Russian Dwarf Hamster – Everything You Need to Know

The Russian Dwarf hamster is the most common name for the two species under its category; the Campbell’s Dwarf hamster and the Winter White Dwarf hamster. There is another species known as the Winter White Hybrid hamster which came from breeding the Campbell’s and the Winter White.

The Russian Dwarf hamsters are becoming a popular pet option in pet stores and it is best to be prepared for everything you need in taking care of them properly. You should also be in the know about the proper nutrition your hamster may need, including any forms of entertainment and exercise.

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We’ll go ahead and discuss where they came from, how they are as pets, what to feed them, and what to do when they’re pregnant up until they give birth.

Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters

It’s relatively easy to check and manage their needs and it doesn’t cost a lot to have them as pets. They’re directly related to the Syrian Hamsters.

  • Origins

Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters lived in China, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Siberia. This may be the reason why they’ve also been known as Siberian Hamsters; same as their counterparts. They’re used to living in semi-desert locations and grasslands.

  • Sizes/Colors/Temperament

They are known to grow from 4 to 4.5 inches. They are brownish in color with a deep gray tinge on their belly. They love to play and would often go around mazes or run on the wheel that you place in their cages. They are friendly with their own kind but extremely territorial with different species of hamsters.

  • Lifespan

They are can live from 1 to 2 years but there are several cases when they can live longer. In the wild, they tend to live shorter than in captivity.

  • Pregnancy

Once you see your female Campbell’s growing wider at its sides and back, these are signs that it may be pregnant. It’s not easily noticed, so look out for other signs. If it is drinking more water and hoarding more food than it usually does, then you’re halfway there. If you also see it rearranging the bedding, then your hamster is definitely pregnant.

Make sure that it’s in a separate cage. Also, ensure that the cage is clean a day or two before your hamster’s due date. Having a fresh supply of bedding is also a must so you don’t need to disturb your pet for the first 2 weeks after giving birth.

Campbell’s hamsters are known to eat or kill their offspring once they smell something different with them. Not a great way to start being a mother, but it’ll be your job to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Campbell’s litter may have 6 pups but there are cases that they give birth to more. They are born hairless and blind, although the fur will grow within two weeks and their eyes will open till they’re ready to be on their own.

It might be hard to discern if a baby hamster is female or male. Even the experts may get it wrong. But it’s best to separate the females from the males as soon as they can be on their own.

You can do this once they reach 18 to 21 days old as Russian Dwarf Hamsters become in heat every four days and can get pregnant 24 hrs after giving birth! If you’re not careful, you might just find yourself at the pet store buying more cages!

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Winter White Dwarf Hamsters

They’re also known as Djungarian hamsters, Dzungarian hamsters, and Siberian hamsters. The reason why they got their names is that their fur changes to white during winter; although it doesn’t happen in captivity due to artificial lighting.

They’re also mostly herbivorous or granivorous – eating only seeds and available plant materials.

  • Origins

Winter whites are known to have lived in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Siberia which may be the reason why they were also being called as Siberian Hamsters.

  • Sizes/Colors/Temperament

Winter White Hamsters can usually grow from 3 to 4 inches – making them smaller than Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters. They’re pinkish-beige in color and may have gray, argente or yellowish-brown and albino or white coats.

Their colors can also vary from dark gray with dorsal stripes and white bellies. There may also be sapphire, sapphire pearl, and marbled colorings on a Winter White.

They get surprised easily so they need to be housed in a quiet environment to lessen the stress they may feel and to make them comfortable. Just make sure to approach their enclosures during playtime to make sure they don’t get startled.

  • Lifespan

They are can live from 1.5 to 2 years but there are several cases wherein they could live longer. In the wild, their lifespans are known to be shorter because they are prey animals.

  • Pregnancy

Winter whites usually breed from the month of February till November. If your pet hamster is a first-timer, it should only start breeding once it reaches 4 to 6 months of age and its pregnancies may last from as short as 18 to as long as 25 days. Winter Whites usually have a litter of 4 to 8 pups but may give birth to more.

Winter White Dwarf Hybrids

Hybrids came from breeding either two Campbell’s Dwarfs or a Campbell’s and a Winter White – the latter pairing being the usual hybrids done by inexperienced breeders. They may have prettier and unique colorings but they are more susceptible to health issues.

It is dangerous and completely unethical to do a Campbell’s and a Winter White pairing when breeding because of how different their sizes are. There are speculations that this kind of breeding is okay. But if you factor in the size, the Winter White mother can surely die from just the pregnancy alone.

