Difference between Hamsters and Rabbits as a Pet

We spy shamelessly on them through their cages and marvel at their inherent cuteness. We spent painstakingly long times settling on names for them. For some, the time spent browsing through pet shops, virtual and physical, can only be described as hectic and exciting. We want to get the perfect bed, cage, or toys for these furry lovelies. 

Whether you have a pet hamster or rabbit or both, nobody can deny that these soft-furred creatures exude so much cuteness and love that many childhood stories are never complete without them. Although both are beyond adorable as pets and may share some similarities, such as cuteness overload, they are also very different. 

Aside from the looks, these two have different behaviors and temperaments. Rabbits and hamsters are very different animals, and when choosing to get a pet, one should consider their distinct characteristics.

Difference between Hamsters vs Rabbits?

1. Species. Hamsters are rodents, while rabbits are small mammals. 

2. Incisor TeethAs a distinguishing feature from rodents, with which they are often confused, rabbits have two sets of incisor teeth, one positioned behind the other. On the other hand, hamsters have highly visible sharp incisors, an upper and lower pair, both of which grow continuously throughout their adorable lives. Because of that fact, they would have to be regularly worn down. 

3. Body and Tails. Hamsters have typically stout bodies, and their tails are not very long and can be difficult to see, except the Chinese hamster, which has a long tail, usually the same length as the body. They have small ears, short, stocky legs, and wide feet. Rabbits have large hind leg bones and well-developed muscles because agility and speed are their main defenses against natural predators. Rabbits’ tails have the distinctive coloring of dark on top and white below, except the cottontail, which, of course, have white on top of their tails. 

4. Eyesight. Believe it or not, hamsters are nearsighted and colorblind. These chubby-cheeked creatures have poor eyesight with a very bad sense of distance. On the other end of the spectrum, rabbits enjoy a nearly 360 degrees field of vision, with just one tiny blind spot around the nose bridge.

5. Diet. Hamsters are omnivores which means they can snack on meat and vegetables, while rabbits are herbivores that survive by munching on grass, fobs, and leafy weeds. 

6. Size. Hamsters are generally smaller than rabbits.

7. Sleeping Habit. Hamsters are more crepuscular, which means they are active primarily during the twilight period. Though they appear to be the same, the rabbit’s natural inclination is toward nocturnal activity.

8. LifespanHamsters typically live no more than two to three years in captivity, so you might want to think about that when deciding whether to get one. Domesticated rabbits usually live much longer, with a European rabbit from Tasmania living up to 18 years of age.

Let us dig deep and explore more of these differences between rabbits and hamsters, shall we?

1. Hamsters and Rabbits Belong to Different Species

Hamsters belong to the subfamily Cricetinae and are considered rodents. They are usually grouped with other rodents such as New World rats and mice. Now for a fun fact, rabbits were once also considered rodents. This classification was changed when it discovered that they had diverged earlier and separately from their rodent cousins, resulting in several traits unique to them, such as two extra incisors. Rabbits are now classified as mammals under a new order, Lagomorpha. 

So these two are cousins! No wonder they share the same cuteness. 


2. Teeth Stories

Rabbits have two sets of incisor teeth, one behind the other. This characteristic differentiates them from rodents. Their strong teeth allow them to eat and also to bite when it comes to escaping a predator. As a defense mechanism, the teeth come in handy. They also breathe through their nose instead of through the mouth. 

One of the hamsters’ highly visible rodent characteristics is their sharp incisors, but these are positioned differently. They have an upper pair and lower pair growing continuously throughout their life, so they must be worn down regularly. So, that’s why we usually see them munching away frequently!

3. How Can I Physically Tell Them Apart?

Although they share the same thick, silky fur, hamsters are stout-bodied with small furry ears, short, stocky legs with wide feet. Their tails are typically shorter than their body, except the Chinese hamster. 

Perhaps the most distinguishable part we see on rabbits is their long and wide ears, again except the cotton-tailed rabbits whose ears are smaller and shorter. Their long ears are utilized to detect and avoid predators. Rabbits are generally bigger than hamsters. They also have larger hind leg bones and well-developed musculature. Their feet have four toes, and they have very strong claws, perfect for digging and defense. 

4. Rabbits Have Better Eyesight

Hamsters have poor eyesight, and they are inherently colorblind and nearsighted. But these aggressive creatures do not let this disadvantage hinder their adventurous nature. They will climb and run wherever and whenever they please, bad eyesight and all. But fear not. Hamsters can sense movement around them at all times, and they have scent glands on their flanks that they use to leave scent trails.

Because of the way rabbits’ eyes are positioned, their field of vision encompasses nearly 360 degrees, with a small blind spot at the bridge of the nose.

5. What Do They Eat?

A pet hamster can be feed with vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and even commercial hamster food. They can eat meat, and some of them also hunt for insects. Even though they are allowed to eat fruits and vegetables, special care should be observed in selecting what and how much we can feed them. Junk foods, chocolate, or any salty or sugary foods are not recommended for them. Sticky food like peanut butter should be fed carefully as these tend to get stuck in their cheeks.

Herbivores like rabbits feed by grazing on grass and leafy weeds such as spinach, kale, watercress, broccoli, celery, and even dandelion leaves. They also enjoy munching on fresh herbs and fruits, but as with hamsters, care should be taken in feeding sugary or starchy food to rabbits.

6. Which is Bigger?

Domestic rabbits range in size from dwarf to giant. Hamsters are generally smaller than rabbits. Hamsters lose weight during autumn in anticipation of winter.

7. Nocturnal or Crepuscular?

Hamsters usually leave their burrows for about an hour before sunset and returning when it gets dark. In contrast, rabbits sleep on average 8 hours per day in the daytime, favoring nighttime activities. Also, rabbits often sleep with their eyes open.

8. Lifespan

Generally, hamsters live up to 3 years which is quite a short lifespan. Rabbits fare much better while domesticated, some living up to 18 years. 

Questions About Hamsters and Rabbits

Can they mate and produce a “hamrabbit”?

As cuddly cute as that may sound or look (probably), hamsters and rabbits are very different species with different reproductive systems, so, no, they cannot mate.

Do rabbits and hamsters get along?

Many trusted sources do not recommend introducing the two pets together in the same close vicinity. Hamsters are known to be very territorial and will fight anything that tries to trespass their territory. They are very jumpy and easily scared, yet they will also not fight to the death even among their kind. Aside from the obvious size advantage, Rabbits are very social animals, and they have their hierarchy. They like to establish dominance and demands attention. Though they are not aggressive by nature, rabbits DO kick and bite back if threatened. And that wouldn’t be too good for our little hamster friend, I’m sure.

I reside in a tropical country. Can a hamster survive in my house?

Hamsters are most comfortable between 18,33-23,89 degrees Celsius or 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Any warmer than that, better be prepared to put them in an airconditioned room to help them stay cool. They cannot sweat like us.

Can rabbits do tricks?

Yes, rabbits can be taught to do tricks at any age.

Can hamsters be scared to death?

Unfortunately, hamsters do get scared to the point of death. They have very tiny hearts and get scared easily. A hamster is a very delicate pet, and believe it or not, fear can kill them. As a responsible pet owner, one should take precautionary measures.