like guinea pigs, mice, rats, and gerbils.
The genus of hamsters is classified under the scientific name Cricetidae. Cricetidae is the broad term used for the family of animals that hamsters fall under. The lower classification for hamsters includes the subphylum. Their superfamily is called Murodiea.
Hamsters belong to the kingdom Animalia and Phylum Chordata and the class of Mammalia. They also belong to the order Rodentia and the suborder Myomorpha.
Some popular hamster species include the Syrian or golden hamster, known as Mesocricetus of the Old World hamsters. This was also the first hamster to be introduced as a domesticated pet. The Syrian hamster is also one of the most popular hamsters for families, as they are better with small children than other smaller hamsters.
Overall, hamsters are rodents and form a large group of mammals found worldwide, with mice and rats being the most widespread of all rodents.
Why Are They Considered Rodents?
The origins of word rodent come from Latin, which means “rodere,” which, when translated, means “to gnaw.” Rodents have upper and lower pairs of strong, prominent front incisors with a slight gap between their molars. And hamsters have this exact oral setup.
Another reason why hamsters are considered rodents is that they live in burrows, thick vegetation, trees, and any other area where they’ll be safe from predators.
Rodents are also small in size. Mice, voles, and hamsters tend to be smaller. Other rodents, including squirrels, muskrats, beavers, and capybaras, are a bit larger, but their habitats facilitate that. Pet rodents, however, rarely are larger than a couple of pounds.
Larger rodents are usually semiaquatic, which also prevents humans from domesticating them.
Where Do Hamsters Come From?
The most common species of pet hamsters are Syrian hamsters. They were discovered in the wild in 1797. But it originated in the Middle East. Zoologist Israel Aharoni brought a wild Syrian hamster and her babies to Jerusalem in 1930, and as hamsters do, it multiplied, giving us the world’s most common pet hamster!
How Long Do They Live?
Hamsters have a short life of about 2-3 years. When raised in captivity, their lives are even shorter. Sometimes as little as a year. Lengthen their life by giving them fresh fruits and vegetables and ensuring their cage is large enough for their species.
Are Hamsters Related to Rats or Mice?
Yes, domesticated hamsters are related to rats and mice. Remember, hamsters are Cricetidae and fall within the superfamily of rodents called Muroidea that New World rats and mice also do. With 608 species, Muroidea has species in America, Europe, and Asia.
Cricetids tend to be smaller, maxing out at 3.1 inches and roughly 0.25 oz in weight. They also have long tails, which are usually bald. Most of them have brown fur with a white underbelly.
Hamsters, rats, and mice also have short gestation periods, between 15 and 50 days, with good-sized litters. Their babies are born blind and hairless, as well.
What is the Classification for Hamsters?
A breakdown of the classification for hamsters is as follows:
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Rodentia
- Suborder: Myomorpha
- Superfamily: Muroidea
- Family: Cricetidae
- Subfamily: Cricetinae.
Mice and hamsters are considered nearly identical, taxonomically speaking. They are both rodents, and each has several species. The greatest difference is that Mice belong to the Murinae subfamily, and hamsters belong to the Cricetinae subfamily.
How Many Species of Hamsters Are There?
Hamsters have over 24 species. The most well-known include:
- Syrian Golden Hamster
- Chinese Hamster
- Campbell’s or Dwarf Hamsters
What’s The Difference Between A Rat & Hamster?
So, if hamsters and rats are rodents, what makes them different? Let’s look at their size, habitat, diet, and other factors that differentiate them.
Rats and hamsters are different depending on their species, rats tend to be larger both in size and weight. The average rat is approximately 6-8 inches, subtracting their tails, and the average hamster is about 2-6 inches long. Rats also weigh more, about 2 ounces more to be exact, than hamsters. If you factor in their tails, typically 5-7 inches long, rats are much longer than hamsters.
Most people can tell the difference between a hamster and a rat just by looking at them. The most apparent difference is the tail. Hamsters have short tails that are almost difficult to spot, while rats have long tails.
They come in countless colors and patterns, too. Both rats and hamsters come in brown, gray, white, and black. Rats have ears that are larger than hamsters, too, but the breed ultimately makes that decision.
Pet hamsters have different enclosure preferences than rats. In the wild, rats are frequently found in populated cities, and hamsters in sand dunes and deserts.
However, pet rats and hamsters are similar. They both enjoy exploring their homes outside their enclosures. Rats, however, like to have a covered and enclosed habitat. Hamsters like running on their wheels and enjoy the option to burrow in their bedding to mirror their natural habitat.
Mice, too, have a variety of habitats in the wild. They are found in tropical rainforests, deserts, and arctic climates. Their long tail makes climbing from tree to tree easier, while their webbed feet make them adaptable to aquatic environments.
