One of the biggest decisions someone can make is which pet to buy. This is especially important when it comes down to two fun animals like a rabbit and a hamster. This answer largely depends on your needs and what works best for either animal as there are many aspects and nuances to both rabbits and hamsters.
Rabbits are better pets than hamsters because they are more active during the day, enjoy more social activity, and typically sleep during the night. However, if you are looking for a smaller and more independent pet, a hamster is a better choice.
Are Rabbits Or Hamsters Better?
Rabbits and hamsters can be very different animals and it is important that whoever is buying one knows whether each animal is a fit for them and their lifestyle.
This could range depending on whether you’re a young family looking to buy a pet in open west Utah, or if you’re a young bachelor living in a cramped apartment in NYC.
Below is a good Youtube video that has a quick overview and comparison between the rabbit and the hamster and which one you should buy.
Really the decision on which one you should buy is a difficult one and should rely on cost, size, care, and maintenance, as well as playtime. Below we discuss and compare each.
The first thing to consider is the cost of each animal. Truth be told, rabbits are always more expensive and you will begin to see why.
Rabbits are more expensive all around, ranging from the actual cost of a rabbit to their food and even their hutch.
The actual cost of a rabbit is “$20-$40 for a rabbit from a pet store and $5-$20 for a rabbit from a rescue.” Source
This is not very expensive when compared to animals like dogs or cats, but is much more expensive than hamster costs. Along with the actual rabbit being more expensive, their living spaces also end up being a major chunk of change.
It is best to keep rabbits in hutches. These hutches need to be large with certain materials for rabbits.
From my own research, I found that these hutches are typically between a hundred and two hundred dollars. The cheapest one I found was 75 dollars, which seemed to be very small and basic especially compared to the one I saw which was $175.
Along with the living space and the actual cost of the pet, the food should consist of hay, leafy greens, and rabbit pellets which when added up can cost significant cash.
Hamsters tend to be less expensive all around than rabbits. When strictly speaking about the cost to buy the hamster, they “will usually only cost $15 to $20.” Source
Essentially the more expensive hamster will be around the price of the low-end cost of a rabbit. This is also the case with the hamster’s cage. While the rabbit hutch is typically over $100, a hamster cage can cost as little as $11.
Again this is according to my own research, but I found the lowest cage to be $11 and the highest to be $35. This is a major change from the hundreds of dollars in which would need to be paid for the rabbit hutch.
When it comes to food, hamsters also need a large range of food to be healthy but need much less due to their smaller size.
In the end, rabbits on the low end of cost are as expensive as the typical ‘expensive’ hamsters.
Along with this, rabbits living spaces are much more expensive than hamsters living spaces. And on top of all of that, food will cost more due to the amount needed for the larger size of the rabbit.
If you are looking to pinch pennies, it would be much better to go with a hamster over a rabbit solely based on the price.
The next thing to look at would be the different size of the rabbit or hamster you could buy.
Rabbits vary greatly in size depending on which breed you get.
According to multiple sources, “Small rabbits, such as pygmy rabbits, can be as little as 8 inches (20 centimeters) in length and weigh less than a pound. Larger species grow to 20 inches (50 cm) and more than 10 lbs. (4.5 kilograms).” Source
One of the more popular breeds of rabbits is a Lionhead rabbit which is usually less than 3.75 pounds. Source
While this is one of the smaller rabbits on the list, there are also much larger rabbits. One such rabbit is the Flemish giant rabbit which “can weigh 15 pounds on average and can reach a length of 2.5 feet.” Source
As you can see, rabbit size really depends on the breed. With this being said, the typical rabbit will be much smaller than that 15-pound marker. While it may not reach 15 pounds it will usually be larger than any hamster you could buy.
Hamsters are much smaller than rabbits, in fact they often do not even reach a pound.
“On average hamsters grow to reach 2 to 14 inches (5-35 centimetres) long and weigh between 1-16 ounces (25 to 460 grams).” Source
As you can see, hamsters are not the most giant creatures in the world. They are typically known for their small size, and this can be seen through their weight and length.
In the end, just like the cost, the high end for the size of the hamster is less than the low end of the rabbit.
This in itself is not a negative thing for rabbits. Size for some people is good and what they are looking for. This is not the case if you have a small space for the rabbit to be in.
Care & Maintenance
The first thing to look at is the lifespan of a rabbit. “Domesticated rabbits can live between eight to 12 years.” SourceThis means you will be with your rabbit for the better half of a decade, this will require a lot of energy and effort.
You also need to consider the amount of space the rabbit will take up. “One guideline to go by is at least 8 square feet of enclosure space combined with at least at least 24 square feet of exercise space, for 1-2 rabbits.” Source
If you get a rabbit you need to expect to be with that rabbit for 8-12 years as well as have a large space for them to run around in. One problem behavior that they may have that needs to be cared for and maintained is chewing and digging.
“Chewing and digging are normal behaviors for rabbits, and they must be provided with acceptable means to express these behaviors.” Source
Compared to rabbits, hamsters “generally live for two to three years, says Claudie, ‘The Hamster Whisperer’ and proprietor of the Westchester Rescued Hamster Haven.” Source
They will need to be taken care for much less time over the years.
Along with this, they also need a lot less space than rabbits. They “need a minimum of 450 square inches of unbroken floor space.” Source
Care & Maintenance Conclusion
In the end, rabbits need more space and live longer than hamsters do. Along with this, there tend to be more problem behaviors from rabbits than hamsters. Again, this is not inherently a problem for rabbits, it just depends on your situation
Rabbits and hamsters are actually most active at very different times of the day and this could be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your schedule and which one you buy.
Rabbits “are crepuscular, meaning that they are most active at dusk and dawn.” Source
So at the morning and night, rabbits are up and ready to play, with awake time being during the day “in which the rabbit(s) can run and play at least 5 hours per day.” Source
Rabbits are awake during the day and are largely active during that time span.
Compared to rabbits, hamsters have a lot of downtime during the day. “Since hamsters are nocturnal, they naturally sleep more during the day and are more active at twilight.” Source
This can be a potential problem if you are an early sleeper or late riser. That severely limits the overlap in time where you and your hamster are awake.
Rabbits are awake and active during the day while hamsters are usually sleeping in the middle of the day. This can lead to a lack of playtime, where you are up but your hamster is not. This is especially the case if you have children who want to play with their pet during the day.
The activity and playtime in my opinion are why you would buy a rabbit over a hamster. The fact that rabbits are more accessible and active makes all the care, maintenance, size, and cost worth it.
If rabbits were a sleepy, lazy animal, I would go with the hamster, but they aren’t. The fact that a rabbit is so fun and playful makes me overlook all of the hard parts about raising a rabbit. But again, your situation will be different than mine, and you should make the best decision on which animal is best for you.