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Are Mice or Hamsters Better Pets?

(Last Updated On: June 6, 2022)

Even though hamsters and mice are small rodents with similar features, they have very different personalities.

Mice are sociable creatures who prefer living in small groups. When kept alone, they become depressed and develop stress-related behaviors. However, hamsters are strictly solitary animals and will fight to the death if kept in the same cage.

Both hamsters and mice are smelly animals, but hamsters are easier to toilet train and urinate in a specific part of their enclosure. Mice can stink out an entire room.

It initially costs roughly the same price to keep mice and hamsters, but as mice live in groups, you’ll need to replace food and substrate more frequently.

Are Mice Better Than Hamsters?

The question of whether mice or hamsters make better pets is a subjective one because they’re vastly different animals with different traits.

Syrian hamsters are the most common hamster species, but dwarf hamsters are also popular pets.

The common house mouse (Mus musculus) is the species kept in captivity. Having been bred as pets for over 200 years, they look much different from their wild cousins and come in various colors.

Hamsters and mice are active at similar times of the day. Hamsters are crepuscular and come out between dusk and dawn, while mice are nocturnal and emerge after dark.

Both species are intelligent and trainable, but mice are slightly better at behavioral tasks.

As mentioned, hamsters are strictly solitary and are happy to entertain themselves with the enrichment they find in their cages. Mice prefer to live in groups, making their cages smellier and their overall care more expensive.

 HamstersMice
Size:Species-specific. Syrian hamsters are the largest, reaching 6-7 inches. Dwarf hamsters are far smaller.Mice are small but long, stretching 5-7 inches from head to tail.
Friendliness:Hamsters are friendly and sociable with frequent interaction.Mice are social animals but don’t enjoy being handled and petted.
Awake:Crepuscular (dawn to dusk)Nocturnal (during dark hours)
Bite Frequency:Rarely, as long as they’re well-socialized. Scared or untamed hamsters will bite more often.Will bite if handled. Many owners need to wear gloves when picking up their mice.
Cost:Strictly solitary animals. They require a large enclosure, wheel, toys, food, substrate, and vet care.They prefer to live in groups, so they need more resources than hamsters. Mice need space to climb.
Smell:Have a strong urine smell. Females smell when they’re in heat.The distinctive musky aroma of stale urine. They’re smellier than hamsters.
Intelligence:Hamsters can learn tricks and are quick learners. They also escape their cages.Mice can learn and recall behavioral tasks. They’re easier to train than hamsters.
Life Expectancy:2-3 years.1-2 years.
Amount of Care:Frequent spot cleaning and substrate changes every 6-8 weeks.Substrate changes every 1-2 weeks. As they live in groups, they need more frequent cleaning than hamsters.

Differences between Mice and Hamsters

As mentioned, hamsters and mice have similar features, but it’s easy to tell them apart once you learn to identify their key attributes.

Here are the main physical differences:

  • Hamsters are larger and rounder with short, stubby tails. Mice have slenderer bodies and long tails.
  • Mice have larger ears and eyes than hamsters, although they are similar in shape.
  • A mouse’s fur tends to be in one solid color to blend in with the environment. Hamsters come in a variety of colors and markings.
  • Hamsters have large cheek pouches that they fill with food.
  • Mice have longer feet than hamsters, who are relatively small in comparison.

The easiest way to tell mice and hamsters apart is through their tails. Hamsters are noticeably shorter, while mice are famous for their long, thin tails.

Are Mice or Hamsters Friendlier?

Because mice are highly sociable animals who prefer living in groups, they find living alone stressful and experience social isolation if kept as a single pet.

As a result of their social preferences, they’re friendly creatures who form strong bonds with their owners. However, it takes a little time and patience to get mice comfortable around people.

While mice are friendly, they’re not fond of being handled too often. While not too common, they’ll bite if they feel threatened, which is a problem for young children who want to cuddle their pets.

In comparison, not all hamsters enjoy human interaction, but they can learn to become friendly with socialization from an early age. Once they’ve been tamed, they make friendly and loving pets who often greet their owners once they wake up.

Something to be wary of is that hamsters are prey animals with many predators to be worried about. Once they realize you’re not a threat, they’ll be more open to being handled and cuddled.

However, this means you must be careful not to over-handle your hamster. You should also avoid loud noises and sudden movements, or you’ll scare your pet and damage the bond you’ve built.

are mice or hamsters friendlier?

Are Mice Bigger Than Hamsters?

Dwarf hamsters and mice measure a similar length from head to tail, but mice are smaller because their significantly longer tails make up much of their size.

Hamsters have larger, rounder bodies and short, stubby tails. Large Syrian hamsters are approximately five inches longer than the biggest mice.

Despite their small stature, mice are quick. Similarly, because they’re so slender, they’re difficult to catch and can squeeze themselves under doors and skirting boards.

While hamsters are escape artists, Syrians are much slower and can be more easily caught than mice. They also have difficulty getting under the smallest gaps. Dwarf hamsters are much faster and harder to catch, though.

Are Mice More Affectionate Than Hamsters?

Rodents are affectionate and friendly animals, relying on their ability to form relationships in captivity and the wild.

According to Physiology, a neurochemical called oxytocin (sometimes known as the love or cuddle hormone) is released in the brain when animals, including rodents, are touched and petted.

This means both mice and hamsters can exhibit a basic affection toward humans. However, both animals display their love differently.

Hamsters are more affectionate than mice. While not all hamsters are happy to be held and petted, many form strong bonds with their owners and can tolerate being cuddled. However, this takes several weeks and months to develop.

