Chinese Striped Hamsters as Pets

Housing, Feeding, and Caring for Tiny Chinese Hamsters

Chinese hamster in hands

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Chinese striped hampsters have the Latin name of Cricetus griseus. They are not true dwarf hamsters but they are of a similar size to other small hamsters. They are originally from China and Mongolia. Chinese hamsters are not commonly bred, can be hard to find at pet stores, and are also restricted in some places, such as the state of California where a permit is required to keep them. But these challenges don't stop them from being kept as pets.

The Lifespan of the Chinese Hampster

They are small in size and unfortunately so is their lifespan. Chinese hamsters, like other hamsters, only live about two and a half to three years.

Size

Chinese hamsters are small and slender hamsters that reach an adult size of about four inches (10 centimeters) long. This means that they are small enough to squeeze through the bars on many hamster cages. If you don't have a cage specifically designed for a dwarf hamster, an aquarium may be a safer choice for housing these little rodents. They can also easily disappear while you are playing with them outside of their cage, so you must be extra careful and watch where their tiny bodies are at all times.

Appearance

The natural coloration of a Chinese hamster is agouti (hairs are banded with light and dark colors) with a dark brown color on the back, a black dorsal line (along the spine), and ivory colored belly (this is called the normal or wild-type coloration). The only other patterns seen are a dominant spot (white coat with patches or spots of color) and a black-eyed white. Chinese hamsters have a tail that is about an inch long and hairless. Sometimes these are called rat-like or mouse-like hamsters due to their slender appearance and the fact that they have a noticeable tail.

Chinese Hamster Personalities

Chinese hamsters are nocturnal (active at night) but they may also be active for short times during the day. They are somewhat timid but are generally good-natured and rarely nip. Because they are so small and quick they can be a real challenge to handle, especially for kids. They are very active and require a large cage to prevent boredom. Otherwise, they may resort to getting cranky, have a suppressed immune system, and chew everything and anything they can get their teeth on.

There is some disagreement among experts about the social characteristics of Chinese hamsters. As they mature, Chinese hamsters, especially females, may become quite aggressive with others and may need to be separated. However, other owners have managed to keep them in pairs or groupings (only when they are introduced at a very young age) which requires a fair amount of space for these active little hamsters to live in. To be on the safe side, plan on housing Chinese hamsters separately, only keeping them together if they show no signs of aggression towards each other.

Caring for Pet Chinese Hamsters

Basic care for pet Chinese hamsters is like that of other hamsters. A wire hamster cage may not be escape proof for these little hamsters, so an aquarium or another solid-sided cage with a secure top is preferable. The larger the cage, the better.

Avoid cedar or pine wood shavings and keep the hamster's cage clean. Dirty cages accumulate urine. This produces an ammonia build-up since ventilation is diminished with solid-sided housing. Aquariums and other solid-sided hamster enclosures need to be kept cleaner than a wire sided enclosure due to this lack of ventilation.

Feed a good-quality hamster food supplemented with small amounts of fresh foods including vegetables. Small treats like nuts, fruit, cereal, and crackers can be offered to help your little hamster become hand tamed.