So what kind of dwarf hamster do you want? Yes, I understand a small one. That’s pretty much a given, you know? What I mean is what species of dwarf hamster do you prefer Chinese? Striped? Perhaps even Campbell’s Russian hamster?
Yes, those names are very international sounding. And surprisingly, a variety of different species of these small critters exist. If you’re considering adopting one of these as a pet, then you’d probably like to know about all of them, so you can make an intelligent and informed decision.
Actually, when you go to adopt your new pet, you have the choice of four separate species: Campbell’s, sometimes called Djungarians, Roborovskiis, Siberians, sometimes referred to as Winter Whites, or Chinese. You’ll notice as we discuss their physical characteristics the similarities between the Siberians and the Campbell’s. They, indeed, 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. This is the only dwarf hamster who has a tail.
If you hear people talk about their Striped hamster or their Chinese striped, they’re actually referring to this breed. And while we’re talking about this species first, let’s get one point out of the way right now. Technically, these hamsters are not true dwarf hamsters. But their size is so similar to the dwarf variety that it’s customary just to include them into any description of this sort.
The Chinese Hamster has a slender body. As an adult, he’ll get no bigger than four inches (or about 10 centimeters). Indeed, this is small – small enough to squeeze his thin body in between the bars of just about any hamster cage. Before you buy a cage then, consider housing him in an aquarium. This is a much safer choice. You won’t have to worry about this nocturnal animal making a “break out” while you’re asleep some night.
The natural coloring of the Chinese hamster is called agouti. This describes the coloring in which their hairs are banded with both light and dark colors. They have a black dorsal line (this is the line that runs down their spine) and ivory bellies. The only other pattern associated with the Chinese hamster is called the Dominant Spot. This is a white coat with patches or spots of a color.
The Only Dwarf with A Tail
Chinese hamsters have a hairless tail which 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.
And even though it’s a nocturnal creature, you’ll discover the Chinese hamster stirs around some during the day. You may experience a few problems socializing your new friend. He’s a bit timid by nature, although he is normally a very good-natured fellow. Some hamsters have the bad habit of nipping, this particular species seldom does this.
The tiny size and swiftness translate into a pet that’s quick. And this means they may become quite a little difficult to handle – especially for children. So keep this in mind if the hamster is destined to be a children’s pet. Despite their small size, these guys need lots of room to roam. They’re active and need the space to help prevent boredom.
And as sweet as they may be to you, if you’re housing these guys in an aquarium with other 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 discover 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!
You’d care for this hamster just like you would any other. A wire cage, as I’ve mentioned, may not be the best choice of houses for him. And you really want to avoid the cedar or pine wood shavings that you normally associate with a hamster’s cage.
It’s important, nonetheless, to keep his cage clean to avoid the buildup of an ammonia-like 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 actually need a permit in order to own one. So you may want to check with your local pet store or vet to discover any restrictions placed on your owning one of this 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 even 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 little guy.
Campbell found him in Russia in the early 1900s and brought him 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 you’ll find this species of hamster. You’ll also discover it in China and Mongolia. The lifespan of this little guy is only one and half to two years. When fully grown, he’ll be no bigger than four inches.
Just like the Chinese hamster, the best housing for this guy is an aquarium. His size makes it all too easy for him to slide between the bars of any cage.
The hair on the back of a dwarf Russian Campbell’s hamster is usually gray-brown. They also possess a darker dorsal strip that runs down the center of their backs. As the fur runs down the sides and eventually to their under side, it slowly turns into a creamy color or even white.
Having said that, though, thanks to extensive breeding, you’ll liable to find these hamsters in a variety of coat colors as well as various patterns.
Oh yes, one more thing! You may instantly recognize a dwarf Campbell’s Russian hamster by his furry feet!
The Campbell’s hamster is nocturnal, but you may find that some time throughout the day he stirs around a bit for you. And even though they make great pets, this species has the tendency to nip at you if they feel threatened. And just like the Chinese species, their small size give them the gift of swiftness, which may be a hindrance when you or especially your children are trying to hold them.
Russian Campbell’s hamsters are actually quite friendly with each other, unlike the Chinese hamsters. You’ll have no problems keeping them all in one cage. (Just be sure that you keep the males away from the females unless you intend to breed them). This is especially true if kept together from an early age. 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. Technically, his species is called the phodopus sungorus.
This species of the animal usually lives between one and a half and two years and grows to be about three and a half inches in length. It’s unusual to find any of this variety to grow more than four inches. This makes him a most “compact” pet.
Again, you probably don’t want to house this hamster in a cage; an aquarium would be a much better choice.
There’s a reason why this hamster is called a Dwarf Winter White Russian hamster. Normally these animals possess a dark gray coloring on their backs while the dorsal strip that runs down their backs is usually black. The fur on their stomach is normally white. But, in the winter months, you may discover that the fur actually turns varying shades of white. This change in color is actually the result of the change in the length of the number of daylight hours.
But don’t be surprised if you find this species in colors other than this as well. Selective breeding techniques have resulted in several coat colors as well as various patterns. And, winter white Russian hamsters have furred feet.
This nocturnal animal makes a good pet; the average dwarf winter white is generally a naturally 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.
These hamsters are quite sociable in groups. No need to separate them for this reason. But, you do need to make sure that they grow up together. It’s not a good habit to introduce an adult to a new baby hamster. You’ll 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 him a good quality food that’s supplemented with 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 little pet lives to be about three and a half years old, but even among 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.
Because of their small size, you can definitely rule out housing them in a cage. They could probably fit through the bars any number of ways. Again, an aquarium would be the best house you can buy for them.
As with all the other hamsters, you’ll discover the Roborovski to be most active at night. In fact, this particular species is noted for rising at dusk and keeping himself busy most of the night. You’ll find that the natural color of the Roborovski hamster is a sandy brown along their backs. Their stomach is normally white. In addition, their coloring includes distinctive white markings over both of their eyes. You may also find a white-faced variety of this species of dwarf hamster.
They are a good natured animal; you’ll seldom find one of this kind nipping you. But with tiny size makes them extremely fast and uniquely agile. This means that picking them up to love them when they don’t want to can be daunting. And remember if you’re having trouble handling this tiny guy, your smaller children will have even more difficulties with him.
In fact, they are so agile, some hamster lovers have discovered – through personal experience, no doubt – that you should make sure you’re in an area where finding and catching them would not pose much of a problem. The odds are that great they once you pick them up, they’ll get away from you!
Some people even suggest that you only handle the Roborovski over a large box. If they escape your grip then they’ll land in the box. And as you may already have guessed, you may want to keep them in a large space – these animals need room to move about (quickly!)
Don’t worry about keeping this species in their own individualized housing units. They are social and can easily be kept in groupings or pairs of the same sex (unless you’re prepared to deal with the offspring!).