Last Updated on: 8th January 2024, 05:25 pm
If you own or want to own hamsters and rabbits, you may be tempted to house them together. You’d assume they could keep each other company, providing fun, friendship, and socialization.
However, hamsters and rabbits shouldn’t be housed together. Unfortunately, hamsters and rabbits don’t get along well when they live together or are left unsupervised in the same room.
Rabbits are much larger than hamsters. Even the smallest rabbit will scare a hamster. Hamsters aren’t as social as rabbits and often get overwhelmed or annoyed by the company of other animals.
Hamsters are from the order Rodentia, which includes rats, mice, squirrels, and gerbils. Meanwhile, rabbits belong to the order Lagomorpha, the same group as hares and pikas.
Beyond their taxonomic order of classification, rabbits and hamsters also have several distinguishing features that set them apart, including:
Rabbits and hamsters have incisors, but the structure and positioning of their teeth are different.
Rabbits have two sets of incisors, positioned one behind the other. Hamsters also have two sets of incisors, but the upper and lower pairs sit in different positions.
Both animals’ teeth are open-rooted, so they grow throughout their lives and must be worn down constantly to prevent them from growing into the jaw.
Rabbits are bigger than hamsters, with large hind legs and stronger musculature. This physical stature makes them agile and fast, which comes in handy when defending against predators.
By contrast, hamsters have small, stout bodies with stocky legs and wide feet. Their main defense is digging into the ground and building tunnels to hide.
Rabbits have long, wide ears, which allow them to quickly pick up the sounds of predators or other environmental threats.
In contrast, according to Hearing Research, hamsters have small, furry ears like mice.
Hamsters have poor eyesight and are often color-blind and near-sighted.
However, their ability to smell is excellent, and they communicate and navigate using scent glands. This allows them to mark different areas in their environment, thus tracing their way back easily.
By contrast, rabbits have exceptional eyesight and a much wider field of vision, courtesy of the positioning of their eyes. Rabbits enjoy an almost 360-degree field of view with a small blind spot at the bridge of their nose.
Hamsters are omnivorous, meaning they can eat meat and vegetation, while rabbits are herbivores that subsist only on grasses, leafy greens, and vegetables.
Both animals enjoy meals that contain fruits, but their sugar content must be controlled to lower the risk of diabetes, weight gain, and tooth decay.
Rabbits have much longer lifespans. Hamsters have a life expectancy of about 2-2.5 years, while rabbits have an average lifespan of 8-12 years, with some living up to 18 years.
Keeping hamsters and rabbits together might seem like a good idea. However, these two creatures have different personalities, temperaments, and behaviors, which make them incompatible.
Keeping rabbits and hamsters in a shared habitat will lead to fighting for these reasons:
Rabbits Are More Active
Hamsters can be active and adventurous but don’t have a rabbit’s activity level.
Rabbits are hyperactive animals that can play for hours without growing tired or bored. However, hamsters enjoy periods of relaxation without interruptions or disruptions.
Placing a rabbit in the same cage as a hamster will leave them overwhelmed and stressed. The rabbit may also grow irritated by a cage mate who is too scared to play.
Large Size Disparity
The average rabbit measures 9-16 inches and weighs 4-6 pounds, depending on the species. In contrast, a hamster measures 2-7 inches and weighs 1-7 ounces.
This size difference creates several challenges when rearing these pets together. Larger rabbits need bigger cages with more room, while a hamster can thrive in smaller cages.
Opting for the largest cage will give the hamster more room to play, but the rabbit may become territorial and limit the hamster’s ability to explore and forage.
In extreme cases, a single fight could leave your hamster mortally wounded and unable to recover. Rabbits, especially females, sometimes kill new rabbits introduced to their cages.
Hamsters Are More Timid
Both hamsters and rabbits are naturally skittish. As prey animals, they’re constantly wary of their environment and the chance of predators.
Since hamsters are much smaller than rabbits, they’re likely to be scared by the larger cage mate, even if the rabbit means no harm. Regular exposure to a larger animal (and nowhere to hide) can leave your hamster fearful and stressed.
This can result in destructive behavior, like over-grooming and bar biting. So, placing a hamster and rabbit together can negatively impact the hamster’s quality of life.
While rabbits and hamsters are naturally docile, they become aggressive when threatened.
A hamster who feels challenged or intimidated by the rabbit will likely become defensive. It’ll bite, vocalize, and posture toward the bigger animal.
Meanwhile, the rabbit will perceive any aggression as an attack and respond with defensive behavior. Due to its larger size, scratching and biting could be fatal to the hamster.
Rabbits Are More Social
Rabbits are friendly and social creatures. They enjoy being showered with attention and love from their owners and must interact regularly with their cage mates to stay happy.
According to Lab Animal Science, aggression and infighting between rabbits are rare if the dominance hierarchy remains intact.
By contrast, hamsters are solitary animals that enjoy their time alone, so they don’t require much attention or interaction with other pets or their owners. This mismatch in personalities can make keeping these two pets together dangerous.
The hamster is likely to feel smothered by the rabbit’s attempts at socializing, causing it to react aggressively. By contrast, the rabbit will feel lonely and rejected by the hamster.
Since hamsters are omnivores, they can eat meat, fish, and plants. Most of their diet consists of fresh produce, mixed pellets, grains, nuts, and dry foods to help grind their teeth.
However, rabbits are herbivores, requiring grass, hay, fresh vegetables, and certain fruits.
Some of these foods overlap, so you may be tempted to offer separate feeding bowls for both animals. However, either pet may curiously eat from the other’s bowl, sampling food that isn’t part of their diet, which can lead to digestive problems.
Both animals may become territorial about their feeding bowls. Since they don’t share common body language, this can lead to misunderstandings and conflict.
Rabbits and hamsters shouldn’t be permitted to play together. Their size and weight difference mean that playful roughhousing can turn dangerous.
Likewise, hamsters and rabbits don’t play in the same ways, leading to confusion and irritation. Since both animals can turn aggressive when challenged, this creates a problematic situation.
Rabbits and hamsters can see and smell each other through the cage bars. However, they shouldn’t be put within touching distance and never be allowed together without your supervision.
Instead, you can house rabbits and hamsters separately and have individual playtimes with each of them.