Cuddliest Rodents Ranked

Rodents are some of the most adorable animals you can invite into your home. Although most are famously imagined to ride along with their owners in their pockets or on their shoulders, few people new to rodents recognize just how cuddly these little pals can be.

If you’re looking to welcome a rodent into your life, you may be wondering just how much interaction you can have with your new pet. To help inform your decision and set your expectations for sharing affection, here are the cuddliest pet rodents in order, from the least inclined to snuggle to the best cuddle partner.

What Makes Hamsters the Least-Cuddliest Rodents?

Hamster Eating

Hamsters are some of the most popular domestic rodents in the country. They are widely beloved due to their adorable looks, tiny bodies that don’t take up too much space or food, and relatively easy care. These little rodents are great for adults and children – although the latter should be supervised during handling.

Naturally, when handling your hamster, you may be tempted to hold them closely and affectionately as you would a larger furry friend like a bunny. Although it is possible to snuggle up with an animal this small, hamsters may not be the best species for this. Despite how cute and friendly they may look, hamsters are commonly considered the most aggressive domestic rodent.

A few of the main reasons why hamsters are not the best rodent cuddle-buddies are below (Source: Humane Society; VCA Hospitals):

  • They are very easily startled by loud noises.
  • Sudden movements scare them and may make them feel threatened.
    • This is the primary reason why children must be supervised when handling hamsters.
  • They are nocturnal and are unlikely to want to participate in physical interaction during the day when they would naturally be sleeping.
    • Note: Hamsters can be active during the daytime. However, these activity periods are incredibly brief and may not align with your waking hours. Forcing your hamster to interact with you when they are not awake may cause them to be irritable and more likely to bite.
  • Even when handled gently, hamsters can become quite defensive and more inclined to bite when suddenly frightened.

Because of their very excitable nature, hamsters are far more likely to bite, scratch, and otherwise harm their handlers more than any other domestic rodent species. If you are someone who likes to handle your “pocket pets” frequently and express your love with abundant showers of cuddles, these little ones may not be the best choice for you.

Getting Your Hamster Used to Handling

Despite their notorious feistiness, hamsters can be trained to get comfortable with careful handling. Instead of suddenly picking up a hamster without forewarning (whether you’re familiar with it or not), it is best to prepare it far ahead of time for physical interaction.

Video Credit: Victoria Raechel

The steps below will help your hamster acclimate to physical touch and gradually work them up to being held and potentially cuddled:

  1. Place your hands in the hamster’s enclosure regularly without touching it. Activities like refilling water and adjusting bedding are perfect for getting your pet used to your scent and presence.
  2. Hand-feed your hamster treats like carrots and sunflower seeds. Don’t force them to take the treats. They should voluntarily accept the treats from you. Continue doing this until they are comfortable taking food directly from your fingers.
    • Once they’re confident accepting food from you, advance to offering treats in an open palm. Over a few days, your hamster should start getting comfortable with climbing onto your hand to eat.
  3. Gradually start petting your hamster with a single finger.
  4. As they grow more comfortable with petting, you can start picking them up over a blanket or cushion. Placing these items beneath you during handling ensures that they will not hurt themselves, as they are likely to jump from your grasp when held for the first time.

No matter how comfortable your hamster gets with being held, it will always be inclined to sudden defensiveness when frightened. Always respect your animal’s comfort levels during interactions.

Why Mice Are Slightly Cuddlier Than Hamsters

Fancy Mice

Mice are incredibly timid little things that are only a bit better than their hamster cousins when it comes to being held. They are usually the smallest of the domestic rodents and require extra special attention during physical interaction.

One of the primary reasons they are far easier to interact with than hamsters is that they are crepuscular (active during dawn and dusk) rather than nocturnal. This gives you a much better chance of catching them during their active hours, providing the best opportunity to hold them when they’re confident and alert.

If you happen to catch them out and about during sunlight hours, it’s best to approach slowly and deliberately, as they can be quite skittish. Even though mice can be just as easily scared as hamsters, their natural tendencies make them far less likely to bite or lash out than most other rodents. This is especially true when they’re well-socialized.