Her womb won’t be able to bear having Campbell’s during the pregnancy stage, more so when she gives birth to them.

So if in case you want to get a hamster, make sure that they are either both Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters or both Winter White Hamsters.

Russian Dwarf Hamster Price

Unlike other common household pets like cats and dogs which can reach exaggerated prices, hamsters are known to be inexpensive and are usually priced around tens of dollars. Russian dwarf hamsters could either be bought online, at pet stores or through certified breeders.

As for Campbell’s and Winter Whites, they usually fall under the same price range given that they are both Russian dwarf hamsters. These hamsters are typically priced around $10 to $20. At PetSmart, Russian dwarf hamsters are priced at $15.99.

What to Prepare When Getting A Russian Dwarf Hamster As A Pet

Before you get a pet Russian dwarf hamster, you first need to secure basic items that your pet would need in order for it to survive. These items are needed to create a suitable habitat that would help your pet thrive while it is in captivity.

  • Cages

Potential owners have the option to get a cage or an aquarium to house their hamsters. A cage can provide good ventilation; although, if not properly managed, your hamster may escape from the enclosure.

Russian Dwarf Hamsters tend to be resourceful and may destroy any plastic or wooden tubes and use them to pry the cage wirings open. Their cages should be 60 cm by 40 cm as they’re easier to clean and they give space for recreational or exercise purposes.

Be wary of the flooring though, as it has to be smooth or at least covered if the flooring’s wired. This is to avoid accidents and to protect your hamster from experiencing broken bones.  You can use hard cardboard or anything that can withstand your hamster’s ministrations. Hamsters often have compulsive tendencies and might end up gnawing on the wires so it is best to be prepared for any eventualities.

Usual cleaning schedule for cages should be once a week and it is advisable to use hot water when cleaning.

The price of a hamster cage would highly depend on its size, shape, and quality. There are cages that could be priced as low as $25 while there also that could reach staggering prices of hundreds of dollars.

  • Aquariums

An aquarium solves the problem of your hamsters escaping the enclosure of a cage; although the downside is, it doesn’t have good ventilation. If the aquarium is left exposed to direct sunlight, it can be harmful to your pet as it doesn’t do well under extreme temperature.

You can still choose a tank to prevent the little devil from escaping and a 10-gallon aquarium is enough to house your hamster and any toys you’ll be putting in the enclosure. Usually, aquariums would cost around $30 depending on the quality.

  • Beddings

Pine shavings are recommended for the bedding as the oils from cedar beddings affect the hamster’s fur. It falls off and dries the skin to the point of cracking. It will lead to dehydration and sickness.

You can also use pieces of tissue or hand wipes if you want a more affordable option for the bedding. Just make sure not to use soiled or used ones for the beddings for sanitary purposes. Small animal beddings do not usually cost that much and would not be priced at more than $15.

  • Toys

You can use empty toilet rolls or tubes for hamsters to burrow and play in. These may end up as part of the bedding as these Russian Dwarf hamsters tend to chew or shred materials.

You can also use plastic tubes but best to be vigilant in replacing or removing them from their cages/aquariums as soon as there is noticeable damage to prevent accidents. Make sure not to use painted tissue tubes or rolls to prevent your hamster from accidentally swallowing any of it.

Ladders, houses, and obstacle courses can be placed inside their domain so they have somewhere to play and exercise in.  Wooden cubes can also be included in their enclosures so that they can either play with these cubes or chew on them. As they are made of wood, it helps with filing down their teeth.

You also have the option of placing a sturdy exercise wheel to keep your hamsters in shape and alert. A plastic flying saucer can also be a replacement for the wheel as it promotes better posture for your hamster when it exercises.

You can also make use of an exercise ball if you’d let your hamster out of the aquarium or cage. Watch out if it gets near to any stairs or water sources. You do not have to buy your pet hamsters lots of toys; just enough to keep them engaged and physically active. These toys would cost around $2 to $10.

  • Location

Choose where your hamster’s enclosure will be placed in with great care. The room temperature should be at least 18 to 24 degrees Celsius. An aquarium also needs to be in a well ventilated and a reasonably lighted room.

The room also needs to be protected from sudden changes in temperature as your pet hamster will be susceptible to the changes. It also doesn’t do well in extreme heat or cold. A sudden draft can also affect the small body of your pet hamster.

