The Roborovski hamster, known as the Robo hamster for short, is the smallest hamster species in the Phodopus genus. Also referred to as the Robo dwarf hamster, these little rodents are generally quite quick and curious, though they also can be timid. Most are docile creatures and can coexist with other hamsters of their species. Plus, they can learn to be comfortable around people.
However, they aren’t the easiest to hand-tame due to their small size, quickness, and timid nature. They’re usually sandy in color, though they come in several different variations, and they have white spots above their eyes that look like eyebrows. Robo hamsters are simple to care for, requiring a pretty straightforward diet and regular habitat cleaning.
Common Name: Robo hamster, Roborovski hamster, Robo dwarf hamster
Scientific Name: Phodopus roborovskii
Adult Size: 2 inches long on average, weighing around 1 ounce
Lifespan: 2 to 4 years in captivity
Robo Hamster Behavior and Temperament
Robo hamsters are nocturnal, typically waking up around dusk and staying active throughout the night. While they sometimes make very soft vocalizations, it is their nighttime movement that might create a noise issue for some people. If you’re a light sleeper, you probably shouldn’t keep their enclosure in your bedroom.
These hamsters are fairly low-maintenance pets, and they can be quite entertaining to watch. But they’re not very cuddly animals and generally don’t like a lot of handling. While they’re usually docile, they might nip if you startle them.
Still, they can learn to recognize their humans and might come to the side of their enclosure if you’re nearby (especially if you’re offering a treat). They should be kept away from other household pets, but they can live with other Robo hamsters in same-sex pairs or small groups. They get along best with each other if they’re raised together from a young age. Otherwise, there might be some territorial issues.
Click Play to Learn More About the Tiny and Swift Roborovski Hamster
Robo hamsters stretch about two inches long and weigh around an ounce. At birth, they’re less than an inch long. They reach maturity at around 2 months old.
Opt for an enclosure that’s at least two feet long, one foot wide, and one foot high. Bigger is always better, as this will be the primary area where your animal gets its exercise and mental stimulation. Habitat options are generally either a glass or plastic aquarium with a secure top that has ventilation or a wire cage with a plastic base. Ensure that any wire spacing is narrow enough that your hamster can’t squeeze through.
At minimum, include an exercise wheel with a solid surface (not bars) for your hamster to run on, as well as chew toys. And add a nest or sleeping hut where your hamster can go to feel secure. Also, keep the enclosure away from drafts and direct sunlight.
Specific Substrate Needs
On the bottom of the enclosure, add a 1- to 2-inch layer of bedding. Options include chemical- and dye-free shredded paper or aspen shavings. Do not use any cedar or pine shavings or corncob byproduct bedding, as this can cause health issues.
What Do Robo Hamsters Eat & Drink?
Select a commercial hamster food that’s specifically formulated for dwarf hamsters. Follow the label’s feeding instructions, and consult your veterinarian on the quantity as well. In general, you should feed your hamster daily by putting the food in a small dish. The ideal time to do this is in the evening when the hamster is just waking up. Discard uneaten food after 24 hours.
You also may offer small amounts of supplemental foods, including certain seeds, grains, fruits, and veggies. Some options include oats, blueberries, and carrots. Consult your vet for appropriate foods for your hamster, as well as the quantity you can feed. Remove any perishable foods from the enclosure after a few hours to prevent spoilage.
Finally, always have fresh water available for your hamster. You can offer it either in a small dish or a bottle. A bottle will typically remain more sanitary, but not all hamsters know how to use it at first. Keep both a water dish and a bottle in the habitat until you’re sure the hamster is drinking from the bottle.
Common Health Problems
Hamsters are prone to a variety of health conditions, including:
- Hair loss and skin issues often due to bacteria, parasites, fungal diseases, or allergies
- Wet tail, another name for diarrhea
- Respiratory diseases resulting from infections or allergies
- Overgrown teeth commonly due to a lack of chewable materials to wear them down naturally, as hamster teeth continuously grow
Calm, gentle handling from a young age can help to hand-tame your hamster, though some hamsters will never be comfortable with handling. Never squeeze or jostle your hamster in your hands. Sit on the ground in a secure space when handling your hamster. You never want to drop a hamster from even a couple of feet off the ground, as this can seriously injure the small animal. To encourage your hamster to sit on your hands, try holding a favorite treat and making the handling a positive experience.
Hamsters can be prone to obesity and other health issues if they don’t get enough exercise. This is why it’s important to provide an exercise wheel, along with as large of an enclosure as you can fit and afford. There are also exercise balls that hamsters can roam around in outside of their enclosure. Make sure the ball is suitable for a dwarf hamster, and always monitor it outside of the enclosure.
Hamsters are generally clean animals that are good at self-grooming. They don’t require baths. But if they do get some dirt or debris stuck in their fur, you can help clean it off by gently rubbing the fur with a damp cloth.
On a monthly basis, your primary costs for a Robo hamster will be its food and bedding. Depending on the varieties you choose, plus how big your enclosure is, expect to pay between $20 and $40 monthly. You’ll also have to periodically replace chew sticks, nests, and other toys at a cost of around $10 on average. In addition, factor an annual veterinary wellness checkup into your budget, as well as emergency vet care.
Pros & Cons of Keeping a Robo Hamster as a Pet
Robo hamsters are interesting little animals that are entertaining to watch and fairly easy to maintain. They're also quiet and don't take up a lot of space. However, they're not the cuddliest of pets. And they're nocturnal, so you might not see them at their most active. Plus, because they're so small, quick, and fragile, they can be difficult to handle.
Similar Rodents to Robo Hamsters
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Otherwise, check out these other exotic animals to find your next pet.
Purchasing or Adopting Your Robo Hamster
Find a responsible breeder or rescue organization to acquire a Robo hamster, as you’ll be most likely to get accurate information about the animal’s health, history, and temperament from them. In many areas there are rescue groups dedicated specifically to small animals, and animal shelters also might have adoptable hamsters from time to time. Expect to pay around $20, though this can vary depending on factors such as the animal’s age and level of tameness.
An exotic veterinarian might be able to recommend a good Robo hamster breeder. Look for a breeder that allows you to visit with the animals before you choose one. Try to find an animal that is active and alert, though take into account that you might be visiting with it during its normal sleeping hours. It should be kept in sanitary conditions and have clean fur and clear eyes. Its droppings also should be well-formed.
If you have multiple hamsters and aren’t interested in becoming a breeder yourself, make sure to keep them individually or with members of the same sex. Have a vet verify your hamster’s sex if you’re unsure.
Does the Robo hamster make a good pet for kids?
Robo hamsters can make good pets for older children who are able to be gentle with them.
Are Robo hamsters hard to take care of?
The upkeep for Robo hamsters is fairly straightforward and primarily involves daily feedings and regular habitat cleanings.
Does the Robo hamster like to be held?
Robo hamsters can learn to be comfortable when held, though they are often difficult to manage due to their small size and quickness.
Hamster Care. U. C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
Disorders and Diseases of Hamsters. Merck Veterinary Manual.