While mice are friendlier, they don’t like to be held. Mice that have been hand-raised from birth can grow to tolerate being touched, but, on the whole, they don’t respond well to human touch.

Do Hamsters or Mice Smell Worse?

Mice and hamsters are well-known for being some of the smelliest rodents. Their urine smells strongly of ammonia, which quickly becomes unpleasant.

However, while hamster pee smells bad, they prefer to urinate in a particular spot – usually in their sand bath or a chosen burrow. This means the smell is concentrated and relatively easy to clean.

Unfortunately, mice don’t fare quite as well. Mice come from temperate areas of the world. As a result, they drink and pee a lot, producing a foul-smelling odor that quickly permeates the entire room.

Unlike hamsters, mice are far harder to toilet train and pee over their cage. They’re also kept in smaller cages. Unless you use odor-absorbing bedding, you’ll need to frequently replace the substrate and disinfect the enclosure and all accessories.

Hamster and mice pee smells worse, but hamsters are much better at hiding the smell.

One thing to note is that some female hamsters produce a foul musky smell when they’re in heat. This is sometimes accompanied by white discharge from the vaginal area.

The smell doesn’t last for long, but it’ll occur every four days when your hamster enters its heat cycle. It’s also more likely to occur after touching a hamster in heat. That’s why you should minimize contact during this time.

Are Mice Smarter Than Hamsters? 

While hamsters have a good level of intelligence, it isn’t easy to train them beyond basic learning and memory. Despite this, they have several unique qualities, such as building burrows and hoarding food inside their cheek pouches – the latter of which mice don’t do.

Mice can characterize information and items and make quick decisions. They can also learn various behavioral tasks.

Rats are considered the most intelligent rodents, but mice have similar performance levels, which means they’re smarter than hamsters.

Do Mice Bite More Than Hamsters?

Mice and hamsters are low down on the food chain, so they bite if threatened. Both creatures use their sharp teeth as a defense mechanism to protect themselves against predators.

That being said, mice are less likely to bite than hamsters. As mentioned, mice are more social, while hamsters are solitary. Without proper socialization and handling, hamsters will bite every time they’re picked up.

Mice will only nip when cornered. This is a warning that it’s scared or uncomfortable.

Also, both mice and hamsters need to chew to keep their teeth filed down. As Cell Reports explains, hamsters have continuously growing teeth. This also applies to mice.

Mice and hamsters need to gnaw on fibrous foods and natural materials – like wood – to prevent their teeth from overgrowing and causing problems.

As a result, they sometimes confuse fingers for items they can chew. 

Do Mice or Hamsters Cost More?

There’s not that much difference in the cost of purchasing a mouse or hamster and the enclosure and accessories it needs. They may be different species, but they require similar levels of care.

Both hamsters and mice need:

  • An enclosure that offers plenty of space
  • Toys and tunnels
  • Food
  • Substrate

However, while the initial start-up cost is around the same, mice live in groups. This means you’ll need to spend more on the initial animals.

Multiple mice will also get through food, chew toys, and substrate quicker than a lone hamster. As a result, you’ll spend more money by replacing everything more often.

Mice vs. Hamster Life Expectancy

Hamsters live slightly longer lives than mice. Their life expectancy is between 2-3 years, while mice only live for 1-2 years. The right care can ensure your pet lives as long as possible.

Feed your pet a good diet filled with essential nutrients and spot clean the enclosure as often as it needs to keep conditions sanitary.

You should also keep an eye on your pet’s appearance and behavior changes to identify any health issues. Treating illnesses early gives your pet a better chance of living a longer, healthier life.

do hamsters or mice smell worse?

Hamster and Mice Care Needs

When choosing between a hamster and a mouse, it’s important to think about the care they need and whether you can provide it to them.

Both are entertaining and alluring pets, and they require the following:

Enclosure

Hamsters and mice live in similar enclosures. Both need large enclosures that enable them to behave as they would in the wild.

For hamsters, that means solid floor space measuring 100 x 50 cm at a minimum with at least 6 inches of bedding. Hamsters burrow, and many don’t start until there’s a layer of substrate 10 inches deep.

According to the Ottawa Humane Society, the minimum size for a mouse cage should be 45 x 30 x 30 inches. Mice are also nest builders and use substrate to maintain their temperature.

It’s also important that you find an escape-proof cage for your mice. As mentioned, they can squeeze into small gaps, so a glass tank with a secure lid is a good option.

If you’re using a wire cage, make sure the bars are no more than ¼ inch apart.

Food

Both hamsters and mice require scientifically formulated pellets specific to their species. They also enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables and occasional treats consisting of nuts, seeds, and protein-rich foods, like cheese.

Both mice and hamsters forage for food. Instead of placing their food in a bowl, you can scatter their pellet mix across the substrate for them to find. Only do this with dry foods, though, as fresh fruits and vegetables will make a mess.

Enrichment

Both mice and hamsters benefit from a large running wheel that they can use for entertainment when they’re awake.

Unlike hamsters, mice are climbers and like to have climbing frames and ropes they can scale for fun. Hamsters have poor eyesight, so these items are dangerous and can result in broken limbs.

Both animals benefit from toys, particularly ones they can chew. They also like nesting boxes and hideouts where they can hide whenever they feel threatened.

Tunnels, branches, cork logs, and foraging toys are other excellent forms of enrichment.

Hamsters and mice make rewarding pets. Though they may be similar in appearance, they have different personality traits.

If you’re only looking for a single pet, a hamster is your best option. But if you’re happy to have multiple mice and don’t mind spending a bit more, you’ll love their fun, friendly nature.