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A Hamster vs. a Rabbit: Which Pet Should You Choose?

A Hamster vs. a Rabbit: Which Pet Should You Choose?

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.

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When the time is right to add a new pet member to the family, you’re going to be faced with a tricky question — what animal should you pick?

Aside from the widely common options such as dogs and cats, you may be interested in something a bit different like a hamster or a rabbit. When it comes down to it, picking one animal over the other depends mainly on your preferences and living situation.

Each pet has a unique set of characteristics and personality traits that makes it more or less suitable for a person or family than the other. The decision also varies according to owner-oriented factors such as the space at your house, whether you have children, and of course, your budget.

Yes, the points of comparison can be overwhelming, but we’ve done the research to save you time and effort. So in today’s hamster vs rabbit guide, we’re providing you with all the information you need to help make up your mind when choosing the right pet.

Classification and General Information on Hamsters vs Rabbits

The first stop in our grand comparison today is to learn more about hamsters and rabbits. Where do they come from? Do they belong to the same family? How many breeds do they exist in?

Well, this section discusses all the general and classification information you may be wondering about.

Let’s begin with a bit of a shocker, did you know that hamsters and rabbits aren’t members of the same family? That’s right, most people believe that both animals are rodents, but in reality, rabbits aren’t rodents.

To be exact, rabbits belong to the family Leporidae, order Lagomorpha, class Mammalia. On the other hand, hamsters belong to the family Cricetidae, order Rodentia, class Mammalia.

This difference may not mean much to you, but it points us to key variations in the animals’ teeth, causing distinctions in their diets and digestive systems.

So where did hamsters and rabbits come from? Well, the first recorded encounter with a hamster was in Syria in the late 18th century.

After that, hamsters were found in many countries including Belgium, Greece, and China. It didn’t take long from there till they became common pets worldwide.

As for bunnies, they’ve been known to man for a very long time. However, their domestication is a matter of debate.

For decades, the story has been that French monks domesticated rabbits in the year 600 for food. But more recent studies revealed that this isn’t true and that the domestication of rabbits happened as far as 20,000 years ago!

This brings us to the last question of this section; how many varieties of hamsters and rabbits are there?

Officially, there are 18 species of hamsters. But due to the extensive breeding of hamsters with varying coat colors and types, there are actually several more species. The Syrian hamster is the most common species kept as a pet.

As for rabbits, there are 49 breeds officially recognized by the ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association). As such, pet bunnies differ widely in colors, sizes, and fur types.

Physical Traits

Next, let’s take a look at the physical traits of hamsters and bunnies starting with their sizes.

For an adult hamster, its length can range from 2 inches up to 14 inches and its weight can vary between 1 and 16 ounces. The exact measurements, of course, depend on the breed.

The world’s largest hamster is the Common or European hamster (Cricetus cricetus), which reaches a length of up to 15.7 inches. On the other hand, the smallest domestic hamster breed is the Roborovski hamster (Phodopus roborovskii), which can be as short as 1.5 inches.

As for an adult rabbit, the length and weight can vary widely according to the breed. Generally, adult house rabbits are around 16 inches long and 6 pounds heavy. Smaller breeds can weigh as low as 4 pounds whereas the biggest breeds often weigh more than 20 pounds.

The world’s largest rabbit is a Flemish giant rabbit with a length of 4 feet 3 inches and a weight of approximately 50 pounds. On the other hand, the smallest bunny species is the pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis), measuring less than 8 inches long and weighing less than 1 pound.

What’s their Personality Like?

Time for a closer look at the personality and temperament of the two animals.

Hamsters aren’t very social animals and are rather prone to getting scared. Although they’re typically submissive, they prefer solitude and can get aggressive at certain times.

As such, hamsters aren’t really the “cuddly” type of pets. Yes, they’re cute and fluffy, but they don’t appreciate being man-handled too much and will feel stressed when overpowered.

This can cause them to act aggressively and bite you. Not to mention, their pretty small size can easily turn cuddling from joyous to dangerous.

Rabbits, on the other hand, are much more docile by nature. They’re very social animals that can demonstrate kindness in their behaviors and actions.

Yes, they can get aggressive, but only when threatened or attacked. Rabbits love to play and roam around thanks to their curious nature.

When it comes to cuddling, most bunnies love to do it. As long as you’re good to them, they’ll cuddle you whenever and for however long you want!

Territory and Expansion

Both hamsters and rabbits are territorial animals.

Rabbits will mark their domain using a mixture of urine and pellets, or by rubbing their chins (where the scent glands are located) against the surfaces. This includes any and every item they believe to be their own from your leg to your couch.

Likewise, hamsters will mark their territory using pee or by rubbing their scent glands all over their stuff. They can also get into fights when unknown animals trespass on their turf.

