Campbell's dwarf Russian hamsters are small round-bodied hamsters that make good pets—though they take a bit of socializing. They're named for Charles William Campbell, the first Westerner to capture and name one. He discovered his specimen in 1904 at the Chinese-Russian border in Mongolia. Wild members of the species live on the steppes of eastern and central Asia; they dig deep burrows which they line with wool and grasses to keep warm in winter.
Campbell's dwarf Russian hamsters normally have gray-brown fur on their backs with a darker strip along the center of their backs. The fur changes to a creamy color on the sides and is whiter on the belly. However, selective breeding techniques have produced Campbell's hamsters in a wide variety of coat colors and patterns. Campbell's dwarf Russian hamsters are also noted for having furred feet.
Common Name: Campbell's Dwarf Russian Hamster
Scientific Name: Phodopus campbelli
Adult Size: 2 inches
Life Expectancy: 2 years
Difficulty of Care: Intermediate
Campbell's Dwarf Russian Hamster Behavior and Temperament
Campbell's dwarf Russian hamsters are nocturnal but may be active for short times during the day too. They make good pets, but they have a bit of a reputation for nipping if they feel threatened. Because they are small and quick, they can be a challenge to handle, especially for young children.
Unlike Syrian hamsters, Campbell's dwarf Russian hamsters are social with their own species and can be kept in same-sex pairs or groupings, but usually only if they are introduced to each other at a young age. It is not a good idea to introduce adults or new hamsters to a group. Occasionally hamsters that were raised together may have to be separated if you find they are not getting along.
Housing the Campbell's Dwarf Russian Hamster
While it's possible to house a Campbell's dwarf Russian hamster in a wire hamster cage, it may not be escape-proof so an aquarium or other solid sided cage with a ventilated but secure top is preferable.
Place a substrate of wood shavings or unscented natural cellulose fibers at the bottom of the cage. Keep cages well cleaned throughout to prevent ammonia build-up from accumulated urine as ventilation is diminished with solid-sided housing.
Hamsters enjoy sleeping in a "bedroom" you provide for them. While a cardboard or wooden structure won't hurt your pet, the best bet is a ceramic hamster hut. These are chew-proof and easy to clean—and they come in a wide variety of adorable shapes and colors.
You can give your hamster tubes and compartments to explore, and this works well for a single hamster. Multiple hamsters, however, need plenty of room; tight spaces can lead to territorial behavior and even fighting. Do provide your hamsters with chewable toys and an exercise wheel to keep them entertained and fit. Hamsters like to stay warm, and may exercise as a way to stay toasty.
Some hamster owners create "sand baths" (small low containers with sand in them) in which their hamsters can clean themselves. Sand baths may, however, also become hamster "potties," which makes it easier to clean the cage.
Avoid wire flooring as it can damage tender hamster feet. Be sure to avoid cedar wood or pine shavings, as these can be harmful to your hamster; straw and hay can also be a problem as they can injure a hamster's cheek pouches.
Food and Water
Hamsters should have constant access to food and water. A ceramic food bowl works well, as it's too tough to chew and too heavy to knock over. Keep a water bottle attached to the cage, and be sure it's always filled with fresh water.
There are a variety of hamster pellets and pre-packaged food mixes on the market; most are of fairly high quality. Be sure to choose one with a relatively high protein content. This should make up the majority of your hamster's diet. You can also offer hamster treats or fresh food (grains or vegetables). Check fresh food options carefully, though, as some (such as avocado) are toxic, and avoid fruits as hamsters are prone to diabetes which can be aggravated by sweet foods.
Common Health Problems
Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters are prone to diabetes; if you catch the problem early you may be able to avert problems by changing your pet's diet. Signs of diabetes include excessive drinking and urination, poor coat condition, low energy, shivering, and negative behaviors.
Purchasing Your Campbell's Dwarf Russian Hamster
If you are certain that you want a purebred Campbell's Dwarf Russian Hamster, you will have to purchase your pet from a breeder. Pet stores do carry a range of hamsters, but there's a good chance you'll wind up with a hybrid. In addition, the Campbell's dwarf Russian hamster is often mistaken for its cousin, the dwarf winter white, but they are actually two different species. The Campbell's is a Phodopus campbelli, while the winter white is a Phodopus sungorus. Sometimes the hamster you purchase in a pet store is actually a hybrid of these two breeds.
If you do buy from a pet store, it's important to know that the pet store owner may not accurately sex your pet, and you could inadvertently wind up with a pregnant female! When choosing your pet or pets:
- Select a younger hamster, as their lifespans are brief. It's also important to choose young hamsters if you're planning to house more than one together.
- Examine the hamster to be sure its eyes are bright, its coat is shiny, and it's full of energy. Check to be sure its rectum is not damp, as this could be a sign of a disorder called "wet tail."
- Check the cage and other hamsters to be sure the environment is clean and none of the other hamsters seem to have health issues.
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