The most important thing to remember if you get a chance to cuddle with your itty-bitty mouse is that, due to their size, they are a bit more fragile than other rodent pets. Adults should handle them with extreme care, and it may be best to prevent kids from holding them altogether.

Bonding with Your Pet Mouse

You should start training your mouse for handling a few days after bringing them home. The process is long and requires patience, but it’s best to allow your pet as much time as possible to acclimate to their new home before introducing any level of handling.

Video Credit: Emiology

You can follow the same steps listed for hamsters; however, starting with treats is optional. Instead, you can jump straight into the following steps (Source: Emiology):

  1. Place your hand in the enclosure, palm up. Mice are curious and will come and sniff you whether you have a treat or not.
    • Do not try to touch them or pick them up at this stage. That is likely to stress them out and set your progress back significantly.
  2. Announce your presence as you enter a room, so you do not startle them as you approach their enclosure.
  3. Offer your mice treats so they learn to associate your hands with food rewards.
  4. Continue resting your hand in the cage palm-up until they spend more time on your hands. Then, you can advance to lifting them with your palm remaining flat. Keep practicing this until they are comfortable with your hands gently enveloping them.

Mice are much easier to hold and cuddle than hamsters, but you should still be mindful of their safety and comfort as you snuggle. They’re tiny and can be skittish as they’re getting used to you, so be patient and gentle as you both get used to spending time together.

Why Gerbils are the Third-Best Great Cuddle Buddies

Young Gerbil

Gerbils have a similar social level to rats, so the two are quite close in terms of their cuddle ranking. They require constant companionship, both in other gerbils and in their human guardians, and will not do well if left alone. It is relatively uncommon for gerbils to be timid, although it is still possible.

These rodents are quite happy with developing relationships with their human housemates and will enjoy opportunities to get to know you. However, physical interaction should be left to adults and older children only. Since their bodies are fragile, it is critical to ensure that the handler can control their movements and pressure when attempting to cuddle with a gerbil.

One important thing to know about snuggling with gerbils is that females are often more aggressive than their male counterparts. Further, adult gerbils are far more aggressive than younger ones. Although this attitude is more likely to be directed toward other gerbils in the enclosure, it’s still helpful advice to remember, especially if you and your rodent are new to one another.

The Best Ways to Handle Your Pet Gerbil

Gerbils should be trained to get used to your touch and presence similarly to hamsters.

Video Credit: LooBoosShedZoo

It is best to follow the same instructions as your new pet acclimates to living in your home.

Still, as you do this, you should keep these specific notes in mind when interacting with gerbils:

  • Never pick your gerbil up from behind. It will startle them and reduce their confidence in your interactions.
  • Never attempt to lift your gerbil by the tail. Their natural defense system will cause their tail to detach, and it will not grow back.
  • It’s best to “scoop” your gerbil up rather than lifting them with one hand. To scoop up your gerbil, follow the instructions below:
    1. Position your hands on either side of your gerbil.
    2. Move your hands inward, toward one another and the gerbil.
    3. In one swooping motion, meet your hands together underneath the gerbil’s body and lift.
  • When cuddling with your gerbil, do not play with their tail. It’s best to leave the entire length of their tails alone.

As you and your gerbils spend time with one another, you may be able to adapt your handling. No matter how comfortable you get with one another, you should always exercise as much caution as possible to ensure your pet’s safety.

Rats as the Second-Best Perfect Cuddle Companion

Rats being held

Rats are a significant step up from hamsters and mice in terms of physical interaction. Why? Well, this is mostly due to their incredible intellect. As curious as mice are, rats take it to another level. Their inquisitive nature and high sociality level lead them to seek interaction and better receive affection from human companions.

These natural behaviors dramatically reduce their inclination to bite – they need quite a bit of motivation to be pushed to bite or lash out in such a way. Plus, rats are significantly larger than hamsters and mice, which reduces your chances of hurting them while you snuggle.

