About one tenth of the size of a domesticated rat, dwarf hamsters are cute, very active especially at night but timid.
Dwarf Hamster Types
There are three main types of dwarf hamster kept as pets:
- Roborovksi dwarf hamster – known also as a “robo” or “robby”, these are the smallest, quickest, most active and naturally inquisitive and hence engaging of the pet hamster types.
- Russian dwarf hamster – also known as the Winter White hamster, which is normally a pearl grey or sapphire blue-grey colour, with a black stripe down its back. In the wild this hamster changes to white to act as camouflage in snow; apparently this change can be created in captivity if heat and light are much reduced.
- Campbell dwarf hamster – this is a specific type, originating from Russia but its natural habitat is open areas such as sand dunes or the steppe.
Many hamster enthusiasts regard the Chinese hamster as a type of dwarf hamster, though scientifically the Chinese and Dwarf hamsters are different species.
Derivative forms of dwarf hamsters are beginning to appear in the pet hamster markets. Breeding dwarf hamsters can be quite complex if the breeder is taking the appropriate and long-term view; breeding mixed types or even mixed colours in some of the species can lead to genetic defects.
Dwarf Hamster Characteristics
Usually nocturnal in the wild, while normally more active at night when kept as pets, dwarf hamsters will have active periods during the day, and most dwarf hamsters will readily take to being handled as long as no sudden movements are made which can frighten them and very occasionally result in a panic-inspired bite if the hamster feels it cannot escape.
Generally the Campbell dwarf hamster is reqarded as the most aggressive dwarf hamster and more prone to bite, which is one of the reasons why this type is the least popular of the dwarf hamsters as a pet hamster variety.
Scent plays a substantial role in dwarf hamster activity and behavior. In the wild, research has shown that they create paths followed by other dwarf hamsters through scent. As a result, they can often be seen to roll around or rub their paws on the ground in order to create scent trails.
Sounds, usually high-pitched but occasionally shrill, are used by dwarf hamsters to communicate with each other, and these sounds are quite different to those used by normal hamsters.
Due to their smaller size, hamster equipment for dwarf hamsters, especially hamster wheels and similar toys, need to be much smaller than normal. Dwarf hamsters, especially the Roborovsky, will be very active and phenomenally fast in wheels.