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Why Are Hamsters Illegal in Hawaii?

Last Updated: 30.03.20


Hamsters are cute, small, and furry creatures that have accompanied humans for thousands of years. However, you may be surprised to find out that not all states and countries agree on keeping them as pets, so keep on reading and check it out why and find more surprising facts about these rodents.


General information

Hamsters have been domesticated since the 1700s, meaning they had enough time to get used to humans and their habits. The so-called “pocket pets” vary in size, weight, and color, depending on the breed but they are all part of the rodent family. This means that they have some very distinctive features, including poor eyesight, large cheek pouches to store food for later, and ever-growing teeth.

Thus, they need proper care and should always have something to chew on to avoid toothaches and further health complications. Proper dental hygiene is crucial for these animals because if they don’t naturally wear down their teeth, they will eventually start drooling, lose appetite, weight, and can even die since they will no longer be able to feed themselves.

In terms of size and weight, hamsters vary from just two inches to 8-10 inches, depending on the breed. Syrian hamsters are the most popular creatures in their family and also the biggest. They can weigh a few ounces and measure 8 inches in length, on average. On the other hand, dwarf hamster breeds are smaller and lighter.

These creatures can live anywhere between one and a half years to four years in captivity, sometimes even more. They are gentle, calm, and represent perfect companions for children and adults alike, as long as they are kept in a proper environment.

However, as sweet as they can be, not all states agree on keeping them as pets. Let’s take a closer look and find out why.

Are hamsters illegal?

These creatures are small, cute, and funny, so why would anyone have something against them? Although legal almost everywhere in the world, you may be surprised to find out that you cannot own a pet hamster in Hawaii or California. Apart from hamsters, gerbils, geckos, ferrets, snakes, and hermit crabs are also banned from entering the Aloha State.

Californian people don’t have it lighter either as it is illegal to own ferrets, hamsters, and gerbils here. The decision to ban or restrict different animals is left to the local authorities but these states have a reason behind their claims.

For instance, Hawaii is a rabies-free state and wishes to remain so, meaning it won’t allow several animals to step foot on its territory.

Before entering the state with any animal that might be infected with rabies you need to show proper medical documentation that states your pet is safe and healthy unless you want your animal to be taken away from you and kept in quarantine for up to four months, at your expense.

The exotic animal laws and quarantine regulations in this state may shock you but Hawaii only wishes to preserve its native plant and animal life. There are other exotic animals that will receive the same treatment if you want to cross the border with them – alligators, dragon lizards, monk parakeets, piranhas, snapping turtles or toucans.

While it may be clear why some birds and animals are left outside the law, you might still wonder why gerbils, hamsters, and ferrets are illegal. The reason behind this is that the climate of California and Hawaii closely resembles the natural habitats of these animals and, if they ever escape, they could easily thrive in large colonies.

Hamsters breed a few times a year with up to 6-7 babies per litter which means they can easily become a danger for crops. Thus, the wisest decision for these states was to ban these animals altogether.


What other common pets are illegal in your state?

As we previously mentioned, each state in the USA has its own rules and regulations, and this also means they are able to ban some animals from their lands if they are considered a threat or too exotic for the place.

We already saw that geckos, snakes, ferrets, gerbils, and hamsters are illegal in Hawaii and California, but what about other animals?

Ferrets are illegal in many states across the country, including New York City and Washington D.C. because they are not native to those places and, therefore, there aren’t any natural predators that could control the population if these animals would ever escape.

Other animals like hedgehogs, chinchillas, and the African pygmy hedgehogs are banned in California, Georgia, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania, and restricted in states like Arizona and Maine.

Chimpanzees are also considered exotic animals and owning them is illegal in no less than 21 states across the country. However, the reason behind this decision is more complex than you might consider in the beginning.

Chimps share 98% of their DNA with humans and owning one is the equivalent of having a child in many ways. As adults, chimps can be up to seven times stronger than a human male, which may also pose a threat to the owners, apart from the moral and ethical reasons that should stop you from adopting such an animal in the first place.

Bengal cats and other hybrids are illegal in several states and cities. The rise in the number of hybrid cat breeds in the past few decades is one of the reasons why states tightened their restrictions regarding the felines.

It is feared that hybrid cats could negatively impact the bird population and even pose a real threat to humans since they are disease carriers. Bengal cats haven’t been around for more than half a century but they are already banned from most states because of this.

How can you make sure a hamster is the right choice for you?

If you don’t live in Hawaii or California and wish to adopt a hamster pet, you need to know first that this animal is the right choice for you and your family.

Take into account that these creatures are nocturnal, meaning they are mainly active at night. Light sleepers who wake up at the slightest sounds should not keep hamsters as pets or at least not in the same room as them. It is also the same reason why hamsters may not be the best animals for your children, even though they look adorable and are easy to look after.

Because of their small size, these rodents are often portrayed as suitable pets for children of all ages but this is not necessarily true. They don’t have a high life expectancy, so the loss of a pet can negatively impact your child.

Also, hamsters need to be pet gently, things that small children may not be aware of. If a hamster is suddenly awakened or rushed, it may nip or bite. Thus, we only recommend them to be handled by adults and teenagers.

Although they don’t require any vaccines and are notoriously resilient animals, hamsters may still be bacteria and disease carriers, which poses a threat to your entire family, and especially children. Therefore, you should only buy or adopt your pet from reputed pet shops and take it to a vet a couple of days after its arrival to its new home.

Some of the bacteria and diseases that can be carried by hamsters include salmonella and lymphocytic choriomeningitis so we cannot stress enough the importance of always washing your hands with soap and warm water before and after getting in contact with your hammy. For all these reasons, you should think twice whether or not this rodent represents a good fit for your family.




Irina Ionescu

As a long-term learner and animal lover, Irina helps her readers find the best products and accessories for their pets, as well as the latest training techniques, tips & tricks on how to handle animals.

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