Campbell's Dwarf Russian Hamster: Species Profile

Characteristics, Housing, Diet, and Other Information

Campbells Dwarf Hamster running in bogie wheel
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Campbell's dwarf Russian hamsters are small, round-bodied hamsters that make affectionate pets, though they need socializing or may be prone to nipping. They are one of the fastest hamsters, sometimes making it difficult to keep hold of them. The species gets its name from Charles William Campbell, the first Westerner to capture and name one around 1900. In the wild, they dig deep burrows, which they line with wool and grasses to keep warm in winter. Selective breeding has produced Campbell's hamsters in a wide variety of coat colors and patterns.

Species Overview

Common Name: Campbell's dwarf Russian hamster

Scientific Name: Phodopus campbelli

Adult Size: 3 inches

Life Expectancy: 2 years

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 excellent pets, but they may nip if they feel threatened. Because they are small and quick, they can be a challenge to handle, especially for young children. They are friendly and do not mind being pet or held—if you can hold on to them.

Unlike Syrian hamsters, another type of dwarf hamster, Campbell's hamsters are social with their species and can be kept in same-sex pairs or groupings, if 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 grew up together may have to be separated if they break out into fights.

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. They are so small that they may be able to squeeze their way through the bars. An aquarium or other solid sided cage with a ventilated but secure top is preferable.

Place a substrate of aspen 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; solid-sided housing makes ventilation more difficult.

Hamsters usually sleep in a nesting box that you provide for them. While cardboard or wooden structure won't hurt your pet, your best option is a ceramic hamster hut. These are chew-proof and easy to clean. They also come in a wide variety of adorable shapes and colors.

You can give your hamster tubes and compartments to explore. This system usually works well for a single hamster. Multiple hamsters need more room. Tight, constricting spaces lead to a higher probability of territorial behaviors or fighting.

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 keep toasty.

You may also offer a hamster a "sand bath" container, which is a small, low container with sand in it so that hamsters can clean themselves. Hamsters may also adopt these sand bath containers as hamster litter boxes, which can make it even easier to clean the cage.


As with other small rodents, 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, check the ball nozzle regularly to make sure it is working, and be sure it's always filled with fresh water daily.

Select high-quality hamster pellets or pre-packaged food mixes and give 1 to 2 tablespoons per day. Pellets will make up the majority of your hamster's diet, but you can also offer hamster treats or fresh food (grains or vegetables). These supplemental foods should not make up more than 10 percent of their diet (1/2 teaspoon every few days). And, if your pet begins to have diarrhea, remove the food item.

Check fresh food options carefully, though, as some (such as avocado, almonds, raw beans) are harmful or toxic. Avoid high-sugar fruits or honey treats as dwarf hamsters are prone to diabetes.

Common Health Problems

Campbell’s dwarf hamsters are susceptible 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.

Hamsters and most small rodents are also 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.

Purchasing Your Campbell's Dwarf Russian Hamster

If you are sure that you want a purebred Campbell's dwarf Russian hamster, you should purchase your pet from a breeder. These hamsters typically have gray-brown fur on their backs with a darker stripe along the center of their backs. The fur changes to a creamy color on the sides and is whiter on the belly. Campbell's hamsters have furred feet.

Pet stores carry a range of hamsters, but there's a good chance you'll wind up with a hybrid. The Campbell's hamster is often mistaken for its cousin, the dwarf winter white; they are two different species. The winter white has a more compact, rounded body with a shorter face, meanwhile, the Campbell's has a more lean, sleek body and mouse-like face with larger ears. The hamster you purchase in a pet store is usually a hybrid of these two species. You can expect to pay $15 to $25 for a hamster.

If you buy one from a pet store, store owners may not accurately sex your pet. You could inadvertently wind up with a pregnant female. When choosing your pet, examine the hamster to be sure its eyes are bright, its coat is shiny, and it's full of energy. Check its rectum to make sure it is not damp, which is a sign of a wet tail disorder. Check the cage and other hamsters to be sure the environment is clean, and none of the other hamsters seem to have health issues.

Similar Pet Hamsters to the Campbell's Dwarf Russian

If you are interested in dwarf hamsters, check out:

Otherwise, check out other types of hamsters that can be your new pet.

Article Sources
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