Chinchilla vs. Hamster: Difference Between Them

When I was so giddy about owning a little pet, a lot of questions would rain on me every single day. And probably the trickiest question I have ever encountered was “Should I get myself a hamster or a chinchilla?” For starters, the chinchilla vs. hamster debate can get quite overwhelming and yes, I went through that too!

Although I ended up getting both at entirely different times of my life, you may not get the same chance as me. So here I am sparing you from the confusion by giving you a detailed list of their differences.

Skim through this post and see what makes them different from each other and which little friend suits your lifestyle best. 

Chinchilla vs. Hamster: The Differences

Chinchillas and hamsters both come from a family of rodents this is why they both look almost alike. Their similar surface-level behavior also makes it harder to tell them apart. 

For a broader idea, firstly, I will introduce what both of these little critters need before we leap into a more detailed perspective of their differences. As pet owners, take note of the following. Both of these furry balls require:

  • Food such as hay and other safe and fun treats
  • Secure cage
  • Cage accessories appropriate for their physical activities
  • Attention and interaction with their owners
  • Spot cleans and occasional deep cleans of their cages 
  • Regular change of bedding

Now, let us look into the details of their differences one by one.

Quick Overview

Chinchillas are very popular because of their thick fur which is known to be a lot fluffier than any other pet. They can grow up to 12 inches long and weigh between 1-2 pounds with an average lifespan of 10-15 years. You’ll also most likely see them in black, gray, violet, beige, and white colors.

Hamsters, however, come in different species, therefore having distinct traits. The most common species are the Syrian hamster, the Dwarf Campbells Russian hamster, the Dwarf Winter White Russian hamster, the Roborovski hamster, and the Chinese hamster. But take note that it is advised to keep different species and genders separate. Generally, pet hamsters have a life span of more or less 2 years and can grow up to 7 inches, and weigh around 2 pounds. 

chinchilla vs hamster

Personality and Behavior

Chinchillas are known to be active and sociable animals, therefore, requiring a wide space to play on. However, cuddling and petting, may not be their favorite things especially when they aren’t used to it when they were younger. Also, take note that they shouldn’t be caged up all day because they also need plenty of time to play safely outside. 

Making them trust their owners would usually take up time and training, otherwise, they might resort to biting as a defense mechanism when they’re in fear. Since they are innately intelligent animals, you can teach them how to obey simple commands and reinforce their habits with the help of treats.

In addition, they most likely stay up and do their activities at night because they’re naturally nocturnal. They also love having a routine for all their activities, so abrupt changes may get them stressed. Also, be reminded that extreme temperatures are unfavorable for them because of their thick fur and other innate features.

Hamsters have a natural inclination to play and exercise. Such activities are very much ideal for them to stay healthy, and fit, and satisfy their curiosity, which requires owners to provide them with ample space to run around and play. Toys and accessories are also ideal for them because boredom may make them irritable and destructive. Just like chinchillas, hamsters also prefer nighttime activities.

Moreover, they’re not innately cuddly but training them properly with the use of treats may gain you some trust, and eventually, they would love playing with you. 

Lastly, even though hamsters are not typically aggressive, they can get startled easily. As a result, they bite as a form of self-defense. However, this wouldn’t be much of a problem as long as you make sure you don’t wake them up abruptly and scare them. Such behaviors are usually noticeable when they are young so choose the ones who look curious and calm rather than those who appear angry and snappy.

Health and Nutrition

A chinchilla’s digestive system is designed to take in foods that are rich in fiber. Pellets and hay are the best options for them, occasional food mixes and treats such as leafy greens and fruits might also be offered in regulated amounts. But, be reminded to check all the nutritional values of the treats you desire to give them because some might be bad for their digestive tract and trigger some serious illnesses.

Just like any other pet, chinchillas may also experience some health concerns. Commonly, they may struggle with respiratory tract infections, bacterial growth in fur, diarrhea, fatty liver disease, and dental issues. Also, watch out for injuries. 

A healthy chinchilla is active, odorless, sticks to its eating habits breathe without difficulties, and has dry and solid poop. Additionally, they should have healthy fur and be free from any discharge.

While chinchillas’ diet should be rich in fiber, hamsters need a protein-rich diet accompanied by fruits and vegetables. A pellet-based diet can also be of great help as long as supplemented with other safe food choices and enough amount of water. Be wary of your options though, because some can be very unhealthy for them especially since they are prone to get overweight. 

A hamster may also experience some illnesses like respiratory infections, skin infections, diarrhea, and a wet tail. Some symptoms which might indicate that something is wrong with them are weight loss, excess fur shredding, bad posture, lack of energy, and breathing difficulties.

As pet owners, take responsibility for monitoring and checking your pet’s activities and habits. If your pet reflects unusual behavior, proper medical attention should be provided right away. 


Chinchillas are innately clean and odorless animals because they typically groom themselves. Dust baths that typically last for more or less twenty minutes are important for them so it will be ideal to provide them with some dust they can roll around to get rid of excess dirt and oils. Just a note that their dust has to be replaced once every week to ensure cleanliness. 

Additionally, you may also try combing their fur gently to let in proper airflow. No need to cut their nails, if you’re wondering about that. Also, a water bath is completely unnecessary unless a rare instance requires you to. Make sure that you don’t leave their fur damp for a long time as well.

Hamsters are also capable of grooming themselves without any human intervention. But, just like chinchillas, they will also be needing dust baths to keep their fur healthy and clean. You may also use a soft-bristled brush to comb their fur.

Furthermore, their nails can be clipped when they get longer than usual, but do it with the right clipper and in a proper way. When it comes to their teeth, make sure they always have something to chew on that can keep their teeth at an appropriate length. 

Chinchilla vs. Hamster: Which One Should I Get?

Either of them makes good pets and companions especially because they’re almost alike and only a few slight differences can be spotted. Before choosing any, check your lifestyle first to see if you will be able to match all their needs and requirements.

While hamsters can only live up for more or less two years, chinchillas can accompany you even after 10 years. Although hamsters can be ideal for children, chinchillas can be better companions for a longer time.

With all the details stated previously, assess what you desire to have and see who’s the most compatible to be your friend.


Deciding what kind of pet to get can be tricky. As an experienced owner of both rodents, I can attest to how lovely it is to have either of them in your home. After all, the commitment you’ll have for a chinchilla and a hamster will be the same anyway, what matters is to have a pet that is perfectly compatible with your lifestyle. So, hopefully, I was able to resolve your chinchilla vs. hamster confusion to a certain extent.

The best you can do for now is weigh things on your list and go after the choice that resonates the loudest with you.