All The Things You Need To Know About Caring For A Dwarf Hamster

Everyone needs a dose of cuteness in their lives, and you really can’t get much cuter than a dwarf hamster. And did you know they make lovable pets? They aren’t as territorial as their larger cousins. And also unlike their bigger brethren, they are gregarious, preferring to live in pairs or small groups, TheSprucePets reports.

How cute is this Pearl Winter White dwarf hamster? Image license CC SA 3.0 by Jpbarrass via Wikimedia Commons

The Dwarf Hamster: Species At A Glance

There are several species of dwarf hamster but there are three species commonly found at pet stores. They are:

The Robarovski hamster (Phodopus robarovskii)

Robarovski hamsters are also very cute. Image license by CC 2.5 by Dake via Wikimedia Commons

The Robarovski hamster (or Robo as it’s often called) originates from the deserts of Central Asia, MyPerkyPet reports. This is a habitat of loose sand and sparse vegetation. At only two inches (5 cm) long, it’s the tiniest of all the hamsters. This creature is so tiny in fact, that it only weighs 0.5 oz to 0.75 oz. Now that’s tiny! They have an outgoing personality and don’t often bite. Like most hamsters, they are primarily nocturnal and sleep during the day. But when the kids come home from school, these cuties are just winding up their game. And that gives kids and hamsters plenty of time to bond.

The Chinese dwarf hamster (Cricetulus griseus)

These hamsters are really tiny. Image license CC SA 3.0 by Reinout Rajimakers, via Wikimedia Commons

Technically these little hamsters aren’t dwarfs. They are just really tiny and resemble their smaller relatives. Nevertheless, people add the dwarf moniker anyway. Hailing from Northeastern China and Mongolia, they were first domesticated in 1919 to use as test subjects in laboratories. Chinese hamsters have an adorable stripe that runs down their backs and they also have long tails. Because they are extremely active, these hamsters do better if they are housed alone. This is especially true because they are highly territorial by nature.

And lastly, Campbell’s dwarf hamster (Phodopus campbelli)

Campbell’s hamster. Image license CC SA 3.0 by Dake via Wikimedia Commons

Campbell’s hamsters inhabit the steppes of eastern and central Asia. For such a tiny creature, they are impressive burrowers, digging tunnels that often extend three feet underground. That’s pretty incredible when you consider that these beautiful little rodents don’t grow larger than five inches in length and weigh only 27 gramsn(0.9 oz). The only game changer with these hamsters is that they are less tolerant of handling mistakes, making them more likely to bite. But in these cases, all that really means is they need more handling until they get used to being petted.

Caring for your dwarf hamster

These little cuties are hilarious to watch and are easy to care for. Plus, a dwarf hamster can make an excellent first pet for a child and they also do well in the classroom environment.

For the most part, all they really require is a clean cage, food and water, and a chance to exercise every day, as the video below explains.

Housing requirements for your dwarf hamster

These are energetic little creatures and it’s for this reason that they really need lots of space for zipping around. Their cages should be escape-proof, preferably made of glass, plastic or metal with a solid bottom. The top of the cage should be grated and open to the air. You should also provide at least one or two inches of bedding; either high-quality paper or hardwood shavings. But don’t use cedar shavings as they are toxic to many small animals.

This Robarovsky dwarf hamster seems to enjoy its wheel and bedding. Image license Public Domain by Robarovskihamsters via Wikimedia Commons

Be sure to change your hamster’s bedding once a week. Any wet spots in the cage should be removed daily. And, like most rodents, a hamster’s teeth grow continually, so you should provide your pet with wood chew sticks or mineral chews. This will prevent the teeth from growing too long.

Hamsters also adapt quite well to temperature changes within a household, which means they do just fine in a bedroom or living room. But don’t place your hamster in direct sunlight or in drafty areas of the house because they can be sensitive to extreme temperature changes.

Are these hamster pups cute or what? Image license CC0 by etafotok25 via Pixabay

Dwarf hamsters that are raised together can do fine if kept in same-sex pairs. If you’re thinking of purchasing an adult pair they will do best in separate cages. Overall, these hamsters seem to like their solitude.

The dwarf hamster diet

Mmmh! These crunchy seeds look good. Image license CC0 by Nikki via Pixabay

Ideally, the diet for a dwarf hamster should include high-quality lab blocks (compressed food with lots of vitamins and nutrients) and limited amounts of grain, vegetables, fruit and Timothy hay. This type of hay is really nutritious for hamsters. It also keeps their teeth and digestive tract in shape, preventing them from gaining too much weight. While it’s not essential to a hamster’s diet, it can be offered two to three times per week and should be part of your little friend’s balanced diet.

If you are supplementing your hamster’s diet, keep in mind that this should be limited to ten percent of its total daily diet so that it doesn’t gain too much weight.

Hamsters need clean fresh water every day. Image license CC SA 2.0 by sweetenough via Flickr

To stay healthy, hamsters also need filtered, chlorine-free water daily. And fruits or vegetables that haven’t been eaten over the last 24 hours should be thrown away. While it might be tempting to give your hamster chocolate, it contains theobromine which can damage this creature’s circulatory system. Caffeine and alcohol can also cause problems.

A few common foods are actually toxic for hamsters

Many everyday foods that we take for granted, like tomatoes, potato tops, or garlic can make these little creatures very sick. I’ve included a short list that, according to Petcha, are either toxic or can cause health problems.

  • Almonds. These contain cyanide, which can kill a hamster if it consumes too many.
  • Unwashed fruits or vegetables. Can be harmful due to pesticides.
  • Uncooked kidney beans.
  • Iceberg lettuce. Causes liver problems if given in excess (more than one or two pieces every few days).
  • Onion. Contains N-propyldisulfide, which damages red blood cells.
  • Tomatoes, tomato leaves.
  • Rhubarb, rhubarb leaves.

Common dwarf hamster health problems

These tiny rodents can actually be a little bit fragile. They can have problems with abnormal hair loss, skin lesions, digestion-related problems, tooth problems, and diabetes. Hair loss or skin lesions most commonly result from rubbing against things or from a fight with a cage mate. Abscesses and injuries should be looked at by your veterinarian. Antibiotics or other medications will likely be prescribed.

Digestive problems are often caused by an infection in the digestive tract. One common problem, called “wet tail,” a type of bacterial infection is often caused by stress or improper care. It’s highly infectious and must be treated immediately because it can kill a hamster in 48 to 72 hours.

A wheel like this one can help keep your pet healthy. Image license CC SA 2.5 by Ko1 via Wikimedia Commons

Diabetes can be common in dwarf hamsters. Fortunately, it can easily be prevented by keeping its diet low in sugar and providing plenty of opportunity for exercise. Keep in mind that a healthy hamster is one that’s eating, drinking, and being active. If you sense anything is wrong, it’s time to see a vet.

Tips for purchasing a dwarf hamster

There comes a time when just about every child wants a pet. If you’ve set your sights on one of these cuties, make sure you buy one from a breeder who’s reputable. Hop on Google or contact your local pet stores to find one nearby. If you decide to buy one from a pet store, spend a bit of time observing the litter, then choose one that looks healthy and alert. Remember that hamsters are nocturnal, and one that seems shy and docile may display a different temperament after dark. If you have any suspicions about the health of the animals find another pet store. Should the problems be especially noticeable, report them to your local ASPCA chapter.

If you want to see dwarf hamster cuteness in action, watch the video below.

Featured image license CC SA 4.0 by Lexis 0124 via Wikimedia Commons

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