Hamsters are truly amazing creatures and while there are 24 species of them, only 5 could be considered suitable as house pets. One of these 5 incredible rodents is the Roborovski Dwarf Hamster, also known as desert hamster or Robo Dwarf Hamster.
When you think about these small creatures, the first thing that comes into your mind would probably be tiny balls of fur with oversized cheeks and two buck teeth. Adorable as they may seem, their chubby cheeks and elongated front teeth are actually essential to their survival.
Russian explorer Lt. Vsevolod Roborovski first discovered these wonderful creatures in 1894 when he traveled to Nanshan in the Guangdong Province, China. This new type of hamster would then be given the scientific name Phodopus roborovskii, and the more common Roborovski dwarf hamster after the man who discovered it.
Nothing much happened after the discovery besides a scientific study in 1903. However, a couple of decades later in the 1960s, the Robo Dwarf Hamster was brought into Western Europe and in 1998, it had finally landed on U.S. shores.
Prior to its discovery, this small hamster thrived around the Gobi Desert all throughout the desert regions of Mongolia and even through China.
Lifespan Of Desert Hamsters
Robo dwarf hamsters have lots of qualities that make them stand out among other breeds and one of these is the fact that they live comparatively longer lives than most. On the average, Robo dwarf hamsters can live up to 4 years and there are some that could even last a few more years.
The reason that Robo dwarf hamsters can outlive other hamster species is that they are less likely to suffer the same ailments that other breeds like the Syrian dwarf hamster and even the Chinese and Russian hamsters seem to fall prey to.
This is definitely one of the biggest perks for hamster lovers who wish to spend more years with their beloved pets. However, you should know that their lifespan is also dependent on their living conditions and in the wild, they can only last up to 2 years on the average.
Another quality that makes this type of hamster stand out is its size. Roborovski hamsters can grow up to a small size of 2 to 3 inches; the smallest of all hamster species. Furthermore, male Robo dwarf hamsters tend to be smaller than females.
Their diminutive sizes make Robo dwarf hamsters a little bit difficult to handle. In fact, if you choose your pet’s cage poorly, it may even be able to squeeze through the bars.
Roborovski dwarf hamsters are the fastest hamster species there is and this – all thanks to their long legs, small size, and their own natural speed. They are also very agile; capable of jumping up to 2 feet in the air which makes them prone to jumping out of their cages or aquariums whenever there’s a chance. For this reason, it is important that you always handle them with care.
Their combined speed and agility also makes them difficult to handle as they can also jump out of your hands especially when they are startled. This is why Robo dwarf hamsters don’t make good pets for children.
When it comes to colors, there are two that are most common.
The first color is called Agouti which is described as a light brown or beige color with a grayish color at the roots. Most of the time, Robo dwarf hamsters of this variation would have a distinguishing mark: a cute white eyebrow without the common dorsal stripe.
White-face is another common variation for Robo dwarf hamsters and it’s basically what its name implies. Robo dwarf hamsters of this variety have coloring similar to an agouti exept for its face which is entirely in white. There is a variation of this coloring called “Husky” but most people think of them as one and the same.
There are other color variations that could be found. However, these variations can often be found only with breeders and the colors themselves come from the two mentioned above. Other recognized variations would include mottled, platinum, head-spot, white-from-white-faced, pure white, and red-eyed.
For young Robo dwarf hamsters, identifying the genders may be quite a tough job. The easiest way to do this would be to take them to a vet or consult a chart and make comparisons. But if you want to do it on your own, just make sure that you learn how to handle them properly and with care because you wouldn’t want to cause them any harm.
With females, you may notice that their genital openings are closer together. In fact, you may even mistake them as one. Furthermore, female Robo hamsters are more dominant than their male counterparts. They also smell less and are larger than males.
Males, on the other hand, have genital openings that are further apart and they also have a yellow patch on their bellies indicating a scent gland which is responsible for a strong chlorinated smell. They are quite active and slightly of a smaller size than females.
Their contrasting personality is why you should refrain from mixing males and females together unless you want them to breed. Since females are the more dominant, they may fight with males and would attack them or even kill them.
First of all, breeding should only be done by highly experienced individuals because when it comes to hamsters, reproduction can be quite a handful. If you keep males and females together, you should know that it doesn’t take long for them to reproduce.
