While it is true hamsters experience less turmoil when housed alone, there is something to be said for rodent camaraderie.
A litter can be caged together until weaned and then absolutely must be separated by gender, as brother and sister will mate, shamelessly, with each other. Adults should never be housed together, and regardless of age, never different breeds. Bitter, bloody turf wars will take place daily, involving issues such as the rationing of food and the exact latitude and longitude of pee corner.
With all of this in mind, I have found they thrive when given the opportunity to hob-nob and network with each other. I often place occupied cages directly next to each other, with only cage bars between them.
My most recent line-up involved 2 girls, (Judy and Olive), and 1 boy, (Bruce). Bruce absolutely cherished being the only male. It was as if he was John Ritter in Three’s Company. Bruce took every opportunity to gossip and impress the ladies with flirtatious acrobatics. They didn’t seem to mind his efforts.
Bruce grew old and contracted a skin disease, which I suspect originated from an escape culminating in a 24 hour camp-out behind the fridge. His ailment caused him to shed his lustrous black fur. He looked feeble and frightening, but was undaunted. He was not weakened spiritually and continued to exercise every opportunity to take center stage. I truly believe the ladies’ presence kept him alive, and happy right up to the end.
After Bruce was laid to rest, the ladies were not quite the same. He had been the bulk of their entertainment. Shortly thereafter, Judy passed. She was the same age as Bruce so I was not surprised, but perhaps her broken heart hastened her exit.
Significantly younger, Olive remains the only hamster in the neighborhood. Although I feed her the same and give her just as many hugs and TV time as I always have, her spirit seems to have dulled a bit. She is now an only child…imaginary friends can only sustain for so long.