Are Hamsters Intelligent?

Pete Wedderburn
12th June 2020 - 2 min read

The Hamster Brain

A human brain weighs around 1.5kg – like one-and-a-half bags of sugar. In contrast, the brain of a hamster is tiny, smaller than the fingernail of your little finger, and weighing around the same as a breath-freshener mint. Yet hamsters have brains that look almost identical to our own under the microscope, and that seem to have many functions that are remarkably similar to our own.

Can Hamsters be Trained?

People who own hamsters will not be surprised by this. They know that hamsters are smart. They learn to recognise their owners’ voices, and will even respond to some commands. I know somebody who has trained their hamster to sit down and wait, like a little dog, when a treat is waved in front of his nose.

hamster in hands
Pip the Hamster

Hamster Care

Pip is an eighteen-month old hamster who has a very appealing appearance, with beady black eyes, a pink nose, and extra-long whiskers. Some hamsters are known to bite if picked up, but Pip is always friendly, and she seems to enjoy being handled by humans, even if they are strangers.

Pip lives a privileged life.

Cage Contains:

  • Tubes
  • Ladders
  • Large wheel to keep her entertained and physically fit.

Food:

  • Dry hamster mix
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Yoghurt raisins (which she loves).

Activity

  • She is taken out of her cage every evening to play with her owners.
  • She is also allowed to roam around the floor inside a transparent plastic ball.
  • She lives alone, but hamsters are solitary creatures that tend to fight if they meet other members of their own species.

Hamster Cage Escape

Hamsters are notorious escape artists, using their sharp teeth to gnaw their way out of an enclosed space. Plastic hamster cages are normally strong enough to contain them, but some hamsters very determined.

two hamsters hiding
Hiding Hamsters

Hamster Life Span

Hamsters have depressingly short life spans and at eighteen months of age, they are “getting older”. Only a few hamsters live beyond the age of three years, but I did hear about one individual who died at the age of five.

Summary

  • Hamsters are surprisingly intelligent for their size
  • They’re good pets for children, as long as they are trained to be handled
  • The biggest problem is their short lifespan, of three years or so