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Live vs. Zhu Zhu Hamster. What's the Difference?

Updated on December 18, 2009

The Golden Hamster, was discovered in 1839. It was a real, live hamster. This year, 170 years later, Zhu Zhu hamsters are a hot selling item. They are not alive. They are the "now" addition to the robotic pet family.

Robotic pets come in two different styles – plastic and furry. If you're a fan of the furry robotic pets, you probably have already had a Furby, Scoozie pets, and FurReal Friends. Now you can add the Zhu Zhu Pets to the group.

Zhu Zhu hamsters are plush, artificially intelligent hamsters that move and make sounds. Live hamsters, however, are also plush, naturally intelligent, move around, and make sounds. So, how can you tell the difference between the two?

Below, we'll explore the differences between the breathing-type hamster and the currently popular mechanical Zhu Zhu hamster.

And be sure to vote for your choice at the bottom of this hub!

Live Hamster
Live Hamster
Zhu Zhu Hamster
Zhu Zhu Hamster

Hamster Types

Live hamsters come in a variety of colors and sizes. The Syrian hamster is the "large" hamster, because it grows to a full size of about 5 to 7 inches in length. The Dwarf hamster is the "small" hamster because it only grows to about 2 to 4 inches in length.

The Syrian hamster may also be called the Golden Hamster and the Teddy Bear hamster. Dwarf hamster types include the Campbell's Dwarf Hamster and Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamster.

There are now 8 different Zhu Zhu hamsters.  All Zhu Zhuzs are the same size at about 6 inches in length.

2009 Zhu Zhu Models

Light Brown 
Mr. Squiggles 
Num Nums 

2010 Zhu Zhu Models

Black and white
Dark brown/white
Light brown/white 
White and pink

Hamster Care and Feeding

Live hamsters need a place to live. Cages are available in plastic or metal or you can use a glass aquarium. Each has advantages and disadvantages. See Types of Hamster Cages for more detail.

Then you need bedding for the bottom of your cage. Do you use Aspen wood shavings, shredded paper, or corn cobs? . You must have bedding for a live hamster because they pee, poo, and sleep in their bedding. Fortunately, they are smart enough not to do these all in the same spot. See the article Inside Hamster Cages for more detail.

For Zhu Zhu hamsters, a starter set can be purchased that includes a bed and blanket for your hamster to sleep in. Because it's mechanical, your Zhu Zhu pet will not pee, poo, or burrow beneath the bedding for sleep. It's available for viewing at all times.

For food, live hamsters, require appropriate fruits, veggies, nuts, and water to survive. Robotic hamsters only eat batteries.

Hamster Life Expectancy

Real hamsters can live for about 2 to 3 years if well cared for.  But overgrown teeth can cause problems, which is why they need to chew on things to grind their teeth down.  They can also suffer from aspergillis, a fungus. 

Zhu Zhu hamsters do not get ill and live as long as the two AAA batteries in them last.  Unfortunately, based on reviews I've read, that can be a very short lifetime.

On the other hand, when real hamsters die, they are gone for good.  When the Zhu Zhu runs out of batteries, you can simply replace them and the hamster is good to go.

Hamster Toys

Real hamsters love to play.  They like to do marathon running in their wheels.  They like to squeeze themselves through plastic tubing.  They like climbing up wire metal cages.  Put them in a plastic ball and they will run all over your house.  (But not near steps, please!)  So for live hamsters you will want to buy lots of fun toys or build complex cages.

Zhu Zhu hamsters also like to play.  So you will want to buy them playsets, fun houses, skateboards, surfboards, and adventure balls.  Set the Zhu Zhu pet in its toy, turn it on, and away it goes.

Live hamster eating
Live hamster eating

The Fun Factor

One of the fun things about having a living, breathing hamster is watching it move. Whether it's in its cage, in its toys, or in your hands, hamsters dash, dart, scamper, and scurry all over the place. That's one of the reasons you never put them down on the floor!

Live hamsters are also warm and cuddly to hold. There is something about holding a live hamster with a beating heart whose eyes blink at you that makes it irresistible.

 Zhu Zhu hamsters try to match real hamster movement. Using their wheels, they move around and can actually grip and climb. And they try to match real hamster warmth with fake fur and by being able to make sounds. Press a button on the mechanical hamster and it will make one of over 40 different sounds. And each hamster model makes its own sounds.

Hamster Safety Considerations

Live hamsters have real teeth that can bite.  You may not have to go to the emergency room, but their bite can still hurt.

Zhu Zhu hamsters never bite, but they can pinch.  And they come with a large warning label that tells you the mechanical animal has small parts that can cause a choking hazard.  The toy is not recommended for children under 3 years of age.

There was also a flap about the safety of the product when GoodGuide released test results that showed that one of the Zhu Zhu pets contained levels of antimony and chromium that exceeded federal standards.  However, 2 days later GoodGuide put out a press release stating that it had used a testing methodology that was different than the one used to determine the Federal standards.  So, apparently, Zhu Zhu pets are chemically safe.

Here's the link to the GoodGuide statement


So, do you want a live, furry hamster that runs all over the place, is warm and cuddly to hold, but requires ongoing care for about 3 years?

Or do you want a plush mechanical hamster that wheels all over the place, makes noise, only requires AAA batteries to keep going, and can be shut off when you're finished playing with it?

The choice is yours.

Live vs. Zhu Zhu Video Comparison

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