When you visit a pet store you'll see groups of dwarf hamsters occupying the same cage in apparent harmony. These are normally very young animals who have not matured to become territorial or aggressive yet. It's tempting to bring home more than one hamster to keep just one from being lonely; but the reality is hamsters are solitary animals. Dwarf hamsters can be exceptions, but you have to monitor carefully. Having more than one hamster in a cage is often a recipe for trouble.
Hamsters are Not Social
Dwarf hamsters are more social than Syrian hamsters but you still have to be very cautious when keeping more than one hamster in a living enclosure. Hamsters are more friendly with people than they are with other hamsters. They'll require a regimen of proper introduction and socialization in order to live together. Failure to properly socialize your hamsters can lead to serious injury or even death due to hamsters attacking one another.
Keeping Two Dwarf Hamsters Together
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, dwarf hamsters may be kept in pairs if they are introduced to one another at a young age. Littermates of the same gender, that have never been separated, stand the best chance of getting along in adulthood. Siblings that are opposite genders will mate once they are old enough to reproduce and therefore should be separated.
Risks of Keeping Hamsters Together
It is common for adult hamsters to attack one another when forced to interact. Even hamster breeders have to use caution when introducing pairs to mate due to the high risk of altercations occurring. The younger your hamsters are when you attempt to introduce them to one another, the higher the likelihood is the pair will make friends. If you have a pair of hamsters and one dies you should not try to introduce a new hamster to the remaining hamster; they are unlikely to get along. Do not try to introduce a young hamster to an old hamster either. Be prepared for your hamsters to behave aggressively, and separate them when aggressive behavior occurs.
Introducing Hamsters to One Another
If you try to introduce two dwarf hamsters to one another, you're supposed to introduce them gradually in a neutral setting that neither animal is territorial over. The California Hamster Association recommends you start introducing your hamsters to one another by placing one hamster in a small wire cage and setting it inside a larger cage. Place the other hamster loose inside the larger cage. Allow the two hamsters to sniff at one another and interact through the bars without being able to get through the bars and attack one another. Leave the two hamsters together for several days in order for them to get used to one another. Alternate which hamster is in the large cage and which is in the small cage every day. After a week, if your hamsters are not behaving aggressively toward one another while separated by the cage, you can attempt to remove the smaller cage and see how the two react to one another when they are able to get to each other. If either acts aggressively, you may have to repeat this procedure multiple times. In some cases the introductions will fail and your hamsters will have to live separately for their own safety.
Keeping Two Hamsters in the Same Cage
Once you've determined you have a pair of dwarf hamsters that can get along, equip a large cage with two of everything so each hamster will have his own food dish, water, exercise wheel, sleeping area and general space. Hamsters are more likely to get along if they do not have to share necessities. Place both hamsters in the cage and watch how they react to one another in the environment. As long as your hamsters seem to have made peace, you can leave them alone together -- but you must continue to monitor their behavior for life to make sure aggressiveness does not develop between the pair as time goes on. If the hamsters begin to fight or one injures the other, you'll have no choice but to separate them permanently.
- hamster image by Patrik Lidaj from Fotolia.com