The dwarf hamsters represent a group of small hamsters in the genus Phodopus. Although they do not belong to this genus, Chinese Hamsters are often considered as dwarf hamsters as well.
Dwarf hamsters have a more limited coat colour variety than Syrian hamsters but are an alternative to pet owners who enjoy a smaller hamster that can be kept in groups. However, they must be handled frequently and gently to stay friendly, unlike Syrians who once tamed remain that way even if not handled.
Dwarf hamsters are relatively new to the pet market in comparison to the Syrian, they are very small and very fast so are not ideal for young children, the Roborovskis are especially quick.
Types of Dwarf Hamster
There are two basic types of dwarf hamsters currently available as pets: the Russians and the Chinese. The Russians can be further divided into the Campbells dwarf hamster, the Siberian or Winter-White, and the Roborovski.
The Chinese Dwarf Hamsters are sometimes known as “mouselike” hamsters. They have a slightly longer tail, a more pointed and longer nose, and tend to be thinner in build than other dwarfs.
The Campbells is brownish-grey in colour with a white belly and a dorsal stripe running along the spine.
The Siberian or Winter-White is grey in colour with a dorsal stripe during the summer and turns almost entirely white in the winter. This change is triggered by the length of days, not by temperature, but may not be seen in pets due to us using electric lights when it gets dark outside.
The Roborovski is similar in appearance to the Campbells, but slightly darker and has white patches above the eyes, resembling eyebrows. It does not have the dorsal stripe running along its spine.
Caring For Your Dwarf Hamster
Unlike Syrians dwarfs can be kept in pairs or small groups, in fact if you buy just one dwarf hamster it will probably get very lonely so we would advise you to buy at least two. Make sure the pair you buy are from the same cage or litter and buy them at the same time so that the hamsters already know each other. This will greatly reduce the risk of fighting. Also, unless you want many baby hamsters we suggest you keep the dwarfs in same sex couples or groups.
Occasionally you may see your hamsters engaging in small fights. This is usually a way of determining the dominant hamster in the group and is not normally harmful, however if the fighting becomes very violent, frequent and bloody you should separate the hamsters to different cages. Otherwise peaceable females can become highly territorial while pregnant, which may include attacking her mate and/or you.
Dwarf hamsters, like Syrians, need a nice big cage with plenty of room to exercise. You may wish to buy a cage with smaller spaces between the bars, often called mouse cages, due to the small nature of the hamsters. They should be fed a regular hamster mix with access to fresh vegetables and fruit and their cage should be cleaned out once a week.