Is a Hamster a Rat? How They Are Different From Mouse, Gerbil and Guinea Pig

is a hamster a rat

You are looking to adopt a new pet but confused about what pet you should get. Right now, maybe you don’t have the time and budget to take care of a cat or a dog. So, what can be the ideal pet at the moment?

How about a small pet like a gerbil or a mouse? Yes! You like our idea!

As you are onboard the small mammals’ train, do you know what you want? Choosing a pet can be tough but more challenging when they are all so cute. We understand the dilemma.

Before you get pet hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, or mice, you must know the animal and decide. When adopting a hamster, the common question is, “Is a hamster a rat?” Well, confusion can occur as they look kinda the same. But, let us clear out the confusion.

No, hamsters aren’t rats nor rats are hamsters. Although they resemble one another, they aren’t the same. Both of them are pretty different in nature and physique.

If you want to know the differences, we can always help. Just go through the article and get to know everything!

Are Hamsters Rodent?

Hamsters aren’t rats, but yes, they’re rodents. This is also the same for rats or mice. Rodents are mainly mammals with no canine teeth and powerful incisor teeth. Did you know that rodents’ incisor teeth never stop growing? Fascinating, right! They constantly chew on hay or vegetables to wear their teeth off.

Many pet owners get concerned about hamsters being rodents because rodents don’t sit well with everyone. They are known to be hosts of diseases. So, there’s always the fear of diseases in hamster owners.

Do Hamsters Carry Diseases?

Don’t let wild rodents confuse you. Hamsters are excellent pets and aren’t dirty, trust us. Shelters or pet shops check them for diseases beforehand, so there’s nothing to fear.

Still, if you are worried, you can always get your hamster checked before you officially bring them home.

Did You Know: Rodents are the most common mammals consisting of 40% of the mammal species.

What are Some Rodent Pet Types?

Rodents make wonderful pets. They can be of different sizes and colors but are equally cute. Still, some rodents are better pets than others. Why don’t we have a look at some?

Here are 5 rodents that are great pets:

1. Gerbils

If you have ever seen a gerbil, you’ll understand why they’re popular pets. They are super cute, especially the Mongolian gerbil breed. They have broad heads, small ears, and slim bodies with really long tails, and the total length of them is, on average, about 8 inches. They tend to move like mice because of their arched back.

gerbil peeking behind a flower plant
Image credit: Kurit Afshen, Shutterstock

Gerbils have different colors of short fur coats, such as orange, white, brown, gray, and black. If we talk about their characteristics, they are very active and playful but tend to nip.

2. Hamsters

When we talk about small pets, hamsters are number one. They make cute pets and are suitable for children. Syrian hamsters, Chinese hamsters, Campbell’s Dwarf hamsters, Winter White Dwarf hamsters, Roborovski hamsters, and Red-eyed hamsters are common among pet owners. Take a look at how much hamsters cost.

Hamsters are smaller than gerbils, about only 5 inches long. They have short, stout bodies with large eyes, pointy ears, and stubby tails. Hamsters have long and short fur in gray, black, gold, sable, cinnamon, white, brown, and cream.

hamster staring upward in a garden
Image credit: Perutskyi Petro, Shutterstock

Hamsters are nocturnal animals, so you might not get the opportunity to play with them much. Moreover, ensure you handle them a lot at a young age; otherwise, they can nip.

Did You Know: There are 20 breeds of hamsters in the world, but we only consider six hamster breeds as pets.

3. Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs have a calmer attitude than all other pet rodents, so they are popular among many. They can weigh about 2 pounds when fully grown. They have round but long heads, round eyes, blunt, aquiline noses, and rose petal-like ears.

Domesticated guinea pigs can have long or short fur in mixed colors like black, brown and white, gold and white, black and brown, etc. Do you know why guinea pigs make the best pets? It’s because they rarely bite or even try to nip you.

guinea pig in the field looking at a distance
Image credit: Theianov, Shutterstock

Moreover, they will let you hold and cuddle them unless you’re trying to flip them on their backs. They hate it!

4. Pet Mice

Mice may be scary, but they are really great pets. Pet mice don’t carry diseases; they are so small that you can take them in your pockets. They grow, on average, about 4 inches long, depending on their breed.

