When searching for the perfect small pet for your lifestyle, you might be considering either a hamster or a mouse…

And you’re probably asking yourself, “What’s the difference?!”

While the two have many similarities, you should be aware of differences before committing to one or the other as your pet. Both are a part of the rodent family, which consists of thousands of different species, which is why people tend to think there’s no real difference between them.

We’re here to explain the notable differences so that you can determine if one would fit your care capabilities and lifestyle better than the other!


While the size difference is certainly not as significant as a Great Dane vs. a Chihuahua, hamsters are actually bigger most of the time. Again, this varies by breed, and there are many of each. Mice usually have bodies (excluding their tails) that measure just over three inches long, while some hamsters can measure up to six inches long. Physically, hamsters are usually stockier than mice, and many do not have tails.  

Social Habits and Lifestyle 

While both should live in similar enclosed housing (with a latch or lock, since they tend to be escape artists), there are some notable sociability differences between hamsters and mice.

Hamsters are loners, and it’s not usually a good idea to have them housed together. They tend to fight with one another and like to have an individual space. Mice are generally more social animals. They actually enjoy having a friend in their enclosure and can even thrive in small groups. Females tend to do better together than males.  

Both hamsters and mice should have enough room to run, climb, and burrow in their enclosure. Some hamsters enjoy being handled, but it is more likely that mice will enjoy interaction with their human owners. Keep this in mind if you’re looking for a more social pet!  

Both hamsters and mice can be very friendly, but in different ways. Your hamster may be friendly and outgoing but prefer to run around in an enclosed ball while outside of their enclosure. Mice can be shy but become curious and usually warm up. They may prefer to be nestled in your hand or interact with you once they’ve established a bond. 

Care Instructions 

Both mice and hamsters can do well on a high-quality hamster pellet formula. Consult with your veterinarian for their recommendation. They can also both drink water from a hanging bottle within their enclosure. Dishes and bottles should be cleaned out and refilled daily, while the enclosure as a whole should be deep cleaned at least once a week. This is also when any toys or accessories should be cleaned and dried before returning to the enclosure.  

When picking up a mouse, you can grasp at the base of the tail (where it meets the body) and place it into your other hand (cup it so your mouse does not jump out). Hamsters do not have tails, or if they do, they are short and stubby. Just scoop your hamster with both hands. Remember: mice tend to deal with handling better than hamsters. Be mindful of this and be gentle to avoid any nipping.

Overall, while there are many similarities between hamsters and mice, they have some differences as pets in a home. It may come down to a matter of your personal preference!