Is a Hamster the best RV pet

We did not expected the syrian hamster to be transitioning into RV life with us. It was a learning experience! Below are tips to help you...

Over the last six years, we have moved four times, so we expected a future move. If you are interested in our backstory, please read HERE. Each move was tough to find a rental that would allow our lovebird. So we knew when she passed, we would need to look into other options. After watching Youtube videos on hamsters, Melissa decided a Syrian Hamster is what she wanted. However, we did not expect the hamster to be transitioning into RV life with us. It was a learning experience! Below we will outline the great life Jimmy d’Hamster had and provide you with tips in case you want to RV with a hamster.

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Original 20-gallon long aquarium

In August 2016 Jim (the hamster) came into our lives at 1-year-old. He was Melissa’s first, so we had to buy everything to get him set up.

We opted for a large aquarium, spinning saucer, igloo to sleep under and of course bedding.  

Syrian Hamster Cage Grows

Joining two 20-gallon aquariums

As a 1-year-old Syrian Hamster, we did not expect Jim to get any bigger. Over the next two months with us, he continued to grow. This meant the spinning saucer no longer fit him, and he could stand on his igloo and climb out.  We had to buy a second aquarium and attempt to join the two together. He grew to be too big to fit into his crawl through toys. Luckily, we found that ferret toys worked the best. And he acquired a larger wheel to run on and a fun log.

Seasonal Hamster Cage

A lot of toys had to be made to fit Jim’s large size for a Syrian Hamster.  He became pampered with handmade items and seasonal decor. Creations that he could chew on, dig under or tunnel in. He even had a free time to roam around the 2,000 sq ft house in his ball, go inside a tube, and climb the carpet steps.

Downsizing To RV Life

Holiday decor in the joined aquarium

In March of 2019, it was time to move into the RV full-time. Jim was slowing down; he could no longer climb the steps and had no desire to run in his wheel. Our issue moving him into the RV was his 30” x 24” glass aquarium, weighing 50 pounds. We had no space for his habitat, and if we did, we would not want it to break on travel days.

Since we felt Jim only had a few months with us, we made him a new house out of a TOTE. On moving day it was clearly labeled ‘Jimmy’ to prevent any mishaps.  The new home was smaller, but still contained his igloo to sleep in, climbing logs, and running wheel.  

Unhappy Hamster

Unhappy hamster

For the first few days, Jim was very unhappy with is new house arrangement. We took him out to explore as much as we could. It simply was not enough for him, and he began chewing on everything, including the tote. At night he would let out unhappy squeaks. We tried to make him as comfortable as possible. Giving him all his favorite foods, and hoped he would settle down. After a month, he finally gave up attempting to chew his way to freedom. In August of 2019, he passed at the age of 3-years-old, which is 1-year longer than the average male Syrian Hamster.

Hamster RV Life

Here are a few experiences we had with our 7-inch Syrian Hamster living with us in a 5th wheel:

  • One afternoon the RV was around 76*F inside, which was comfortable for the two of us. However, Jim was outside of his igloo, panting.  We definitely made sure from then on to have the A/C running sooner to keep the hamster cooler.
  • There was no room in the RV for anything larger than a trash can.  As it was the tote we used for Jim, had to be kept on the sofa.
  • Our 5th wheel has a couple of slide-outs that have a small opening between the floor and the outside. This is enough space for the hamster to crawl out. Also, the floor vents are too wide, and a hamster could easily get lost in the heating ductwork. So if you plan to have your hamster out exploring, be very vigilant. A good alternative is the hamster ball.
  • In an RV, space is limited. This also means that once something starts smelling it lingers into every inch of air space. Then, without proper ventilation, it is hard to get the smells out. In the hot summer, we were dumping Jim’s pee corner container daily, and that was still not enough.
  • Hamsters are nocturnal creatures, meaning they sleep during the day and explore at night. This makes your travel day very hard on the hamster, who is now wide awake.
  • Travel day also brings added stress to the hamster as the smells in the air change. Their surroundings are no longer familiar and are now being bounced down the road.
  • TIP: the hamster will experience less ‘bounce’ if they are in the truck with you or near the front of the RV.  


Is a hamster the best RV pet? Since a Dwarf Hamster is 3-times smaller than a Syrian Hamster, they may be the better RV option. Like any pet, I would be more worried about maintaining an internal RV temperature. A hamster does best between 65 and 72*F. Maybe have a way to monitor the temp of your rig when you are out and about, with something like the AcuRite Temperature System.

Future Pet Idea

At this point, we are researching how well a cat would do in the full-time RV lifestyle. We have had cats before, living inside a house.  But the RV life is undoubtedly different, and the cat would need to be the right fit. We will update you in a future blog.

Comment below on what animals you have full timed with and how it went. Thanks for following us and we will see you on our next adventure!

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Melissa McElfresh

Melissa McElfresh

In 2012 I was diagnosed with Gastroparesis (stomach paralysis), which made me realize life is too short and not to take simple things for granted. As an avid indoor-girl with allergies, I did not go on hikes of any sort. But, one day my Marine husband, Don, asked if I would go on a 'nature walk' with him. It was on the paved Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park. I went and was hooked, eager for our next adventure! The desire to see new places, meet new people, experience new cultures, has aided me to share with you my new adventure.

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We are sharing our adventures to not only document our full-time living in a 5th wheel but to provide others with information.  

Our extensive research involved searching for answers to these questions: how to begin this lifestyle, what RV is best to live in full-time and what jobs could we do to support our dream.  

However, we did not find a lot of answers out there that pertained to our quest.  

Quickly we realized people choose this lifestyle and their RV for many different reasons.  There is no right or wrong answer.  

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