On a related note, let’s talk about expansion and how the two animals deal with having company.

When you’re looking to grow your pet family, you can get more hamsters on the condition that you don’t keep them in the same cage. As we mentioned above, hamsters value their solitude so putting them in the same space may create conflict and result in fights.

On the contrary, rabbits appreciate having company. If you want to get more rabbits, there’s no problem placing them together in the same enclosure as long as there’s enough room to accommodate all the bunnies.

In fact, it’s healthier for rabbits to live in numbers as they tend to feel depressed if left alone for a long while.

How Long Do They Live? Are They Hard to Maintain?

The lifespan of the animal is important to consider when you’re deciding to get a pet.

For hamsters, they live to be 2 or 3 years old on average, depending on the breed you want and how well you care for it. The oldest a hamster has ever lived was 4 and a half years.

For rabbits, they live to be 10 to 12 years on average, also depending on the species you own and how well you care for it.

Generally, rabbits that live indoors last for more years than bunnies that stay outdoors. The oldest a rabbit has ever lived was just under 19 years.

As far as maintenance goes, hamsters make excellent pets because they’re quite low maintenance. Anyone can take care of a hamster -even kids- and they’re actually happy to be left alone.

If you have children, hamsters are probably the better option for a pet since they’re less demanding.

On the other hand, bunnies are not as low-maintenance as hamsters. They do require attention and plenty of playtimes. They can also get lonely when left alone for long periods, which will negatively reflect on their behavior.

For households with children, taking care of the rabbit should be the responsibility of the adult as it’s more demanding.

The Cage Situation

Now let’s talk about the proper living arrangements for a hamster or a rabbit. Thanks to their varying sizes and behaviors, the two animals have different requirements for their respective cages.

Hamsters are pretty small (a lot smaller compared to bunnies), which means that their enclosures are also more compact. Ideally, a hamster’s cage should be at least 12 by 24 inches and 12 inches high.

The cage has to provide ample space for the hamster to run and play around. It needs to offer multiple toys, hiding spots, and borrowing-friendly locations.

Additionally, you should make sure that your hamster’s cage is well secured to prevent the tiny rodent from slipping out, seeing as they’re excellent escape artists. Their size allows them to fit and squeeze through narrow places, so keep that in mind when opening the cage for cleaning or any other reason.

Hamsters have no issues spending all their days inside an enclosure. This can be an advantage for folks who are out working for most of the day and don’t have a lot of time to engage in playtime.

As for rabbits, their larger size calls for bigger enclosures. To keep your bunny happy, you need to provide it with a cage that’s at least 8 times larger than its body. If you have multiple rabbits, multiply this value by their number to get an idea of the minimum suitable cage space.

A rabbit needs to be able to run and play around freely. It needs a lot of toys and activity opportunities to stay busy and satisfy its curious nature.

Not only do bunnies require large cages, but they also need spacious playing areas to “freely” roam and practice stunts such as hopping and jumping over objects. This is why many rabbit owners designate whole rooms for their rabbits alone.

Also, it’s best to link the rabbit’s living space and play area so it can utilize them as it pleases. If you don’t have a spare room for this purpose, you need to at least have a garden or a yard where your rabbit can safely roam.

Do They Smell?

One of the things that most people worry about when looking to get a pet is the odors associated with the animal as well as its general cleanliness. Luckily, whether you decide on a hamster or a rabbit, you don’t need to be too concerned.

Hamsters are free of odors, which means they don’t emit unpleasant smells under normal circumstances.

This doesn’t mean their cages won’t stink if you leave them without cleaning. Schedule a cleaning session once per week to avoid bad odors.

Similarly, bunnies are free of odors and usually don’t stink. Their pee, however, can smell quite gross. As such, it’s recommended to clean their enclosures once or twice a week to prevent foul odors.

Cleanliness-wise, hamsters are rather clean critters. Once they get familiar with their cage, you’ll probably notice them picking a certain corner where they clean themselves every once in a while.

As for rabbits, the case is pretty much the same. Bunnies also like to groom themselves and you can often see them cleaning their bodies. That said, you’ll need to give them a hand every month or so due to their larger size.

Shedding and Grooming

Another aspect that you need to consider as a future pet owner is shedding, especially if you’re prone to allergies. First things first, you should know that both hamsters and rabbits shed hair.

In hamsters, shedding is associated with the changing of seasons following the variation of temperature. The shed hair may end up triggering your allergies in addition to giving you extra cleaning duty for the cage.

In rabbits, shedding takes place every 3 or 4 months, which commonly causes some spotting on their bodies. If you allow your rabbit to roam freely around the house during shedding, you need to be prepared to clean up the fallen hair from just about every corner.

