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Rat vs. Hamster: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 11, 2024
Rats are typically larger, more intelligent rodents with long tails, while hamsters are smaller, solitary, and have shorter tails.

Key Differences

Rats, found worldwide, are adaptable and often live in close quarters with humans. Hamsters, originating from Syria and other parts of Europe and Asia, prefer solitary lives in burrows.
Rats are larger with elongated bodies, prominent ears, and long, scaly tails. In contrast, hamsters are smaller with stubbier bodies, smaller ears, and short, furry tails.
Rats are known for their intelligence and social nature, often living in groups. Hamsters, however, are more solitary and can be territorial, preferring to live alone.
Rats generally live 2-3 years and can be prone to respiratory issues. Hamsters have a similar lifespan but are more prone to diabetes and heart disease.
Rats are omnivores, enjoying a varied diet, while hamsters are more granivorous, preferring grains and seeds. Both require specific care in captivity to maintain health.

Comparison Chart


Larger, elongated body
Smaller, stubbier body


Long, scaly
Short, furry

Social Behavior

Social, lives in groups
Solitary, territorial


2-3 years
2-3 years

Preferred Diet

Omnivorous, varied
Granivorous, grains and seeds

Rat and Hamster Definitions


A despicable person.
He was known as the office rat for his treachery.


A hamster is a small, furry pet.
She got a hamster for her birthday.


A rat is a rodent often considered a pest.
The restaurant had to close due to a rat infestation.


Natural burrowing behavior.
Their hamster loves to burrow in its bedding.


A rat can mean an informant.
He acted as a rat to avoid punishment.


Prefers living alone.
Her hamster spends most of its time alone in the cage.


Used in scientific experiments.
Rats are common subjects in lab tests.


Active at night.
The hamster becomes lively after sunset.


One of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals.
She was born in the year of the rat.


A member of the rodent family.
Hamsters are popular small rodents.


Any of various long-tailed rodents resembling mice but larger, especially one of the genus Rattus.


A small Eurasian rodent of the subfamily Cricetinae, especially Mesocricetus auratus, having large cheek pouches and a short tail and often kept as a pet or used in laboratory research.


Any of various animals similar to one of these long-tailed rodents.


Any of various Old-World rodent species belonging to the subfamily Cricetinae.


Especially, the golden hamster, Mesocricetus auratus, and the dwarf hamsters of genus Phodopus, often kept as a pet or used in scientific research.
The hamster stuffed his puffy cheeks with food.


Other rodents of similar appearance, such as the maned hamster or crested hamster, Lophiomys imhausi, mouse-like hamsters of genus Calomyscus, and the white-tailed rat (Mystromys albicaudatus).


(ambitransitive) To secrete or store privately, as a hamster does with food in its cheek pouches.


A small European rodent (Cricetus frumentarius). It is remarkable for having a pouch on each side of the jaw, under the skin, and for its migrations. Hamsters are commonly kept as a pets.


Short-tailed Old World burrowing rodent with large cheek pouches


What is a rat?

A rat is a larger, intelligent rodent, often considered a pest.

How long do rats live?

Rats typically live for 2-3 years.

Are hamsters good for children?

Hamsters are suitable for older children who can handle them gently.

What do hamsters eat?

Hamsters primarily eat grains, seeds, and sometimes fruits and veggies.

Do rats make good pets?

Rats can be good pets, known for their intelligence and sociability.

What do rats eat?

Rats are omnivores, eating a variety of foods.

Can rats be trained?

Rats can be trained to perform simple tasks and tricks.

Are hamsters nocturnal?

Yes, hamsters are primarily nocturnal.

Can hamsters be kept in pairs?

Hamsters are solitary and may fight if housed together.

What is a hamster?

A hamster is a small, furry, solitary pet rodent.

How long do hamsters live?

Hamsters usually have a lifespan of 2-3 years.

Are rats social animals?

Rats are highly social and thrive in groups.

Do rats carry diseases?

Wild rats can carry diseases, but pet rats are generally safe.

Do rats need companions?

Rats are social and benefit from having a companion.

Do hamsters need a lot of space?

Hamsters need adequate space to explore, but not as much as larger pets.

How do you care for a hamster?

Provide a clean cage, proper diet, and gentle handling.

Can rats and hamsters live together?

It's not advisable as they have different needs and behaviors.

What are common health issues in rats?

Respiratory infections and tumors are common in rats.

Can rats and hamsters eat the same food?

Their dietary needs differ, so they require species-specific diets.

What are common health issues in hamsters?

Hamsters are prone to diabetes and heart disease.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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