Campbell's dwarf hamsters are small, round-bodied hamsters with distinctly small ears and grayish-brown fur that has a dark stripe running down the back. They make fairly low-maintenance and affectionate pets, though they do need socializing or might be prone to nipping. They are also one of the fastest hamsters, sometimes making it difficult to keep hold of them. Still, Campbell's dwarf hamsters are relatively easy to care for, requiring a pretty straightforward diet and regular enclosure cleaning.
Common Name: Campbell's dwarf hamster
Scientific Name: Phodopus campbelli
Adult Size: 2 to 4 inches long on average, weighing around 1 to 2 ounces
Lifespan: 2 to 3 years
Campbell's Dwarf Hamster Behavior and Temperament
Campbell's dwarf hamsters are generally low-maintenance, quiet pets. During their waking hours, they like to dig, tunnel, and explore. They are nocturnal but might be active for short times during the day too. Most are friendly and don't mind being handled, especially if you start gently handling them from a young age. But some might nip if they feel threatened. Plus, they can be a challenge to handle because they are so small and quick.
These hamsters won't bond with a person like a cat or dog would, but many will come up to the side of their enclosure if you're nearby. And unlike some other hamster species, Campbell's dwarf hamsters are social with their species. They can be kept in same-sex pairs or small groups, ideally introduced to each other from a young age. But always monitor them for any signs of aggression, as they can become territorial. Also, because they are so small and fragile, it's best to keep them away from other household pets, including other hamster species.
The Campbell's dwarf hamster only stretches around 2 to 4 inches long on average, and it generally weighs between 1 and 2 ounces. It will mature at around 2 months old.
Provide your hamster with as large of a cage as you can fit and afford, as this will be its primary spot to exercise and get mental stimulation. There are two main options for an enclosure: a glass/plastic aquarium with a secure mesh top for ventilation or a wire cage with a plastic base. If you go with a wire option, make sure the bars are close enough that the hamster can't squeeze through them, as these little creatures tend to be escape artists.
Within the enclosure, include a nest or other structure in which your hamster can sleep and hide. Also, add chew toys and an exercise wheel with a flat surface (not wire) to prevent any injuries.
You also can include hamster tubes and compartments for your pet to explore. But make sure they don't take up too much space, especially if you have multiple hamsters in the enclosure. Tight spaces can lead to a higher probability of territorial behaviors or fighting.
Specific Substrate Needs
The bottom of the enclosure should have a 1- to 2-inch layer of bedding, such as aspen wood shavings or unscented natural cellulose fibers. Avoid wire flooring, as it can damage tender hamster feet. Also, avoid cedar wood or pine shavings, as these can be harmful to rodents. Remove wet spots in the bedding daily. And fully change the bedding weekly when you wash the whole enclosure with mild soap and water.
What Do Campbell's Dwarf Hamsters Eat & Drink?
Hamsters should have constant access to food and water. A small ceramic food bowl works well, as it's too tough to chew and too heavy to knock over. Many owners prefer using a water bottle attached to the cage, as it helps to keep the water more sanitary. But also provide a water dish until you're sure your hamster is drinking from the bottle, and check the bottle regularly to make sure the nozzle is working. Fill it with fresh water daily.
Select a commercial hamster food that's formulated for dwarf hamsters. Consult your veterinarian on the proper quantity to feed, as this can vary based on factors such as age and size. Discard any uneaten food after 24 hours. You also can give your hamster some supplemental foods, again consulting your vet on the appropriate types and amounts. Some options include oats, carrots, and greens. It's best to feed fresh foods in the evening as your hamster is waking up and hungry; remove them after a few hours to prevent spoilage.
Common Health Problems
Campbell's dwarf hamsters are prone to some health problems. Diabetes is common in the species. Symptoms include increased thirst and urination, as well as a sweet smell to the urine. Moreover, glaucoma is another common condition within this species.
Furthermore, hamsters are prone to wet tail, which is diarrhea brought on by an overgrowth of bacteria in the digestive system. It is highly contagious to other rodents and must be treated with antibiotics quickly or else it might kill the hamster.
Finally, hamster teeth naturally grow continuously. And sometimes they become overgrown, especially if the hamster doesn't have enough chewable materials in its environment to wear them down. Overgrown teeth can impede a hamster's ability to eat, and you might notice it losing weight. A vet can trim overgrown teeth and then advise you on how to prevent this problem.
Hand-taming is the most common training people do with their pet hamsters. Always sit on the floor when handling your hamster, as even a drop from a few feet can seriously harm it. Also, make sure the space is secure in case your hamster accidentally gets loose. Never squeeze or jolt a hamster as you hold it. If it's getting antsy, place it back in its enclosure. It can be helpful to hold a favorite treat, so your hamster forms a positive association with handling.
Exercise is critical for hamsters to help prevent health issues such as obesity. Providing a large enclosure and an exercise wheel should give the hamster what it needs to be physically active. You also can purchase a hamster ball for it to roll around in outside of its enclosure. Ensure that the ball is the proper size for a dwarf hamster, and always monitor your pet when it’s in the ball.
Hamsters self-groom and generally don't need any help from you. However, if they get some dirt or debris stuck in their fur, you can gently rub the area with a damp cloth if they'll allow it.
On a monthly basis, food and bedding will be your essential costs for a hamster. Expect to spend around $20 to $40, depending on your chosen diet and bedding type (plus the size of the enclosure). Every so often, you'll also have to replace chew sticks, nests, and other toys, which will cost around $10 on average. Plus, make sure to budget for an annual veterinary checkup and emergency medical care.
Pros & Cons of Keeping a Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster as a Pet
Hamsters are interesting and generally quiet pets that don't take up a lot of space. They also don't require an excessive amount of maintenance. However, they are mostly up at night, so you might miss them when they're at their most active. And they can be difficult to handle as small, quick, and fragile animals.
Similar Hamsters to the Campbell's Dwarf
If you are interested in dwarf hamsters, check out:
Otherwise, check out other hamsters that can be your new pet.
Purchasing or Adopting Your Campbell's Dwarf Hamster
If you're certain you want a Campbell's dwarf hamster, go to a reputable breeder or rescue organization. Pet stores often carry hybrids or misidentify this species with its similar relatives. Expect to pay between $15 and $25, though this can vary based on factors such as age and coloring.
When choosing your pet, look for one with bright eyes and a shiny coat. Its tail should be clean and dry. And it should be housed in a clean environment where none of the other hamsters appear to have health issues.
Local exotic veterinarians might be able to point you toward a good breeder or rescue to get your hamster. The main benefit of breeders is they often have a wider selection of younger animals, though their costs are often higher than rescues. If you buy one from a pet store, store owners might not accurately sex your pet. You also might inadvertently wind up with a pregnant female. To avoid accidentally becoming a breeder yourself, always keep hamsters solo or with members of the same sex.
Does a Campbell's dwarf hamster make a good pet for kids?
These hamsters can be good pets for older children who are able to handle them gently and understand that they are small, quick, fragile animals.
Are Campbell's dwarf hamsters hard to take care of?
Campbell's dwarf hamsters are relatively low-maintenance with their primary care needs involving daily feedings and regular cage cleanings.
Does a Campbell's dwarf hamster like to be held?
These hamsters can learn to be comfortable with gentle handling, though they don't always like to sit still for long.
Hamster Care. Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital.
Russian Campbells Hamster. National Hamster Academy.
Hamster Care. School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis.
Routine Health Care of Hamsters. Merck Veterinary Manual.