What Kind of Dwarf Hamster do you want?

Introduction to Dwarf Hamsters

So what kind of dwarf hamster do you want? Yes, we know you want a small one. That’s pretty much a given. What we mean is, what species of dwarf hamster do you prefer, Chinese? Striped? Perhaps even a Campbell’s Russian hamster?

Yes, all those names are very international sounding. Surprisingly, a variety of different species of these tiny critters do exist. If you’re considering adopting one of these as a pet, then you’d probably like to know about all of them so that you can make an intelligent and informed decision.

When you go to adopt your new pet, you will have the choice of four distinct species: 

  • Campbell’s sometimes called Djungarians, 
  • Roborovskiis, 
  • Siberians sometimes referred to as Winter Whites,  
  • Chinese. 

As we discuss their physical characteristics, you’ll notice the similarities between the Siberians and the Campbell’s. They are very closely related.

The Chinese Hamster.

Let’s discuss the Chinese hamster first. His scientific name is Cricetus griseus. If you mistake this guy for a mouse, we’ll forgive you. Many people who aren’t very familiar with dwarf hamsters make this mistake. And we’ll tell you why right now. The Chinese hamster is the only dwarf hamster that has a tail. If you hear people talk about their Striped hamster or their Chinese striped, they’re actually referring to this breed. Technically, these hamsters are not true dwarf hamsters. But their size is so similar to the dwarf variety that it’s customary to include them in any description of this sort.

The Escape Artist.

The Chinese hamster has a slender body. As an adult, they will grow no bigger than four inches (or about 10 centimetres). Indeed, this is tiny – small enough to squeeze his thin body in between the bars of just about any hamster cage. Instead of a cage then, consider housing him in an aquarium. This is a much safer choice, and then you won’t have to worry about this nocturnal animal making a breakout while you’re asleep one night.

Chinese Hamster Colouring.

The natural colouring of the Chinese hamster is called agouti. This describes the colour where their coats are banded with both light and dark colours. They have a black dorsal line (the line that runs down their spine) and ivory bellies. The only other pattern associated with the Chinese hamster is the Dominant Spot. This is a white coat with patches or spots of colour.

The Only Dwarf with A Tail

Chinese hamsters have a hairless tail that is about an inch long. Because of their tail, you may also hear people refer to this species as a rat-like or a mouse-like hamster. Even though hamsters, in general, are nocturnal creatures, you’ll discover that the Chinese hamster stirs around some during the day. You may experience a few problems socializing with your new hamster. Chinese hamsters are somewhat timid by nature, although they are normally very good-natured. Some hamsters have a bad habit of nipping, and this particular species seldom do this.

Tiny but fast

The tiny size and swiftness of Chinese hamsters translate into a pet that’s quick. And this means they may become quite difficult to handle – especially for children. So keep this in mind if the hamster is destined to be a child’s pet. Despite their small size, these hamsters need lots of room to roam. They’re active and need the space to help prevent boredom.

When they age, they may become cranky with other hamsters.

As sweet as they may be to you, if you’re housing these guys in an aquarium with other Chinese hamsters, you may run into roommate problems. As these hamsters age – especially the females – they may become aggressive with the others living with them. You may even find that you’ll have to separate these from the others. You may want to consider – right from the start – housing the Chinese hamster separate from the others. While some owners have been known to keep everyone happy in the same “house,” you really can’t count on this happening!

Caring for your Chinese Hamster

You care for this hamster just like you would any other. A wire cage, as already mentioned, may not be the best choice of houses for it. And you want to avoid the wood shavings that you usually associate with a hamster’s cage.

It’s essential to keep its cage clean to avoid the buildup of the smell from the accumulated urine. If you have your mind and heart set on getting a Chinese hamster, be prepared to hunt for one. These guys aren’t that common and can be difficult to find. In fact, in California, you need a permit to own one. So you may want to check with your local pet shop or vet to discover any restrictions placed on your owning one of these species.

Dwarf Campbell’s – Russian Hamster

The species that scientists call the phodopus campbelli, we know better as the dwarf Campbell’s Russian hamster or as the Djungarian hamster. He’s called the Campbell’s hamster, not because he loves that brand of soup, but because of W.C. Campbell, who immortalized this hamster.

Campbell found this species of hamster in Russia in the early 1900s and took it back to the United Kingdom, where it became all the rage for a while to own this pocket pet. But Russia isn’t the only country where you will find this species of hamster. You’ll also discover it in China and Mongolia. The lifespan of the Russian is only 18 months to two years. When fully grown, it will be no bigger than four inches.

Just like the Chinese hamster, the best housing for the Russian is an aquarium. Its size makes it all too easy for him to slide between the bars of any cage and escape.

