Rats and hamsters are both in the rodent family, but they are as different as they can be. If you own both of them, you may have some questions about their relationship – like whether they can mate or not.
So, can rats and hamsters mate? No, rats and hamsters can’t mate. Rats and hamsters are not the same species, and they don’t have the same number of chromosomes, making it impossible for them to mate. On top of that, rats and hamsters don’t like each other and would probably fight instead of mating.
The relationship between rats and hamsters is a strange one, as these two species are completely different. However, in order to understand why they can’t and shouldn’t mate, you need to read on and find out more about them and their reproductive systems.
Why Rats And Hamsters Can’t Mate
As mentioned, there are strong biological reasons that rats and hamsters can’t mate with each other.
For one, they are not the same species, even though they belong to the rodent family. Hamsters and rats are essentially completely different — they have different food needs, different mating cycles, different abilities, and different diseases.
As a bonus, they don’t have the same number of chromosomes which are necessary for mating. Every species has its own number of chromosomes. Rats have 42, Dwarf hamsters have 28, while Syrian hamsters have 44. All of this makes it impossible for them to mate and produce healthy offspring.
Rats and Reproduction
Rats are able to mate, starting at their fourth week of age. Keep in mind that they shouldn’t be allowed to do so since the females are too small to give birth and stay healthy at that point. As a responsible owner, you should let them do so only after they reach four months of age.
To keep them from mating, you should keep them in separate cages and not allow them to play with each other.
When a rat does get pregnant, it will take her around 25 days to give birth, although she might do so earlier. You probably won’t notice any changes until about two weeks of her pregnancy, and possibly even more. One way to notice it is to check if she’s in heat once every five days.
You’ll notice that a rat is in heat by the vibration of her ears, sticking her butt up or arching her back when you touch her. If this is lacking for longer than a week or ten days, that means she’s pregnant.
Around two weeks of pregnancy, you’ll notice that she’s gained weight and that her nipples are more pronounced. She might also start nesting. For this, you should give her plenty of tissue paper and other materials that will make it easier for her. Give her a box too, since rats prefer dark and safety when they are giving birth and caring for the young ones.
Rats can give birth to anywhere between 6 and 12 baby rats. They will be blind and deaf upon birth, so they should be placed somewhere quiet, and you shouldn’t handle them before they reach seven days of age. They should stay with their mother until they are 28 days old.
Around that time, a female can get pregnant again, but she shouldn’t since that could harm her health. She should not get pregnant for at least another two months.
Breeding will depend on whether a rat is healthy, their age, the weather, etc. Some female rats abandon their babies for a number of reasons, among which are lack of proper nourishment, too little space, not appropriate nesting materials, etc.
Hamsters and Reproduction
Hamsters can start breeding and have healthy pregnancies when they are ten weeks old. Of course, it’s best if they have the babies later, to ensure positive results. Just putting two hamsters together may not be enough because a female can attack male hamsters — aggressive behavior is common.
Genetic issues may also cause hamsters to have unhealthy offspring.
A pregnancy in rats lasts for about 16 days, although it can last for 22 — this depends on the type of hamster you have. A Syrian hamster will, for instance, be pregnant for about 16 days, and the same goes for golden hamsters.
You’ll notice that a hamster is pregnant when they start having a bigger belly. Of course, this might not happen until she’s near her due date. A pregnant hamster close to her due date will need to nest, and they might even bleed from their vaginal area. The better the nesting materials, the higher the chances that she won’t leave the babies.
You shouldn’t touch the babies until they are seven days old. If their mom abandons them, the chances of another hamster adopting them are low. So, give them enough food and water, but don’t be too active around their cages during this time.
A hamster will have anywhere from 6 to 8 babies, and they will live with their mother for about a month. When they are born, they won’t have any hair, but they will have incisors. If you want to help the mom of the babies, give soft — or moistened food — to babies once they are ten days old.
Should Hamsters and Rats Live Together?
A simple answer is no — rats and hamsters shouldn’t and can’t cohabitate, especially in the same cage. Hamsters, while small, are very territorial and aggressive towards what they perceive is an enemy. They also like to be alone, avoiding their own species even.
On the other hand, a rat is big, and they love the company of other rats. They are also calmer than hamsters.
But the aggressive hamster might bite them, which will make the rat attack back. Unfortunately, this won’t end well, since rats are quite a bit bigger than hamsters and they don’t stop until their enemy is dead.
Both of them are great pets — but not together, in the same cage. They shouldn’t even play with each other. Hamsters really dislike sharing their space and will only accept roommates when they want to mate.
Again, due to this aggressiveness, they shouldn’t be matched with a rat. No matter how much time they spend together, a rat and a hamster won’t mate — they would more likely kill each other.
All hamsters should be kept in their own individual cages. A hamster, while tiny, will always try to assert its dominance upon others, no matter which animal it is. Having two hamsters together of the same species can be deadly for them.
The only way hamsters will accept others is if they were introduced as babies and spent their life together. If they are scared, they will bite.
Rats, on the other hand, are very clever and they love their human companions. As such, they are excellent pets — they love being petted by their owners and having buddies to play with. Rats are often compared to dogs in terms of their behavior and preferences.
They will love being held and played with. Naturally, do so gently.
Rats love to eat everything that doesn’t want to eat them, so no food is off the table, although you should give them only the food that’s healthy for them. If they like the look of your hamster’s food, they will take it too.
And since rats will eat anything that won’t eat them, hamsters are not off the table either. They are smaller and dumber — a rat could easily trick them and eat them.
Rats are smart and can learn many tricks.
In short, the two rodents shouldn’t live in the same cage, play with each other and especially not mate — mostly because they wouldn’t do it.
- Quora: Can a hamster and a rat live together with a lot of introduction?
- Quora: Is it possible to breed a rat and a hamster?
- Oxford Academic: Reproduction and Longevity in the Hamster and Rat
- Merck Manual, Veterinary Manual: Breeding and Reproduction of Hamsters
- Merck Manual, Veterinary Manual: Breeding and Reproduction of Rats
- Wiley Online Library: A comparative study of the chromosomes of rodents
- NCBI: Dominant-Subordinate relationships in Hamsters: Sex Differences in Reactions to Familiar Opponents
- NCBI: Aggressive behavior in female hamsters: the hormonal basis for fluctuations in female aggressiveness correlated with estrous state.
- Animals Mom: Can You Mix Different Rodents In The Same Cage?