A dwarf hamster is a common name given to any of the fourteen species of hamster under the genera Phodopus, Cricetulus, Allocricetulus, and Tscherskia. These types of hamsters are called “dwarf hamsters” because they are much smaller in size compared to other hamsters.
Before discussing dwarf hamster care tips, you need to know that the Dwarf hamsters follow their regular-sized family members in terms of eating habits and nocturnal activities. They have the same cheek pouches which are used to carry food back to their burrows.
The most common dwarf hamster species that are kept as pets fall under the Phodopus genus.
The appearance of the hamster species under the other three genera tend to be more rat-like, thus, they are not considered as companions for domestic life.
A few examples of these wild dwarf hamster species are the Tibetan Dwarf Hamster, Chinese Dwarf Hamster, and the Kam Dwarf Hamster – all under the genus Cricetulus.
Types of Dwarf Hamsters
There are only three species of dwarf hamster under the Phodopus genus. They are all considered to be great pets for beginner owners as they are low-maintenance in the sense that they don’t require any specific living conditions or special diets. They’re not aggressive to humans and generally get along well with other members of their species.
These three common dwarf hamster pets are:
- Roborovski Dwarf Hamster – Also known as “Robo Dwarf Hamster”, it’s the smallest of the three species. You can identify a Robo by the eyebrow-shaped white spots on its fur and its lack of a dorsal stripe.
- Djungarian Dwarf Hamster – Also known as “Siberian Dwarf Hamster” or “Winter White Dwarf Hamster”, it possesses the ability to change the color of its fur from dark to white as winter approaches. The ability is somewhat suppressed when in captivity as a pet.
- Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster – Closely related to the Djungarian, it’s differentiated by having smaller ears and no dark fur on the top of its head. It is named after Charles William Campbell who discovered the species in 1902.
4 Tips For Caring Your Dwarf Hamster
Whether you currently own a dwarf hamster or are looking to purchase one as a pet, there are four essential aspects of dwarf hamster care that you need to know. Consider this as your checklist to successfully owning and raising a pet hamster.
1. The Essential Dwarf Hamster Supply List
One of the most important first steps to caring for a dwarf hamster is making sure that all the equipment and supplies that you need are on hand. Here’s a prep lineup that you can use to guide you through the planning process.
- Shelter – Hamsters typically live in either cages or tanks. Both are viable options, but make sure you get one that’s big enough. The larger the better. A dwarf hamster is pretty small. So if you’re getting a cage, make sure that it can’t squeeze through the bars. An exercise wheel or hamster house is included with some types of shelters.
- Bedding – Softwood shavings from pine and cedarwood have been scientifically found to have some level of toxicity not conducive to animals of the Rodentia class, so stay away from those. There are a variety of commercial beddings available for dwarf hamsters that have built-in odor control and absorbent properties.
- Hydration – Your hammy needs fresh water and in a container that doesn’t easily spill. Most shelters include a free water bottle that either free-standing or hung. If yours didn’t come with one, make sure to buy one separately.
- Exercise – The stereotypical hamster wheel. Dwarf hamsters like the Roborovski are known for their running capability and love doing it daily. It is said that they can run an equivalent of four human marathons every night. If an exercise wheel wasn’t included with your shelter purchase, consider buying a silent one so that your hamster can run without bothering anyone.
- Victuals – Hamsters in the wild eat grains, fruits, and vegetables, with the occasional insect or frog thrown in. Unless you’ve got a handful of lizards and frogs lying around, consider purchasing a commercial hamster food mix that contains all the essential nutrients that they need.
- Entertainment – They love chewing on stuff. So, rather than letting them chew up their bedding or water bottle, try giving them a chew toy or wooden blocks. You can also get a hamster ball if you want to let them roam outside their tank.
Not only is it amusing to watch them rolling around, they also get good exercise while being able to explore their surroundings in a safe manner.
Once you’ve got all the essentials down pat, it’s time to take a closer look at safeguarding your hamster’s health.
2. Dwarf Hamster Nutrition
Buying a commercial hamster feed will save you a lot of time, but if you want to prepare everything yourself, here’s what you need to know. The bulk of a dwarf hamster’s diet should primarily consist of a grain and seed mix.
There are various millets and grass seeds that you can use for the base of the mixture. Sunflower seeds, corn, oats, and wheat are all viable options. If you’re having trouble locating the ingredients at the supermarket, try local health food stores or online.
In addition to the base, they also need a good supply of dried or fresh plants in order to provide the required nutrients that they need. You can collect plants or leaves outside as long as they’re clean and haven’t been contaminated with fertilizer.
Consider creating a stockpile of dried plants in storage to use if you live in a wintry or rainy area. Healthy ones to look out for are dandelion, bramble, and plantain or hazel leaves.
Finally, you’ll need to ensure your hamsters consume some veggies at least two times a week. Introduce them slowly to find out what it likes. A few examples of some great green and leafy vegetables are cucumbers, broccoli, lettuce, carrots, and cauliflower.
You may also feed your hamster herbs such as coriander, parsley, and basil. Fruits are an option but only as an occasional snack, as their high sugar content may be problematic for some hamsters.
Even though their primary diet consists mainly of herbs, don’t forget to provide a little bit of protein throughout the week. Peas and soy flakes are great sources of protein and you can also opt for small animals like crickets or mealworms.
3. Staying Clean and Fresh
Keeping your hamsters and their living area clean is essential for good health. The first thing you should be aware of is that hamsters don’t take baths in water. They don’t like it and can get sick. Instead, they clean their fur by rolling in sand which serves to remove dirt and oil from their fur.
Consider getting a sand dish to put inside their tank or cage. Make sure it’s made of ceramic and not a light material like plastic so that it doesn’t get knocked over.
If your hamster misinterprets the purpose of the dish and uses it as a toilet, or doesn’t use it at all, don’t be alarmed. Just clean it out and replace with fresh sand. It might take some time but your hammy will eventually learn what to do with it.
If you really care about your dwarf hamster, change the bedding once a week and disinfect using hot water. If the shelter smells bad, scrub it down with vinegar to remove the fumes. Make sure to remove any uneaten food and refill the water bottle daily.
All accessories including the exercise wheel need to be kept clean so keep a close eye on the interior for any soiling so that you can do on-the-spot cleanups as necessary. Charcoal is a great item which deodorizes and absorbs foul smells. Hang a block outside your hamster’s cage to keep the air fresh.
4. Fitness and Exercise
Hamsters that are left alone without any human bonding time can become increasingly solitary and eventually refuse to interact. To avoid this from happening, schedule some play time every day. This will serve to keep your hamsters active and allow them to stay familiar with you as their owner.
Since hamsters are nocturnal creatures, set some time aside either during the evening or early in the morning so you can catch them at the moment when they have the most energy.
If you want to let your hamster exercise by itself, take the running wheel out of the cage and set it in a secure area (with four walls so it can’t escape). If you have a hamster ball, put your hammy inside and place the ball in a large open area with plenty of sunlight.
If you’d like to play with your hamster outside of its cage, here are a few things to keep in mind. Hamsters are sensitive to loud noises, so eliminate sources of loud music or other sounds. When picking it up out of the cage or tank, let it sniff your finger first so that it becomes accustomed to your presence and scent.
Avoid grabbing it from behind as this can startle the poor creature and frighten it so much that it won’t want to come out. Don’t hold your hamster up too high, as it might suddenly jump off your hand and injure itself on the ground.