Russian hamster colouring

The hair on the back of a dwarf Russian Campbell’s hamster is usually grey-brown. They also possess a darker dorsal stripe that runs down the centre of their backs. As the fur runs down the sides and eventually to their underside, it slowly turns into a creamy colour or even white.

Having said that, though, thanks to extensive breeding, you’ll be liable to find these hamsters in a variety of coat colours as well as various patterns. You may be able to instantly recognize a dwarf Campbell’s Russian hamster by his furry feet.

Russians tend to nip.

The Campbell’s hamster is nocturnal, but you may find that on occasion throughout the day, it may stir around a bit for you. Even though they make excellent pets, this species has a tendency to nip at you if they feel threatened. Just like Chinese hamsters, their small size endows them with the gift of swiftness, which may be a hindrance when you or especially your children are trying to hold them.

Russian Campbell’s are friendly towards each other.

Russian Campbell’s hamsters are fairly friendly with each other, unlike Chinese hamsters. You’ll have no problems keeping them all in one cage. This is especially true if kept together from an early age. Just be sure that you keep the males away from the females unless you want a large number of baby hamsters to deal with. If you plan on introducing a younger member to an older one, they may encounter a few issues.

The basic care of this species is the same as described for the Chinese hamster.

The Dwarf Winter White Russian Hamster

While Dwarf Winter White Russian Hamster is his official name, you may hear some people refer to this variety as the Siberian hamster or even the Siberian dwarf. Scientifically, this species is called phodopus sungorus. The Dwarf Winter White usually lives between 18 months and two years and grows to be about three and a half inches in length. It is unusual to find this variety growing longer than four inches. This makes it the smallest pet hamster.

Housing the Dwarf Winter White Russian Hamster

Again, you probably don’t want to house this hamster in a cage; an aquarium would be a much better choice.

The colour of the Dwarf Winter White Russian Hamster

There’s a reason why this hamster is called a Dwarf Winter White Russian hamster. Normally these animals have a dark grey colouring on their backs, while the dorsal stripe that runs down their backs is usually black. The fur on their stomach is typically white. But, in the winter months, you may discover that the fur turns varying shades of white. This colour change is the result of the change in the number of daylight hours.

But don’t be surprised if you find this species in colours other than this. Selective breeding techniques have resulted in several coat colours as well as various patterns. Winter white Russian hamsters have furred feet.

Do Winter White Russian Hamsters make good pets?

This nocturnal animal makes a good pet. The average dwarf winter white is generally a good-natured addition to any family. But, again, because of their small size, they may be difficult to handle. You may find them squirming right out of your hands – or the hands of your children.

Winter White Russian Hamsters are sociable in groups.

These hamsters are quite sociable in groups. For this reason, there is no need to separate them. But, you do need to make sure that they grow up together. It’s not a good idea to introduce an adult to a new baby hamster. You take care of your dwarf winter white species just like you would the Campbell’s. Make sure that regardless of the species you choose, you feed them good quality food supplemented with a small amount of fresh foods.

Roborovski Hamsters – The Smallest of the Small.

The Roborovski hamster belongs to a species whose scientific name is Phodopus roborovskii. This small pet lives to be about three and a half years old, but even by dwarf hamster standards, they’re tiny. They grow no larger than two inches in length. But what they lack in size, they make up for in speed. This is the “Speedy Gonzalez” of the dwarf hamster set.

Housing your Roborovski Hamster.

Because of their small size, you can rule out housing them in a cage. Roborovski hamsters could probably fit through the bars any number of ways. Again, an aquarium would be the best house you can buy for them.

Roborovski Hamsters stay busy all night.

As with all the other hamsters, you’ll discover the Roborovski to be most active at night. This particular species is famous for rising at dusk and keeping himself busy most of the night. 

Roborovski Hamster colouring.

You’ll find that the natural colour of the Roborovski hamster is a sandy brown along their backs. Their stomachs are normally white. In addition, their colouring includes distinctive white markings over both of their eyes. You may also find a white-faced variety of this species of dwarf hamster.

Roborovski Hamsters are good-natured.

Roborovksis are good-natured animals who will rarely nip you. However, their tiny size makes them extremely fast and uniquely agile. This means that picking them up when they don’t want to can be problematic. Remember, if you’re having trouble handling these tiny hamsters, young children will have an even more difficult time.

Fast and Furious.

Roborovski hamsters are so agile you should make sure you’re in an area where finding and catching them would not pose too much of a problem. 

Some people suggest that you only handle the Roborovski over a large box. If they escape your grip, then they’ll land in the box. As you may already have guessed, you may want to keep them in an ample space – these animals need room to move about… quickly.

Don’t worry about keeping this species in individualized housing units. They are social and can easily be kept in groups or pairs of the same sex unless you’re prepared to deal with the offspring.