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Hamsters vs. Mice (Everything You Need to Know)

Hamsters vs. Mice (Everything You Need to Know)

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The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care. In addition, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Hamsters and mice might look similar at first, given their size. Still, there are many key differences between these two animals.

For one, they come from different rodent families in the animal kingdom. That said, they have their own unique behaviors, habitat requirements, and food preferences.

In this hamster vs. mouse article, we’ll review everything you need to know about these two small animals. Whether you’re planning on keeping them as pets or just curious about what makes them distinct from one another, this guide is for you.

An Overview of Hamsters and Mice

Before we go into the nitty gritty, let’s review the basics about hamsters and rats. This section will focus on their basic biological and physical characteristics.

Is a Hamster a Rodent?

Hamsters and mice belong to the rodent family, so a hamster is a rodent. All hamster species belong to the subfamily Cricetidae.

Most people assume that rodents automatically equate to pests like rats. However, many people keep hamsters as pets. They’re often the first choice for a kid’s pet because they’re relatively low maintenance, and, let’s face it, they’re cute!

Some of the most popular hamster breeds are Syrian, Chinese, and Russian Brown hamsters.

Is a Hamster a Mouse?

Hamsters and mice are distant relatives that belong to the same Rodentia family. However, it’s important to establish that a hamster isn’t a mouse.

Mice belong to the subfamily Muridae. Unlike hamsters, mice aren’t common pets because they’re used extensively as laboratory animals for research. They can also be found in the wild, while hamsters are a more domesticated species.

What Is the Difference Between Hamsters and Mice in Terms of Physical Characteristics?

One of the most common reasons people assume that hamsters and mice are one or the other is their size. However, hamsters are usually bigger!

Mice can only grow up to five inches at most, while hamsters can grow up to 15.

Another key difference includes their tails and ears. Hamsters typically have short and stubby tails hidden underneath their fur. In addition, their ears are also smaller.

On the other hand, mice have long, skinny tails and larger, more prominent ears.

We know it can be confusing to tell at first, but the best way to tell a hamster from a mouse is to look at them closely. Observe their features, especially their eyes, ears, and tails.

Their size can also help you differentiate them. Still, some species of hamsters, like the Syrian hamster, only grow about the same size as a mouse.

This is why you should also know their other distinct physical characteristics.

Hamster vs. Mouse: Housing

Before keeping any type of animal as a pet, you need to know which enclosures are most suitable for them.

What Are the Best Living Conditions for Hamsters and Mice?

Some common enclosures used for hamsters are empty aquariums, wire mesh, and plastic cages. Hamsters are curious creatures, so you must ensure that these cages are escape-proof.

A nesting box is another essential part of a hamster enclosure because hamsters are burrowing animals. On top of this, you should also provide different types of enrichment items like tunnels.

Hamsters are nocturnal creatures, meaning they’re most active and awake at night. Since they sleep during the day, you need to place their enclosures in a peaceful area so they can get enough sleep.

Similar to hamster enclosures, mouse cages also need most of the same things. Adequate space, ventilation, and enrichment items so they don’t become destructive.

While hamsters are generally more active than mice, the latter can also benefit from the exercise a hamster wheel inside their enclosures can give them.

Can Hamsters and Mice Live Together?

The short answer is no. Hamsters are incredibly territorial and solitary.

Hamsters don’t like sharing, so putting a hamster and a mouse together in a single enclosure can lead to injuries, as they might end up fighting one another.

Furthermore, pet owners should never cage male hamsters together because they’ll almost always fight and can possibly end up killing each other.

Don’t get us wrong, even if hamsters are territorial and love their alone time; they’re still friendly to humans! Pet owners can train them and desensitize them to handling.

Adequate training helps hamsters eliminate their biting instinct. Yes, they do bite, but only when they’re scared, which is why they need training.

Mice are more social creatures. They can live in groups and can even form close bonds with their littermates and cagemates.

Hamster vs. Mouse: Feeding and Nutrition

The diets of hamsters and mice are similar. They both require well-balanced diets, including seeds, grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Can Hamsters Eat Mouse Food?

Yes, hamsters can eat mouse food so long as the food is well-balanced. In fact, most commercially available food options for mice are also suitable for hamsters.

They generally have the same nutritional requirements to stay healthy and fit. Make sure you consult your veterinarian before you switch to any food options.

It’s common to find stashes of food within a hamster’s enclosure because they’re naturally hoarders. As a pet owner, you do have to clear out this stash every now and then to avoid the spread of mold and decay.

Can Mice Eat Hamster Food?

Yes, generally, mice can eat hamster food.

One key difference in the feeding and nutrition of hamsters and mice is that mice are opportunistic omnivores. This means they’ll readily eat whatever they can get their hands on.

They consume both plant and animal-based food items. That said, you have to ensure that you feed your mice enough every day so that they don’t go looking for other things to eat.

As part of their regular diet, it’s also a good idea to scatter some of the food items around their cages. This encourages foraging behaviors, a species-specific trait that can help your mice stay fit.

Hamsters vs. Rat: Breeding

In case you plan on breeding your hamsters or rats, there are a number of things you should know first.

Aside from the details in this section, we also recommend doing more research and even going as far as reaching out to reputable breeders for more information and guidance.

How Can I Breed Hamsters?

Hamsters can be bred as early as 10 weeks old and as late as 15 months old. At this age, they’re already sexually mature and ready to mate.

They stay pregnant for 16 to 22 days and then typically give birth to a litter of six to eight pups. These pups may have different dietary requirements, so you also need to research that.

Breeding setups can either be one female and one male or one male with several females.

However, breeding hamsters is usually left to the more knowledgeable and experienced breeders. This minimizes any harm to your hamsters since they tend to become aggressive during mating.

How Can I Breed Mice?

Mice become sexually mature a bit earlier, at six to eight weeks. Similar to hamsters, they stay pregnant for around 19 to 21 days.

Female mice give birth to more pups than hamsters, averaging 10 to 12 pups per pregnancy.

When you’re positive that you have a pregnant mouse, provide them with nesting material. You also need to make sure that your pregnant hamsters are getting the right amount of food, water, and space.

If not, they can abandon their pups and may even resort to eating them.

In addition, they can already get pregnant as soon as 24 hours after giving birth, which is why you also need to keep females and males in separate enclosures to avoid accidental matings.

Can Hamsters and Mice Breed?

You might be thinking; since both hamsters and mice are from the same Rodentia family, you should be able to breed them together, right?

Well, no. Even though both hamsters and mice belong to the same rodent family, they’re still completely different species. They’re not genetically close enough to produce offspring naturally.

It might be tempting to put these two together and see what comes out, but this will likely lead to failed pregnancies. Inter-species breeding is often unsuccessful.

In addition, mice might not even attempt to breed with hamsters and vice versa. Instead, the opposite can happen.

Hamsters can fight mice, leading to unwanted injuries. So, we should definitely stick to breeding the same species together.

Final Thoughts

We hope this hamster vs. mouse round-up not only helped you differentiate one from the other but also showed you their distinctions as pets!

It’s easy to assume that these small creatures are the same. However, you have to get to know them better to give them the best level of care, especially if you’re planning on keeping them at home.

These similarities and differences will help you provide the right living requirements for both animals. Since they won’t be able to make most of these decisions on their own, your level of knowledge will affect how they can live their lives.

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