As far as grooming goes, you probably won’t need to do any extra work if you own a hamster as these animals get the job done themselves. Short-haired hamsters don’t require grooming while long-haired hamsters may need it once every couple of months.

If your hamster’s coat gets dirty or matted, try giving it a sand bath instead of a wet bath.

In the case of rabbits, the grooming process is more demanding and frequent. For short-haired bunnies, you can groom once or twice a week. But for long-haired rabbits, you should groom them every day or every other day – tops.

If this seems like too much work, then owning a rabbit isn’t for you. If you leave your rabbit without your grooming help for too long, you’re putting its life at risk.

This is because rabbits groom themselves by licking, causing a build-up of ingested hair over time. Unlike cats, bunnies can’t vomit hairballs, which means they’ll remain inside their digestive tract and possibly lead to dangerous blockage.

Consequently, it’s important to take the time to regularly groom your rabbits to keep them healthy and keep their coats in good condition.

Do They Bite? Are They Loud?

When it comes to biting, the teeth on hamsters and rabbits make it seem like a likely occurrence. However, neither animal bites under normal conditions.

Yes, we mentioned earlier that hamsters can get aggressive, but that happens when they’re threatened or scared. In this case, the biting will be out of fear and not usual behavior.

Still, there are training techniques that you can try to prevent hamster bites. Keep in mind that hamsters can bite each other if you keep them in the same cage as they prefer being alone.

As for bunnies, they rarely bite unless you poke them (which you shouldn’t be doing anyway!). Rabbits are typically docile by nature, they won’t get aggressive unless you are first.

A lot of potential pet owners also worry about noise and whether or not the animals in question are too loud. In this aspect, both hamsters and rabbits are bad contenders.

Hamsters, on one hand, make a lot of noise at night since that’s when they become most active. Sounds from their exercise wheels can be annoying and will probably keep you up if you’re noise-sensitive.

This is why we recommend that you don’t keep your hamster cage in the same room where you rest and sleep.

Once again, the situation is similar in rabbits but they can be loud throughout the entire day. Their sounds can be quite annoying and frustrating, especially when they engage in unusual behaviors that produce weird noises.

This is why you shouldn’t keep your bunnies’ enclosure in the same room where you rest or sleep. If you follow our advice in the cage section, this shouldn’t be a problem because your bunnies would be in a separate room anyway.

What Do They Eat?

Hamsters can eat a wider range of foods compared to rabbits. Their diet can include nuts, fruits, vegetables, grains, worms, lizards, and more.

On the other hand, bunnies should mainly munch on hay. You can also incorporate fruits, vegetables, and grasses.

For both animals, you can easily find commercial pet food with specialized formulas to deliver the proper nutrient levels necessary for a healthy life.

  • Fun fact — while rabbits are herbivores, which means that their diet is entirely plant-based, hamsters are actually omnivores. This means that a hamster can feed on plants and animals (bugs).

Younglings

You should also have an idea of the gestation and offspring details of the two animals so you know what to expect down the road.

When female hamsters get pregnant, the duration of their gestation is around 20 days give or take. They usually have 2 or 3 litters throughout the year, birthing around 6 to 8 pups every time.

As for rabbits, the gestation period of their pregnant females lasts for about 1 month. Typically, they have 4 to 5 litters every year, giving birth to anything between 4 and 12 kits depending on the species.

The Expected Budget

Last but not least, you need to consider the costs of buying, caring for, and treating each pet so you can estimate whether or not your budget will allow it.

When it comes to purchasing a hamster, you probably won’t have to spend more than $20. To buy a rabbit, you’ll need to pay between $30 and $50. As such, the initial cost of a bunny is higher than a hamster.

Next, let’s talk about the cost of raising each pet.

A decent cage for your hamster would cost around $50, while the initial cost of food, bedding, and general enclosure supplies could range between $50 to $80. The keep-up cost of a hamster per month can total somewhere around $200.

For a rabbit, the costs are even higher. You can pay up to $300 for a decent hutch, with an additional $150 to $200 for accessories and supplies. The keep-up cost can add up to more than $500 per month.

As for vet visits, hamsters will cost less as they don’t need vaccines and generally require only one or two visits every year.

On the other hand, rabbits need monthly checkups. Also, it can cost you around $200 to get your bunny neutered.

Do Hamsters and Rabbits Get Along?

If you’re thinking about getting both animals as pets, never place them in the same enclosure. Both the hamster and the rabbit will be stressed and things can get aggressive pretty quickly, resulting in injuries.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, a comprehensive hamster vs rabbit comparison to help you choose the more suitable pet for your living style and budget.

As you can tell by now, there are many factors to consider before making a decision, so be sure to take enough time to go through them carefully so you end up in a pleasant owner-pet relationship instead of a stressful one.

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