Not only that, females can easily get pregnant even after just giving birth so there is a big chance for unwanted babies.
Breeding Robo dwarf hamsters won’t give you any lucrative opportunities because they don’t have a big demand. Here are some facts you may want to know about Robo dwarf hamster breeding.
- Most female Roborovksis become sterile by the time they reach 24 months of age while males would remain fertile throughout their lives.
- When females get pregnant, the pregnancy may last around 16 to 21 days. However, hamsters are also known to delay giving birth for nine days if they feel something isn’t right.
- At 5 to 6 days after their birth, the skin of the newborn hamsters may begin pigmenting. At 6 to 8 days, the hair will begin to surface and by the 12th day, these babies will be covered in short fur while their eyelids will finally start maturing. Despite still being blind, these babies may start wandering around their cage.
- It is preferable for breeding to be done only with males and females 4-7 months of age. They should be perfectly healthy and unrelated to each other.
- When they do give birth, the hairless newborns are referred to as “pinkies.”
- Mating males and females can be rather difficult because they wouldn’t breed unless they are compatible and if they don’t like each other.
- Breeding usually happens during warmer seasons and when the living conditions are warm enough, the chances of mating are high.
- Males can help in raising the newborns but this exposes you to the risk of unwanted pregnancies when you keep them together.
- Some mothers have been known to steal other babies when you raise hamsters in a colony.
- When the litter gets too big, cannibalism can occur with mothers eating their own babies. This can also happen if there are threats to the litter, when the babies’ scents change due to exposure to other creatures especially humans, and if there is not enough food.
- Pregnancy is hard to notice with females because it doesn’t usually show until they’re about to give birth. They gain little to no weight at all when they become pregnant.
- Robo dwarf hamster babies can be separated from their mothers and fathers at 21 days old but they should still be separated according to gender and kept together for at least two weeks before they are taken to new homes.
Temperament and Behavior
Many believe that Roborovski dwarf hamsters are nocturnal creatures when they are in fact crepuscular in nature which means that they are most active during twilight. The reason for this is probably because, in the wilds, this is the time which most critters come out which they can hunt and feast on.
Roborovskis are naturally curious but they are also known to be quite timid and easily startled. They could be very social when it comes to their own kind but you would have to begin socializing them at a young age.
It would be ideal to keep them in same-sex pairings. Once they are comfortable with their companions, they may start sleeping huddled next to one another.
Unfortunately, Robos aren’t as affectionate as other types of hamsters and it can be challenging for them to form a solid and trusting relationship with humans. Due to their sensitive nature, they’re not a great fit for families with children. They are not known to bite or nip much but they can when they feel threatened or provoked.
They are also very active and would definitely love a hamster wheel. In fact, you may find them spending an incredible amount of time running on their wheels. Roborovskis would be happier inside their own enclosures rather than being held or cuddled by humans but they could be trained to accept human touch from time to time.
Cages are deemed unsuitable for Robo dwarf hamsters because, with their small size, they could easily slip between the bars. A 10-gallon aquarium, either glass or plastic, would be able to effectively contain four of these hamsters.
However, you would need to place a mesh lid as cover because Roborovskis are known to leap out of their homes in an attempt for freedom. Not only that, the mesh lid will enable air circulation as well as protection from outside forces.
Giving them an exercise wheel would be highly recommended since these creatures have high metabolisms and are generally active animals. Also because hamsters are natural burrowers, they would definitely like to have thick bedding where they could just burrow into.
Aspen shavings are considered suitable bedding as they would not harm your pet’s skin. Avoid cedar or pine wood shavings.
Do not forget to put a water bottle with a drip tube, a food dish, and a place where your pet can just escape and hide. Provide for them toys or a few items to chew on like toilet paper tubes because they love all sorts of activities.
Chewing can also help wear down your hamster’s teeth which can get quite long when left unchecked.
Food and Diet
Feeding a Roborovski dwarf hamster should be done at least twice a day. But if you can’t do that, a tablespoon of food per day would be enough for your pet.
Basically, there are two ways to go about feeding your pet hamster. You can either use the common food bowl method where you place its food on a bowl or the scatter method which will have you spread the food all over the enclosure so that your pet would forage for the food like its kind naturally does in the wild.
