Hamster Care Advice
- Dwarf hamsters as pets
- Russian Hamsters
- Chinese Hamsters
- Roborovski Hamsters
- Syrian Hamster
- Do I like company?
- Where do I like to live?
- What do I eat?
- How to handle me
- Keeping me clean
- Keeping me fit and healthy
- Top tips for a healthy pet
Dwarf hamsters as pets
Dwarf hamsters make good family pets. They’re easy to look after and with lots of attention they can become very tame. Due to their tiny size, dwarf hamsters are ideally suited to older children and adults. Dwarf hamsters, like Syrian hamsters, are nocturnal - they spend most of the day sleeping and become active in the evening and at night. There are three different
There are two types of Russian hamster: Campbell's Russian Winter White Russian. It’s difficult to tell the difference between the two Russian breeds but you’ll know if you have Winter White Russian hamsters as they turn white in winter. Campbell's Russian hamsters can be beige, brown or black and white whilst Winter White Russian hamsters spend the summer in their brown coats and often become totally or partially white as winter approaches. Russian hamsters are lively and sociable will usually live happily in same sex pairs or groups. Once they’re used to you they’ll enjoy being handled. However, they’re sensitive rough handling and so not suitable pets for young children. Russian hamsters live for about 2 years.
Chinese hamsters tend to be slightly thinner than Russian hamsters, have a slightly longer tail than most hamsters and are usually either a grey/brown colour with a black stripe, or white with a grey stripe. They’re easy to handle, are great climbers and cling to your fingers with their tiny paws. Because Chinese hamsters are very fast, they’re not suitable for young children. Male Chinese hamsters usually live happily in pairs or groups but females can be intolerant of each other and may be better living alone. Chinese hamsters live for about 21⁄2 – 3 years.
Roborovski hamsters are smaller and quicker than both Russian and Chinese hamsters and can be hard to handle at first until they get used to you. They have a good temperament and are usually happy living in same sex pairs or groups. They’re very amusing to watch as they race around their cage! They tend to be a sandy colour with a white stomach and have cute white eyebrows and whiskers. Roborovski hamsters live for about 2 years.
Do I like company?
Dwarf hamsters are sociable pets and like to be kept in pairs or groups. However, Chinese female hamsters may be better off alone as they may fight. If you choose to keep a pair or group of hamsters, you should buy them at the same time - they’ll already know each other or will be young enough to make friends. New individuals will not be accepted into a group later on. As with all pets it’s possible that your hamsters will fall out from time to time so provide lots of hideaway holes in their cage to allow them space to sleep separately if they want to.
Where do I like to live?
Dwarf hamsters are much smaller than Syrian hamsters and special care should be taken when choosing a suitable cage. There are specific dwarf hamster cages available to accommodate their small size; plastic topped cages make ideal homes for dwarf hamsters as do Rotastak systems but mouse ladders may be required in the vertical tubes. Whichever style you choose, buy the biggest cage you can afford as dwarf hamsters are very active and like to have lots of space to run around. Cover the floor of the cage with woodshavings and provide a paper bedding for nesting. Hay and straw should not be used because the tough strands could hurt their cheek pouches. Provide a house or bedroom so your hamsters can snuggle up and feel secure when they’re asleep.
Make sure you keep your hamsters’ cage out of direct sunlight and away from radiators or draughts.
What do I eat?
Your pet will require a good quality hamster mix such as Pets at Home hamster food. Whilst in our care we feed Pets at Home food to dwarf hamsters and recommend that you continue to do so to prevent stomach upsets caused by a sudden change of food. If you do change their diet, introduce new food slowly over a period of about 10 days, phasing out the old food completely. You can supplement your pets’ diet with very small quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables such as apple and carrot. Do not feed them too much fresh food as this can cause an upset stomach.
Vitamin supplements and mineral stones can be added to your pets’ diet to keep them in optimum health. It's nice to give your dwarf hamsters a treat from time to time - small animal popcorn or fruit sticks are popular choices. Some hamsters also enjoy a millet spray occasionally - it's as much fun to rip apart as it is to eat the seeds!
Ceramic food bowls are ideal for dwarf hamsters as they’re sturdy, hard to tip over, easy to clean and gnaw-proof. Remove any uneaten food then clean and refill the food bowl everyday. You should also provide fresh water daily.
