Why Are Syrian Hamsters Solitary?

By Dawn | Filed under:  Hamster Facts

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I’ve known for a while that Syrian hamsters are solitary animals and should be kept apart from all other hamsters, but I’ve often wondered why, so I decided to do some research to find out.

So, why are Syrian hamsters solitary?  Syrian hamsters are solitary because they are territorial animals and this natural instinct keeps them safe in the wild.  Syrians in captivity still retain this instinct and will fight if kept together with other Syrians resulting in injury or even death.

Syrian hamsters are at their happiest when they’re alone and it’s morally wrong to keep them together.  But there are a couple situations in which Syrians may be kept together.  Read on to find out more.

Why Syrian hamsters should live solitary lives

Syrian hamsters by their very nature are solitary which means they must exist alone. 

In the wild Syrians live completely by themselves and only coexist when they either mate with other hamsters or when the mother is raising the pups.

Shortly after breeding, the female will then chase the male away. 

At around 6 to 8 weeks the instincts in the baby hamsters start to kick in, they become territorial and start to want to find their own territory. 

At this point they can feed themselves, look after themselves and become more independent.  In the wild this is the point where the pups will leave home for the first time and look for their own space.

The territorial nature of captive Syrians is an instinct they’ve picked up from their wild ancestors.  

In the wild, should a Syrian come up against another, they will immediately think there is a threat to their safety, territory or resources such as food, water and shelter. 

They will therefore do whatever it takes to keep themselves from being injured, having their territory taken over or having their resources taken. 

This means fighting to the death if necessary or until at least one of them becomes injured.

Fortunately, in the wild, this is less likely to happen than in captivity because the hamsters are often miles apart from each other and have the space to run away if they do come up against one another. 

In captivity, things are much different because Syrians have nowhere else to go when they’re in their enclosure.  Keeping multiple Syrians together in a cage will almost certainly lead to squabbling, serious injury or even death to one or both of the animals.

Putting Syrians together is extremely stressful for the hamsters

Some claim that pairs of Syrian hamsters can coexist quite happily, but this is not the case.  Even if you put Syrians together into a cage and they don’t fight, they will be extremely stressed because they have been forced to live with each other. 

Stress can lower a hamster’s immune system which makes them more susceptible to illnesses and health problems and will almost certainly shorten your lifespan.  

Some stress related illnesses such as wet tail can even be deadly.

Syrians don’t get lonely

It’s important to know that if you keep a Syrian hamster alone that they are in no danger of getting lonely or depressed. 

They are happiest when they live alone.

Syrians are designed to live alone and they certainly don’t desire any kind of friendship or companionship with other hamsters.

You may think that by keeping siblings together is okay and that they won’t fight, but this is not true.  

Syrian hamsters will fight whether they are related or not and whether or not they’re of the same gender.  

If you put two female Syrians in a cage together, they will fight.  If you put a male and a female Syrian in a cage together, they will mate and fight.  

Separation is therefore the only answer.

Why do pet stores keep Syrian hamsters together?

You may be wondering how pet stores manage to keep Syrian hamsters together in the same enclosure.  

This is because Syrian hamsters typically only start to display territorial behavior when they’re between 6 to 8 weeks of age.  By this point, the hamsters have either been sold, reserved or put into their adoption section (if they have one). 

Up until this point, the pups are very happy to stay in groups.  Their instincts at this age are to stay with their siblings and their mother in order to stay as safe as possible.

Having said that, hamsters become sexually mature at 4 weeks old so it’s important that males are separated from females at this point.

However, it is still possible for groups of males to live together and groups of females to live together with their siblings and mother.  At least until their instincts start to kick in.

Are all hamsters Solitary?

Not all hamsters are solitary.  In fact, dwarf hamsters in particular live in a colony in the wild.  

Dwarf hamsters stay together for two reasons:

Dwarf hamsters include the Winter White, Campbell’s and the Roborovski

Although they are social species, they can only live amongst themselves and only dwarf hamsters of the same species can live together. 

So, for example, you can have two Winter Whites or two Roborovski hamsters living together but you can’t have a Winter White and a Campbell’s, or a Roborovski and a Winter White living together in the same cage.

In the wild they, dwarf hamsters may be found in groups of up to 10 hamsters.

For a stray hamster to be accepted into the group, it must get along with all the members in that group.  If it doesn’t fit in with the group then it will either be chased out or even killed if it resists.

Despite being social animals, dwarf hamsters can still fight so if you do consider getting a pair, you should make sure that you have a spare cage just in case.

It’s normal for these animals to squabble every now and again but if any of them draw blood, then you must separate them that very instant.

Dwarf hamsters don’t have to be in pairs, they can live alone too, but if you do decide to get more than one make sure you get an even number of them as odd numbered groups tend to fall out.

Chinese hamsters are not dwarf hamsters despite some pet shops labelling them as such. 

These hamsters are not sociable although they don’t get quite as aggressive as Syrians. 

Nevertheless they can still fight to the death and are considered solitary and should live alone.

Related questions

Can teddy bear hamsters live together?  Teddy bear hamsters are simply a nickname for Syrian hamsters and are solitary animals and cannot live together.  Syrian hamsters are territorial and will fight sometimes to the death with other Syrian hamsters in the same enclosure.

Can dwarf hamsters live alone?  Yes, dwarf hamsters can live alone or they can live in pairs of the same species.  However, different species of dwarf hamsters cannot live together, so you can’t have a Winter White and a Roborovski in the same enclosure but you could have two Robos living together.