Mice have round-shaped eyes, tulip-shaped ears, and long tails. Mice can have red or black colored eyes depending on their fur color and breed. However, their fur is always glossy and soft.

person holding a mouse with both hands
Image credit: Lena_Graphic Artist, Shutterstock

Unlike guinea pigs, mice don’t like being handled but are entertaining to watch. They are entertaining and playful but nocturnal. So, most of the fun activities are during nighttime. If you get a pet mouse, give it some time to get to know you; otherwise, there’s the risk of getting bitten.

5. Pet Rats

The main difference between mice and rats is their size. Rats are prominently larger than mice, but that doesn’t make them any less of an excellent pet to have. When fully grown, rats can measure up to 10 inches or more in length if you include their long tail. But, they do have a similar appearance to a mouse.

They have shiny fur coats of different colors like gray, white, brown, beige, etc. Domesticated rats don’t carry any diseases and have notable personalities.

If you get them to socialize early, they will be comfortable around people. You can train rats to do tricks because of their curious, smart, and playful nature.

pet rat moving inside the house
Image credit: George Dolgikh, Shutterstock

Hamster vs Mouse: Which One is a Better Pet?

Hamsters and mice are both great pets if you ask us. How can you resist their cute, small faces! You can’t! It will be a crime not to adore them (not literally). But there are some apparent differences between the two. While we can’t say which is a better pet for you, they are both equally great.

Let’s read through some differences in personality and appearance between a hamster and a mouse.

Average Size2 to 14 inches2 to 6 inches
Average Weight1 to 7.3 ounces1 to 4.5 ounces
Life Span2 to 4 years1 to 2 years
Exercise2 hours per day1 to 1.5 hours per day
AppearanceStubby tail, small earsLarge, round eyes, pointed ears, and long tails
Tail Lengthless than 3 cm3 to 5 inches long
BehaviorFriendly, playful, activeFriendly, shy, curious
TrainabilityEasy to trainIt may take some time and patience to train
SmellNo strong smellReleases a pungent odor to mark territory

We have listed everything you need to know about hamsters and mice. Now, it’s your turn to choose the pet suitable for your home and family. Whoever you choose, they will still be leaving small droppings around the house. Make sure to clean after them!

Do Hamsters and Rats Get Along?

“I can’t decide whether to get a hamster or a rat? What will happen if I get both of them? Will they get along?”

If you think about all these, you should know hamsters and rats don’t get along. Your confusion might lead to thinking that keeping a hamster and a rat in the same cage is a good idea, but we are sorry to inform you that it’s not!

A hamster is territorial, conscious of other rodent species, and will attack anything that crosses their paths. They like to spend time with other hamsters but feel stressed when they smell another rodent species in their space. On the other hand, rats are laid-back and social animals. But don’t let it fool you into believing they will want to adjust with a hamster.

Rats are larger and calmer than a hamster, so one is unlikely to attack a hamster. But, hamsters are small and fearless, and they will attack. The laid-back personality of the rat won’t come in handy in the situation also because if the hamster attacks, they will too. Then, your rat won’t stop until the little hamster is dead.

So, don’t you think it’s better not to combine their living space? We believe it’s best because cage fights are never a good idea!

What Eats Hamsters? Be Careful!

You have decided on getting a hamster. We are excited for you! But, you must take good care of them and pay attention to them.

Hamsters are easy prey for many animals such as eagles, foxes, badgers, crows, and domestic dogs and cats. Although cats won’t eat your hamster, they will hunt and kill it. So, if you have a dog or a cat, do not leave your hammy unattended because it won’t be pretty.

Moreover, don’t leave your hamster outside, even in a closed cage, because you never know what can happen. If you let your hamster roam around the house, keep a close eye on them and ensure they are safe.


The main discussion is that hamsters aren’t rats and are very different in shape and personalities. You can get either of them that most fascinated you. Be sure to give your hamster and rat a friend of the same species to play with. Take good care of their health and provide lots of love.

We hope you enjoyed reading the article. For more similar articles, explore our website. You’ll indeed find something interesting to read. Have a great day!

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