Skip to main content

4 best hamster breeds and who they’re right for

Most people forget: Hamsters come in all shapes and sizes (well, sizes at any rate). While we all picture the same cuddly small pet, the best hamster breed for you might not be the one you’d expect. From Campbell’s dwarf to winter white Russian, choosing the right addition to your family will ensure your hamster brings everyone joy and moves into the perfect environment for him, too.

Hamster sits in hay and looks at camera
Dennis P/

What kind of hamster should I get?

The best hamster breed for you depends a lot on what you’re looking for in a pet. For starters, hamsters are mostly nocturnal, and some kinds stay up later and make more nighttime noise than others. It might seem that the smallest hamsters would be best for the smallest children, but they sometimes present a bigger challenge. Little hands can accidentally hurt the dwarf species, especially if this is your child’s first pet. You’ll have to weigh a number of factors to hone in on which type you should bring home.


Sometimes known as the teddy bear hamster, this little guy is one you’ve probably seen in homes and pet stores across the country as it’s easily the most common hamster breed. It’s also one of the largest, which means it may actually prove your best bet if you have a smaller kid or you don’t have much experience with small pets. However, these hamsters prefer a solitary existence, and you should never house them together. They’re also night owls, so be prepared to hear that wheel turning in the wee hours. With his lovable personality and generally more relaxed disposition, you’ll do well to select this hamster friend.

White hamster has a snack
Photo Design Art/Shutterstock

Dwarf winter white Russian

As the name suggests, this one can turn all white in the winter months. However, generally speaking, they’re more of a gray with white underbellies and sometimes a black stripe. Of the dwarf hamsters, these often present with the chillest personality, more like that of a Syrian. They can be kept in pairs or even very small groups. You’ll probably want to get a same-sex pair and try to introduce them as babies so they grow up being friends. Be forewarned, though: They also like to escape — from both their cage and your hands.

Campbell’s dwarf Russian

Similar in needs and size to the white Russian, a Campbell’s is a good choice if you want to keep a little pack of hamsters in your house. These rodents enjoy socializing and should spend time with both their kind and humans. Make sure to get them young and practice handling them; otherwise, they may be prone to some nipping. They’re also possibly the fastest movers of this group and will easily squirm out of your grip if you don’t hold them properly. Since they’re so small and quick, they need to live in a converted aquarium instead of a traditional hamster cage. Good news, though: This one will spend some hours awake during the day, so you can squeeze in that playtime.


In between our dwarfs and the Syrians, this group measures about four inches long but with a little extra at the end for their cute tails — a rarity in hamster breeds. They technically are not dwarfs but still stay a compact size. As with some of their dwarf cousins, you can get a same-sex pair to keep together (it’s best if they’re siblings from the same litter). They’ll take to you and your family as well, but you must be strictly consistent with socialization, and even then, they may never quite warm up to lots of playing. A perfect in-between pet, they also live a bit longer than the rest of the species on this list, up to about three years.

No matter which hamster breed you decide to bring home, every kind will need consistent handling, a big enough cage, and a solid diet of hamster food and snacks. Remember, too, that many hamsters are escape artists, and you’ll have to adjust your enclosure if he finds a way out. Even the ones who prefer to be left mostly alone love to run on a wheel or through tubing, giving you an endless source of entertainment, albeit with a little extra late-night noise.

Editors' Recommendations

Rebekkah Adams
Rebekkah’s been a writer and editor for more than 10 years, both in print and digital. In addition to writing about pets…
3 reasons not to give pet rabbits, baby chicks, or ducks this Easter
Things to consider before getting or gifting small animals this holiday
A baby chick sits in the grass next to a broken egg

Peter Cottontail isn't the only one hopping down the bunny trail this April. Tons of baby animals are opening their eyes to the world for the very first time, and it's oh-so-hard to resist the cuteness. From bunnies to chicks and even ducks, these animals are the perfect symbols of spring.
Sometimes, these animals make great pets, too. But is a holiday the right time to gift a pet? We think all potential pet owners should consider some important, realistic facts, especially if they're considering owning or gifting a baby animal for Easter. This is a big decision, after all! Here's what to know first.

Pet ownership is for their whole life, not just the baby phase
As precious as baby chicks and ducklings can be, they'll grow up into chickens and ducks one day. You'll only get a few months of babyhood to enjoy, though even those early months will be filled with chores and messes of all kinds. Remember, caring for a baby animal is still caring for an animal!

Read more
Bunny care 101: If Easter inspires you to adopt a rabbit, read this first
These are the things you need to think about before you bring a rabbit home
Brown bunny sits in the grass

Around this time of year, you'll spot bunnies everywhere — in the yard, the grocery candy aisle, and on TV. You may suddenly find yourself thinking about owning one of these cute small pets, and before you know it, you've adopted and brought home a hoppy and floppy pet.

We generally don't recommend impulse purchases when it comes to animals, but if you find yourself walking away from a shelter or pet store with Peter Rabbit in hand, you'll need to brush up quickly. It takes a lot: housing, food, cleaning, playtime, grooming, and vet bills. Understanding each piece of the puzzle will allow you to flourish as a pet parent and help your four-legger to live their best life, too. Keep reading to learn more about owning a bunny.

Read more
Looking to add corydoras to your aquarium? Here’s what you need to know first
Read this before bringing home a cory catfish to add to your tank
Two cory catfish hang out on the bottom of the tank

One thing you might not know about aquariums until you get one: Every tank needs a janitor, which may wind up just being you. When you first dive into this hobby, it can take a while to realize how much maintenance is really involved — don't think that the filter will do all the work. But if you want a little a help in that department, you can add a catfish to the fray. If you don't have a ton of experience with these bottom feeders, we recommend one of the corydoras since they're generally best for beginners.

What are corydoras?
This is a type of catfish, but there are actually more than 170 species to choose from. These are a well-known group of swimmers who get their name from their barbels, which look a bit like whiskers. While you'll find dozens of options in the pet store, you will likely narrow it down quickly based on the size of your tank, temperature, habitat you've chosen, and the other fish that they'll live with eventually.
Are corydoras friendly?
Yes, corydoras are sweet and gentle fish. They particularly like spending time together, but get along with many others as well. In some cases, you should not buy just one as they'll get lonely. Instead grab a pair of the same type and watch them become best friends. You'll often see them as bottom feeders, well, at the base of the tank, but cory cats also come up to the surface for air or food from time to time.

Read more