When feeding your pet Roborovski, you should understand that giving it the right food is necessary to satisfy its nutritional needs. It would be a great idea if you feed your Roborovski a specially formulated food or a hamster mix consisting of a wide variety of food.
You can also feed your hamster fresh food at least once a week. You can give it fruits such as bananas, apples (without the seeds), cherries, blueberries, and more. Vegetables would include carrots, celeries, broccoli, cucumber, and corn.
Avoid giving large portions of fruits and vegetables as they can stick or even damage a hamster’s cheek pouch. You can also feed your hamster some protein sources like hard-boiled eggs and cooked meats at least once a week.
When it comes to fresh food, however, it would be best to cut down on those with high water content because they may cause diarrhea for the hamster. The reason for this is that hamsters originally come from the desert regions where water tends to be scarce.
It would also do your hamster good if you learn more about the food you’re going to feed it, especially with the sugar content. Dwarf hamsters are prone to diabetes and Roborovskis are no exception to this.
Never feed your hamster food formulated for other animals because they may not provide the same nutrients that your desert hamster needs and always provide water for it to drink.
Roborovski dwarf hamsters, or any hamster for that matter, rarely need to be bathed. In fact, you should never bathe your hamster in water. This is because they seldom need to get cleaned as they can do that on their own.
But if you really want to clean your dwarf hamster, you can use a damp washcloth or wet wipes to do so. Your pet hamster would also enjoy a sand bath at least once a week.
Robo dwarf hamsters rarely get sick and are less likely to be afflicted with the same ailments that other hamsters suffer from but that doesn’t mean they’re truly exempted.
Some of the most common ailments for Roborovskis are diabetes, diarrhea, mites, and malocclusion (overgrown teeth) just like other hamsters. However, your Robo dwarf hamster would be more likely to suffer from broken toes or skin problems.
Furthermore, Roborovski hamsters are more prone to allergies and itching than other types of hamsters. If you think your pet may have caught something, visit a vet immediately so that you would be provided a treatment.
How they behave can also be influenced by the state of their health. When they’re truly healthy, these hamsters would be more active, alert, and sociable. Their diet wouldn’t be impaired and they would have healthy eyes as well as fur.
Since the demand for these adorable creatures isn’t that great, they do not cost much at all. In fact, most Roborovski dwarf hamster prices play around $15. You should know that with these hamsters, the smaller they are, the pricier they get.
When you first get your pet Robo hamster, it may be elusive towards you during the first few weeks. Don’t worry, though, with a little perseverance, you’ll be able to tame it. Below are some tips you can use when taming your Robo dwarf hamster.
- Once you finally have your Roborovski, leave it alone for a week or two. The reason for this is that your new hamster would need to adjust to its new environment and during this time, it would be extremely sensitive and easily agitated.
When you try to handle it during this period of adjustment, it may deem you as a threat and you wouldn’t want your new pet associating your scent with fear.
- Once your pet seems to have become comfortable with its environment, you can begin the process of taming the hamster starting with it becoming familiar with your voice. Try speaking to it a few times a day. Sitting down and talking to it would make it comfortable hearing the sound of your voice. Heck, you can even sing to it if you like.
- Every day, try holding out a piece of treat somewhere that your pet would be able to smell it. Maintain some distance between the hamster and your hand and let the Roborovski work up the courage to come to you. Wait at least 10 minutes before you give up but don’t forget to place a smaller and different treat on the hamster’s food bowl.
- When your pet hamster looks like it’s finally considering your treat, place it in your palm until it comes over. After it steps into your palm to take the treat, gently lift your hands. There is a big chance that the hamster will jump off so be extra careful.
- Try lifting your hand until you’ve reached a height where the hamster wouldn’t be able to jump off.
- While it snacks on its treat, you can attempt to stroke the hamster. Repeat this step every day until your hamster gets comfortable with your touch. Afterward, try moving it to a different palm.
Robo Dwarf Hamsters: Are They Right For Me?
If you are someone who would rather watch and observe, then Roborovski dwarf hamsters are definitely the right pets for you. Because of their shy personalities and solitary attitude, handling them often wouldn’t be ideal.
Their size, agility, and temperament make them unsuitable for children as they don’t like to be handled too much. These creatures are certainly not playable and because they can take a lot of time to tame, Roborovski dwarf hamsters are more suited for teenagers and adults that are mature enough to handle them with care.