The basic answer to that is no – we don’t advise keeping pairs or groups of any species of hamster together. The risks outweigh any perceived benefits. And unrelated dwarf hamsters should never be introduced. "They do not need company to be happy" (Blue Cross Animal welfare charity - see below).

Taking the species one by one:

Syrian Hamsters

Syrian hamsters, the largest of the species, (also known as Teddy Bear Hamsters, Golden Hamsters, Black Bear hamsters) should ALWAYS live alone. This is widely known and accepted amongst pet charities, breeders and hamster communities. They are highly territorial and will kill another hamster close by. The only exception is when a litter of Syrian hamster babies is living with the Mother or together when separated from the Mother, but by 6 to 8 weeks they can become territorial and then need their own home, living alone. They will bond with an owner and this can be a very close and special bond. In the wild, adult Syrian hamsters only come together to mate and then live apart. The female drives the male out of her burrow.

Russian Dwarf Hamsters

Hybrid Dwarf Hamsters – a mix of two species

Virtually all Russian Dwarf hamsters obtained from pet shops or via adoption from rescues, are hybrid dwarf hamsters. This means they are a hybrid mix of two species of Russian Dwarf hamsters - Campbells and Winter Whites, even if they are described as “Winter White” or “Campbells”. They may look like one or other of these species but they are still hybrids with the genes from both species. This is because the two species were interbred by people over many decades. Usually, the only place you would find a pedigree Winter White Russian Dwarf or pedigree Campbells Russian Dwarf, is from a breeder registered with a reputable Hamster Association, who has an ancestry chart of the hamster’s breeding, showing their clear pedigree parentage and ancestry.

Hybrid hamsters are not found in the wild as the two separate species live mostly in different regions or countries and in entirely separate colonies within their own species. So you would never find hybrid dwarf hamsters living together in the wild as they don’t exist in the wild.

We don’t advise keeping Hybrid Russian Dwarf hamsters in pairs, trios, groups or colonies. It is common for pet shops to sell them in pairs and say they can live together as there is a historic view that “dwarf hamsters” can live together which is somewhat vague and not species specific - but invariably territorial fighting breaks out. Fighting can break out very suddenly, after a minor squabble for example, and lead to serious injury, maiming and death. This often kicks in when the hamsters are a few weeks old and become hormonal. A new or inexperienced owner can find themselves with a dead hamster or a seriously maimed hamster that needs to be put to sleep. This is not only unnecessary suffering for the hamster, but can also be traumatic for the owner. Particularly if the remaining hamster then eats the other hamster after killing them – which does happen. This is normal behaviour for the remaining hamster, to keep their territory clean. It is literally, total destruction and removal of the rival hamster.

Even if the hamsters don’t physically fight, bullying can take place - one hamster can bully the other causing psychological stress. As one hamster dominates and takes most of the food, it is common to find one of a pair is larger and the other of the pair is smaller as they are not getting much of the food and are failing to thrive both nutritionally and psychologically.

As such if you are a new or inexperienced owner and are sold a pair or trio of hamsters by a pet shop, it would be safer to house them separately, or rehome one of the hamsters if there is no room for two cages. This is sometimes hard for people to accept when they see hamsters snuggling peacefully together without knowing what can happen. For pet shops – it means they have sold two or three hamsters in one go, instead of just one, so it is a useful marketing strategy, although it may just be outdated knowledge.

As an added note, pet shops often mis-sex pairs of hamsters leading to unwanted pregnancies.

Winter White Dwarf Hamsters

There is some anecdotal information, usually from pedigree breeders, that Winter White hamsters can live together – but even then not always successfully. Bearing in mind the above information about hybrid hamsters, so this is referring to Winter White dwarf hamsters with a proven pedigree. However they are just as prone to falling out, fighting and needing to be separated. (see i below). In the wild, they would live in families and colonies which would be more natural due to reproduction, weaning and rearing of babies, and protection from other species. In a domestic setting you wouldn’t keep a reproducing male and female pair or family together or you would be overrun with baby hamsters. According to some breeders, pairs of males are more likely to be able to live together without falling out, than pairs of females. And some breeders feel that male winter whites can be depressed if living alone (see ii below), unlike female Winter Whites. It would however, take a very experienced owner to keep a pair together and with the correct set up from the start (two or three of everything – wheels, houses with multiple entrances – no items that could be claimed for territory (eg shelves or narrow tunnels), and plenty of floorspace.

Note: There are very few reputable breeders of Winter White pedigree hamsters, that belong to an official breeders association. And a breeder is unlikely to rehome more than one hamster to a new owner. So please be aware that if you are sold "Winter White" hamsters by anyone other than a reputable breeder who belongs to an official breeder's association - they are almost certainly hybrids (see above).

Campbells Dwarf Hamsters

Some breeders feel that pedigree Campbells dwarf hamsters can live in single sex pairs due to older siblings caring for younger ones in family groups in the wild, and the role of a male hamster in helping to bring up and care for the babies (see ii below again). However keeping a male hamster with a female in a domestic setting will again lead to multiple pregnancies and so this would not be a normal situation for a pet owner. Which only leaves the option of sibling groups. And as advised below (see iii) these pairs are still prone to falling out, fighting and needing separating so there are still risks and it would also need a very experienced owner with the correct set up from the start (see above).

Note: Reputable breeders of pedigree Campbells hamsters are very scarce. And a breeder is unlikely to rehome more than one hamster to a new owner. So please be aware that if you are sold "Campbells" hamsters by anyone other than a reputable breeder who belongs to an official breeder's association - they are almost certainly hybrids (see above).

Roborovski Dwarf Hamsters

Roborovski Dwarf Hamsters are a separate species of dwarf hamster. They are the smallest of species of dwarf hamsters and some breeders believe these are a species who are social and can live in pairs or groups (see iv). It may be that the idea of this came from anecdotal evidence that Roborovskis have been seen to live in pairs in the wild (see iii again) and live in colonies in the wild (mainly for protection and breeding of the species). However this is not the norm at all, as explained here “Robos, are one of the few hamster species that have been observed in the wild living in pairs. Still, they’re usually found alone, even in the wild, so this is the exception and not the rule.” (see v).

Despite the view by some breeders that Roborovski hamsters are the one species that can successfully live in sibling pairs or groups – experience amongst pet owners is that they also can start fighting and need separating so again this is a very specialised thing only for an experienced owner or breeder, with the correct set up from the start.

Chinese Hamsters

Chinese hamsters are a species that are considered by most animal welfare charities, to be better to live alone - they can be very territorial. Some breeders feel they “may” be able to live in pairs and colonies. The following quote refers to Chinese Hamsters “I also have other hamsters that will not live with another hamster as they want their own space. Like people, these animals are complete individuals…..some like company, and some very definitely want to live alone.” (see vi). This quote is from an experienced breeder and shows how very uncertain it could be to pair Chinese hamsters, even for an expert in the species - as such Chinese hamsters should also live alone - unless you are an experienced breeder or experienced owner of Chinese Hamsters.


Ultimately – ANY pairing or grouping of dwarf hamsters can result in fighting and horrific injuries or death, and it needs to be considered – what are the benefits to pets and owners as regards the welfare of hamsters? We believe the risks outweigh the benefits – unless you are a very experienced owner or reputable breeder who is part of a verified hamster breeders association.

Additionally, hamsters living alone can form a close and special bond with their owner.

The Blue Cross Animal Charity says this (see vii)

Blue Cross hamsters alone.jpg

(i) white.htm
(ii) Note – the title of this article “Dwarf Hamsters are social” needs provisos as it is referring to wild hamsters.