Food and Nutrition

Your hamster can eat either pellets or seed mixes. It can be fed with one tablespoon of pellets or 1 to 2 teaspoons of seed mix.

Always remember to clean its food bowls every day to avoid mold from forming. This can be dangerous to your hamster once it swallows even a bit.

Always provide fresh water and making sure the bottle is cleaned every refill. Do not just fill it with water if it’s half full or almost empty to avoid the water becoming stale and dirty.

Avoid raisins, potatoes, onions, garlic, and sprouts as they can be very dangerous for your hamster. They either contain too much sugar or are high in acidic content which is dangerous for your hamster’s digestion.

When cleaning the cage and replacing the bedding, include any uneaten food to avoid molds from forming and to remove any stale pieces of food as well.

  • Pellets

They’re very healthy as they are a combination of all the necessary ingredients and the nutrients that your Russian Dwarf hamster would need. It also helps to clean and file down its teeth. You can also sprinkle some on the bedding so your pet has a steady supply and for it to still have a chance to forage and hunt.

You can go ahead and make the pellets yourself but it is advisable to get your vet’s opinion on this before moving forward.

  • Seed Mix

Hamsters can still have seed mixes in their diet, although, in controlled amounts. The problem with feeding seed mixes to your hamster is that it might only choose the best smelling and the tastiest ones and leave out the ones they need. Seed mixes tend to be high in fat which is why you need to control how much seed mix your pet can eat.

You can sprinkle and hide some on the bedding to add to your hamster’s supply.

  • Vegetables

Hamsters can also nibble on vegetables although it should be controlled and thoroughly cleaned before giving them to your pet to remove the chemicals or pesticides. They also tend to elicit diarrhea so make sure to gradually work them up from feeding them once per week to once per day.

  • Snacks

Grains such as whole wheat toast, cooked rice, and unsweetened cereal can be given as snacks, although dwarf hamsters should only be fed in small amounts.

  • Protein Sources

You can also feed chicken and turkey as they are good sources of protein as well as canned and drained tuna. You’d have to gradually work them up and be familiar with eating them, but make sure that they don’t prefer them to the point that they’re the only thing they want to eat.

  • Fruits

Your pet can also enjoy eating pieces of fruits. However, you should avoid citrus ones as they can mess up their digestive system. Remove any seeds when feeding them because they can be a choking hazard for hamsters.

Handling Your Hamsters

When you want to let out your hamsters to play, there are things you need to remember to establish a lasting relationship with your pet.

Make sure your hands are clean. Use unscented soap or hand gel. This is to avoid being bitten by your hamsters.

Once they smell food on your hands or fingers, they may mistake it as such and bite you to get a taste. It is very painful to be bitten by a hamster, so be very careful.

  • Never force it to come to you

Start by forming your hand in a begging posture. This forms a space that your hamster can climb on and feel safe. Don’t try to pick it up as your hand will look like a predator swooping down to catch it.

You might get bitten in the process. Use gentle words to prompt it to come to you and slowly move your hands toward it. Just be patient in waiting for it to climb on your palm.

  • Give it lots of love

Your Russian Dwarf hamster has a short memory so always make it a point to provide enough petting. You have to follow a daily schedule of handling your hamster so it won’t get upset or stressed thinking that you’re not giving it enough handling.

If your hamster starts biting you, just gently blow on its face and say “No” in a firm voice to properly manage its biting episodes. It’s easy to train hamsters as long as you have the patience for it.

Interesting Facts About Russian Dwarf Hamsters

  • Fancy Russian Dwarf Hamsters

This name actually came from pet stores that sell them. They do have a different fur pattern as well as unique features and colors. They’re usually hybrids; a mix of Campbell’s Dwarf Hamster and Winter White Hamsters. It is a simple marketing gimmick employed by pet store owners.

  • They use their cheeks for storing food

After feeding them, try to see if they immediately go somewhere and hide their stash of food. They can do this at once because they store their food in the pouches on their cheeks. Saves time from going back and forth, right?

  • They like to hoard – a lot

In the wild or in captivity, they like to hoard a lot of food. It provides a steady supply in the wild; although in captivity, even if they don’t need to hoard, they still do it. Their name in German – “hamstern” means to hoard. Certainly explains everything, doesn’t it?

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Author Bio

Carlye Yancey

Carlye Yancey

Between internships, volunteering, and paid jobs over the last 4 years, I have pretty much-gained experience with domesticated animals. Currently being in school for my veterinary technology degree, I spend my leisure time with 3 critters that I own.

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