Rats and hamsters eat a similar diet in captivity, but you’ll find rats more flexible in the food department than hamsters.
Hamsters enjoy nuts, grains, fruits, seeds, vegetables, and cracked corn. Rats eat just about anything, including insects, small animals, fruit, nuts, seeds, eggs, and even human garbage.
Also, hamsters tend to be hoarders, even keeping food in their cheeks to save for later! Rats will eat almost anything that’s in front of them.
Both are herbivorous, omnivorous, and insectivorous.
The demeanor differences between rats and hamsters start with their sleep schedule. Hamsters are active at night, while rats spend most of their day and nighttime hours being active. So, rats and hamsters might challenge you if you’d like a quiet house at night because of their late-night activities.
Also, hamsters enjoy solitude, while rats like to be social. Some hamsters cannot live with other hamsters but like humans. Syrian and Chinese hamsters, for example, typically like to live alone.
Rats are extremely intelligent. They are considered the most intelligent creatures of their size and can figure out complex challenges and puzzles. As family pets, rats can be trained to do tricks and recognize different family members. Many people find this to be extremely appealing.
Of course, this can also cause a problem if you don’t pay significant attention to your pet rat. Make sure your rat is allowed out of their cage to socialize with you. Give them plenty of toys to play with outside their cage. Keeping two rats together in the same enclosure is a great idea because they’ll entertain one another!
On the other hand, Hamsters aren’t as well known for their intelligence. They are more solitary creatures; they usually need a simple wheel to keep them entertained.
What To Keep In Mind About Pet Hamsters
If you’re considering keeping a pet hamster, there are a few things to consider, especially if you’re used to owning a rat. Check out our recommendations for what to remember about pet hamsters.
Hamsters & Small Children Can Be A Bad Mix
Hamster owners should be aware that small children can stress out hamsters. A gentle touch and careful approach are best for hamsters. Small children can frighten them with fast movements and tight squeezes. If you plan to make a hamster your new pet and have small kids, teach them how to handle them properly.
Use A Dish to Feed Them
Your hamster’s food should be served in a dish or bowl. Otherwise, they will eat their bedding, which can be deadly.
Swap Out Food Daily
These small mammals aren’t particularly fond of leftovers. Keep them happy and healthy by giving them new food every day. Also, toss them fresh food, like fruits and veggies, when feeding your pet. Keep these treats to a minimum, however, as they can cause problems in a hamster’s diet.
Keep Their Enclosure Clean
Hamster bedding should be changed monthly. Spot-cleaning their bedding is equally important. Each week, spot-clean the bedding, and give them all new bedding every month.
No Grooming Necessary
Hamsters are similar to cats in that they bathe themselves. Don’t worry about putting them in a bath or cleaning them yourself. All they need is a little space to do it themselves.
Take Them To The Vet
Hamsters should see a vet at least once per year for a checkup. It could signify a more serious issue if you notice sores on their feet, blood in their urine, bald patches, or wheezing.
Chew Toys Are Great
Hamsters love having something to chew on. Their teeth need to be occupied. Special chewing toys designed for hamsters are the perfect toy to help them avoid feeling anxious or stressed.
Hamsters require daily exercise. A wheel for running is the perfect solution for your pet hamster, and a ball is also a great option. A word of caution, however, hamsters should never be unattended while playing inside their ball.
Which Is The Better Pet, Hamsters or Rats?
Trying to decide between making a hamster or a rat your new house pet?
There is a lot to consider!
Hamsters are notoriously easier to take care of. They don’t require constant cleaning, rarely need to be handled, and aren’t in dire need of human affection like rats. They also are extremely affordable and don’t take up as much space as rats. Their bedding and food are more readily available than what rats need, too.
Rats also require more exercise and out-of-the-cage time. Hamsters don’t. Some breeds of hamsters, like the Syrian Hamster, are solitary and much prefer their own company. Depending on your lifestyle, their socialization needs can be a big benefit.
Hamsters also sleep a ton. Yet, they are also harder to train because their daily schedule is often opposite to their owners.
In general, rats are higher maintenance than hamsters but can offer many benefits. Rats are also great with kids but do demand hours of your time per day. Their intelligence can also present its own challenge. If you aren’t playing with them frequently, you could end up with a bored rat on your hands.
A hamster could be the best option if you want to make a cute, fluffy, and adorable small rodent the newest family member!
Yes, Hamsters Are Rodents!
So, now you know hamsters are rodents! They’re also great pets, just like rats. You and your children can enjoy these unique house pets and other rodents if you properly care for them.
Stick around the OddlyCuteBlog to learn more about these furry little animals and other similar rodents.
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