Dwarf hamsters are gaining in popularity in the pet trade. The dwarf hamsters differ from other species in that they are social and can be kept in pairs or small groups (stick to a single-sex unless you are a breeder). Below are the most commonly seen dwarf hamsters. Chinese hamsters are sometimes grouped with dwarf hamsters because they are small, but they are not true dwarf hamsters.
Dwarf Winter White Russian Hamster
These are very similar and closely related to the Dwarf Campbells Russian Hamster, and are sometimes misidentified or crossed with Campbells.
These are the smallest of the dwarf hamsters kept as pets. They are very quick and agile which makes them tricky to handle.
Characteristics and Traits of Your Dwarf Hamster
Here's a list of other characteristics and traits of your dwarf hamster:
- Adults only grow 3.5 to 4 inches in length (9 to 10cm)
- Weighing 3/4 to 1 3/4 ounces (25 to 50g)
- Limited color and coat variations
- Faster and jumpier than the larger Syrians
- Can live by self or in a mixed gender community
- Campbell: curious and easiest to handle dwarf breed
- Chinese: often shy and loves to tunnel in bedding
- Winter White: more vocal and loves to exercising
- Robo: awake during the day more than other dwarfs
What to Feed Your Dwarf Hamster
A well-balanced dwarf hamster diet consists of:
- High-quality hamster lab blocks and limited amounts of grains, vegetables, fruits and Timothy Hay.
- Clean, fresh, filtered, chlorine-free water, changed daily.
- Do not feed them chocolate, caffeine or alcohol as these can cause serious medical conditions. Avoid sugar and high fat treats.
Things to remember when feeding your dwarf hamster:
- Fresh food and water should always be available.
- Limited amounts of grains, vegetables, fruits or Timothy Hay can be given daily but should not exceed 10% of their total diet.
- Vegetables and fruits not eaten within 24 hours should be discarded.
Where to Keep Your Dwarf Hamster
- Hamsters acclimate well to average household temperatures, but it should not exceed 80 F. Please be cautious of extreme temperature changes. The habitat should never be in direct sunlight or in a drafty area.
- Habitat should be plastic, metal or glass and escape-proof with a solid bottom; there should be plenty of room for the hamster to exercise and play, the largest habitat possible.
- 1" and 2" of bedding should be placed in the habitat. Proper bedding includes high-quality paper bedding, crumbled paper bedding, or hardwood shavings. Cedar-based products are not recommended.
- Hamsters are solitary animals, but dwarf hamsters may be kept in same-sex pairs if they are raised together; otherwise, keep adult hamsters housed separately. Different types of small animals should not be housed together.
- Clean and disinfect the habitat and its contents at least once a week with a 3% bleach solution. Rinse and allow to dry completely before placing the hamster back into the habitat.
- Remove wet spots daily; change bedding at least once a week, or more often as necessary.
What to Expect from Your Dwarf Hamster
- These hamsters are nocturnal - they play during the night and rest during the day,) but can adjust to your schedule.
- Easy to handle but move quickly; some species, such as Chinese dwarfs and Robos, are less likely to nip or bite.
- Chewing on objects maintains their incisor teeth, which grow continuously. You should make sure they have plenty of wood chew sticks or mineral chews.
Grooming & Hygiene
- Hamsters stay clean and rarely need baths, but can be spot-cleaned with a damp washcloth or unscented baby wipes if needed. Hamsters enjoy a weekly dust bath.
- Consult with a veterinarian if a hamster's teeth seem too long.
Signs of a Healthy Animal
Here's how to know that your hamster is happy and healthy:
- Active, alert, and sociable
- Eats and drinks regularly
- Healthy fur and clear eyes
- Breathing is unlabored
- Walks normally
- It is normal for a hamster's teeth to be yellow; cleaning is not necessary.
Watch out for these warning signs:
- weight loss
- abnormal hair loss
- diarrhea or dirty bottom
- distressed breathing
- eye or nasal discharge
- skin lesions
- overgrown teeth