While the male of many rodent species is usually more aggressive than the female, in the case of hamsters, that's sometimes not the case. Some species of female hamsters are more aggressive than their male counterparts, although the personality of each individual hamster may vary, based on their upbringing, regardless of gender. Both males and females make sweet and cuddly pets if they have been handled gently from a young age.
Which Hamsters are We Talking About?
The most common type of hamster is the Syrian, which aren't very sociable creatures, at least when it comes to other hamsters. Female Syrian hamsters generally are more aggressive than males and will fight with cage mates, so never keep them together, according to "DHEA in Human Health and Aging." Male Siberian hamsters, on the other hand, are more aggressive than females, but both genders sometimes can live harmoniously in pairs. These hamsters, also known as winter white Russian dwarf hamsters, may bully one another, so observe them carefully for any signs of trouble in their relationship.
Raising Your Hamster to be a Lover, not a Fighter
When it comes to interaction with humans, your hamster's level of aggression will depend on how he or she was raised, regardless of gender. Although a male hamster might be more mellow and sweet than a female, especially in the case of Syrian hamsters, if he wasn't properly socialized, he'll still behave aggressively toward you. Feed your little guy treats by hand and gently hold him daily until he gets used to you, recommends the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The same advice goes for female hamsters. A properly socialized hamster won't bite or attempt to attack you and will look forward to spending time with you, whether you have a boy or girl.
Encourage Peace and Harmony
Hamsters are nocturnal animals who are most active at night. During the day they sleep and if you disturb them, they likely will bite you if you try to wake them up, warns the Hilltop Animal Hospital website. If your hamster is pregnant or has just given birth, she may be protective of her young, so leave her and the babies alone for the first week. Otherwise, she may become aggressive toward you or worse, eat her young. When it comes to male hamsters, housing them in separate but adjacent cages may get them used to each other and reduce fighting behaviors, recommends a study published in the February 2010 issue of "Animal Behavior."
Which One Should I Choose?
Although Syrian females may be more aggressive than males, this behavior is usually directed more toward other hamsters, including mating partners, and not humans, according to the Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Some breeders claim that males have more docile personalities, while others say females are friendly and enjoy cuddling, states the National Hamster Council. Generally, a hamster, whether male or female, who has had no previous experience fighting other hamsters, is less likely to be aggressive than one who has, according to the July 2013 issue of "Aggressive Behavior." Note that male hamsters have visible testicles and a larger space between their genitals and anal opening than females.
- Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: JSPCA Hamster Fact Sheet
- Animal Behavior: Non-Agonistic Familiarity Decreases Aggression in Male Turkish Hamsters, Mesocricetus brandti
- Animal Welfare Institute: Comfortable Quarters for Hamsters in Research Institutions
- DHEA in Human Health and Aging; Ronald Ross Watson
- Aggressive Behavior: Prior Fighting Experience Increases Aggression in Syrian Hamsters: Implications for a Role of Dopamine in the Winner Effect
- Biology of Aggression; Randy J. Nelson
- National Hamster Council: Hamsters as Pets
- Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images