Life as a very small animal
There are small pets and then there are very small pets – enter the diminutive dwarf hamster, which has scurried its way into children’s hearts for decades as a much-loved first pet. Despite their small stature, dwarf hamsters are curious, intelligent and social creatures who require the right home, correct nutrition and company of their own kind in order to thrive. In fact, it’s only the larger Syrian or Golden hamster who prefers a solitary life.
Even though hamsters are often a child’s first pet, their needs are quite complex, and they can easily be injured as a result of careless handling. Looking after a hamster is too much responsibility for a child and an adult should always be responsible for ensuring hamsters are properly handled and cared for.
Dwarf hamsters to choose from
There are four types of dwarf hamster, each with a distinctive look and personality to match.
With their large dark eyes and short prehensile tail, Chinese Dwarf hamsters have the charming ability to grip, using their feet, body and tail to wrap themselves around their handler’s fingers, rather like a harvest mouse. Although more timid than other hamster species, outside their cage they can display sudden, short bursts of activity. If startled by a strange noise, they will dart with lightning speed into the nearest hiding place, so a watchful eye is needed. They can be kept in single sex pairs.
Dwarf Campbell Russian
Although nocturnal, Dwarf Campbell Russians are often awake for short periods during the day, unlike other hamster species. When it comes to handling them, time and patience is required to let them build up their trust and confidence as they may be inclined to nip if they feel nervous or threatened. These hamsters are social and can be kept in same sex pairs or small groups as long as they are from the same litter or are introduced at a young age.
Dwarf Winter White Russian
Sporting beautiful sapphire, pearl and sapphire-pearl coats, these hamsters are very small and compact, reaching just 3-4 inches when fully grown. Sweet and friendly, Winter Whites have less inclination to bite when nervous than the Dwarf Campbell Russians. However, their small size and quicksilver ways means they can be a challenge for young children to handle safely. In the wild, Winter Whites live in family groups. As pets, they can share their home with same sex littermates in pairs or small groups.
The smallest of the hamster species, Robos measure just 2 inches when fully grown, although they have longer legs than most dwarf hamster species. They have sweet little faces with endearing white patches where their eyebrows are. These hamsters are teeny, tiny bundles of energy and are generally best kept as a pet to watch, rather than to handle. Robos are highly active, social creatures, and should be kept in same sex pairs or small groups. Their housing needs to be big enough for a them to race around with each other and create burrows.
Some dwarf hamsters enjoy interacting with people who handle them carefully, although others prefer exploring their enclosures, making use of any toys or objects you give them. You can have hours of fun building them interesting new set-ups to explore.
Create the perfect hamster home
- Because of their petite size, it’s essential to choose accommodation that’s specially designed for dwarf hamsters as these accomplished escape artists can squeeze through the tiniest of spaces.
- That said, all hamsters, even the smallest ones, require as large a cage as possible, with a variety of different platforms, tunnels, nest boxes and hidey holes to explore. A wire top and sides will provide plenty of climbing opportunities.
- In the wild, hamsters dig deep burrows, so their accommodation needs to allow them to be able to dig down to their heart’s content and ideally should feature a deep plastic base (minimum 3-5cm).
- When awake, hamsters are very active and need lots of things to do to occupy their curious and intelligent minds such as wheels, toys, clean hay and shredded paper. They also require safe wooden and cardboard items to gnaw on to keep their continually growing teeth in good condition.
- Hamsters also love to take a dust bath. Place a container, such as the top of an egg box filled with chinchilla sand, in their home, and watch them have fun in it.
- Location is important. Keep your hamsters in a room where the lights are not left on till late in the night as they’ll be waiting for darkness to venture out and play. Also ensure you house your hamster away from anything that can generate ultrasound, such as television sets, computer screens, vacuum cleaners or sources of running water. Hamsters are very sensitive to high frequency sounds which humans cannot hear and can find this stressful.
Never, ever mix different hamster species and only keep same-sex pairs or small groups to avoid fights and/or the patter of tiny hamster feet.
What to feed your hamsters
Hamsters are omnivores, so it’s essential to feed yours with a food that is specially created for them.
Burgess Dwarf Hamster uses only the best quality ingredients to provide your dwarf hamsters with a balanced food that replicates their natural diet. With small pieces to suit your dwarf hamsters' tiny mouths, the recipe includes tasty mealworms to provide the essential protein that they need.
Hamsters need fresh water provided daily too. Your hamster’s water bottle should have a valveless sipper tube as hamsters are not able to apply strong suction, so they sometimes find it difficult to suck water from a traditional ‘ball-valve’ sipper tube. Regularly check the water bottle for leaks and/or blockages.
FIND MORE ADVICE on caring for your hamster here
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