Stimulating natural behaviour by providing toys and hiding treats around their cage will keep your pets amused.
Houses and tubes allow dwarf hamsters to have hideaway holes for food just as they would in the wild. As well as helping to keep your pets’ teeth short, wooden gnawing toys are fun too so make sure there’s always a gnaw toy in their cage.
As dwarf hamsters are nocturnal, they’re very active at night and need lots of toys to play with while you’re asleep. Tubes and tunnels will keep your pets entertained and a wheel will allow them to burn off energy. A mini hamster ball is ideal as it means that your pets can exercise outside their cage and you don’t have to worry about them escaping. These are just a few suggestions of how to keep your dwarf hamsters happy. For more fun ideas check out the toy section in your local Pets at Home store.
How to handle me
When you first take your dwarf hamsters home, give them a day or two to get used to their new surroundings without being disturbed. You should then start talking quietly to them so that they get to know your voice. The next step is to introduce your hand into their cage and perhaps offer a treat. Your pet may climb onto your hand but if not, gently scoop it up. You should handle your dwarf hamsters individually. It’s important to handle your pets regularly to develop their confidence and maintain your relationship with them.
Handle your dwarf hamsters over a table or close to the floor in case they fall out of your hands. Young children should be closely supervised when handling them. Remember that different species of dwarf hamster have slightly different temperaments. Russian hamsters like to be held but they’re sensitive to rough handling so must be treated gently. Chinese hamsters also like to be handled and are usually very docile. They also love to climb and will cling to your fingers. Roborovski hamsters are very active, quick and wriggle a lot and are therefore difficult to catch and keep hold of.
Never wake a dwarf hamster up abruptly and pick it up – this could frighten your pet and it may react by biting you.
Keeping me clean
Clean your pets’ cage out thoroughly at least once a week using a pet-safe disinfectant. If your dwarf hamsters use one area of their cage as a toilet this may need to be cleaned more often. But don’t worry, there are hamster sized litter trays available that make cleaning a lot easier.
Keeping me fit and healthy
A healthy diet and hygienic conditions will help to keep your dwarf hamsters in good health but there are a number of potential problems that you should be aware of. As with all rodents, dwarf hamsters’ teeth grow constantly so it’s important to provide wooden toys, mineral stones or treats for gnawing on.
Dwarf hamsters can catch a cold just like you so keep their cage out of draughts. In cold weather give your pets more bedding and consider moving their cage into a slightly warmer room. If your dwarf hamsters get too cold they may become inactive as if they’re hibernating. If this happens warm your pets up by holding them in your hands.
All hamsters are susceptible to severe diarrhoea known as ‘wet tail’. This condition can be caused by illness, inappropriate foods or stress brought on by moving house or rough handling. If your pet shows signs of being unwell contact your vet immediately.
Top tips for a healthy pet
Gnawing toys are an essential part of your pets’ dental routine and should always be available as they help to prevent ove grown teeth.
Vitamins and supplements
Vitamins can be added to your pets’ food or water. Probiotic supplements can help to maintain healthy digestion and relieve stress. Getting used to their new surroundings can be stressful for your dwarf hamsters so consider buying probiotic supplements before you take your pets home.
Regular grooming helps to strengthen the bond between you and your pets and can highlight health problems too. Groom your dwarf hamsters once a week or daily if they have long hair to keep their skin and coats healthy.
Clean out your pets’ home at least once a week using a pet-safe disinfectant.
Cleaning and hygiene
Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after cleaning, feeding or handling your pet. Also wash after contact with any of their equipment. Always supervise children to ensure they do not put their pet, (or objects that the pet has been in contact with) near their mouths. Ensure children wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after handling their pet. Do not kiss your pet.
Shopping list for your dwarf hamster
- Dwarf hamster cage or well-ventilated glass or plastic tank with secure lid
- Hamster house or bedroom for their cage
- Hamster bedding
- Pets at Home hamster food
- Food bowl
- Water bottle
- Mineral stone
- Vitamin supplement
- Probiotic supplement
- Bottle brush
- Exercise wheel
- Mini hamster playball
- Tubes and wooden toys
- Gnawing sticks or chews
- Hamster treats
- Pet-safe disinfectant
- Book on hamsters