Even kids (5 years and older) can have a great time when handling pet rats with little worry of being nipped.

Nonetheless, despite how wonderful these rodents are, you need to put in the time to ensure they’re comfortable in your grasp. Neglecting to provide your rat with socialization opportunities or keeping it isolated with little interaction during the day will increase the likelihood of your interactions going poorly.

How to Cuddle with Your Rat

Not many people know that rats are highly empathetic creatures. They have been proven to form emotional bonds with their rodent and human families, which serve as a central component in their ability to enjoy closeness with their owners.

Even veterinarians have reported that rats show their affection while spending time with their guardians by grooming them as if they were a human member of their “rat pack”.

Video Credit: ShadowTheRat

The best ways to share in an emotional connection with your rat buddy are below:

  • Gently stroking your rat on the cheek while holding them in your hand or lap.
  • Cradle your rat in your lap and softly scratch the scruff of their neck
    • Note: Many rats love for their scruff fur to be stroked in the opposite direction of its growth.
  • Allow your rat to lie on its back in your hands or lap and scratch its belly and face.
    • Note: You and your rat must be very comfortable with one another and have established a strong relationship to engage in this specific type of cuddling.

Rats are incredibly social creatures that love their humans as much as they love their furry brothers and sisters. By investing quality time and compassion into your relationship with your rat, both of you can enjoy as many snuggles as you like throughout your lives together.

The Cuddliest Rodent: Guinea Pigs

Pair of guinea pigs

At the top of the rodent cuddle spectrum is none other than the guinea pig! They are one of the most popular rodent pets in the country – and for a good reason. These little buddies are lovely family pets and can be handled by adults and young children with supervision)

Thanks to their hefty size, they are not as fragile as other rodents like mice and gerbils. Some males can weigh almost three pounds! This makes them much more resilient to gentle squeezes during snuggles with kids or very mild jostling if they happen to be carried while walking or other such movements. Despite their hardiness, owners must still take great care to ensure their guinea pigs’ safety.

Additionally, these animals are far more socially confident than most other popular rodents, aside from rats. They have dynamic personalities that often predispose them to seek and enjoy interacting with their human family members. Since they are so long-lived, you will have much more time to build a substantial, affectionate relationship with your little piggy.

Last but not least: Guinea pigs are endowed with much fuzzier, more cuddle-worthy fur than almost all of the most popular pet rodents (except for chinchillas – but they’re not very common pets). This single factor makes all the difference between them and rats, as it contributes to a much warmer, cozier experience between the two of you.

Snuggling Up with Your Guinea Pig

Like all small-bodied pets, you need to give your guinea pig ample time to get to know you and grow more comfortable with physical interaction. Although they are very social little critters, you don’t want to jump into snuggles without giving them a chance to adapt to their new home.

Video Credit: Cavy Central Guinea Pig Rescue

Once you two are comfortable with one another using the handling steps for mice, you can move forward into the following cuddling styles:

  • Guinea pigs love being wrapped up in blankets and cradled.
  • Using both hands, lift your guinea pig and cradle it close to your body, secure in one arm against your side.
    • Support the guinea pig with your other hand, or gently stroke their head and body

If your guinea pig is still getting used to you, it’s best to “herd” your rodent into a safe location where you can scoop your hand underneath its chest and lift with both hands. The second hand should be supporting their rear end as you lift them to your chest.

In Conclusion

Rodents are some of the best companion animals that families can have. They can be very easily cared for and require relatively minimal effort compared to other pets such as cats and dogs. As “pocket pets,” rodents are widely appreciated for how easy they are to cuddle and hold.

Always ensure that you are gentle, slow, and deliberate in your movements when cuddling with your rodent to keep them safe and comfortable as you snuggle. Regardless of the species, children should always be supervised for both their and the animal’s safety.

Lee Cameron

When I was younger, I had guinea pigs and hamsters as pets. There was limited information back then as to how to take care of rodents, and indeed information on the various types of rodents that could be kept as pets. In this website, I hope to make it an easy, one-stop information portal on raising rodents!

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