Cats and dogs are one of the classic combinations of pets sharing a home together along with their humans. But what about cats and hamsters? Can they share a home together?
Hamsters are a type of a rodent and a domesticated, somewhat slow-moving, and docile one at that. Rodents were the primary prey of cats’ earliest ancestors, and continue to be the most readily available food for stray and feral cats in both urban and rural environments. While many of us harbor fantasies of all our pets living happily in harmony, your cat is likely going to see your hamster through eyes filled with instinct rather than affection. Whether this instinct is to harm the hamster or to simply play with it depends on that cat. Meaning, to keep your hamster safe with a cat in the home will take extra care and effort.
That being said, it is not impossible for someone to keep both a cat and a hamster as pets. If you end up sharing your home with both animals, you will need to take precautions to keep your little fuzzball safe from your bigger fuzzball. Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to determine if the two can live amicably together. Read on to find out more about how to keep both as pets—as safely and responsibly as possible.
Cats and Hamsters: Difference in Behavior
Among the many differences between cats and hamsters is the type of living conditions and amount of connection with people that they each need. While each individual animal is unique in their personality, needs, and wants, understanding the key differences between cats’ and hamsters’ general behaviors and tendencies will help you understand how your particular cat and hamster can (or can’t) co-exist in your home.
Cats like to have free range of the house, as well as lots of opportunities to interact with and be affectionate with their humans. Some are of course more cuddly than others, but the vast majority of pet cats build some kind of relationship with their owners.
Cats may love to sleep on your lap, chase after toys you throw, drink from your water glass, or find a warm place to sleep (and interrupt you!) on your laptop. Their personalities vary almost as much as ours do, and getting to know a cat over the years is one of the great pleasures of being a cat owner.
Hamsters are a bit of a different story. They need an appropriate enclosed habitat to feel happy and secure—essentially their own little house. While they sometimes enjoy playtime and cuddles with humans they’ve grown accustomed to, as well as supervised exercise outside of their habitat, hamsters are perfectly content with a lot of alone time compared to cats.
Most hamster species like to live on their own and can entertain themselves with various ramps and wheels inside their habitats. They are also nocturnal; their instinct is to sleep during the day, and eat and exercise at night. That being said, hamsters and humans can in fact bond with each other, and many people find them to be adorable and interesting pets.
Life with a Cat and a Hamster
As we stated earlier, your cat will likely be intrigued by your hamster the way predators are with prey. Even if they are well-fed and healthy, a cat may find its stomach growling at the sight of your hamster running on its wheel. At a minimum, it will probably be curious enough to try and get into the habitat and play with it. Neither situation is good news for your hamster!
Here’s what you can do to create a home in which your cat and your hamster can coexist safely, and even happily:
1. Secure Your Hamster Habitat
It is always important that your hamster has a safe home (they are expert escape artists), but it is especially important if there is a cat or dog in the home. Research the most secure habitat you can afford and keep it in a place in your home that is inaccessible to your other pets, preferably with a door that you can close. Make sure the habitat has a lot of places for your hamster to hide, and is preferably covered on two sides so your little friend feels secure.
2. Observe Your Cat
Let your cat sniff the area around the habitat while you are right there to supervise. Use a cheerful and positive voice to “introduce” your cat to the hamster while it is still in the cage. Take note of whether your cat seems defensive and aggressive or calm and curious. Their body language can indicate whether your cat is driven by a strong predatory instinct or is simply inquisitive about the new arrival. Closely observing your cat while it is around the hamster cage can give you a sense of how they will adjust to their new roommate.
3. Try to Build the Relationship
If your cat does not seem to have a strong predatory instinct towards your hamster, you can try holding the hamster firmly in your hand and letting your cat sniff it—always while talking to your cat in a calm and friendly tone. Some cats are curious but a bit lazy; they may see the hamster as something fun to watch but otherwise have no interest in harming it. Even so, NEVER leave your cat alone with the hamster while it is out of the cage, even if you feel confident your cat will leave it alone. It is not worth the risk of causing your hamster trauma, injury, or death.
Many of us love the idea of different types of pets co-existing in harmony under our care. Hamster and cats living together is not impossible, but requires extra effort on the part of the pet owner to keep both animals happy, and to keep the hamster physically and mentally safe from a cat’s attention.
If your cat demonstrates a strong predatory instinct, they will always need to be kept away from the hamster and its cage. If they are more of the curious and passive type, with time and effort, you may reach a point when your cat can have closely supervised visits with the hamster—in and out of its habitat. No cat should ever be left alone with a hamster, but hopefully you can reach peaceful co-existence of the two with these simple steps.