Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are a health care professional

honeypot link
Pet Owner Version

Introduction to Hamsters


Katherine E. Quesenberry

, DVM, MPH, DABVP (Avian);

Thomas M. Donnelly

, BVSc, DVP, DACLAM, DABVP(ECM), The Kenneth S Warren Institute

Reviewed/Revised Aug 2020 | Modified Oct 2022
Topic Resources

Hamsters are rodents (members of the biological order Rodentia) and are distant relatives of mice and rats. Hamsters are small, almost tailless, relatively clean, affordable, easy to care for, and popular as pets.

Hamster varieties

Hamster varieties

The most common variety is the Syrian hamster, also known as the golden hamster ( see Table: Hamster Breeds Commonly Kept as Pets Hamster Breeds Commonly Kept as Pets Hamster Breeds Commonly Kept as Pets ). This name comes from the coloring of the animal in its original home in the wild. Today, pet owners can find Syrian hamsters in many color and coat varieties. Other varieties kept as pets include the Russian dwarf hamster, Chinese hamster, and the European hamster (which is uncommon in the United States).


For More Information

quiz link

Test your knowledge

Take a Quiz!